Six river projects included in £14.5 million species recovery grant scheme

Among the initiatives receiving funding, the WET Hogsmill project will reintroduce water voles onto the Hogsmill river, a chalk stream in Southwest London.

Natural England has announced (on 14 September) 63 projects across England –  “one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth” – that have been awarded a share of £14.5 million Species Recovery Programme Grant Scheme to help recover 150 species nationwide.

This includes six projects across the Rivers Trust Movement that have been selected to receive funding, which will “give a boost to some of our most iconic river wildlife and their habitats“ in the following areas:

  • Westcountry Rivers Trust – Strategic Exe Weirs   [Atlantic Salmon, Sea/Brown Trout, European Eel]
  • Tyne Rivers Trust - MAST (Magaritifera, Salar, Trutta) Flying the Flag for Rare Species in the Rede  [Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Atlantic Salmon, Brown/Sea Trout]
  • South East Rivers Trust - WET Hogsmill (Water Vole, Eel & Trout) [ Brown Trout, Brown/Sea Trout, European Eel, Water Vole]
  • West Cumbria Rivers Trust – Resilience for Margaritifera margaritifera (ReForM) [Freshwater Pearl Mussel]
  • Wessex Rivers Trust - Wild Figheldean [Atlantic Salmon]
  • Bristol Avon Rivers Trust – Cam and Wellow Eel Project [European Eel, Brown Trout, River Lamprey/Brook Lamprey]

Natural England chose South East Rivers Trust (SERT) to host the scheme’s launch at the Hogsmill in Ewell, Surrey on 14 September, 2023.

SERT has been awarded £393,000 as part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme Grant Scheme which aims to support targeted action to recover the UK’s most endangered species. The funding supports propagation, captive rearing, translocations, research and solution-trialling to find the best approaches to enable endangered wildlife to survive and flourish.

The WET Hogsmill project led by SERT, will improve the habitat of the Hogsmill river, a chalk stream in Southwest London. There are only around 220 chalk streams worldwide, meaning that this is an exceedingly rare and special habitat. The project will reintroduce Water Voles onto the river and create new habitats for both European Eel and Brown/Sea Trout and will run until Spring 2025.

Director of Comms and Advocacy for The Rivers Trust, Tessa Wardley said: “These grants will allow Rivers Trusts, working with communities and partners, to help some of our most vulnerable river species including atlantic salmon, brown/sea trout, water voles, [and] European cels across the country.“

Co-CEO of SERT, Dr. Bella Davies said: “We are thrilled to have been successful in our application to Natural England’s Species Recovery Grant to support the recovery of water voles, eels and native wild trout which have become near extinct on the Hogsmill river in South West London. The Hogsmill is a rare urban chalk stream, meaning that it’s important for nature and an important resource for people too. Our project will restore river habitat and create backwaters where fish can take refuge from pollution by creating wetlands to improve water quality, which will help reintroduce Water Voles which were once prevalent on the river. We are excited to see this much needed work begin on the ground to bring Water Vole, European Eel and Brown/Sea Trout back to the Hogsmill.“