2024 UK River Prize

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2024 UK River Prize


Application guidelines

UK River Prize

The UK River Prize celebrates the achievements of those individuals and organisations working to improve the natural functioning and ecological integrity of our rivers and catchments, and recognises the global benefits to society of a healthy natural environment. It is a collaboration across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to celebrate best practice across the four countries.

The UK River Prize is awarded by the River Restoration Centre (RRC). It is judged by a panel of UK experts. The UK River Prize winners will be announced on 24th April 2024 at the UK River Prize Awards Dinner, in association with the RRC Annual Network Conference in Llandudno, North Wales.

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2023 UK River Prize Winners

Winner of the Catchment-scale award
River Trent, England - 'Staffordshire Trent Valley'
Lead: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust & Environment Agency

The Staffordshire Trent Valley covers the mainstem of the River Trent from its source at Biddulph Moor, through Stoke-on-Trent all the way to the confluence with the River Dove just downstream of Burton-upon-Trent. It includes all the tributaries and catchments including the Sow, Penk, Blithe, Tean, Manifold and the parts of the Tame, Mease SAC, Anker and Dove systems within Staffordshire.

The genesis of this project was the UK Biodiversity Action Plan process; a local partnership was established to produce (species and) habitat action plans in 1998. For Staffordshire, this included rivers and streams. Biodiversity audits undertaken at the time, together with subsequent catchment assessments and the Environment Agency’s data (including River Habitat Data), concluded that over 85% of rivers and streams had been heavily modified and were disconnected from their traditional floodplains.  Ambitious restoration targets were agreed.

In 2003 the LBAP targets for rivers were largely superceded by the Water Framework Directive’s ‘Good Ecological Status’ for all ‘waterbodies’. We now fully endorse the UN 30 by 30 Convention on Biological Diversity.

Between 2006 and 2018 a series of opportunity mapping & biodiversity audits were carried out for the Staffordshire Trent Valley involving a mixture of walkover surveys, aerial photography and a compilation of existing information including EA data and an analysis of historic maps highlighting where evidence of habitat complexity was evident in the past.

Reaches with recovering river habitat diversity were used as ‘reference conditions’ to help inform and inspire our restoration plans and interventions. In order to adhere to aspirations to undertake ‘process-led’ restoration work, we work with science teams comprising of fluvial geomorphologists from consultancies and universities. Their input is crucial to the final designs and interventions that are undertaken to ‘trigger’ dynamic natural processes.

Once the baseline geomorphological audits are secured it is then possible to undertake repeat surveys to assess the effectiveness of our interventions. The same approach is used for our ecological monitoring: baseline surveys for ‘indicator species’ are carried out in partnership with The Wild Trout Trust, Natural England and consultant biologists and repeated post project delivery.

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Winner of the reach-scale award
Rottal Burn, River South Esk, Angus, Scotland - 'Restoring the Rottal Burn'
Lead: River South Esk Catchment Partnership
Partners: Esk Rivers & Fisheries Trust, Abertay University

The Rottal Burn is a tributary of the River South Esk in Glen Clova, Eastern Scotland, with headwaters in Cairngorms National Park. The project described here is an unconfined re-meandering of the lower part of the burn from where it flows under the B955 road bridge around 1km southwest of Rottal Lodge to the confluence with the River South Esk.

The lower burn was straightened around the 1830s for agricultural reasons and was subjected to regular dredging.  While salmon and trout continued to spawn in the straightened section of river, survival of juvenile fish was poor, and salmonid nests, called ‘redds’ were frequently washed-out during winter floods.

To restore the Rottal Burn, a new channel was created in 2012, replacing 650m of straightened, embankment-lined channel with an open, meandering channel extended to 1200m in length and now connected to its floodplain.  The restoration design was process-based rather than focusing on creating individual habitat features.

The construction works were designed to create the restored channel without any import or export of material, which required careful planning through the design and the construction phase. The existing gravel embankments were used to provide material for the bed of the new channel and excavated material was used in landscaping and infill of the diverted channel. Sections of the restoration included large woody debris in the form of trees with rootballs sourced from wind-blown Scots Pine from the local estate.

Trees were planted in 2012 along much of the new channel in 2012, using native broadleaf and pine trees. The riparian zone of the new channel has not been used by grazing by the estate, and there has been significant natural regeneration, mainly alder, in the area.

The restoration aimed to restore natural river processes and in-stream and riparian habitat, particularly for the Atlantic salmon, trout, and freshwater pearl mussel. The unconfined restoration did not ‘lock’ the channel in place, it was expected that it would remain active and change naturally over time, developing gravel bars, pools and local bank erosion. The freedom to evolve has resulted in improvements in terrestrial habitats such as wetlands, riverbank habitat e.g. sand martin nesting opportunities and shingle islands. The botanical interest of the site has increased greatly, and invertebrate/pollinators are anecdotal greater in number. The project continues to evolve, and ecological monitoring of these wider terrestrial species is planned.

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Find out more about the UK River Prize and previous winners >>>



Media Enquiries

Joshua Robins

River Restoration Adviser
The River Restoration Centre
01234 752979

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