The River Beult rises south of Ashford in the area around Green Farm and winds its way through woodland and farmland of the Low Weald landscape to Headcorn and then Yalding where it meets the River Medway. The Beult is home to special species including nightingales, chequer trees, water voles and dragonflies.
Working with other members of Kent Wildlife Trust’s Upper Beult Farmer Cluster and the South East Rivers Trust, we have developed a vision for the Beult as a clean river running through a mosaic of wet grasslands and woodlands, riparian corridors full of wildlife and a functioning floodplain, embedded within a productive agricultural landscape and providing benefits to the communities alongside it.
The reality is that, despite being the only protected river in Kent, the Beult is in poor condition, bearing the scars of centuries of human pressure. Once a watery landscape, with rainwater retained in a mosaic of wetlands, the land is now drained, and the river is vulnerable to drought. This is problematic for water supplies as the Beult feeds a major water abstraction plant at Yalding. When it rains, water runs quickly off farmland and roads, carrying pollutants to the river and causing flooding.
What's the solution?
The group is implementing nature-based solutions such as leaky woody dams and riparian buffer strips to restore wetlands and meadows across 16 hectares (40 acres) of the Upper Beult river catchment. These nature-based solutions will help the landscape hold more water, replenishing 5,300m3 of water per annum and increasing the resilience of the Buelt and its wildlife to floods and droughts. Southern Water are supporting the work because of its value to resilient water supplies.
If you wander through Fairyland (Green Farm’s ancient woodland) today, you will see a number of leaky woody dams in the small stream that edges the wood and, over the next couple of years, we will be slowing the flow in the main channel, allowing the water to spill over into new scrapes and ponds, producing a different wetland habitat for wildlife.
With the farmers in the Upper Beult Farmer Cluster, we want to expand the scheme by restoring a river-wetland-wildlife corridor from Shadoxhurst to Smarden. Many nature-based solutions together will add up to make a big difference in terms of water resources, biodiversity gain and flood risk reduction.