Hamble Brooke Wetland Restoration

This project looked to successfully restore and revitalised the Hamble Brooke wetland, overcoming a myriad of complex and sensitive environments. A number of key environmental challenges would need to be addressed, whilst strategically managing a number of stakeholders to deliver sustainable wetland ecosystem conservation. 

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The Results: A diverse habitat has been restored which has featured in various press release: Henley Standard , Bucks Free Press , and even onto BBC South Today

RJBull Ltd were tasked with transforming, restoring and rejuvenating the Hamble Brooke wetland, located just outside Henley on Thames, back to it’s more original natural state. The site posed a myriad of challenges, with our project aiming to re-meander the winter bourne similar to how it was some 140 years ago before it had been adjusted for farmland, we aimed to reconnect it with the surrounding floodplain, and create valuable habitats while navigating through a maze of land ownership complexities and environmental sensitivities.

The aim?

  • Re-meander the winter bourne to restore natural flow patterns and enhance habitat diversity.
  • Reconnect with the surrounding floodplain to optimize flood water storage, reduce flood risks downstream and reduce sediment transfer by enhancing the wetland’s capacity to absorb and retain water.
  • Create valuable habitats for a diverse range of vegetation and wildlife, promoting biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.
  • Educate the local community about the ecological significance of wetlands and the importance of conservation efforts.
  • Create spawning and feeding areas for migratory and native species, supporting the health and sustainability of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Establish more riparian and marginal vegetation to stabilize banks, reduce erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife.

During: Turfs being stripped ready for excavation

During: Precision equipment ensuring correct level

During: Carefully removing emergent macrophytes

What were the challenges?

  • Address issues of heavy grazing along the watercourse
  • Connect disjointed areas of the floodplain to the bourne
  • Manage restoration efforts in a sensitive habitat
  • Navigate challenges associated with the scale of the project site
  • Implement measures to prevent material storage on the floodplain
  • Collaborate with multiple landowners along the restoration reach
  • Address poor ground conditions during project planning and execution

During: Extended spring head

What were the results?

Our team employed a holistic approach to wetland restoration, integrating ecological principles with natural flood management solutions. The watercourse was heavily grazed by surrounding farmers, with large areas of the floodplain not being linked to the bourne. Large areas of the proposed wetland and bourne fell into a SSSI which required careful planning and management. The project site spanned a large area, posing logistical challenges and resource constraints with restrictions on the storage of material on the floodplain, this necessitated strategic planning and coordination. Furthermore, poor ground conditions and multiple landowners posed challenges for construction and restoration efforts, requiring collaboration and negotiation to achieve project goals.

Our primary aim was to re-meander the winter bourne to restore natural flow patterns and enhance habitat diversity. This was achieved by utilizing natural river restoration techniques and channel design principles where turfs were removed, and a cut and fill approach was adopted. This enabled a one pass approach minimising compaction, machinery damage and disruption to the surrounding sensitive environment. The improved sinuosity and reconnection with the surrounding floodplain enhanced the habitats diversity and ecological resilience, while sustainably supporting a wider range biodiversity.

During: Wetland excavated ready for turf to be relayed

During: Once turf has been relayed

Before, during and after remeandering

Following this our team made targeted floodplain reconnections, such as the creation of wetland features such as, backwater channels, ponds, and wet meadows, help support a diverse range of wildlife and vegetation helping enhance overall habitat quality. Additionally, these features improve overall flood water storage and reduce the flood risks downstream through the enhancement of wetland hydrology. The creation and re-establishment of these wetland features and reconnection to the bourne, provides greater spawning and feeding areas for migratory and native species which subsequently supports the surrounding ecosystem.

We used the removed turfs, containing local native riparian and marginal vegetation, along with hand broadcasted seed to stabilize banks, reduce erosion, provide essential invertebrate habitats and broaden the species located on the bourne and newly created wetland features.

Through constant communication with clients, trust members, and the public, we helped educate the local community to raise awareness about the ecological importance of wetlands and the need for conservation efforts. This also allowed us to set up a comprehensive management plan to minimise and even completely remove the grazing pressures from landowners. This includes temporary fencing, rotational grazing strategies and completely removing livestock from the restoration area allowing riparian and marginal vegetation to thrive and promote overall ecosystem prosperity.

To read or download the official case study please click here.

During: Creating an island habitat

During: Hyberniculum using some woody materials

After: Ariel view of finished wetland with Winterbourne running on the right

After: An island sanctuary for wildlife

RJBull Ltd successfully restored and revitalised the Hamble Brooke wetland, demonstrating the potential for ecological restoration in complex and sensitive environments. By addressing key environmental challenges and engaging with stakeholders, we have paved the way for the sustainable management and conservation of wetland ecosystems, ensuring their continued health and resilience to our ever-changing climate.

After: Highlighting the various levels between wetlands and the brook

After: Crack willow providing excellent habitat within the winterbourne

After: The Winterbourne reconnecting with the floodplain

After: Confluence between wetland and Winterbourne