Wildlife set to benefit from restoration of stream on Blickling Estate

Rangers in the river installing faggots
Published : 14 Nov 2019 Last update : 16 Sep 2021

Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, work to restore Silvergate stream on Blickling Estate is now complete, and it’s hoped that restoring the stream at its source will bring big benefits for wildlife and the health of the wider river catchment.

An award of £115,000 from Postcode Earth Trust, a grant-giving trust funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, has enabled the work to take place, supporting the National Trust’s ‘Riverlands’ initiative, which seeks to create cleaner, healthier catchments for wildlife. 

Work began in September to restore the 2km stream, which runs into Blickling Lake. From here the water flows into 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. 

Silvergate stream goes onto feed Blickling Lake, the River Bure and Norfolk Broads
Silvergate stream with Blickling Hall in the background
Silvergate stream goes onto feed Blickling Lake, the River Bure and Norfolk Broads

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 excess nutrients entering from surface water run-off promoting algal growth. The shade from these blue-green blooms has led to the disappearance of what was once a diverse community of plants.

Emily Long, is the National Trust’s Project Manager in Norfolk:

“The restoration of Silvergate is an exciting milestone in the Riverlands project and it’s just the beginning with more restoration works planned for the River Bure and Scarrow Beck next year. The works at Silvergate allow us to showcase catchment-scale working on a small scale.

"The stream is adapting rapidly with gravels already being exposed by the faster flowing water. Plants will re-establish next summer, and the channel should be fully established within a couple of years."  

The team of rangers and volunteers who have been busy restoring Silvergate stream
Rangers standing next to Silvergate Stream on the Blickling Estate
The team of rangers and volunteers who have been busy restoring Silvergate stream

As well as working on the ground, the project looks to encourage more people to get out on the Estate and explore the stream and the Old Pump House. New interpretation will soon be installed allowing people to learn about what we’re doing and help us to look after these precious habitats well into the future.

As well as increasing opportunities for dragonflies and mayflies along the water’s edge, improving water quality will also benefit these freshwater habitats so fish, such as trench and perch can thrive. The hope is that it may even lead to the introduction of the native White Claw Crayfish in the future and plants like the nationally rare Opposite Stonewort will return.

The project, which has been carried out with support from the Water Management Alliance and Internal Drainage Board, has involved cutting back vegetation, re-shaping banks and removing silt from the stream.

Faggots are made up of bundles of branches and twigs
Ranger carrying a faggot to the stream
Faggots are made up of bundles of branches and twigs

Rangers from across the National Trust then lent their support to bind together a mountain of branches and twigs into bundles called faggots, which have been placed along the bank edges to act as large woody debris, trapping future sediment before it reaches the stream.

The creation and installation of silt traps will also help reduce soil and therefore nutrients from entering the water in future. This will all be complemented by examining the management of meadows moving forward.

Will Humpington, Environmental Programmes Advisor, at People’s Postcode Lottery said:

“Our players have once again been able to fund a vital conservation project that benefits nature. Not only are we supporting wildlife in the stream where the work is being carried out, but this project will have benefits for life further downstream too. Sometimes it really is the little things that can make a big difference.”