Cumbrian weir removal project scoops national award

West Cumbria Rivers Trust are thrilled to announce that their project to remove Ennerdale Mill Weir in Egremont has won a top conservation award from the Wild Trout Trust.

The project on the River Ehen in West Cumbria, won the Large Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme Award at the annual Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards, at an evening ceremony in London on 17 October 2018.

Removal of the weir has allowed unimpeded upstream and downstream migration of Atlantic Salmon and Trout for the first time in over 250 years.

The ambitious project re-connected the River Ehen with Ennerdale Water, delivering benefits for wild fish and freshwater mussels as well as tackling invasive Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed.

The WCRT overcame significant challenges to remove the mill dam this summer to facilitate both upstream and downstream fish movement and has restored a natural sediment transport regime to the river.

Dr Paul Gaskell of the Wild Trout Trust, said: “It was a privilege to be introduced to these works – and thank you for the inspiration that the efforts and results create in our community of river-protectors and helpers.

“It is always an uplifting experience to see the dedication, determination and expertise that is demonstrated in the projects competing for the annual Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards.”

Luke Bryant, Assistant Director at WCRT, said: “We’re extremely pleased to have won this award. It’s fantastic to be recognised for all of the hard work that we have put into this project, and to raise awareness of how partnership working can achieve massive environmental benefits.

“We would like to thank the Wild Trout Trust for their recognition, all of our partners in this project including Ebsford Environmental (the specialist environmental contractor who carried out the works), and project funders including Natural Course, James Fisher Nuclear and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), whose financial contributions helped us achieve this wonderful result.”

Environment Agency River Restoration Project Manager, Oliver Southgate, said: “This was an amazing project that had been earmarked for completion by the Environment Agency for many years. It has now finally been completed and the support from WCRT, Natural England, MMO and James Fisher Nuclear was superb. This was a truly collaborative project delivering huge wins for both people and the environment.”

Around 100 people gathered in the ballroom of the Savile Club in London to celebrate the tremendous contributions of individuals and groups to improving river habitat. The awards were judged by Dr Paul Gaskell and Shaun Leonard of the Wild Trout Trust and Martin Jaynes of the River Restoration Centre.

The project is part of the Cumbria River Restoration Strategy which is a partnership between the Environment Agency, Rivers Trusts and Natural England which aims to deliver a wide range of projects across the whole of Cumbria that will benefit both people and wildlife.

The Environment Agency, Natural England, West Cumbria Rivers Trust, weir owner James Fisher Nuclear, and independent consultant AECOM, had spent three years monitoring the site. Options including fish-passes and partial removal were considered, but full removal of the weir was deemed the safest way forward. Works were completed in July and a programme of tree planting is now underway to further strengthen the riverbanks and enhance the surrounding habitat.

The Ennerdale Mill project has used EU LIFE IP Natural Course resources to provide support in leveraging complementary funding.