A £3 million river restoration project on the River Welland, which runs from Sibbertoft to the Wash Estuary has inspired the formation of a unique partnership comprising businesses, local communities, government agencies and third-sector bodies, who have joined forces to improve the River Welland for fresh water, people and wildlife.

A unique strength of the project is that efforts to improve water quality and wildlife habitats in and around the river are being underpinned by research coordinated by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust at its Allerton Project demonstration farm – particularly through its landscape scale Water Friendly Farming project in the upper Welland. This science-based approach is proving crucial to the success of many of the projects initiated so far.Launched in 2011 and designated by Defra as one of ten ‘pilot catchments’ for integrated management, the Welland Valley Partnership aims to implement the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive for clean rivers in a good ecological state.The Partnership, led by the Welland Rivers Trust, has been instrumental in setting out the new vision for the Welland Valley, and is supporting more than £3 million worth of projects in towns such as Market Harborough and Stamford as well as in rural areas within the Welland river basin.Already, the Welland Rivers Trust, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Environment Agency, and the National Farmers’ Union have initiated a number of major and minor projects throughout the Welland Valley. Projects so far have included the restoration of a millstream, creating wildlife habitats, helping farmers improve water quality, and creating brown trout spawning areas along the river.Dr Chris Stoate, Head of Research at the GWCT’s Allerton Project in Leicestershire and a trustee of the Welland Rivers Trust, said, “There is now widespread acceptance that much needs to be done to improve the water quality and ecology of the river which in many stretches fails to meet basic standards. The strength of the partnership is the active involvement of the local community, especially local farmers, combined with the research input that we can provide.”We have already achieved a lot by tackling some of the big issues that are so important to the well-being of the Welland and we believe the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm provided by the wide-ranging stakeholder group provides a winning blueprint that other river catchments across the country can follow in order to improve the health of other rivers.”With many projects now under way, the Partnership is keen to hear people’s views, suggestions and ideally offers of help to make the Welland and its tributaries a better place for people and wildlife alike.Peter Barham, the Partnership’s Chairman said, “The Welland Valley Partnership is about communities, organisations and companies working together to improve the river. We want people to become part of the partnership and do whatever they can to make the River Welland healthy and beautiful – a great place for wildlife and fantastic amenity for the local area.”For those interested in getting involved in the River Welland project, please contact info@wellandriverstrust.org.uk or visit www.wellandrivertrust.org.uk.