ANOTHER stretch of the River Itchen at Winchester is set to be made more wildlife friendly.

Improvements will start this month at River Park with a £45,000 scheme by Winchester City Council managed by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Parts of the river near the River Park Leisure Centre will be planted with locallygrown wetland plants, recreating a naturally-meandering stream and improving the habitat for flora and fauna.

River restoration specialists Aquascience will repair eroded parts of the river bank to prevent further erosion of the footpath and helping the river flow to dislodge some of the silt on the river bed.

As well as wetland plants, other species such as brown trout, grayling, roach, water vole, mayfly and banded demoiselle are set to benefit.

Work will last for two weeks followed by further work in the autumn. There will be no disruption to public access and no increased flood risk, says the council.

The works are part of a three-year project and follow improvements two years ago in Abbey Gardens and Friarsgate.

Concrete and brick-lined channels were transformed into greener spaces, attracting a greater variety of wildlife including water voles and brown trout into the heart of the city.

This modified channel was once part of Winnall Moor’s historic water-meadow system that existed before the recreation ground was created and is linked to the internationally important River Itchen.


Martin de Retuerto, wildlife trust head of conservation, said: “These channels have been modified continuously since Roman times for milling, water meadows, flood drainage and landfill and they have lost most of their ability to function naturally.

“Coupled with adverse effects linked to urban environments, such as pollution and neglect, many of the habitats and the wildlife we associate with theRiver Itchen have been drastically diminished.

“This work will dramatically improve what has become a degraded urban channel and will see life flow back through the city.”