Reviving the Wye in High Wycombe

Tuesday 4 October 2016

A £35,000 project involving hundreds of volunteers has transformed the River Wye in the centre of High Wycombe.

The Wye is a chalk stream, flowing out of the chalk rock of the Chiltern Hills, which makes it amongst the rarest types of river in the world (with the vast majority found in England). However, like other streams, the Wye has become very heavily modified over the decades and many stretches of it bear little resemblance to a natural chalk river now. In the centre of High Wycombe the river has become widened, straightened and diverted to an underground culvert in places.

A few weeks ago volunteers and professionals came together, in a project funded by Wycombe District Council, and undertook five days of hard work to revitalise a section of the Wye and make it a much better home for aquatic wildlife. Local conservation group the Chiltern Rangers involved lots of young people as part of their Young Roots project and the local fire brigade even lent a hand! Altogether over 200 volunteers contributed to this community effort. Allen Beechey from the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project supervised the work.

Much effort went into building low barriers and backfilling with sand and gravel to narrow the river and speed up its flow. Some large rocks were craned into the middle of the water to divert the water and create conditions similar to a natural chalk stream. The photos below give an idea of what was involved:

Wye High Wycombe   

Craning bags of rocks into the Wye

Wye High Wycombe

Placing rocks and building berms along the edge of the river

Wye High Wycombe

The fire brigade get stuck into berm-building!

Wye High Wycombe

The Wye after - narrowed with faster flowing water and a cleaner riverbed

Faster flows in the stream will keep the gravel riverbed cleaner and make it a more suitable habitat for invertebrates and spawning fish. More vegetation along the edge is also good for river wildlife. Ducks and grey wagtails have already been seen on the improved section.

For more about the River Wye visit www.revivethewye.org.uk



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