Floating Wellingborough ecosystem transforms River Nene riverbank at Whitworth’s Mill

The ‘green island’ will bring environmental as well as aesthetic benefits

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 6:00 am

A Wellingborough section of the River Nene at Whitworth’s Mill has been transformed with the introduction of an artificial 'green island'.

Not only more aesthetically pleasing to passers-by on water or by foot, the new floating eco-system should benefit the environment.

The island has been installed on what was previously a bare hard-surfaced area to a thriving, more natural part of the river.

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As part of the Nenescape Landscape Partnership’s ‘Resilient River’ project, the scheme has been developed in conjunction with landowners on either side of the river to improve the biodiversity and aesthetics of the area with benefits below and above water.

Part of the Nenescape Landscape Partnership’s ‘Resilient River’ project, the scheme has been developed in conjunction with landowners on either side of the river to improve the biodiversity and aesthetics of the area with benefits below and above water.

Viktor Tzikas from River Nene Regional Park (RNRP) said: "Once fully established, the floating ecosystems will offer multiple benefits to the environment, the above-surface vegetation significantly increasing the diversity of plants on this stretch of river creating a pollinator/green corridor which offers cover for small bird species.”

The RNRP employed Biomatrix Water to install about 150m of floating ecosystems, resulting in 252 sq m of habitat being created along the banks of the river.

As well as the surface plants creating a more natural look to the river bank, environmental benefits are taking place below the waterline, with the trailing root systems providing much-needed cover for fish species, as well as a food source from the invertebrates which use the ecosystem for a home.

A ‘floating eco-system’ has been installed transforming the riverbank into what had been a previously bare, hard-surfaced area to a thriving, more natural part of the river.

Fish will also benefit from potential spawning habitat of the trailing roots. Water quality will also be improved as the ecosystems become a haven for microorganisms which will use algae, carbon and other nutrients from the water as food, leading to purification of the water.

Simon Bonney, catchment delivery manager at the Environment Agency, said: “The Environment Agency has been happy to support the floating island project in Wellingborough, and the wider Resilient River project and Nenescape Landscape Partnership. We are keen to work with all partners to support future improvements to the ecology of the River Nene.”

The floating ecosystems are attached to weighted steel cables by large rings which allow them to float up and down to match the current water levels, this means they will not pose any flood risk during high flow periods and will also withstand any flooding.

Daren Wade, Whitworth Bros. group health, safety & environmental manager, said: “We’re delighted to be part of the ecosystem project along our river frontage, in line with our company’s environmental values, to provide an opportunity for nature and wildlife to take hold.”

The River Nene Regional Park (RNRP) employed Biomatrix Water to install a total approximately 150m of floating ecosystems, resulting in 252sq.m of habitat being created along the banks of the river.

The project is one of the exemplar sites within the Resilient River Scheme, but also kickstarts the delivery of ideas from the Wellingborough Waterside Study undertaken in 2019.

The River Nene Regional Park would like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Environment Agency and Borough Council of Wellingborough (now North Northamptonshire Council) for funding the scheme, Whitworths Bros. Ltd for permission to install the floating ecosystems, Biomatrix Water for production and installation of the floating ecosystems and the Nenescape Landscape Partnership for support of the project.

For more information about the project, please click here