Back in the summer of 2017, the estate manager at Bearwater embarked on a joint project with ARK, Action for the River Kennet, to repair a section of riverbank along the Dun which runs through the estate. Starting with some pond dipping sessions for owners, this progressed to several volunteer days for the charity, supported by owners and staff. The work was very successful, with water vole spotted in the river shortly after the work was completed, and the project was runner-up for a national award. ARK returned to Bearwater last year, with more volunteer days (pictured). Below are the reflections of Anna Forbes, project officer for ARK.

‘It was a pleasure to return to Bearwater in Hungerford to see how the river restoration project we carried out in 2017 had matured; and at the request of the new manager, Peter Hussey, to restore a stretch further upstream within the site during 2019.

The 2017 project had three main objectives: to prevent further erosion of the riverbank, improve the stretch for wildlife and connect the community with their valuable chalk stream. These were all achieved, with huge participation from Cognatum employees and residents alike. Within months of the work being completed water vole were spotted swimming in the channel and evidence of their presence observed amongst the newly established marginal vegetation. Water voles are nationally declining, so to be able to create and join up wildlife corridors for this mammal to expand into and thrive is really important.

Otters have been observed at Bearwater, this is truly exciting and a sign of a healthy river.

Getting back into the Dun the difference in the riverbed is huge. In 2017 we waded around in deep silt, whereas now underfoot is firm with clean gravel. This is a significant improvement for fish, which need clean gravel to successfully spawn. Many freshwater invertebrates also need silt free gravels. Invertebrates are key to a healthy river, they are processors of detritus and are food for fish, birds and other creatures.

In 2019 our professionally led volunteer team restored a stretch of bank that had suffered due to the invasive American signal crayfish. Hundreds of native plants were planted into the restoration work, their roots and rhizomes will help to naturally hold the bank together, whilst continuing to expand the corridor for wildlife, whilst making the riverbank walk more attractive to residents’.

Anna Forbes, ARK Project Officer

Action for the River Kennet (ARK) is a registered charity and is the Rivers Trust for the Kennet catchment which includes the River Dun bordering our estate at Bearwater.