Restoration project sees low-biodiversity floodplain transformed into a wetland habitat

A restoration project has seen a combined 32 hectares of formerly low-biodiversity floodplain in Eythrope, Buckinghamshire turned into a high-biodiversity wetland, with over 100 different species of birds recorded.

In 2020, the River Thame Conservation Trust secured a Water Environment Grant from the Environment Agency of £360,450 to help transform the site.

Work began in 2020 with the excavation of more than 11,000 square metres of polluted topsoil to make way for the wetland site. 

As well as creating a backwater - a large pond connected to the river, where young fish can safely grow to maturity - the project also created a variety of shapes and sizes of pools. All of these features encourage plants, insects and animals to thrive.

According to the Environment Agency, two years on the success of the project is “evident” with regular surveys recording a wide variety of fish and bird populations, the most recent survey recorded 122 different species of birds, including teal, lapwing and ringed plover, among many others.

Hilary Phillips, senior project officer at the River Thame Conservation Trust, said: “The Eythrope Wetland project was a major milestone for us as a small grassroots charity working for a river catchment with healthy fresh waters and wildlife. It was the largest floodplain restoration project we had ever taken on and was the first of its kind in the Thame catchment.

“We were able to transform a low-diversity 10-hectare meadow into a thriving mosaic of scrapes and pools to create a diverse wetland complex.”

Hannah Worker, senior project officer at the Freshwater Habitats Trust, said that although the project represents a new and innovative approach to wetland creation, “it’s actually quite a simple concept”. 

“We know that freshwater wildlife needs a variety of waterbodies, so by creating a complex of different clean water ponds and pools we can support a wider range of species,” she said.