Garrell Burn RRC Member Site Visit

Yesterday I attended the RRC member site visit to Garrell Burn in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Despite heavy rain in the early morning, the sun came out and we had sun the whole rest of the visit! The mornings rain was perfect to help show off the work that has been done at Garrell Burn!

The group started in Burngreen where Francis Hayes from SEPA gave a short presentation about the history of the site and what the channel looked like before the project. The channel was a u-shaped box channel which was straight and uniform. This project re-meandered 600m of the river, creating space for the channel to flood onto the surrounding floodplain, and in some places creating a 2-stage channel.

Through the urban stretch of the Burn, upstream, old weirs were adapted and fish ladders were installed to break up the flow and help fish movement.

An important aspect of this project was the access and community component. Hayley and Laura from North Lanarkshire Council were on hand to tell us about the works which have taken place to improve access and community engagement. A new path has been installed using recycled materials, to allow the public to walk beside the new channel. This was not a flood risk project, so the path was set at the level of the bank (not raised), so the channel is open to flood onto the path, prioritising the river’s natural regime. The river now flows through Dumbreck Marsh nature reserve where wider work has been done to allow the local community to walk among the reeds and vegetation, over the top of the floodplain. A sign and bench also provide amenity along this stretch. New footbridges have also been installed allowing access to the path on both sides of the restored river channel. We saw lots of dog walkers using the paths during our visit.

Before the works were carried out, a population of sand martins was identified. A new sand martin wall has been built in the floodplain providing habitat for the population. Laura from North Lanarkshire Council told us how it had been assumed it would take 1-2 years for the population to establish however within 1 month the sand martins had found this newly created habitat! As well as this, kingfisher habitat had to be relocated in order to meander the stream through its new sinuous course. A new kingfisher habitat was installed and covered with a mound to conceal the entrance for predators. More surveys need to be carried out in order to determine whether a kingfisher is using the new habitat.

The group enjoyed walking round the floodplain in the autumn sunshine. We were mostly prepared with wellington boots however had to double-back on ourselves when the puddles became a bit too deep now that more natural overtopping can occur! The recent rainfall helped show off the capability of this floodplain and the connection of the channel with its surrounding land. As the floodplain is considered a marshland nature reserve, there are no immediate trees on the banktops. The set back trees however provide a nice wet woodland habitat.

At the downstream end of Garrell Burn where the channel joins the River Kelvin, about 20m of the original straight channel is still present, connecting the new meanders and the confluence with the Kelvin. Part of the old straightened Burn is still used as a storage backwater behind the new meander bend.

It was great to see this project following recent completion. We look forward to seeing how the project is monitored in future and how habitats develop. Thanks to Francis from SEPA, Laura & Hayley from North Lanarkshire Council, and Jonathan from WSP for taking the time to facilitate this visit. CBEC Eco Engineering were also part of the design team. The groundworks were undertaken by George Leslie Ltd.


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