Blog: Wetland Restoration at Rostherne Mere

Lorna Drake (Natural England Nature Recovery Network Lead Advisor for Natural Course) gives us an update on a recent site visit to Rostherne Mere.

Lockdown, work from home and online meetings have all become normal parts of life, with many of us forgetting what it is like to go out on-site or have physical meetings with team members. However, changes in lockdown rules, and a brief break from the poor May weather, gave six members of the Natural Course team an opportunity to meet in person and see the work taking place at Rostherne Mere.

Everyone in the team was eager to leave their laptops behind and get some respite from ‘zoom fatigue’ by meeting each other face-to-face, albeit socially distanced. Whilst most the team worked together before the pandemic, two team members joined during the various lockdowns and had only met the rest of the team virtually, making this site visit an even more important outing for the team to get to know each other.

Following introductions, team members walked down to the mere and were informed of the pressures impacting the site. Legacy wastewater discharges and ongoing pressures from agricultural runoff have been key elements contributing to Rostherne mere not reaching good ecological status under the Water Framework Directive. In response to this, Natural England have been working with Tatton Estate on a wetland restoration project to help improve the water quality. This has been part of a wider catchment operation, Cheshire Hub, which brings together various organisations (e.g. Natural England, the Environment Agency, United Utilities and the Rivers Trust) and key landowners to work collaboratively and share information, delivering multiple benefits at the catchment scale.

The wetland restoration at Rostherne mere has focussed on improving water quality through nature-based solutions, by creating a series of ponds that water can flow through and settle in. Ponds of various sizes were dug, and excess soil used to create horseshoe bunds around each one, increasing the capacity of the ponds to catch and hold water. These ponds not only help slow the flow but also direct the water towards reedbeds, allowing silt to settle and pollutants to be filtered out of the water before it reaches the mere. Additionally, leaky log dams have been installed on the nearby brook and willow-woven fences erected along the edge of the mere. These features further help to slow the flow and direct water to the wetlands during high flow, therefore giving the wetlands a greater opportunity to filter the water before it reaches the mere.

Although the work at Rostherne mere has focussed on improving water quality, the restoration work is expected to deliver multiple benefits for water and nature. Just from this brief visit, it was already clear that a wide variety of species use the site; waterfowl were spotted on both the mere and in the newly created ponds, passerines were singing from the reedbeds, and there were many female wolf spiders spotted scuttling around the grass carrying their eggs sacs.  Over the coming months, the site will continue to be monitored and volunteers will be recording the biological diversity in the area, which will help identify positive changes for wildlife that the restoration may be delivering alongside water quality benefits.

This visit to Rostherne mere provided a much-needed break from virtual life, giving everyone a chance to get out in nature, get to know each other a little better and learn more about this exciting project. All the team were pleased to see the progress that has been made as a result of the hard work and funding put in through the Natural Course programme and can’t wait to visit in the future to see how this project develops.

Pools and leaky dams at Rostherne Mere

Wetland work at Rostherne Mere (Natural England)

For more information on our Catchment Operation work: Catchment operation – Natural Course