SOUTH Cumbria Rivers Trust (SCRT) has completed works to reconnect Great Langdale Beck to the middle basin of Elterwater. Working in close collaboration with the landowner, the National Trust, and the Environment Agency and Natural England, the works were completed in September 2021 and will lead to an improvement in water quality and wildlife habitats.

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Elterwater is a lake formed from three connected basins: inner, middle and outer. It is fed by both the Great Langdale and Little Langdale becks and is situated just outside the small village of Elterwater in the Langdale Valley, South Cumbria. The project cost £30,000 and was funded by the Water Environment Grant via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

A number of factors have contributed to the decline in Elterwater and its water quality, including modification of river channels, inputs from septic tanks and invasive non-native species. The diversion and straightening of Great Langdale Beck away from the middle basin in the 1940s exasperated the issue.

During the week-long project, specialist contractors created shallow scrapes into the adjacent woodland to reconnect Great Langdale Beck. This has formed a high flow channel that now transfers clean, well-oxygenated water back into the middle basin, benefiting the water quality of the lake.

Now back in its original watercourse Great Langdale Beck will naturally evolve over time and create a dynamic, meandering channel that will support the development of wet woodland, a habitat highly valued by native wildlife.

Woody debris will be added to the channel to give fish and invertebrates a new habitat while benefiting the local bird population and invasive species, including Japanese knotweed, skunk cabbage and Himalayan balsam were removed. Floating platforms were also installed, part of a trial to encourage the nesting of Great Crested grebes.

Adjacent to the popular National Trust footpath, an interpretation board will soon be installed for visitors to engage with, and learn more about, the project.

Neil Winder, Trust area ranger said: ‘Elterwater has outstanding natural value and a diverse range of habitats ranging from open water, swamp and fen to marshy grasslands, willow, alder carr and drier oak woodland. The works see us taking positive action to enhance environmental benefits without risk of flooding, changes to water levels or risk to public amenities. The enhancement of this special site will help to protect Elterwater, its native vegetation and wildlife for future generations.’

Jayne Wilkinson, catchment planning and monitoring officer for SCRT led the project.