charles rangeley-wilson – writing about fishing, travel, rivers, conservation

Putting the Gravel Back


Minn’s Meadow was our first real attempt at finding a way of properly fixing the dredged parts of this little chalk-stream. Because dredging is the most fundamental and widespread way in which chalk-streams have been damaged, I’m really interested in what we can do about it.

The problem is, putting gravel back is very expensive … if you import it from off-site.

Here, we have taken the gravel from borrow-pits beside the river and restored long riffles in sync with the meander pattern of the river. The borrow pits were filled back in and have settled into flood-plain hollows that imitate old oxbows and have a nice side-benefit of wetland habitat. There were quite a few snipe hanging around them in the winter.

It was also nice to see that the riffles were used by spawning trout (and sea-trout) within a month of going in. I feel the fact that the gravel was ungraded and from the floodplain beside the river might well have influenced how readily it was adopted by spawning trout.

Here’s a few before, during and after photos. Before we started 80% of the fall in this meadow was lost over the first few yards, whereafter the river became deep and sluggish. Now, we have spaced the fall out over a series of riffles with natural shapes and intervals.

It is great to see patches of ranunculus growing over bright gravel where before there was mostly silt and eel-grass. And there are trout everywhere!


Here the channel is too wide and deep. The bed is silty and supports mostly eel-grass.


We filled the channel in with a long riffle (half-a-meter depth of infill) and afterwards narrowed with plugs of canary sweet-grass taken from the meadow.


Six months on, the banks are recovering, the gravel is clean and we have ranunculus and starwort.


The same reach as above but looking from the top down. 


Immediately after.


Six months on.


This was taken last autumn after we cut through the burr-reed to release the flow. Before that the channel was invisible!


The same reach after the gravel went in. A large sea trout spawned here a few weeks later.


The same reach in May this year. A much shallower and tighter channel will keep the burr reed to the edges and support ranunculus – which is starting to appear in patches.

2 Responses to “Putting the Gravel Back”

  1. rangeley

    Andy, no it isn’t just you! A technical glitch which I am just trying to fix. Apologies and thanks for the heads up. Charles.

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