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Beverley Brook - a 14.3km stretch of river that passes through Richmond Park - is being restored by The Royal Parks to help the river meet its environmental targets.

Over the years Beverley Brook has been heavily modified, having been straightened, widened and deepened in the 1920s. It is currently failing its target of 'Good Ecological Potential' under the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).

Richmond Park contains 14% of the Beverley Brook and possesses rural characteristics.  This gives us tremendous scope to restore and re-naturalise the river, improving a significant proportion of the total length.

The restoration project aims to push the river towards meeting its 'Good Ecological Potential' target by April 2016. It is a partnership project with funding from The Royal Parks, the Friends of Richmond Park and the Environment Agency. We've also received funding through the South East Rivers Trust from the Catchment Partnership Action Fund.

Sir David Attenborough is the patron of the Beverley Brook project, he said:

"Projects like this that restore natural habitats are vital to ensure our riverside flora and fauna thrive in the future."

On this page:

Phase 1 of the Beverley Brook restoration project (2015-16)

As part of phase 1 of the restoration project we plan to:

  • Fix large timbers in the riverbed to provide diversity of flow, which will clean and replenish gravel banks, providing habitat for fish to spawn and shelter.
  • Plant native trees to provide new habitat, shade cover and a self sustaining source of large wooded material.
  • Fence sections of the river from 30 September 2015 to prevent access by deer and dogs, allowing marginal vegetation to establish which will stabilise the banks.
  • Change the gradient of banks to enable growth of marginal plant species.
  • Create backwaters to provide sanctuary for fish during high water flow - this will also increase the flood storage capacity of Richmond Park.
  • Introduce gravel to the channel at regular intervals to naturally reduce channel width and produce suitable spawning habitat for fish.

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Access restrictions during the Beverley Brook restoration project

For the purposes of public safety we've erected temporary crowd barrier fencing along the two sections of river that we will be working on:

  • the northern section near Priory Lane footbridge to Kill Cat wood.
  • the southern section (further upstream) from the south end of Kill Cat wood to the concrete bridge.

In November, a quarter of the Brook in Richmond Park will have Sussex cleft chestnut fencing to prevent access by deer and dogs. This will enable the river banks to re-stabilise and allow marginal vegetation to establish.

How fencing sections of the Beverley Brook helps the restoration

Due to the presence of deer and to a lesser extent dogs, the banks have been severely poached which subsequently stimulates the input of excess fine sediment into the river channel. With low stream power, as a consequence of the modifications, this sediment settles out on and within the riverbed smothering the natural gravels. This reduces the habitat quality of the river bed, e.g. for plants and invertebrates, inhibits the successful reproduction of fish that lay eggs in gravels (which require water to flow freely through the gravels to oxygenate the eggs), and can directly damage fish, e.g. gill aggravation by sediment can cause the production of excess mucus which can suffocate the fish.

The presence of deer and their ease of access to the river results in both marginal and in-stream vegetation being heavily grazed. Where vegetation does survive, the heavy grazing means that root structures are shallow and insufficient to consolidate the river banks. This has exacerbated bank erosion leading to the ingress of sediment and the slumping of river banks in many locations through the park.

Access to the Beverley Brook for deer and dogs

Deer and dogs will still be able to access the remaining sections of the river. We are only fencing off 580m in total; this is approximately one quarter of the entire length of the Brook that runs through Richmond Park. 

We will also make it easier for dogs and deer to access the river by taking the steepness out of the bank in a defined area.

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Why the Beverley Brook requires restoration

Previous modifications to the Beverley Brook

The Beverley Brook is 14.3 km in length and has a catchment of 64 km2. Approximately two thirds of the catchment is considered urban.

Urbanisation has led to an increased risk of flooding as buildings have been constructed within floodplains. This also brought about a reduction in the area of impermeable surfaces such as roofs and roads, which meant more run-offs into rivers, increased the speed and volume of the river flows.

In the past, the response to this increased risk was to straighten, deepen and widen the river channel, replacing natural, meandering watercourses with ecologically sterile, canalised channels constructed from concrete or brick. These channels often resulted in shallow, slow flowing waters and therefore lack sufficient energy for the natural processes of erosion and deposition.

The issues that impact the river as a whole apply to Richmond Park. The river through Richmond Park has historically been straightened, widened and deepened. Much of this occurred in the 1920s, changing the course from its former meandering channel to that seen today.

Failed targets of 'Good Ecological Potential'

There are virtually no completely natural parts of the river and the whole length has at some point in history been altered. Only 3% of the banks are considered natural and unaltered.

These modifications have dramatically reduced variation within the river and consequently biodiversity of both riverine fauna and flora is lacking.

This, in combination with other factors, both historic and present, are causing the Beverley Brook to fail its target of 'Good Ecological Potential' under the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).

Specifically the elements that the river is failing under are:

  • fish ('Bad')
  • macro-invertebrates ('Moderate')
  • macrophytes ('Poor)
  • phosphate ('Poor')
  • hydrogeomorphological elements ('does not support High'),
  • priority hazardous substances ('Fail'),
  • priority substances ('Fail'),
  • specific pollutants (Annex 8 substances; 'Moderate') and,
  • a lack of implementation of mitigation measures ('Moderate').
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