Restored River Lark now ‘singing again’ thanks to trout club

Left to right: Keith Stevens, Ian Hawkins, Glenn Smithson, Peter Lawson, James Hooker and Giles Caws

Left to right: Keith Stevens, Ian Hawkins, Glenn Smithson, Peter Lawson, James Hooker and Giles Cawston - Credit: Contributed

A project to restore the River Lark into a “lively river bustling with wildlife” has been recognised with a prestigious conservation award.

Spearheaded by the Bury St Edmunds Trout Club some nine years ago, the work has improved the flow of the water through West Stow Country Park, creating a better habitat for numerous species.

It won the medium-sized project category in the Wild Trout Trust – Thames Water Conservation Awards 2015, which recognise excellence in the management and conservation of wild trout habitat and celebrate the efforts of professionals and grassroots voluntary organisations.

Ian Hawkins, honorary fishery officer at the Bury Trout Club, said those involved in the project had also included the Environment Agency, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and the Wild Trout Trust.

He said: “It will benefit all the wildlife in the river and surrounding river from fish to insects, water voles, otters, everything. It will greatly benefit the people who come to use the country park.

Now, instead of the river being a sluggish sort of canal, in the last two or three years while we have been doing the work, the phrase I use is the Lark is singing again.”

Mr Hawkins said the work involved reducing the width of the river and therefore increasing the flow, oxygenating the water and clearing the built-up silt.

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Major restoration work was carried out in September 2013 by the late Dr Nigel Holmes to narrow the river and then in April last year the club undertook planting on the newly-created gravel ridges at the edge of the Lark.

The award recognises the project for being “a story of sheer dogged determination, with Glenn Smithson [from the Bury Trout Club], Ian Hawkins and their supporters battling against widely-held views that what they were attempting (and have now achieved) was impossible”.

It said: “The result is the transformation of a straight, dredged channel into a sinuous, lively river bustling with wildlife.”

Mr Hawkins added: “We hope that this award will bring more visitors to the country park and that we might inspire and assist others along the Lark to improve their section of the river, particularly with the development of 1,250 new houses being built in Rushbrooke Lane. This is a fantastic opportunity for the developers to restore and protect the unmolested headwaters of the River Lark.”

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