Blickling: Restoring a stream to save a catchment

A foot bridge over a stream at sunset
Published : 27 Mar 2019 Last update : 26 Feb 2020

Silvergate stream on the Blickling Estate is set to be restored for wildlife and the health of the wider river catchment. This restoration project is thanks to a generous award of £115k made to the National Trust from Postcode Earth Trust, a grant-giving trust funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Silvergate stream runs for 2km through Blickling Estate, feeding the lake before joining the River Bure, an internationally important and rare chalk stream that feeds into the Norfolk Broads National Park, which in turn supports 9 nature reserves and 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 

A stream in need of restoration

Restoring the stream will help improve the water quality of Blickling Lake, which has seen an increase in algal blooms in recent summers. These blooms are an indication of poor oxygen levels in the water, which is the result of an increase in minerals and nutrients entering from surface water run-off. The shade from these blue-green blooms has led to the disappearance of what was once a diverse community of plants.

An improvement in water quality will enrich these freshwater habitats so plant life like the nationally rare Opposite Stonewort will return and wildlife, including trench and perch can thrive once more.

The work will include channel, pond and floodplain meadow restoration to improve the condition of the stream. The creation of silt traps will help reduce soil entering the water and the addition of large woody debris and leaky dams will help trap sediment within the stream. 

Silvergate stream is set to be restored
Silvergate Stream on the Blickling Estate in Norfolk
Silvergate stream is set to be restored

Benefits for people and nature 

Countryside Manager, Stuart Banks, said: “Streams and rivers are the lifeblood of our landscapes and personally, there’s something relaxing about taking a walk beside a river. The opportunity that this project brings, to make a real change not only to Silvergate stream but also the lake and river, will help us make great strides in improving the health of our environment, so that its rich in wildlife and can be enjoyed by all.

“As well as increasing opportunities for dragonflies and mayflies along the water’s edge, improving the water quality will also benefit fish, such as the stickleback, minnow, brown trout, bull head and eel; as well as invertebrates. The hope is that it may even lead to the introduction of the native White Claw Crayfish at some point in the future.”

At the same time footpath improvements will be carried out, with a section of path that currently runs along the road, re-routed to within the safety of the parkland. 

White clawed crayfish
White clawed crayfish
White clawed crayfish

Made possible with support

The work will be carried out in partnership with the Internal Drainage Board and the project forms part of a wider pioneering national landscape-scale ‘Riverlands’ initiative for the National Trust in partnership with the Environment Agency, which seeks to create cleaner, healthier catchments for wildlife.

This donation is part of an £800k award made to the conservation charity. 

Sanjay Singh, Senior Programmes Officer at People’s Postcode Lottery added: “We are thrilled that support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery will continue to support the National Trust’s nature programme and Heritage Open Days this year. 

“Players’ support in 2019 will help improve a range of priority habitats, protecting our nation’s countryside for generations to come. The conservation project at Blickling Estate will create the ideal habitat for freshwater plants and wildlife and improve the health of one of England’s rare chalk-stream rivers.” 

The remaining £685k awarded by Postcode Earth Trust and raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, will support Heritage Open Days and the National Trust’s wider ambition to restore a healthy, beautiful more natural environment. Conservation projects include wildflower meadow and apple orchard restoration at the Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire, as well as the conservation of 13 ancient hill forts that will give wildlife a new lease of life in Dorset and Wiltshire.