Bewl Water Mitigation Scheme

Spring 2018 has marked the completion of the Bewl Water Mitigation Scheme, with work benefitting woodlands, grasslands and wetland areas across the Scotney estate for many years to come.

Why is the Bewl Mitigation Scheme needed?

Bewl water is the largest reservoir in the south east, storing 31,000 million litres of water. As the key source of drinking water for Kent and East Sussex, water is released downstream from the reservoir and then re-extracted ensuring water for all during high demand. 

Support flows released from the reservoir created unnaturally fast flows in the rivers immediately downstream, causing erosion of the riverbanks, a loss of river vegetation and deteriorating fish habitats. In some places the river floor has dropped by 12ft in 40 years! High water levels also make it difficult for wildlife to find nesting spots to breed. The Bewl Mitigation Scheme will create a more natural flow that’s closer to how nature intended.

This work has been  funded by Southern Water, who has worked alongside Five Rivers Environmental Contracting.

What work has been completed?

Sixty-six 20m lengths of alder coppicing has been undertaken to boost light penetration in the river Bewl to encourage vegetation growth. Low growing scrub has been removed; ground vegetation cut back and eight hazel areas have been coppiced, with 50% of the stumps treated to stop regeneration in the future.

Work has also been completed to create new habitats for fish, invertebrates and other wildlife by using woody debris to slow flows and create safe spaces for juvenile fish and wetland features for dragonflies. Where appropriate the river banks have been re-profiled and embayments formed. Importantly  the water releases programme will be changed And the underground pipes that have been used to transport water to refill the reservoir can be used both ways, which will mean heavy releases down the river will stop.As part of the project a parkland scrape and hibernaculum (bug hotel on a grand scale) have been created in the Scotney parkland improving the greater habitat   of the river to encourage wildlife.

" As a conservation charity, it’s our responsibility to look after the Scotney Castle estate for nature. This project sits hand in hand with the work we do here, with particular benefits in terms of landscape scale wildlife corridors and habitat improvements. Thanks to the work of our partners, we hope to see a real boost in the health of the river in the years to come. National Trust will survey for dragonflies, newt and butterflies whilst Southern water continue to survey aquatic invertebrates "
- Mark Musgrave, Area Ranger, Scotney Castle

What does river enhancement mean to Scotney Castle and its estate?

The river enhancement project has produced a more natural flow regime, creating a river that is closer to its historical character. A variety of flows, pools and wet areas along the length of the river have diversified the river morphology. Key wildlife drivers for this project have been aquatic invertebrates as an increase in these will in-turn improve numbers for important wildlife such as Kingfisher, Brown Trout, Water Vole and otter. Furthermore, on the Parkland Trail, a public access area has been created so our visitors can dip toes in the water and walk through newly created wild-flower meadows.

The scheme also aligns with our goal of actively contributing to the improvement of the water environment for the benefit of everyone.