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Dec 10, 2020

£400,000 Green Recovery Challenge Fund award to North Wessex Downs AONB and partners

The North Wessex Downs AONB and partners’ (Action for the River Kennet (ARK), Hungerford Town and Manor and the Southern Streams Farmers Group) ‘Sparkling Streams’ initiative is one of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the government’s £80million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

Defra announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million today, to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted - 800,000 in total - and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.

Chalk streams are globally rare, but unfortunately some stretches of the River Kennet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), one of England’s premier chalk streams and its tributaries the Shalbourne and the Dun are not in good condition.  They should be crystal clear, free flowing, wildlife rich, and fish-filled water-courses, but due to centuries of man-made modifications and poor management they have been struggling. Our project takes a catchment-based approach, working with farmers, to implement nature-based solutions  tackling water pollution, soil erosion, flooding and loss of wildlife, alongside critical river channel restoration. We will be working with communities, volunteers and schools to encourage them protect and learn about these very valuable water courses. Building on local momentum we will be improving water quality, enhancing nature, opening-up and creating natural fish passages with a significant restoration project at Eddington Mill, Hungerford and plan the further rejuvenation of these streams and their associated habitats.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change.  The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. 

Henry Oliver, Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB said

“It is such a fantastic opportunity to have been awarded a grant of over £400k to help restore our chalk streams. Working together, we will deliver cleaner rivers, brimming with more wildlife. We will also be encouraging volunteers to get involved through conservation tasks and children to take part in river school activities to learn about these rare habitats, so distinctive and typical of this AONB.’

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: 

“These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

For more information and to track the project progress see the Sparkling Streams project page.

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