From road­works to reed beds – help­ing wildlife and wa­ter

Western Morning News - - Morning News Country - BY MARTIN HESP

It’s not of­ten that the engi­neers who look af­ter our roads get in­volved with wildlife-rich reed beds, but that is ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing on the A38 “su­per­high­way” near the busy New­ton Ab­bot junc­tion in South Devon.

High­ways Eng­land is join­ing forces with Stover Coun­try Park and Devon County Coun­cil to de­liver a giant reed bed fil­ter sys­tem, which will help to keep wa­ter clean at the pop­u­lar Stover Lake na­ture re­serve and pro­vide valu­able habi­tat for wildlife.

The sus­tain­able scheme, also sup­ported by Nat­u­ral Eng­land, is de­signed to cap­ture and fil­ter wa­ter runoff from the busy A38, as well as from nearby in­dus­trial sites and farm­land be­fore it en­ters the lake.

The wa­ter can carry pol­lu­tants such as oil and me­tal residue into the lake and this has con­trib­uted to the poor wa­ter qual­ity and re­duced di­ver­sity of wildlife.

Reed beds of­fer a nat­u­ral so­lu­tion to the prob­lem and around 3,800 square me­tres of the unique habi­tat will be planted up­stream of the lake and its coun­try park to act as a nat­u­ral bar­rier and fil­ter pol­lu­tants.

The area it­self will also pro­vide var­ied habi­tat for a range of wildlife. At the same time the park, which is des­ig­nated a Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serve and a Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est (SSSI), will be im­prov­ing sus­tain­able drainage at the site.

High­ways Eng­land project man­ager Dar­ren Pain­ter said: “When com­pleted, this work will make Stover Park more en­joy­able for visi­tors as well as tack­ling pol­lu­tion and pro­vid­ing valu­able habi­tat for wildlife.

“The twin reed bed sys­tem starts by pro­vid­ing a phys­i­cal bar­rier to pol­luted wa­ter – then, fol­low­ing ab­sorp­tion, mi­crobes work to break down even more pol­lu­tants, re­sult­ing in clearer wa­ter which will help the lake to re­gen­er­ate and flour­ish.”

It is hoped that by re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion, white-wa­ter lilies – not seen at the lake since 2007 – will once again cover the wa­ter area pro­vid­ing suit­able habi­tat for a va­ri­ety of drag­on­flies and dam­sel­flies.

The reed beds them­selves will also sup­port a range of birds, in­sects, rep­tiles, am­phib­ians and mam­mals. Wildlife which will ben­e­fit in­clude the wa­ter rail, hairy dragon­fly, grass snake, the rare Dauben­ton’s bat and otters.

Rob Bal­lard, ranger at Stover Coun­try Park, com­mented: “The con­struc­tion of the reed bed sys­tem will help the re­gen­er­a­tion of the lake, its wa­ter plants and wa­ter­fowl. The cre­ation of this new habi­tat will en­hance bio­di­ver­sity, the land­scape and im­prove the SSSI sta­tus.

“Visi­tors and school groups will be able to view the reed bed cre­ation from a spe­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion view­ing area.”

Coun­cil­lor Roger Croad, Devon County Coun­cil cabi­net mem­ber with re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices, added: “The coun­cil is rightly proud of Stover Coun­try Park. It’s an im­por­tant habi­tat for wildlife and is ex­tremely pop­u­lar with visi­tors so we want to en­sure it pro­vides the best pos­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment.

“This scheme will make a huge dif­fer­ence to the wa­ter qual­ity of the lake at Stover which will ben­e­fit ev­ery­one.”

Work at the site will start later this month and is ex­pected to con­tinue for up to seven months. To cre­ate the reed bed 6,000 tonnes of soil will be re­moved, and four va­ri­eties of reed na­tive to the area will be planted.

For most of the con­struc­tion work it will be nec­es­sary to close the cy­cle path run­ning through the park. Clo­sures will be pub­li­cised in ad­vance and posters show­ing a di­ver­sion route will be on dis­play.

Some of the ex­ist­ing on-road drainage will be mod­i­fied to con­nect with the reed beds, which will in­volve an ex­pected eight nights of clo­sures on the A38 or the round­about slip roads.

High­ways Eng­land is com­mit­ted to a na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity Plan which is be­ing sup­ported by a £30 mil­lion na­tional in­vest­ment pro­gramme over the next five years.

The plan recog­nises road verges and as­so­ci­ated land can be man­aged to pro­vide ar­eas of habi­tat, rel­a­tively free from hu­man ac­cess, that may be scarce in the sur­round­ing land­scape.

A spokesman said: “Th­ese road verges can also be used to con­nect frag­mented habi­tats in the wider land­scape, en­abling plant and an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions to move and in­ter­act, and so be­come stronger and more re­silient.”

This scheme will make a huge dif­fer­ence to the wa­ter qual­ity of the lake at Stover which will ben­e­fit ev­ery­one

Coun­cil­lor Roger Croad

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the com­pleted scheme at Stover Lake na­ture re­serve

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