Gadebridge Park river restoration information page

Closes 31 Dec 2023

Opened 10 Sep 2021

Overview

We are working with Dacorum Borough Council and Affinity Water to help restore the River Gade at Gadebridge Park, a globally rare and valuable chalk stream. The project will provide multiple benefits, including improved habitats for wildlife, the protection of water resources for both people and the environment, and allowing local residents and visitors to get closer to the river and enjoy nature.

This project is part of Revitalising Chalk Rivers, a wider programme of projects we're working on with Affinity Water that aims to protect and restore rare chalk streams like the River Gade. As part of this programme, Affinity Water has completed a project in the upper section of Gadebridge Park, north of Gadebridge Lane, to provide new river habitats for wildlife and to improve the river’s water quality – you can find out more about this project at www.affinitywater.co.uk/corporate/environment/restoration/river-gade.

Our latest proposals will improve the river in the lower section of Gadebridge Park, between the Grade II listed White Bridge and Queensway.

Together with Affinity Water, we are funding the river restoration project and Dacorum Borough Council will be contributing to its recreational and amenity aspects. Subject to gaining planning approval and securing all the necessary funding, we expect the restoration works to begin on site in Spring 2023.

This information page will be updated to share our progress and to let you know how you can get involved. Detailed information about the River Gade and our proposals can be found further below.

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June 2022 – project update

We submitted our planning application for the project in January 2022. You can still view the related documents and provide any comments via the planning portal at https://planning.dacorum.gov.uk/publicaccess/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=R5W8UFFOL7700&activeTab=summary (reference 22/00143/MFA). 

These plans are ‘live’, meaning that they will be added to and updated to reflect any changes agreed as a result of comments and advice received through the planning process. We have recently added a number of additional or updated documents, including:

  • A tree survey
  • Landscape and geomorphology drawings
  • River channel drawings
  • Spring flow drawings
  • Bridge drawings
  • Updated Ecological Impact Assessment and Biodiversity Net Gain calculations
  • Updated hydraulic modelling (to understand flood risk impacts)
  • Updated imagery to show existing and proposed views (‘visualisations’)

You can review these documents at the link above by clicking on the ‘Documents’ tab.


Drone footage

Last month one of our trained pilots flew a drone over Gadebridge Park to capture video footage of the River Gade in its current state. You can see some of the impressive footage in our tweet from our Environment Agency South East twitter account. As the project progresses, we will capture new footage to show the river restoration taking shape.


Water Voles

W
e carried out a Water Vole survey last September
to establish whether Water Voles had migrated into the park following their reintroduction further upstream on the River Gade. Despite possible sightings back in Autumn 2020, the survey found no current signs of Water Vole. 

As a protected species, it is really important that we understand for certain whether there is a Water Vole population living in this stretch before we begin construction.
We therefore arranged for another survey to take place . We’re excited to say that the survey found a ‘probable’ sighting of a Water Vole. Although it was a very brief sighting, the mammal’s tail suggested it was much more likely to be a Water Vole than a rat. The survey also found feeding remains which provides further evidence to support a positive sighting.

We will carry out a follow-up survey in September 2022 and will work closely with Natural England and the Box Moor Trust to ensure that any Water Voles are safely relocated during construction.


By restoring this stretch of the River Gade and providing suitable habitats, we hope that Water Voles may be spotted here more regularly in the future.


Any questions?

An updated frequently asked questions (FAQs) document, ‘Appendix 3 – Gadebridge Park river restoration FAQs 2022’, is available under ‘Related’ right at the bottom of this page. It includes answers to many questions that we received during our event back in September 2021, plus project information about everything from chalk streams to our archaeological finds! In some cases, we don’t have all the answers yet, but we’ll keep adding information to the FAQs as and when it becomes available.

If you have any questions you can also email us at 
gadebridgepark@environment-agency.gov.uk.


Join our mailing list

If you would like to join our mailing list to receive future updates for the duration of the project, please contact gadebridgepark@environment-agency.gov.uk with your name and email address. We will not use your contact details for any other purposes. 

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Why does the River Gade need improving?

The River Gade is a chalk stream; a globally rare and valuable habitat. 85% of the world’s chalk streams are in England and 30% (68) of these are in the south east. Unlike most rivers, chalk streams are fed from chalk aquifers - underground porous rock formations which store water. Chalk streams are directly connected to these aquifers, making their water mineral rich, clean and at a consistent temperature. This unique habitat provides the ideal conditions for a diverse range of plants and animals. Chalk streams are home to some of our most threatened species, such as the Water Vole and Brown Trout.

At the moment, only 17% of chalk streams are in their natural state. Like many chalk streams, the River Gade faces pressure from low flows and historic modifications to its channel that limit the river’s habitats and the wildlife it can support. The stretch of the River Gade that flows through Gadebridge Park is currently classified as having a 'Poor Ecological Status' under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Historic modifications

In Gadebridge Park the River Gade flows down an artificial channel created to supply water to the now demolished Bury Mill. The artificial channel is ‘perched’, meaning that it sits at a higher level than the valley bottom - the natural course of the river through the park. This means that the river is disconnected from its floodplain. When flooding occurs in the valley bottom, the water remains in the park for long periods of time because it is unable to flow back into the channel.

Image 1: Prolonged flooding in Gadebridge Park. The water is not able to flow back into the ‘perched’ channel.
Image 1: Prolonged flooding in Gadebridge Park. The water is not able to flow back into the ‘perched’ channel.


Image 2: A diagram showing a perched channel.Image 2: A diagram showing a perched channel.



The artificial channel is much wider and straighter than a natural chalk stream would typically be. This often leads to a build-up of sediment along the bank and associated excessive vegetation growth, which gradually narrows the channel. The river has little resilience to drought conditions due to low volumes, especially in late summer and early autumn.

Image 3: Excessive vegetation growth blocking the channel in Gadebridge Park.Image 3: Excessive vegetation growth blocking the channel in Gadebridge Park.


The weir at our Bury Mill Gauging Station and other remains of historic in-channel structures act as barriers to fish. These structures can also cause sediment and vegetation to build up, impacting on river habitats and wildlife.

Image 4: The Environment Agency’s Gauging Station. The channel consists of a concrete bed and banks for about 40 metres.

Image 4: The Environment Agency’s Gauging Station. The channel consists of a concrete bed and banks for about 40 metres.

Image 5: Remains of old weirs affect fish movement and cause the build-up of sediment and vegetation.

Image 5: Remains of old weirs affect fish movement and cause the build-up of sediment and vegetation.

Low flows

The River Gade often suffers from low flows due to:

  • Spring flows (groundwater emerging at the surface) being diverted into an underground tunnel (culvert) rather than feeding the river Gade.
     
  • Being disconnected from the groundwater table (see Image 3). For a chalk stream, where over 70% of its flow is from groundwater, this can have a significant impact on its resilience during periods of low flows and to wildlife in the channel.
     
  • Water being taken (abstracted) for public water supply.

Most water we drink in the South East comes from rainwater stored deep beneath our feet in natural chalk ‘aquifers’. These also feed our chalk streams. In 2018 Affinity Water reduced net abstraction in the Gade catchment by 2,342,400 m3/year (that’s an average of 6.4 million litres a day). However, demand for water in the South East remains high. We all need to reduce the amount of water we use - every drop wasted is water that could be sustaining our rivers, streams and lakes.

Visit www.waterwise.org.uk/watersworthsaving/ for ideas on reducing your water use to help our chalk streams. 

Our objectives

Together with Dacorum Borough Council and Affinity Water we want to:

  • Improve the River Gade and the adjacent parkland for wildlife.
  • Provide more opportunities, accessible to everyone, for people to get closer to the river and enjoy nature.
  • Provide more opportunities to learn about the River Gade, both its historical importance to the landscape and its value as a rare chalk stream.
  • Improve the river’s resilience – its ability to cope with and adapt to the pressures of low flows and climate change.
  • Improve floodplain connectivity, but reduce the impact of flooding – i.e. flood water can be stored on the floodplain when needed, but doesn’t sit on the parkland for long periods of time.
  • Improve biodiversity in the River Gade, so that it supports Good Ecological Status under the European Water Framework Directive.
  • Reduce the barriers to fish movement and impoundment caused by river structures, including the Environment Agency’s gauging station.
  • Improve flows in the river, to lessen the build-up of sediment and vegetation and to reduce the need for maintenance.
  • Improve the ability to monitor river flows in the River Gade.


Our proposals

JBA Consulting carried out an initial feasibility study for Gadebridge Park from 2016 to 2018 in consultation with all project partners and key stakeholders. Based on its results a number of proposals were developed that we consulted the public on from 20 July to 30 September 2018. You can view the submitted responses and our consultation summary report at https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/hnl/gadebridge-park-river-restoration/

On 21 September 2021 we held an event in Gadebridge Park to share our latest proposals. Thank you to everyone who attended and shared their comments with us. Everyone’s feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and local people have been very supportive of the benefits the project will bring.

Our updated 'Indicative Landscape Plan' that was shared on the day is below and shows our latest proposals on a map of the park (a copy is also available to download by clicking 'Appendix 1 - Indicative Landscape Plan Sept 2021' under 'Related' at the very bottom of this page).

Your browser does not support inline PDF viewing. Please download the PDF.

Our latest proposals include:

  • Realigning the part of the River Gade located downstream of the Grade II listed White Bridge back to the valley bottom (through the centre of the park at its lowest point). This will reconnect the river to its floodplain and to the groundwater table below.
     
  • Re-routing spring flows - which are currently diverted through a culvert (underground tunnel) and discharged into a fishing lake at Kings Langley 5km downstream - into the new realigned channel. This will provide additional flow to the river, increasing its resilience to low flows, improve the river’s water quality and help to restore natural characteristics of a chalk stream such as a more alkaline PH and a stable temperature all year round.
     
  • Replacing the existing Bury Mill gauging station with a gauging station on the new realigned channel that is passable to fish and has a reduced impact on the river.
     
  • Creating vegetated riparian margins alongside the river channel to provide new habitats for wildlife.
     
  • Providing new footpaths alongside the river, a fully accessible bridge crossing the new realigned channel from the Queensway carpark to the Bowls Club and an informal crossing point in the centre of the park - all for people’s enjoyment of the river.
     
  • Providing dipping platforms and gravel beach areas for people to get closer to nature.
     
  • Installing information boards within the park to share the River Gade’s historical importance to the landscape and help people to understand and value our rare chalk streams.


Contact us

For further information about the project please see the documents and links below and check back for updates on this information page.


If you have any questions we will be happy to help:

*Please only contact Kelly and Liam with questions specifically about Gadebridge Park’s river restoration project. Questions about all other aspects of Gadebridge Park should be sent to Robert Cassidy at Robert.cassidy@dacorum.gov.uk

A reminder...

We’ll be in the park on 21 September 2021 to share our latest plans, answer people’s questions and hear your views. Come and see us between 11-4pm near the splash park kiosk.

Or, to get in touch and share your comments and ideas or ask us a question at any time, please email us at gadebridgepark@environment-agency.gov.uk.

If you would like to join our mailing list to receive future updates for the duration of the project, please contact
gadebridgepark@environment-agency.gov.uk with your name and email address. We will not use your contact details for any other purposes. 


We look forward to hearing from you. 

Audiences

  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Statutory organisations
  • NGOs
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • Academics
  • Environment Agency customers
  • Local authorities
  • District and parish councils
  • Environmental bodies
  • Water companies
  • Community groups
  • Flood action groups
  • Environment Agency colleagues
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities
  • Town and parish councils

Interests

  • Flood management
  • Water resources
  • Water quality
  • Drought
  • Habitats and wildlife