Dorset chalk stream benefits from Environment Agency funding

The Environment Agency has funded a successful project to improve water quality and fish habitat in the Devils Brook, an important chalk stream in Dorset.

The 2-year project, led by the Farming Wildlife Advisory Group Southwest (FWAG), has involved many partners and landowners. They have worked together to identify and improve areas where sediment and nutrients are having a negative impact on the watercourse. The project was awarded £30,000 from the Environment Agency’s Water Environment Investment Fund.

The Devils Brook rises in the chalk hills above the Dorset villages of Dewlish and Cheselbourne and flows south to join the Piddle. It is an important wild trout and sea trout spawning and nursery stream.

‘Slow the flow’ techniques, including tree and hedge planting, sediment traps, buffer strips and new wetland areas, have reduced losses to the river, resulting in improved water quality.

Where sections of the watercourse have been fenced off, and a buffer strip stops animals from entering, there has been a marked increase in Ranunculus growth. This healthy vegetation holds up water levels, creating important cover for fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Luke Kozak, Environment Agency project manager, said: “By working with natural processes, the project has already improved riparian and in-stream habitat and water quality.  Our funding has been crucial in enabling FWAG to engage with partners and landowners, with some fantastic results and great examples of partnership working.

“We now hope to use our experiences gained from the Devils Brook project to improve chalk streams across Dorset.”

The project partners are: Dorset Wildlife Trust, Wild Trout Trust, Wessex Water, Dorset County Council, and local landowners.

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