The project has been running since 2015 and in that time has seen great work achieved though the Lugg valley. A key task is fencing the river and providing alternative water sources for livestock. This is vital as large numbers of cattle using the river to drink from causes substantial erosion of the banks, destroys bankside vegetation and pollutes the water. The project has also helped with spreading wildflower seed to encourage greater wildflower diversity across the meadows within the valley, pollarding riverside trees to prolong their life and creating ponds as habitat for wildlife.
The further funding announced this month will allow more work to be done on farms including pond and wetland creation, further fencing, planting new hedges and native trees, meadow management and more.
Claire Spicer, Catchment Advisor for the Wye and Usk Foundation and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust said: “The last few months have been incredibly busy with fencing works, hedge creation, pond creation and tree planting. Over the past 12 months I have been able to support farmers install over 6km of fencing alongside streams and rivers to protect them, plant twenty native trees and create 1000m of new hedges.”
The River Lugg flows from its source in Powys through Presteigne and Leominster before merging with the River Wye at Mordiford, just outside of Hereford. The River Lugg supports a range of wildlife including otter, Atlantic salmon, brook lamprey, river lamprey and water crowfoot. The importance of the river for wildlife resulted in its designation as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI), and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in its lower stretches.
Over 20 Lakes formed by gravel extraction lie in the floodplain of the River Lugg, forming crucial stop off sites for migrating birds, resting sites for wildfowl and breeding otter. Bodenham Lake is one of the largest of the gravel pit lakes and has been managed by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and New Leaf Sustainable Development since 2016.
Other nature reserves in the valley include the Lugg Meadows on the outskirts of the city and Oak Tree Farm, purchased by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust in 2020 and currently being restored into a wetland nature reserve.
Unfortunately, however, wildlife in the Lugg Valley is suffering from fragmented habitats and high levels of phosphate breaching thresholds set by the Water Framework Directive. High phosphate levels are causing eutrophication, a peak in algal blooms, which reduces the waters oxygen content. As of 2020, the failure of the River Lugg to reach its water quality targets means Herefordshire Council declared there is “limited scope for the approval of planning applications that give rise to additional damaging effects”.
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust hope that by continuing to work with landowners along the valley, with local communities and with partners including the Wye and Usk Foundation, the Lugg Valley can be significantly improved for wildlife and for people. The Trust’s Conservation Senior Manager Andrew Nixon said: “The Wildlife Trusts want to see 30% of land and water protected and managed for wildlife by 2030. In Herefordshire, restoring the habitats within the Lugg Valley is a key part achieving this. The valley has the potential to be a wonderful wetland landscape, teeming with wildlife, that people visit Herefordshire to explore and enjoy. Every new pond dug, tree planted and riverbank protected makes a difference so we are thrilled to have received further funding to enable Claire to keep supporting landowners to make these changes.”
Claire carries out free, confidential and impartial farm visits looking at soil health and analysing soil organic matter levels before creating a farm report with recommendations and options for support to create healthier, more wildlife-rich farms. For more information see: https://www.herefordshirewt.org/lowerluggvalley or contact Claire at: email@example.com