WORK is underway on a second phase of improvements at Leicester’s largest nature reserve as part of a £300,000 investment project.
Leicester City Council is carrying out a programme of landscaping and environmental work in Aylestone Meadows aimed at improving natural habitats for wildlife, increasing capacity for flood water storage and developing better access and footpaths for the public.
Work has already been completed to create three new shallow ponds – known as scrapes – in an area of the nature reserve close to Pebble Beach.
The scrapes will provide a valuable new habitat for wildlife and improve the capacity of the area to absorb flood water from heavy rainfall, protecting nearby homes from rising water levels.
Earth dug out to make the scrapes has also been used to create a series of habitat mounds on the banks of the River Biam, a tributary of the River Soar.
Now, the city council plans to begin a second phase of work focussing on enhancing the river channel itself. This will involve reinstating the river’s natural meanders to slow its flow helping to reduce flood risk and improve the ecological value of the river channel.
Silt and invasive willow and scrub plants will be removed from marsh areas to help encourage wetland plants and associated amphibians and reptiles.
Existing boardwalks will also be upgraded and work will be carried out to prevent riverbank erosion.
Work is expected to take around eight weeks to complete. During the works, some boardwalk closures will be required, but alternative routes will be clearly signed. Work will be carried out by Sanctus on behalf of Leicester City Council.
Deputy City Mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and transportation, said: “This important project will help enhance habitats for a wide range of wildlife, increase capacity for flood alleviation and make it easier for visitors to access and enjoy this popular nature reserve.
“Pebble Beach is already a favourite spot for families who picnic on the banks of the River Biam and paddle in its waters. These improvements will ensure that Aylestone Meadows continues to be an attractive place to visit and explore for many years to come and will also bring additional security from flooding for people who live nearby.”
The Aylestone Meadows project forms part of the River Soar and Grand Union Canal Access and Environmental Improvement Programme. The project is supported by a £7.5million allocation from the Local Growth Fund, a pot of government funding awarded to the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) for projects that benefit the local area and economy.
Kevin Harris, chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), said: “Improving quality of life is one of the driving forces behind our Local Growth Fund, so I’m very pleased to see this investment. These new footpaths and access points will ensure that Aylestone Meadows remains a favourite destination for both local residents and visitors to Leicester alike. Not only that, but the improved flood prevention measures will secure homes and businesses further down-river, removing flooding anxiety and ensuring economic prosperity for years to come.”
The work is a partnership programme between Leicester City Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal and River Trust to provide access and environmental improvements along the canal and river corridor between 2015 and 2021.