Interpretative Trail for West Fenton
An expansive access plan has recently been developed and implemented at West Fenton Farm. The aim of these routes is to guide visitors around the farm allowing them to see and experience the habitats, features and techniques being developed on the farm.
Phase 1, saw the creation of an interpretive trail, enabling visitors of all abilities to access the wetland features on the farm. This new trail is approximately 1000m in length, and runs along the top of the floodbanks.
This trail provides the opportunity for people with physical disabilities to access the open countryside, and see and experience the features associated with the Fenton Floodplain Project. From the car park at West Fenton the trail runs along the side of the old mill race, before moving up onto the floodbank.
A new pedestrian bridge has been built across the re-meandered Fenton Burn.
Once the trail reaches the main Till floodbanks, the route is notched down into the bank. This minimises the disturbance to resident wildlife and helps in providing a degree of shelter to walkers along this exposed stretch of the trail.
The trail then gently drops down from the floodbank to join up with a board walk which runs through an area of wetland before crossing over the Fenton Burn again. The route then links in with a new green lane which takes the trail back up to the farm and the car pack. Two spurs on the trail lead visitors to two specially sited viewing areas. These areas are screened by living willow panels.
A green classroom is sited within the small mixed wood plantation.
The trail, board walk and bridge follow the Fieldfare Trusts Rural and Working Landscape Standards. A series of interpretative boards haver been placed along the route, which tie in with the range of newly created
habitats and features that can be experienced from the trail.
Background information on Fenton Floodplains and the River Till Floodplain Restoration Project
A novel and pioneering project, lead by the Tweed Forum, has started at Fenton, Wooler on part of the Earl of Durhams Lambton Estate. The Fenton Floodplains project aims to re-connect the River Till with its natural floodplain for the first time in over 50 years. The breaching and removal of targeted sections of floodbank will allow flood water to spread unhindered over once arable fields. With time, a mosaic of flood plain habitats including flood plain grazing marsh, wet grassland, reedbed, wet woodland and open water; habitats; features that have largely been lost within the Till Catchment over the last 60 years.
The principal aim of Fenton Floodplains is to create a series of interconnected wetland habitats that are associated with a floodplain landscape. These wetland habitats will support a rich assemblage of plants and animals, many of which are rare or threatened. Our primary target species are waders such as lapwing, snipe, redshank and curlew, wildfowl such as pink foot and greylag geese, widgeon and teal, and mammals such as otter, water vole and water shrew. As the habitats mature and diversify a wide range of plants, amphibians and insects will also benefit.
Through working with the farmers and the project partners, we have developed a plan to deliver the following:
Creation and/or restoration of 34ha of wetland habitat through the breaching of defences, water level management, pond creation etc, to allow the:
Creation of 13ha of floodplain grazing marsh
Restoration of 16ha of floodplain grazing marsh
Creation of 4ha of lowland neutral grassland
Creation of 1ha of wet woodland and phragmites reedbed
Enhancements of recreational facilities, to potentially include new access routes (including disabled access), interpretation boards, bird hides/screens. These aspects will be designed to complement usage through the Fenton Centre.
A more natural, sustainable flood regime through the breaching of floodbanks
A reduction in agricultural "pollutants" entering the River Till system
An improvement to the condition of the River Till SSSI.
Views and needs of the local farmers
Views and needs of the local community
Management requirements and constraints associated with the creation of new habitats
The habitat options proposed have been guided by site conditions, the historic context of the site, landowner and management requirements and the objectives and targets associated with the UK and Northumberland Biodiversity Action Plans.
Fenton Floodplains currently incorporates two farms, West Fenton and Nesbit, and over the life time of the project over 35ha of UK Priority BAP habitat will be created within the intensively farmed Millfield Basin.
Work on the first phase of the project is now complete. Over the last couple of months:
Over 450m of floodbank have been removed at 3 separate locations.
Over 100m of new stream channel has been created for the Fenton Burn
0.8ha of wet woodland has been planted
125m of culverted watercourse opened up
0.1ha of new phragmites reedbed.
Excavation of 2 ponds
Phase 2 of Fenton Floodplains is planned for summer 2008. This will include:
The construction of a further 750m of new channel for the Fenton Burn.
The removal of a further 125m of floodbanks
The excavation of numerous wader scrapes.
The establishment through re-seeding of approximate 17ha of species rich and floodplain grassland on previously arable fields
The installation of a series of sluices that will enable water levels to be controlled across approximately 16ha.of floodplain meadow.
Development of footpaths, viewing areas and interpretation information
Work at Fenton forms the first part of the much larger River Till Wetland Restoration Project which was launched last year.
This pioneering project aims to work with farmers and land managers within the Till Catchment to find a sustainable approach to flood management by returning land to natural floodplain. The River Till Wetland Restoration Project has been set up to demonstrate that there are now real opportunities and financial benefits for farmers and land managers to restore wetland habitats along the River Till.
Floodplains are those low lying, seemingly flat areas of land adjacent to our rivers and streams. The inundation of these areas by floodwater is a natural phenomenon, which give parts of the countryside its unique character. These areas are rich in wildlife, supported by a range of wetland habitats ranging from pools and ponds, reedbeds and swamps, wet grassland and woodland. Many of the wetland habitats associated with floodplains have been lost or are threatened.
From the early hunter/gatherers to the modern agriculturists, people have always been attracted to live and work in these areas. As our floodplains have been settled and cultivated, the land has been drained and defended
from flooding. This practice has gone on for centuries but it accelerated rapidly in the post war years.
Today, naturally functioning floodplains are rare in the UK where most rivers are intensively engineered and regulated. The extent of the floodplain for flood defence purposes is defined as the area covered at the peak water level for a given flood event. On rivers, the extent of a 1% annual probability or a 1 in 100 yr flood is used to delineate the floodplain.
As a consequence, many of the wetland habitats and species associated with floodplains have declined sharply. A report, "Birds of Conservation Concern" (1996) by the British Trust for Ornithology, lists 37 red or amber list species, which are totally or partially dependent on these habitats.
Within the Till Catchment, there are over 30km of flood defences, primarily protecting agricultural land, ranging from high value arable to rush pasture.
The long-term aim of the River Till Wetland Restoration Project is to restore or create a range of nationally threatened wetland habitats that reflect the true richness of our floodplains. Secondary objectives associated with this project include:
Education and awareness.
Sustainable flood management
Tourism and recreation
The River Till Wetland Restoration Project, is a partnership between the Tweed Forum, Environment Agency, Natural England, the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and Northumberland Farm and Wildlife Advisory Group. Initial funding for the project has been from the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee, the Environment Agency, and through DEFRAs High Level Stewardship Scheme.