Photo by National Trust
We all rely on rivers, whether it’s for drinking water, growing crops, powering industries or simply providing tranquil places for us to explore and escape. That’s certainly the case for the River Witham that gently meanders its way through the Grade 1 listed parkland at Belton. Many of our visitors enjoy a peaceful walk along the lush green riverside, some lucky enough to spot a kingfisher, egret or water vole.
However, our rivers are in trouble - and so is the wildlife that depends on them. Intensive farming, pressures from development and the effects of climate change have all taken their toll, and now only 17% of England’s rivers are in good health. This means that some of our most important plants, insects, animals and birds are at risk.
Painted Lady Butterfly on knapweed
Our overarching vison is to work with partners and
communities to restore a healthy, beautiful, natural environment. We want our
rivers and catchments to be healthy, clean and rich in wildlife. Working in partnership
with South Kesteven District Council and Environment Agency, and with the help
of European Funding, allows us to do just that and we’re looking forwards to rejuvenating
this section of the river.
River Witham running through Belton House
Over the years, the river channel at Belton has deepened and the connection to the floodplain has been significantly reduced. During spells of heavy rainfall, the water flows quickly through the narrow and deep river channel, increasing the risk of flooding further downstream. Through this partnership project, we’re working to slow the flow of the river by reconnecting the river to its original floodplain - allowing the wider landscape to absorb the effects of the weather. This will also improve conditions for wildlife that live along the river corridor, such as water voles and white-clawed crayfish, as well as otters and the resident bat population that forages and breeds nearby.
River Witham in high flood, at Belton House
The project will also develop a new wildflower area at Sedgwick Meadows, a nearby site in Grantham town centre, which borders the River Witham. This grazing farmland was once situated on the edge of town, yet over time the urban landscape has grown up around its boundaries. The meadows were originally gifted to the National Trust in 1944 by Miss Winifred and Miss Marion Sedgwick, along with Grantham House and gardens, which nestle on the opposite side of the riverbank.
Painting of Grantham from Sedgwick Meadows. St Wulfram's church spire is visible in the middle distance.
The urban greenspace of Sedgwick Meadows offers quiet solace for Grantham residents. The public footpath which runs along the river’s edge also provides easy access from one part of town to another. Through the partnership project we hope to develop a new wildflower meadow area close to the riverside, which will not only make an attractive landscape for people, but will also create a flourishing haven for butterflies, bees and other wildlife.
This project offers such an exciting opportunity to help develop a vibrant riverside corridor along the River Witham and we can’t wait to get started!
Claire Barrett, Outdoors Manager, National Trust
" Rivers are the lifeblood of our landscapes but many of them – and the wider landscapes that feed into them – are in desperate need of repair." - Hilary McGrady, Director General, National Trust