Working with Nature for People in River Catchments - UK Brazil Learning 21st April to 1st May 2015

Over the last two weeks, from the 21st April to the 1st of May, the Environment Agency hosted a programme of practical days, site visits, discussions and workshops in five UK river basin districts (nine catchments) across the UK. The event  - entitled ‘Working with Nature for People in River Catchments: UK Brazil Learning’ - involved numerous organizations including the RRC, Environment Agency, Aplysia Brazil, Institute of Fisheries Management, Queen Mary University of London, Norfolk Rivers Trust and Drainage Board, Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, Loddon Fisheries & Conservation Consultative, Brent Catchment Partnership, Thames Water, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts, Angling Trust, Wild Trout Trust, University of Reading, Thames Region Flood and Coastal Committee, Thames and South East River Basin District Liaison Panels, South East Rivers Trust and many others. This event is also part of an academic partnership between universities and the Environment Agency conceived to reach as many catchments as possible both in the UK and internationally.

The extent of the 10 days back to back events is unparalleled in river and catchment restoration. Thank you all for giving your time making it happen! Something truly special...


The main aim was to build relationships between Regional Flood and Coastal Committees (RFCCs), River Basin District Liaison Panels and Catchment Partnerships, helping coordinate and align flood risk and river basin/catchment planning and delivery. To accomplish this, a catchment management-based approach was addressed in discussions and workshops. As well as discussions, presentations and workshops, practical days proved to be a beneficial way of engaging different groups sharing knowledge and skills, working on the ground installing habitat and improving river environments for people and wildlife. We have seen the use of simpler and effective techniques to the use of large wood to more elaborate ones such as bank and bed modifications and even the creation of a completely new river channel.

A summary of the events and site visits is listed below:


Event 1 - Northumberland: Natural flood management: concepts, design, project management and delivery. A technical training course by the River Restoration Centre

Topics addressed on this training day led by the RRC were natural flood management techniques taking multiple objectives into account. The morning discussions were followed by a site visit to the Environment Agency-led Belford NFM sites to discuss what measures had been undertaken. An exercise with Alex Nicholson (ARUP) and Jenny Mant (RRC) on the ‘design your natural flood management scheme’ was followed by an interactive discussion which closed the day that was attended by 30 delegates.

Natural flood management, river restoration and catchment management are all intrinsically interlinked. This requires us to understand the system in which we are working and to have targeted objectives for the multiple benefits which we are looking to provide” Martin Janes, the River Restoration Centre Managing Director.



Events 2, 3, 4 - Cumbria, Penrith: Forestry and fisheries - where next? Days led by the Institute of Fisheries Management

There was three days of discussion and field visits where delegates were taken to see landscape-scale river rehabilitation, such as the River Lyvennet in the Eden catchment. Presentations were wide ranging from water abstraction benefits by letting the river find its way to best practice mixed and continuous forestry cover.

A very informative event especially learning a great deal on fisheries and forestry. We’re hoping for similar future experiences to share collaborative flood management work and we realise the wider benefits from work like at Pontbren. It’s the way we’re going in Wales” Mike Richards, Coed Cymru (presenting the Ponbren farmers collaboration project)

So much good work between forestry and fisheries was discussed opening up a dialogue between groups. We’ve shared best practice and hope to move this conversation forward in future with relationships built especially with the forestry sector. Check out the IFM website for conference presentations! Great to see so many people there” Paul Coulson, Operations Director, Institute of Fisheries Management


Event 5 - London: Restoring river habitats for the ecology and wider benefits. A practical training day in Bitterns Field, Ealing

The 'Train the Trainers Day' led by the Brent Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency was a fantastic opportunity to show local people how to revitalize a heavily degraded river through river rehabilitation. Learning about the benefits of large wood in small lowland rivers and how best to install wood in stream for maximum effect was the main aim of the day.

"Thames Water is pleased to support the Brent and Loddon practical days and delighted about the value of this experience gained and the range of people taking part" Richard Aylard, Thames Water External Affairs and Sustainability Director

My IFM London Facebook post with John Sutton’s video of Bittern’s Field, has been viewed 620 times! Thank you for bringing the story of the UK Brazil learning events to life; video is a great way of engaging people” Lawrence Hemmings, Institute of Fisheries Management social media lead for the events

IFM page:



Event 6 - Norfolk: Working with natural processes: A day visiting the Nar catchment with Norfolk Rivers Trust and Drainage Board

This visit was led by Charles Rangeley-Wilson from the Norfolk Rivers Trust and by Chris Bell from the Environment Agency. One point observed was that priority is given to cost-effective restoration measures, such as the use of large wood. There is great attention and care conferred to the river banks. Fish species richness and the functionality of spawning and nursery habitats are the main indicators used to track recovery strategies.

What a fantastic opportunity for partners on the Nar and elsewhere to visit some of the excellent work completed over the last six years. We welcomed the chance to share techniques and information with our guests from Brazil” Chris Bell, Fisheries and Biodiversity Technical Specialist, Environment Agency

The work the Norfolk Rivers Trust does is an example of good practice in many ways; they have restored more than 7km of the River Nar bringing some of its reaches back to life. To see the river looking so natural is inspiring” Carolina Pinto, Aplysia Environmental Solutions Brazil



Event 7- Sussex: Removing and collapsing weirs. Visiting weir removal projects on the River Ouse at Sheffield Park and Buxted Park.

The visit to the sites where the weirs had been removed was led by Peter King from the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust. In the River Ouse at Sheffield Park the weir removal has opened up about 25 km of river and reduced the river level by 2.5 m. The weir impounded the river approximately 900m upstream of the site. The main objectives of the project were habitat creation and fish migration. The success of the project can be attributed to the liaison and communication between the landowners and the Trust. A key learning point was the value landowners are bringing to removing weirs themselves.



Event 8 - Hampshire:  Working with wood at the catchment scale: Loddon catchment. A practical day on River Whitewater, a visit to Arborfield bypass and a presentation on the Thames International River Prize by Alastair Driver

A great practical day out that took a hands-on approach using wood to enhance rivers in Hampshire.  According to scientists, large wood in aquatic environments can create habitat for wildlife and reduce the risk of flooding in urban catchments by retaining water upstream. Moreover, the wood creates depositional areas of suspended solids and organic matter improving water quality.

Thank you so much for the great day out yesterday, I really appreciated people taking time out of busy schedules to show all of us what you do. I've been doing so much reading on large wood and river restoration so it was brilliant to see real work and how it's implemented and producing results in the field. The site at Arborfield was absolutely amazing! I can only hope I'll get the chance to be involved in projects like that once I've finished my masters” Anneka Jay Johnson Marshall, Queen Mary University London masters student



Event 9 - London: Urban river enhancements in the Rivers Wandle and Hogsmill organized by the River Restoration Centre.

During the visit to the Rivers Hogsmill and Wandle, an important point was learned: although very urban in nature, rivers can be enhanced. What's more, small tributaries can recover within a short time if pollutant loads, such as sewage or industrial waste, are treated before being released into water courses. Furthermore, volunteer participation is also essential for the success of the restoration schemes in urban areas because they take an active role in protecting and improving their own local streams and rivers.



Event 10 - London: Reflecting the first cycle of river basin and flood risk plans and looking ahead. With academia, communities and businesses organized by Queen Mary University of London.

The closing of the event series that took place at Queen Mary University of London, where we were hosted by Gemma Harvey and Alex Henshaw. Amongst the speakers were Dominic Martyn, Natalie Foster, Sara Denton, Carolina Pinto, Tatiana Furley,  Rob Oates, Katherine Pygott, Angela Gurnell, Natalie Angelopoulos and Toni Scarr.

This was a day of presentations, workshops and discussions and stories which highlighted the need to integrate stakeholders; to take a catchment-based approach towards river restoration; and to use techniques that lead to cost-effective project delivery.

It was really good and a great example of sharing lessons outside of our little silos” Olly Southgate, Environment Program Team Cumbria and Lancashire, Environment Agency



Facts and Figures:

  • 200 to 300 different people involved;
  • 10 catchments;
  • 6 river basin districts;
  • Over 10 events;
  • 10 days of learning;
  • 100 people joined the Facebook page in Brazil in 2 days;
  • Well over 150k of in kind and financial contributions;
  • Over 10 days spent uploading case studies to the River Wiki with permission;
  • Over 625 people have viewed our Institute of Fisheries Management Facebook page link to the Brent Catchment Partnership and Rivers and Wetlands Community Days habitat training day



Carolina Pinto, Aplysia Environmental Solutions Brazil


It is great to read about all of the events that have taken place across England to raise awareness about the importance of restoring natural processes - brilliant to see so many different people and organisations involved.

Congratulations for all. I´ve been followed this week of learning from Brazil, in the site and with my colleagues Tatiana and Carolina. Fantastic!
I´ve perceived that the Nature was, is and will be the Great Master if we decide to restore the rivers. As the Nature teaches, we´ll have to have patience and firm commitment and believe on people capacity.
In fact, all people involved worked with Nature.

Congratulations for all. I´d followed this week of learning from Brazil, in the site and with my colleagues Tatiana and Carolina. Fantastic!
I´ve perceived that the Nature was, is and will be the Great Master if we decide to restore the rivers. As the Nature teaches, we´ll have to have patience and firm commitment and to believe on people capacity.
In fact, all people involved worked with Nature.

It was a really worthwile learning week! All participants were very friendly. We are just starting in Brazil the ReNaturalize Project, based on UK experience. Thank you and hope to see you all here!

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