Gloucestershire wildlife: The wild side of water

Ashleworth Ham

Ashleworth Ham - Credit: Nathan Millar

Water will be in the spotlight during ‘Pond Week’ between April 25 to May 1. This month Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust dives into how watery habitats are in need of help, and Sue Bradley interviews a man who listens to underwater sounds

From the River Severn to numerous lakes, streams and ponds: Gloucestershire is a county with plenty of water. 

Yet experts say improvement work is urgently needed in and around these habitats to protect the wildlife that rely on them. 

They’re racing against time to create the right conditions for species such as the European eel, which has suffered a 90% population decline since the 1980s and is now considered ‘critically endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list, making its future even less certain than that of the giant panda. 

Coombe Hill

Coombe Hill - Credit: Nathan Millar

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is working with a variety of organisations and individuals to make improvements to the water habitats in the county. 

It’s involved with initiatives such as the Cotswold Canals Connected Project, which is working to restore historic waterways in order to achieve significant outcomes for wildlife, people and communities, along with the county’s heritage. 

The Trust believes the progress made through initiatives such as the reinstatement of the Missing Mile near Whitminster, where a stretch of the Stroudwater Canal will be constructed with wide reedy fringes, will bring benefits for species such as water voles and otters. 

White-fronted geese over the Severn Estuary

White-fronted geese over the Severn Estuary - Credit: Billy Heaney

Most Read

Other important sites include the Severn Estuary, a multi-designated Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) on account of its value for birds and fish. 

‘Water is a really big deal in Gloucestershire,’ explains GWT’s Ecosystem Recovery Manager Anna Tarbet. 

Elvers in the River Severn

Elvers in the River Severn - Credit: John de Wet

‘Our county is split down the middle by the longest river in England, the Severn, and there are several others too, including the Frome, Leadon and Churn, and lots of tributaries. 

‘We also have many ponds and lakes. 

‘These are worthy of protection for many reasons, including their value in preventing flooding. 

‘The Severn Estuary and rivers such as the Frome play an important role in the life cycles of migratory fish, and provide vital habitats for wading birds. 

‘People think of rivers as channels, but they’re much more than that and it’s important there’s connectivity between them and the floodplain.’ 

Water pollution is an issue that presents a big threat to wildlife in the county, says Anna, with 97% of waterways failing under the Water Framework Directive which measures the ecological status of waters such as rivers and lakes. 

River Eye at Greystones

River Eye at Greystones - Credit: Mike Boyes Nature Photography

‘This is due to over abstraction, barriers to fish migration, pollution from sewage and agricultural activities amongst others,’ she explains. 

At the same time there is a lot of concern over the loss of ponds, a situation Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust hopes will change with the introduction of the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) brought in to replace payments made under the Common Agricultural Policy. 

‘If you’re going to do one thing to help wildlife, have some water in it, even a bird bath or a pond,’ says Anna. ‘Everything needs water to live.’ 

Watery nature reserves

Spring sunrise over the lake at Woorgreens

Spring sunrise over the lake at Woorgreens - Credit: Brian Pendrey

  • Coombe Hill, near Tewkesbury 
  • Ashleworth Ham 
  • Whelford Pools, near Fairford 
  • Roundhouse Lake, near Lechlade-on-Thames 
  • Lancaut and Ban-y-Gor, near Chepstow 
  • Greystones Farm, near Bourton-on-the-Water, through which the River Eye runs.  
  • Woorgreens, near Cannop
Whelford Pools

Whelford Pools - Credit: Nathan Millar