Transforming river habitats: East Lodge

Some projects involve us developing a site which has multiple functions. East lodge has been a significant and continuing project of ours with the objective of developing a rich biodiversity, and as a result supporting the commercial fishing on site.

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East Lodge is an exceptional private site on the River Itchen. Not only is the entire area a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but is also classified as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The meadows and river are an outstanding example of chalk stream habitat, a natural resource almost unique to the UK. Due to the sites unique properties its management is targeted at enhancing the environmental benefits, whilst also enriching the stock as a commercial fishery.

In 2010 the area was entered into a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme with Natural England, and as part of that agreement we were brought in to carry out major works to improve specific areas of the site. 

What did we do?

Our first job was to set about improving the sites overall biodiversity. The water meadow ditch system was re-cut and re-joined to the rivers to provide habitat for Southern Damsel Fly, Water Voles, juvenile fish, as well as the large range of wetland plants. 

In order to improve spawning habitats we carried out extensive work to the site. Areas of the river were bed raised, narrowed and additional spawning gravels introduced to add variety to the flow rates and habitat. This improved the spawning habitat for migratory and resident salmonids.

Once this work was completed we designed, constructed and replaced the range of bridges across the site to allow easy and safe access for visitors.  

During: Construction of one of the new bridges

After: A biodiverse and rich river with a variety of flow rates 

The challenges?

  • A natural spring on the site meant that in some areas the ground was delicate and required careful management due to the water content. It meant we had to be cautious of the use of heavy machinery in order to prevent damage to the site but also machinery sinking or getting stranded
  • Due to the natural qualities of the site we had to negotiate limited and also challenging access to the site, which meant strategic management of the machinery and solutions utilised
  • The site welcomed high-profile visitors so all works, structural design and construction, and management of the site had to be delivered to a very high standard and quality at all levels

What were the results?

We completed the works in 2010, and since then the site has seen a steady increase year on year in the number of Salmon returning to the area to spawn, the first of which usually arrive from September onwards. We now have more Salmon spawning in this area than anywhere else on the Itchen; something everyone on the site is very proud of!

The overall restoration of the site has seen biodiversity thrive along the river. On the meadows we see Hen Harriers hunting Moorhens, Southern Damsel Flies, Grey Partridge, Snipe and more wild Orchids than you can count. In the river we have also seen Otters prosper with the increase in prey, as well as Water Voles and Salmon.

The project continues…

We’ve continued to develop the site with the owners, working to improve a number of further areas:

One major project we completed in 2019 was the major design, management and construction of a replacement fish hut and entertainment space on the site. 

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Our latest project has focussed on supporting the commercial fishery side of the site. We have been working to create a range of new stock fish ponds with supporting bridge structures. 

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