Diffuse pollution – video transcript

Natural Course:

An innovative approach to improve and protect the water environment in Northwest England.

Petula Neilson, Natural England Programme Manager and Natural Course

So Natural Course is a ten year EU Life project.  It’s an integrated project, and it’s a number of partners working together to solve some of the real challenges we’ve got around our North West River Basin area.

So diffuse water pollution is where you get a range of different potential pollutants that can enter a watercourse or waterbody.  The real challenge is trying to identify the sources of diffuse water pollution – in urban areas for example, it can be linked to road transport issues, it can be linked to run-off from housing areas or indeed landscape areas, or other things like former landfill sites where you know, obviously they can be quite serious, significant problems.  However, in the rural areas such as here at Rostherne today, quite often it’s related to agricultural run-off – and that can be a really difficult challenge to deal with.

Yes, it’s been really good that we’ve had Natural Course to help us look in more detail at the issues of diffuse water pollution across the North West River Basin District.  The collaborative opportunities to work together to co-design projects, to work together as a range of different organisations has really helped us to be able to achieve success in terms of moving forward on our thinking and the projects we’ve delivered.

Rostherne Mere: Restoring wetlands to address diffuse pollution and help improve the water quality.

Dr Paul Thomas, Natural England

This is Rostherne Mere, which is a SSSI RAMSAR site, and a National Nature Reserve as well.  We’re literally, probably about five miles from Manchester Airport.  The mere is, it’s kind of just next to Tatton Park – so it’s within the larger Tatton Estate which supports marginal wetlands of reed beds, areas of wet woodland – and those habitats support important breeding populations of water birds, as well as overwintering wildfowl. Here on the reserve, there’s always been this background of pollution basically coming in from the catchment around it.  So what we’ve been doing is focusing on re-naturalising and basically giving nature a chance on all the inflow streams, to soak up and clean up all that pollution from the catchment as much possible before it actually gets into the mere.

Everything we’ve been doing – the leaky dams, the pools, the wetland creation – all of that is designed to slow that water down and to settle out and give nature a chance to clean up that water.

Annette McDonald, Tatton Estate

I think certainly round about here, one of the biggest challenges is about our agricultural practices.  Quite a bit of the land is tenanted, so whilst we work very closely with our tenant farmers, we don’t always have necessarily direct control.  And so we’ve been really excited to work with Natural England in finding ways we can improve the habitats, address some of the issues around the water diffuse pollution.

It’s great that we’ve done this project.  I think there is an opportunity to work more closely and in the future with Natural England through Natural Course, and make sure that we’re really communicating the benefits of these types of projects.

Dr Paul Thomas, Natural England

OK, we’re stood here on one of the leaky dams.  This structure is here to slow the flow of water down and to trap silt, and to cause the water to be pushed out into the wetlands we’ve created either side.  So, this is not just one dam alone, we’ve got a series of about seven or eight of them along this watercourse here, which is working in tandem with the wetlands either side. And this is just the first stage – we’ve got plans for this winter to put in another 30 of these on all of the tributaries that are feeding into the mere.  It’s already capturing all the sand here, and the good thing about these is you can see it’s alive.  All of the willow it’s made out of is growing, so each year it gets stronger, it gets bigger, and it puts more roots down and gets firmer.  It’s kind of like a living, growing barrier which will cause the watercourse to meander.

So, we’ve moved on to the next phase of wetland creation on the site where we’ve got a slightly different situation here.  We’ve got field drains, which are basically pipes, which are short-cutting water straight into the watercourse and the mere.  It’s bypassing all the wetlands, so we are basically breaking into those pipes and blocking them up with geotextiles and bungs to hold the water back, and basically make it go through the ground, so it gets filtered before it gets to the wetlands.

So Natural Course has really provided that sort of meetings of minds, it’s brought the evidence together that we need in terms of the water chemistry, the understanding of the hydrology in the catchment, the right people in terms of catchment sensitive farming, the reserve staff, the landowners, the farmers, altogether to be able to understand the issues, and then actually work out what is doable, what’s possible to deliver on the ground.  And it’s also brought in money to be able to actually deliver it as well.

This section we’re stood in at the moment, was the very first step.  It’s where we tested out the methods, and we saw the instant success.  I think the future holds us rolling this out across the whole site, so we capture every single in-flow stream and allow nature to be able to cope and soak up all those nutrients as much as possible before they get to the mere.


This programme has been made possible with the support of EU LIFE IP funding – project number: LIFE14/IPE/UK/0027.