I was walking back from Melbourne to Shepreth the other day. It wasn’t raining. There is a lovely route alongside the river Melde. You join the footpath from the village rec. As I went under the bridge carrying the bypass I met Les Brierley who was working in the river, wearing a pair of waders.
He was telling me that when the bridge was built they made the channel too wide, which slowed the waterflow and caused silting up of the river bed. He is part of the River Melde Restoration Group who have managed to get some funds to sort this problem out.
Most of the silt has been pumped out and used as ‘fill’ to narrow the width of the river as it approaches the bridge, using wooden staves, woven with branches to hold the sludge in place until it dries out. He told me the next step is to deposit a load of gravel on one side of the river directly under the bridge, narrowing the channel. This will increase the rate of flow and allow the silt to be held in suspension in the water.
We should then have a clear river bed. For Les and his colleagues looking after the river has been a labour of love, but one which has its rewards. As we were talking a water vole swam by. Apparently the local TV have been down by the river side recently, filming the voles.
Les and his mates left apples on the bank, which water voles are particularly partial to, for several days before hand. When the cameraman turned up a water vole appeared right to order!
Les told me that they get sticklebacks in the river and sometimes trout.
If anyone is walking down the path and see Les and his colleagues working there – give them a warm hello as you pass by. It’s people like them who help preserve our local countryside for the benefit of all, both animals and humans.