NATURE-themed events taking place throughout the autumn will encourage local people to get involved with the rewilding of an important urban waterway.
The Saving Saffron Brook project is an ongoing initiative aimed improving river ecosystems along the whole course of the Saffron/Wash Brook, which runs through the south of the city.
Through a programme of conservation, restoration, online activities and repair works, the project is bringing together local environmental groups, volunteers, Leicester City Council and the Trent Rivers Trust to get people involved in the restoration of vital river ecosystems.
On Thursday 22 September, an online webinar will teach people how to look out for otter activity on the brook. Regular monitoring will be carried out throughout the Saving Saffron Brook project and beyond, so the webinar – which takes place from 7-8pm and is open to all – is a chance for people to volunteer and get involved in surveying these shy, elusive creatures. Sign up at https://otterspotter.eventbrite.co.uk
On Tuesday 18 October, from 10am-1pm, a free Halloween-themed half-term activity will take place at ‘spooky’ Saffron Heath, with craft activities and information about bats, another key species the Saving Saffron Brook project will be looking to attract and monitor.
And on Wednesday 19 October, a free ‘nature safari’ to the Wash Brook nature reserve will take place, leaving Aylestone Recreation Ground at 10am. Themed craft activities will also be on offer in the library at Aylestone Leisure Centre from 10am-1pm.
Further events planned to watch out for include tree-planting in Oadby and work to improve infrastructure along the river at Knighton Park and Hughenden Drive, where volunteers can help the city council and the Trent Rivers Trust with landscaping and the installation of natural riverbank reinforcements. Sign up to become a volunteer at leicester.gov.uk/saffronbrook, where you can also find details of all events and activities.
Cllr Adam Clarke, who is deputy city mayor for transport, clean air the climate emergency, said: “We’re already getting some great feedback from this project, with almost 100 volunteers (95) getting involved in 50 sessions aimed at managing habitats, identifying wildlife and improving biodiversity along the brook.
“Clean waterways are hugely important, not only in providing a home for wildlife but also in our defence against climate change. Keeping rivers healthy and litter-free will offer us protection against flooding.
“The great thing about this project is that people are clearly keen to get involved because they recognise the benefits to the community and to your own health and wellbeing that come from getting close to nature. And by getting families involved, children grow up understanding the importance of urban conservation.”
In total, the Saving Saffron Brook project will improve and restore around 2,300 metres of river habitat and over 500m of riverbank, as well as planting around two hectares of woodland, creating 1.5 hectares of wetland and two hectares of species-rich grassland to boost local biodiversity.
The project will also create or improve up to 2,000 metres of footpaths, improving access along the river and bringing communities closer to nature.
The £807,800 Saving the Saffron Brook river restoration scheme is one of 90 nature-based projects across the UK to benefit from the second round of the Government's Defra Green Recovery Challenge Funding, designed to boost green jobs and nature recovery. Alongside Leicester City Council and the Trent Rivers Trust, partners in the project include Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, NatureSpot, Knighton Wild, Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and many others.
To find out more, visit: www.leicester.gov.uk/saffronbrook