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Winterbournes project case study

Wessex Water provides funding through the Dorset Biodiversity Strategy and some additional support (from data sharing to specialist advice) to the Dorset Winterbournes Project.

Winterbournes are small watercourses which generally flow during the winter and spring, but dry up as rainfall decreases in the summer months. The project covers both the North and South Winterbournes and seeks to raise the understanding and awareness of Winterbourne habitats to local residents and other interest groups.

The North Winterborne Project

The North Winterborne rises in Winterborne Houghton, and runs through Winterbornes Stickland, Clenston, Kingston and Zelston, down to Sturminster Marshall where it reaches its confluence with the River Stour.  

An advisory group was established in 2004 to develop the project and community workshops were held to identify:

  • what the community felt was special about the Winterborne
  • what issues needed addressing
  • what actions they would like to see.

The results were used to work up a successful bid to the North Dorset Liveability Fund. The resulting grant was matched with funding from the Environment Agency and the Countryside Agency.

A wide variety of actions have taken place through the Liveability grant, including improving community access through replacing stiles with gates, production of a management leaflet and three information boards, the production of whole farm plans and implementation of capital improvements, community and management events, and the commissioning of survey work to find out more about the ecology of the winterbourne.

South Winterborne

The South Winterborne runs from Winterborne Abbas through Martinstown to join the River Frome at West Stafford, just south of Dorchester.

A key issue is the modification of the Winterbornes either by dredging, which deepens the river bed in places, or for gravel extraction for local use, which widens the river and changes the flow patterns. The project has commissioned the River Restoration Centre (RRC) to provide guidance on river restoration techniques that could be carried out. Following the production of a draft report by RRC, a number of sites have been identified as being suitable for carrying out further work and this will be taken forward in 2007/8.

Other work on the South Winterbourne includes:

  • an invertebrate survey carried out by the Environment Agency
  • development of a new Winterbournes Project section on the Dorset AONB web site
  • continued stream flow monitoring to record the Winterborne signature, managed by the Environment Agency
  • provision of follow up advice and support for farmers undertaking soil management plans through Dorset Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group
  • production of a project newsletter
  • a land use survey of the South Winterbourne, completed by Dorset FWAG
  • a community workshop for the South Winterborne to identify their priorities for the valley
  • two Whole Farm Plans are being produced along the South Winterborne
  • a winterbournes / chalk streams conference is planned for summer 2007.

For more information, please see the Dorset AONB website.

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