During 2023 the 60m stretch of river channel in Alton town centre between Alton High Street and Draymans Way (behind Costa Coffee) has been transformed. The river here, part of the Weyside Walk, had been urbanised, straightened and confined to a brick-walled channel, supporting little aquatic life.
The restoration project, led by Alton Climate Action Network and Surrey Wildlife Trust, has used stone and gravel “berms” installed at intervals on both sides to narrow the channel, creating meanders which have already resulted in a range of flows and depths. Natural processes have been kickstarted, aquatic plants are already well established, lots of fish are visible and invertebrates such as different types of mayflies have been found.
To complete the project, a volunteer day during National Rivers Week in September, brought water irises and sedge from Flood Meadows and planted them into the berms. A new interpretation board has also been installed.
Jenny Griffiths of Alton Climate Action Network said, “I am thrilled by the results of this project, bringing more nature right into the heart of the town. Financed by Thames Water’s Rivers and Wetlands Community Days fund and local district councillors, this was a true partnership project which would not have been possible or successful without Surrey Wildlife Trust, East Hampshire District Council, Aquamaintain, Amery Hill Residents Association, the Friends of the River Wey all working together, and without the hard work of volunteers from Alton Climate Action Network’s nature group, Alton and Villages Local Action for Nature.”
The North Wey as it runs through Alton is a chalk stream. With only 200 chalk streams globally, they are one of the rarest habitats on earth. A healthy chalk stream has a meandering course, resulting in a variety of habitats including a mix of deep and shallow areas, and fast and slow flowing water over a clean gravel bed. These natural processes are key to the richness of biodiversity in a healthy chalk stream.