The River Kennet, like most chalk rivers in England is a highly physically modified system
Recent modifications (particularly dredging and channel widening for land drainage or agricultural purposes) have had detrimental impacts on river ecology and navigation.
In urban and sub-urban areas the river is often channelised with no marginal vegetation. Historic structures, for example mill hatches, can impact the river, by impounding upstream sections and obstructing fish passage. The Environment Agency (EA) Water Level Management Plans for the SSSIs on the Kennet and Lambourn identify all these structures and their adverse impacts, and prioritise actions required to address these impacts.
River restoration work
A programme of river restoration work is already well underway in the Kennet, by Action for the River Kennet, EA, Natural England, landowners and fishery interests. Over the last 15 years projects to remove or modify structures, replace dredged gravels and improve river habitat have been completed. Future projects are guided by the Environment Agency’s Habitat Restoration Strategy for the SSSI, which is a public document, and by the updated whole river strategy, which will shortly be available as a map layer (2020) and is being developed in consultation with the Kennet Catchment Partnership (January 2020).
Habitat restoration strategy
The EA’s Kennet Habitat Restoration Strategy identified those reaches of the catchment where morphological restoration and/or improvements to fish passage were deemed to be most important in order to assist recovery to favourable condition for the River SSSIs, and to move towards ‘good ecological status’ under the Water Framework Directive. The Strategy was based on outputs from various studies including relevant Water Level Management Plans, a Kennet Fluvial Audit, River Habitat Surveys, and the in-house knowledge of Fisheries and Conservation staff in regard to the most degraded sections of river.
Individual projects are outlined on the website in the catchment section, but the location of future projects will be guided by the Whole River Restoration Strategy (2020) and the River Kennet and River Lambourn SSSI restoration strategy Projects will be implemented as funding and land owner consent become available.