River Restoration Knepp Wilding

Restored Adur river project by Knepp Wildland Foundation shows truly impressive performance during the recent intense downpours.

The River Adur is one of the largest rivers in Sussex. Like so many of Britain’s waterways it suffered as a result of ‘canalisation’ (the straightening of embankments), pollution and loss of habitat. Constructed in the 19th century, the canal was to make the floodplain suitable for agricultural use but the narrow, flood-prone water-meadows only ever provided poor quality grazing.

The restoration of the river was carried out in 2011 creating significant wetland habitat, including scrapes and naturally functioning floodplain. Today, this is one of the richest areas of biodiversity.

The river Adur restoration project was carried out by the Environment Agency and was funded by Natural England and the Knepp Estate. The process involved removing four weirs and filling in a 1.5 mile drainage canal. Woody debris were introduced into the restored meanders to imitate and accelerate the natural processes of the river. The restored wetlands of the floodplain have become ideal habitat for wading birds, amphibians, water insects, important marsh plants and riverine trees like the scarce black poplar.

Returning this stretch of the Adur to its original meanders, and reconnecting it with 3.5 miles of restored floodplains upstream, has revitalised the water system. The drone video by the Knepp Estate shows how following weeks of rainfall across the country with the heavy downpours hitting saturated ground, the imaginative restoration has helped to slow the flow during intense rainfall and substantially increased flood storage.

The exemplary and impressive Adur River Recovery is a land manager-led project involving 27 farmers and land managers working to to revive floodplains, increase biodiversity and improve water quality.