Posted: Monday 10th May 2010

The Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project, managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) has won CIWEM’s prestigious Living Wetlands Award.

Justin Taberham, CIWEM’s Director of Policy and judge for the Living Wetlands Award praised all the entries:

“This year, CIWEM’s Living Wetlands Award received twenty entries of amazing diversity. Amongst a very strong pool of submissions, the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project stood out to me and the other judges as an outstanding wetlands project. Congratulations to all involved.”

The Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail partnership is repairing and enhancing the Navigation – part of a chalk river system that stretches for ten miles from Winchester to Southampton - celebrating its wildlife, history and value to local people. Costing £2.4million, this is the largest project HIWWT has ever run and involves working with 60 different landowners, tenants and angling clubs.

The Itchen Navigation was constructed for barge passage in the 18th century. Since it ceased to be used commercially, the channel has become an important place for wildlife, notable for significant populations of the rare southern damselfly, as well as otter, water vole, brook lamprey and Atlantic salmon, and a range of scarce freshwater and riparian invertebrates. However, the deterioration of the banks and lack of maintenance over the last 150 years has caused worn-down banks to breach, putting this wildlife in jeopardy.

The project is using bioengineering techniques as a wildlife friendly way of stabilising and repairing the banks of the Navigation. Planted or seeded berms not only protect the vulnerable banks from future erosion, but also provide habitat for key species of the Navigation and enhance in-channel flow variability. A ten-year maintenance programme is provided to landowners, focusing on management of the new wetland vegetation to ensure the longevity of the repairs and the survival of the habitat.

Mitigation, management and monitoring techniques are being used to limit any negative impacts upon flora and fauna, air and water quality, landscape, archaeology and soils. Wildlife monitoring also is taking place throughout the project, including surveys of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, water voles, otters, bats, fish and invertebrates, and results are used to inform the planning of upcoming works.

Involvement of volunteers is a key component of the project and over 140 volunteers have participated in the project, undertaking wildlife surveys, practical conservation, heritage research, photography and helping at events. An Itchen Navigation arts project is also proving very successful in engaging local communities, with nearly 1,000 people participating in workshops and events so far and a further 2,500 to be involved over the coming year.

The project is improving both physical and intellectual access to the Navigation, improving footpaths, creating disabled access and producing interpretation panels, web pages and leaflets to provide visitors with information. Industrial archaeology, in the form of 300-year-old locks and hatches, is being preserved and interpreted for visitors to appreciate. Works to conserve the Navigation also help to preserve an important drinking water supply, alleviate flooding in times of high flow, and help to reconnect the river with the floodplain.

The project is managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency, Winchester City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, Southampton City Council, Hampshire County Council, Natural England and the Inland Waterways Association.

On hearing the news, Ali Morse, Project Manager with HIWWT said:

“We’re thrilled to have won this prestigious award – the prize money will help us to continue our work to conserve the Navigation, but equally important is the recognition we will receive as a result. Being an award-winning project will encourage additional landowners to work with us, and will give potential funders confidence in the project and in the project partners. Although we have some works under our belt, there is still a lot more that we hope to deliver to ensure that the habitats and species of the Navigation can continue to thrive.”

The award is to be presented to HIWWT at CIWEM’s Annual Dinner in May.

Highly Commended entries included the London Rivers Action Plan, the River Braiding and Reedbed Creation Scheme at Croxall Lakes in Staffordshire, the Avon Meadows Community Wetland in Pershore and the Balloo Wetland Nature Reserve.

One of the judges for the Living Wetlands Award, Matt Johns, Director of Johns Associates Ltd, said:

“The Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project is an inspiring landscape scale project involving strong partnerships to create high quality habitats for the benefit of wildlife, people and the landscape. Our Highly Commended entries also deserve praise, with the London Rivers Action Plan giving an exciting and achievable multifunctional vision for the future of London's rivers; the River Braiding and Reedbed Creation Scheme employing an innovative approach to river and floodplain enhancement that also has economic and flood alleviation benefits; the Avon Meadows Community Wetland providing a great example of a community-driven wetland project that has a wide range of environmental benefits; and the Balloo Wetland Nature Reserve demonstrating how a relatively small wetland initiative can interest a much larger group of people.”

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December 2019

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