River Welland: Conservation aims to lure back wildlife

A team of scientists and volunteers in Leicestershire is aiming to restore wildlife to the River Welland with a £500,000 conservation project.

A task force at the Welland Rivers Trust is looking at ways to lure back kingfishers and other animals.

Funding for the project will come from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Catchment Restoration Fund.

Ecologist David Harper said the river was in a "poor state".

River pools

Mr Harper, a senior ecologist at the University of Leicester, said: "The aim of the project is to put nature back in the river and give the river back to Market Harborough.

"The health of rivers is the responsibility of all of us - not just the government."

Flood defence schemes in the 1960s widened the river and removed many of the deep pools that fish and wildlife depend on.

"The river was turned into a large drain from Market Harborough to the sea in the 1960s by engineering schemes, which almost totally removed the wildlife habitats and hence ecological value of the river," Mr Harper said.

Another of the project's goals is to lower the level of phosphorus, found in treated sewage, in the river.

Work will start on the conservation in the spring after a series of meetings, including one in Market Harborough on Thursday, to discuss the best methods for cleaning up the river.

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