WORK has been completed to make a Hampshire river friendlier to wildlife as it passes through a major city.

Specialists are repairing the eroded banks of the River Itchen in Winchester, installing wetland plants to improve the habitat for species including trout, grayling, water vole and mayfly.

The £45,000 project, near the city’s River Park Leisure Centre, will help dislodge silt on the riverbed and prevent erosion of a nearby footpath.

The tributary was once part of Winnall Moors’ historic water meadow system, which existed before the recreation ground was created.

Similar work was done in Abbey Gardens and Friarsgate in 2013 as part of a three-year project, funded by Winchester City Council and managed by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Martin de Retuerto, the trust’s area head of conservation, said: “These channels have been modified continuously since Roman times – for milling, water meadows, flood drainage, landfill and so on 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 the world-famous River Itchen have been drastically diminished.

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

Winchester City Council’s portfolio holder for environment, Cllr Frank Pearson, added: “We are delighted to be working together to improve this section of the River Itchen for people and for wildlife.

“The city is privileged to have such an important river forming a significant feature so any opportunity to enhance it for wildlife and the residents of Winchester should be taken forward.”

There will be no increased flood risk or disruption to public access, the city council said.