Floodplain restoration in a bid to boost wildlife

Press release
Excavator moves gravel and stone from made made embankment transporting over the river via a converyor belt at Carrog Farm, Snowdonia.
Published : 08 Jan 2019 Last update : 24 Jul 2019

In a bid to reconnect a river with its natural floodplain, the National Trust and Natural Resources Wales are beginning on a 1km river restoration project to help slow the flow of water and attract more wildlife, such as brown trout and otter, to the Afon Machno in Snowdonia.

Work on the restoration of a previously canalised section of Afon Machno at Carrog Farm, Cwm Penmachno, will take place this winter as part of the Upper Conwy Catchment Project – a project which seeks to create cleaner, healthier catchments for the benefit of people and wildlife.

As part of the work, the flagship farm will also see more trees such as willow and alder being planted along the river, which the conservation charity hope will attract more kingfishers and dippers to the area.

In addition to restoring seasonally wet flower-rich meadows and creating a riverside walk for the local community, the project also plans to extend the wooded ffridd habitat up towards the Migneint and plant more hedges, which will help link up and create more habitats for threatened species such as the cuckoo.

For the first phase of works, the team plan to trial a new approach for moving the machinery and stone across the river to avoid disturbing fish populations.

Dewi Davies, Upper Conwy Catchment Project Manager, National Trust said, “This is the first time we’re aware of an industrial conveyor belt being used to move stone/gravel from one side of the river to the other. This enables us to get the work done without disturbing the river bed.”

Conveyor belt transporting gravel across the river
Gravel travelling up a conveyor belt, across the Afon Machno, with an excavator in on the other side of the river at Carrog Farm, Snowdonia
Conveyor belt transporting gravel across the river

The previously modified section of river includes a steep shingle bank that prevents water reaching the original floodplain. By lowering part of the steep bank the project aims to re-connect the river to its natural floodplain at times of peak flow. In addition to helping alleviate flooding and the build-up of sediment downstream this will help restore a more natural braided river, favourable to wildlife such as brown trout and otter.

Dewi added, “We’ve been planning this work for 2 years, having commissioned the River Restoration Centre to carry out a scoping study suggesting the best way forward and liaising with the local community, so it’s great to see it all coming together.”

Sarah Aubrey, Senior Environment Officer, Natural Resources Wales, said: “Work to restore the Afon Machno will bring many benefits. It will slow river flows to help reduce the risk of flooding in lower lying areas and boost wildlife including fisheries, making it a great place for people to enjoy a riverside walk or a spot of fishing.

It’s just one part of our work with the National Trust and local community in this area to take care of the environment in a joined-up way and finding sustainable solutions that bring multiple benefits.”

Following the initial landscaping work, the next phase of the works will involve adding a few large boulders into the river in late spring. This will help create more structural diversity within the river, creating areas the water can pool and riffle, a feature that brown trout require for breeding.

Once the river restoration is complete, the aim is to let the smallholding out as a complete farm next summer.