£161,000 to be spent on recreating twists and turns in river near Selkirk

Twists and turns are being lined up for a stretch of river in the Borders straightened out in the 19th century to create more farmland.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 11:39 am
A section of the Little Yarrow near Selkirk straightened out over 150 years ago.

A kilometre-long stretch of the Little Yarrow, a tributary of the River Tweed west of Selkirk, is going back round the bend, thanks to a grant of almost £103,000 from the Scottish Government’s biodiversity challenge fund.

That money, along with £10,000 from the environment fund set up by the operators of the Fallago Rig wind farm near Lauder, is to be spent by the Tweed Forum on a £161,000 landscape project including restoring part of the Little Yarrow to its natural meandering course.

That stretch of the river was straightened out over 150 years ago to provide extra grazing land, but work is now being planned to restore its twists and turns, adding wetlands and woodland to help absorb carbon and increase habitat diversity to support wildlife species including otters, brook lampreys and Atlantic salmon.

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Trees planted alongside the rerouted river will provide shade to keep water temperatures low to help fish surve climate change, and new features such as deep scour pools will provide habitats for spawning salmon.

It is also hoped that new woodland and wetland habitats will attract the likes of frogs, toads and common newts, as well as birds such as dippers, sandpipers and kingfishers.

On top of that, reconnecting the river with its 12-hectare former flood plain will ensure more water is stored upstream after heavy rainfall, reducing the risk of flooding further east on the way to Selkirk.

That recreation of the river’s bends complements a series of habitat restoration activities being carried out by landowner Wemyss and March Estates, and it is also providing £48,000 worth of in-kind support for the project.

Work on unstraightening the Little Yarrow is to begin next month and it’s expected to be completed by October in time for salmon and trout to return upstream to lay eggs.

Tweed Forum director Luke Comins said: “Natural, meandering waterways provide many benefits which were not fully appreciated when sections were straightened over a century ago.

“We’re extremely grateful for this generous grant, which will enable us to restore this part of the Little Yarrow to a more natural state and help to create a landscape that encourages wildlife, boosts water quality, absorbs carbon and helps to mitigate flooding and enhance one of the most scenic areas of the Borders.”

Wemyss and March Estates factor Martin Andrews added: “We’re delighted that this funding has been approved and we’re excited by the prospect of this project, which fits very neatly into our aspirations to see wider landscape and habitat enhancement to safeguard and improve natural capital and biodiversity across the estate.

“The St Mary’s Loch road is a major tourist route which runs through the valley and close to the river, so this restored landscape will be appreciated by a great many people for generations to come.”

The Upper Yarrow landscape initiative is one of 16 projects across Scotland sharing the second round of grants handed out by the £4m biodiversity challenge fund.

Scottish Natural Heritage chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “As lockdown conditions lift, green recovery projects like the biodiversity challenge fund put nature, and nature-based solutions, at the heart of rebuilding our economy, but it’s not just about conservation. Enriching our nature is also part of the solution to the climate emergency.

“People know that climate change is a big issue, but not as many know that biodiversity loss is also a global and generational threat to human wellbeing.”