Boost For River Lark Wildlife

Kingfisher and heron habitats on a stretch of the River Lark are set to be improved, with the help of a £250 award from local company UK Power Networks.

The company’s Team Sport Awards offer employees the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £250 to fund specific items or projects required by amateur clubs in which they are involved.

The latest grant has been given to a Suffolk project to increase and restore the biodiversity of the River Lark, aided by various agencies including the Wild Trout Trust, and involves some construction work which requires funding.

Strategy engineer Peter Lawson, who is based at UK Power Networks’ Bury St Edmunds office, is a committee member of Bury St Edmunds Trout Club, which regularly uses the river.

River Lark AnglerPeter said: “In the past, the river just north of the road bridge at Lackford was extensively modified to enable commercial navigation, which ceased many years ago. It now forms a straight channel like a canal, with little depth or flow variation. This doesn’t support a range or quality of wildlife. The uniform depth and lack of cover is not good for invertebrates and small fish, which affects birds such as kingfishers and herons.

“The ecology of this section of river is managed by the Bury St Edmunds Trout Club members in close co-operation with the Environment Agency. We are delighted to win £250 which will go towards the multi-agency project to look at re-profiling the river. By making the channel narrower in some sections and creating some deeper pools, for example, it will improve the habitat for wildlife, in turn making the area more interesting for walkers, birdwatchers, families and anglers to visit.”

The Rivers Lark and Linnet rise south of Bury St Edmunds and the Lark then flows north-west across Suffolk and into Cambridgeshire, where it joins the Great Ouse near Prickwillow. Wetland birds alongside the River Lark include kingfishers and herons, little grebe, gadwall, tufted duck, grey wagtail, reed and sedge warblers.

James Hooker, an Environment Agency technical specialist, added: “This grant will help to keep up the momentum that two local river restoration volunteers have started for the local angling clubs. The donation will help part fund the planning of river restoration, which will benefit the ecology and help the River Lark meet European Water Framework Directive targets.”

Andy Thomas, conservation officer with the Wild Trout Trust, added: “When I visited the Lark with the Bury St Edmunds Trout Club, I could see what potential it had to be a really great river for local residents and wildlife as well as for fishermen to enjoy. I’m so pleased to see that the plans we talked about on the bank are beginning to come to fruition and I am looking forward to helping out in any way I can. Under the stewardship of groups like the club and the Lark Angling and Preservation Society, the iconic wild brown trout is in safe hands.”

Meanwhile, UK Power Networks is also starting new partnerships with the nine wildlife trusts in its distribution areas, including Suffolk, to help preserve and develop wildlife habitats.

The company is supporting each trust financially and intends to arrange 27 employee team day events each year, three for each wildlife trust. Teams of employee volunteers will help the trusts with activities such as coppicing and digging drainage trenches.