Middle Kennet

The Middle Kennet flows from Marlborough to Newbury encompassing a mix of urban and rural landscapes.

The waterbody is split into two sections, Marlborough to Hungerford and Hungerford to Newbury. The overall waterbody status of the Middle Kennet is moderate, however while the ecological status of the first section has increased to ‘good’ since 2016 , the ecological status of the second section has remained at moderate levels due to the poorer quality of it’s plant and fish populations as a result of sewage discharge and agricultural and rural land management. In 2019 dissolved oxygen levels in the first section improved relative to 2016, but groundwater abstraction continues to have negative effects on flow. The presence of Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) has caused both river sections to fail their chemical assessment.

The upper reaches contain examples of excellent chalk stream habitat, but there are opportunities to make improvements for wildlife, through habitat restoration projects and tackling the effects of old mill structures, which impound the river, causing siltation of the river beds and prevent the free movement of fish. There are good examples of recently completed  habitat restoration projects in this waterbody, including work at Stonebridge Wild River Reserve, Ramsbury, Eastridge and Kintbury.

The Middle Kennet downstream from Hungerford is affected by poor quality water coming from the Kennet and Avon Canal, rural diffuse pollution and other pressures, including invasive species.

Catchment sensitive farming is active in the area, working with farmers to reduce rural diffuse pollution.  Water exports to Swindon have been limited since 2017.

The joint ARK/Thames Water ‘Water Matters’ campaign is helping communities to use less water to keep the river healthy.

The Kennet Rainscapes project has built rain gardens in four schools in the catchment to slow the flow of water and reduce water pollution.

Actions complete:

  • Stitchcombe Mill: in 2018 a natural bypass channel was created and 150 m of channel upstream of the mill was restored. The river has been narrowed using vegetated berms.
  • Red Lion Sluices: the landowners have removed the sluice, improving the upstream habitat.
  • Ramsbury Manor Estate: the estate have reduced the flow going into their lake at the ‘Rags Hatches’ structures, improving the flow in the river. This has reduced silt in the lake and improved the habitat in the bypass channel.
  • Moons Mill: the owners have made changes which have resulted in higher water velocities and improved in-stream habitat.
  • Chilton Estate: a restoration scheme in 2010 included enhancement work to the Pump House Stream and some of the smaller tributaries. In 2016 a fish pass was constructed to allow fish passage along the main river which utilised an existing side channel and created additional habitat.
  • Avington Estate and upstream of Hungerford Town and Manor land: a significant river restoration project covering over 2 km of SSSI channel was implemented in 2008–2010. Further channel enhancements have subsequently been carried out to the smaller side channels. Habitat on this reach is now very good.
  • Barton Court: in 2004–2007 approximately 1.5 km of channel was restored by the Environment Agency.
  • Barton Holt: ARK and the Environment Agency completed enhancement works including the removal of a weir and a set of hatches, restoring natural flow and sediment regime, and securing fish passage. A second phase restored the habitat in over 500 m of channel, involving re-profiling and raising the bed with gravels.
  • Craven Fisheries: significant enhancement work to support flow-dependent habitat, including channel narrowing and bed raising on the reaches with sufficient gradient, has been carried out.
  • Benham Estate: in 2009 a restoration scheme was implemented on this reach, including narrowing the River Kennet, repairing a breach in the banks of the Parliament Draught, restoring a side ‘drain’ by adding gravel, and creating a fish spawning habitat.
  • Hamstead Mill and Benham Weir: fish passage has been secured.

Actions required:

  • ‘Rags Hatches’ structures (Ramsbury Manor Estate): introducing some large woody debris would result in further improvements.
  • Moons Mill: low-cost baffles would improve fish passage at the mill.
  • Old Mill, Ramsbury: a detailed design for fish passage and upstream restoration consisting of 300 m of in-stream enhancement (including woody debris and re-profiling) has been created and will be delivered by ARK.
  • Howe Mill: the mill has an impact on flow dynamics and habitat and is a block to fish passage. Solutions to this should be investigated.
  • Eddington Mill: work is ongoing with several landowners to agree a restoration scheme which includes restoring the reach upstream of Eddington Mill for 1 km by narrowing the channel, potentially raising the bed using gravels, and securing fish pass using a natural bypass.
  • Eddington Bridge: some in-stream work to speed up natural recovery and resilience during times of lower water flows would be beneficial.
  • Denford Mill: localised narrowing and woody debris could be beneficial to reduce sedimentation and improve the in-stream habitat directly upstream of the mill. Opportunities to reduce the level of impoundment should be looked into. As Denford Mill is a blockage to fish passage, a feasibility study is required to assess how fish passage can be obtained through the mill or associated side streams.
  • Barton Court: work to some structures and habitat improvements to channels will be carried out by the Barton Court Estate, with advice from the Environment Agency.
  • The Wilderness, Kintbury: a restoration plan for this part of the river, including channel narrowing and bed raising for 1 km, has been designed and agreement secured with the landowners.
  • Benham Estate: a site visit would be valuable to identify if there is any further collaborative work that could be undertaken.
  • Through Newbury: opportunities for restoration are limited but enhancement works may be beneficial, particularly on more natural stretches; a walkover needs to be completed to identify possible works.
  • Continuation of farm and land management advice to reduce sediment and pollution.
  • Support for good sustainable drainage (SUDS) in new builds and retrofit.
  • Investigation and action to reduce the impact of the Kennet and Avon Canal on the River Kennet.