Protecting the river bank at Stockbridge Marsh

Newly erected fencing along the river bank at Stockbridge Marsh, Hampshire

Stockbridge Marsh is a SSSI which is subject to a lot of pressure from recreational activities. We’ve temporarily fenced off some areas along the riverside, to allow the bank and its vegetation to recover from high footfall. Erosion has reached critical levels, so we need to allow the riverside plants to recover and strengthen the bank.

Sadly, Natural England have acknowledged that the site can no longer provide habitat for ground-nesting birds due to the amount of dogs which run free here. And the high footfall has a detrimental effect to the ground itself: as well as eroding the surface of the bank, this pressure destroys the bankside vegetation, which in turn increases the problem of erosion, as vegetation acts as a buffer against the water flow.

We’ve carried out these remedial measures in the recent past, with positive results: vegetation bloomed back again in fenced off locations within a couple of years, and water voles returned to a previously abandoned area. After the breeding bird season has finished later this summer, we plan to re-open an area which has been fenced off for a number of years and has since thrived.

Vegetation has bloomed back to life in areas we've fenced off previously
Vegetation blooms alongside the river at Stockbridge Marsh, Hampshire
Vegetation has bloomed back to life in areas we've fenced off previously

The Marsh is still a place where people are welcome to bring their dogs and enjoy a picnic. There are two points where grazing stock, people and dogs can directly access the water: at the northern end of the marsh by the path that comes in from Stockbridge town, and at the ford two thirds of the way down the stream. Using these access points means that the other areas will have a chance to recover.

There are also footpaths near to the water’s edge where people can still enjoy the sights and sounds of the river and the surrounding wildlife.