Work has now been completed on Samlesbury weir; the first man made barrier that migratory fish encounter on the Ribble.
Completed alongside our delivery partners, Wade Group, this project was able to go ahead despite challenging circumstances, including the national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent changes to working practices. Funding for this work was made available by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Our work here involved removing a redundant gauging weir adjacent to Brockholes Nature Reserve. Lowland rivers such as the Ribble at Samlesbury are often heavily influenced by human activity and are subject to man-made barriers such as weirs which no longer provide any function. While Samlesbury Weir was a low-head structure, fish were forced to expend energy to move upstream, especially those with poor swimming ability. Additionally, in low flows fish were exposing themselves to excessive predation.
The removal of this barrier has promoted natural river processes, allowed free movement for local and migratory fish species, and will improve population resilience. A number of rare and endangered species, such as smelt, lamprey, and eels will benefit from the removal of this structure. Fish are not the only benefactor of this project as pre-works invertebrate surveys have shown. The upstream habitat is degraded due to the impoundment and the removal of the weir has great potential in improving habitat complexity. This will lead to a greater abundance of invertebrates and a wider diversity of species, which will also benefit other riverine creatures which forage for them.
Going forward the Trust will monitor the effects of our work to see how the invertebrate and fish populations react to the change in the habitat, with monitoring already showing an initial improvement in invertebrate numbers. Further to this some of our Ribble Life partner organisations will also be completing monitoring works in this area.
River restoration projects such as this involve the reversal of human influence by restoring the natural state and function of a river and, as the widest weir removal in England, will have maximum benefit to the Ribble, its tributaries, and the wildlife that are dependent on it.
Please click here for updates on our ongoing and soon to start works and for updates on the current COVID-19 work position.