Author Topic: Restoration of Perennial Flow in the River Lathkill upstream of Bubble Springs  (Read 92870 times)

Offline Lampwick

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The suggestion has been made that it would be extremely useful to have a 3D survex model of the Lathkill catchment area.  It is believed that there is not one in existence at present so is there anyone who would be willing to volunteer? 

I just happen to have a Lathkill catchment area .3d file doing nothing.  It's only contour data, but you should get the idea.  Mel: you have an email with attachment.
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Offline mmilner

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Could this really be a case of "restoration of perennial flow ---------" at all? Has there ever been such flow? Can there be any idea of what the river bed looked like and what the natural drainage was like before the present, completely manmade river bed was put in place and before that when Lathkilldale Sough was driven?. It is worth noting that Magpie mine was operating and there was still mining taking place in Lathkill Dale after the river was built, for fishing purposes, in the form we see it now.

The White Peak Rivers Group is made up of all the agencies, including English Heritage, Natural England, Environment Agency, Peak Park as well as many private interests. The group has been meeting for the last two years. This public meeting at Aldern House is designed to present the findings and conclusions from those WPRG meetings, and to give you the chance to ask questions.   It is the third of five meetings being held to discuss proposals, with meetings already held in Monyash and Over Haddon. The support for flow to be returned to the Lathkill is tremedous.  All that is being suggested is a return to a state of affairs that existed in 1880. Any control to flow in any sough will be reversable allowing also a provision for access.

From what I can gather the surface flow of the Lathkill in the area concerned is largely due to manmade interference (puddling, etc.) with a river naturally drying up during drier periods due to flowing underground through an extensive series of natural caves. Mining would appear to being blamed for this, but I am sure that the Lathkill has been drying up for a very long time as the caves will have been forming for thousands of years, certainly for far longer than any mining in the area.

This behaviour is common with any streams or rivers flowing over limestone areas. For exmple, the Manifold / Hamps in the Peak and various places in the Yorkshire Dales, (I'm sure there are others in the Mendips and Wales), it is normal behaviour. As far as I am concerned, any effort to try and get the Lathkill to flow over the surface all year round is going to be very expensive and doomed to failure.

Swallets in the Manifold were concreted over in the early 1900's, it didn't work for long, those in the Hamps were filled with clay from the Cauldon Low quarries, (I met someone in the 80's who was involved in doing it), that didn't work either, the Hamps river bed is like a sieve! (See section 3.3 of my Manifold / Hamps conservation audit for more details.)

If you want to stop having to rescue fish every year (like in the video) then build some sort of weir that will stop them migrating upstream and then getting stranded when the river dries up each year. That will save everybody a lot of time and money! Concentrate on improving the current permanent flow stretches of the river and maybe making some spawning areas where the river is permanently flowing. (Around Bubble Springs maybe?)

Regards Mel. DCA Conservation Officer.
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Offline Tripod

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I find this more and more worrying. The dates given appear to suggest that Magpie Sough lead to the river drying out for the first time but on the other hand the river had been adapted for fishing (canalised, puddled --) before this and the river appears to have been a thriving fishery after (photographs from the time support these points). In any case there were so many man made changes in the valley from long before, during and after this date who can say exactly what happened, or when?
Return the flow to the 1880s level? Control the flow? Allow access? How? As has been stated elsewhere, the 1960s collapse of the Magpie sough tail resulted in water forcing its way out of the hillside in a number of places before blowing the sough tail shaft clear. The view from the A6 of water emerging from a number of places on the hillside was dramatic. The funnel shaped opening above the sough tail shaft and the water surging up and out were also very, very impressive. I saw these at the time. The accounst of driving the sough and finally breaking in to the mine are also - dramatic. To restore the water levels to the 1960s level would mean completely blocking the sough at the tail, with water escaping upwards as before or at a point within the sough that would produce the same head - and where would that be in relation to the water entering the sough underground?
The list of parties involved in this project would appear to have wildlife and financial interests. A obvious question, has anyone consulted a mining engineer?
As Mel says above, this is a limestone river, the "disappearing" type, with changes due to mining and the best option is to work with that.

Offline Pete K

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I have concerns with this idea, not on environmental grounds but on the grounds of real motive. It would probably be a good idea to ask those involved to declare if they have an interest in the fishing of the dale. Be that as a member of a club, landowner or stakeholder in any enterprise that may gain from this action. I'd be concerned that behind all this environmental reasoning, the true motivation is financial. This smacks of 'environmental' work funded by our tax (EA, EN etc...) that in the end will really only benefits a small group of people financially. Apologies if that comes across as over cynical.
On the other hand though, the river is a nice paddle in a kayak below the dale so more flow would lead to more chance of getting on it.

Offline unclej

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The main driver has always been to improve the status of the NNR and SSSI.  Lathkill Dale is walked by 100,000 people each year and the place is not the same, either environmentally or aesthetically, without water running over a river bed. 

Tripod. Please come along to the meeting. Your concerns will be alleviated by the presentations. 


Offline graham

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The main driver has always been to improve the status of the NNR and SSSI.  Lathkill Dale is walked by 100,000 people each year and the place is not the same, either environmentally or aesthetically, without water running over a river bed. 

As someone who doesn't know the area, but does know, broadly, how drainage works in limestone country, I find this an interesting statement. I agree that many of those visitors will be unaware of how karst drainage works and would - aesthetically - prefer to see a surface stream in what they perceive to be a dried up bed. However, if that's not the natural state of this valley, how will artificially maintaining surface drainage improve the environmental aspects as per the NNR and SSSI?

I speak as someone who fully understands that there is no wholly natural environment anywhere in the British Isles (I can tell you where the only small patches of extant 'wild' wood are & they ain't very big) and who also spent much of this past summer actively working to return on stream underground when 'nature' had decreed that it should stay on the surface - and thus trash the road surface in Cheddar Gorge.

So, the fundamental questions are: What type of environment is being aimed at, here? Why? How much active maintenance will the changed situation require, to keep further 'natural' changes at bay? How will the newly changed environment differ from that which appertained when the NNR was set up and the SSSI scheduling took place?
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Offline unclej

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A river at the surface from Head Cave to its confluence with the Wye is a natural state of affairs. This is how the river was before the Lathkill catchment was underdrained by Magpie Sough between 1879-1881 when the soughers tapped Townhead Vein and the Mine itself.

It is currently costing £7000/yr to carry out fish rescues, that are needed because of the affects Magpie Sough is having on the Lathkill.  These rescues can not be  guaranteed and may not continue. 

You may need to get someone more local to ask the questions about the NNR and SSSI scheduling if you live too far away. The reserve manager will be attending and will be well placed to answer.

Offline droid

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So are you proposing the removal of all the puddling and weirs as well?
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Offline Pete K

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Looking more like angling interests.

Offline zippy

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The suggestion has been made that it would be extremely useful to have a 3D survex model of the Lathkill catchment area.  It is believed that there is not one in existence at present so is there anyone who would be willing to volunteer? 

This really comes under the remit of the DCA Conservation Officer so, if there is a volunteer, please contact Mel Milner at conservation-off  [at]  theDCA.org.uk.

Jenny Potts,
DCA Hon. Sec.

Why should cavers give their time for free, when Prof Gunn & colleagues are being paid for their consultancy?
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Offline graham

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A river at the surface from Head Cave to its confluence with the Wye is a natural state of affairs. This is how the river was before the Lathkill catchment was underdrained by Magpie Sough between 1879-1881 when the soughers tapped Townhead Vein and the Mine itself.

Is it? My reading of the evidence as presented so far would have this as somewhere between wrong and not proven.

It is currently costing £7000/yr to carry out fish rescues, that are needed because of the affects Magpie Sough is having on the Lathkill.  These rescues can not be  guaranteed and may not continue.

As to the reason, see above, as to the rescues, a weir has been suggested upthread to prevent fish migrating into the affected area. Why would this not be a good compromise option?

You may need to get someone more local to ask the questions about the NNR and SSSI scheduling if you live too far away. The reserve manager will be attending and will be well placed to answer.

I am currently in France and shall be in Bristol when the meeting takes place. I don't have a dog in this fight, I am simply interested in how the decision making processes work with regard to planning processes in karst areas and the understanding of the relevant evidence. I am involved in others elsewhere.
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Offline Bottlebank

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Whilst not knowing or caring much about this either way knowing how construction costs tend to spiral I suspect £7,000 a year to rehome a few fish will seem a very cheap deal compared to building a weir?
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Offline graham

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The suggestion has been made that it would be extremely useful to have a 3D survex model of the Lathkill catchment area.  It is believed that there is not one in existence at present so is there anyone who would be willing to volunteer? 

This really comes under the remit of the DCA Conservation Officer so, if there is a volunteer, please contact Mel Milner at conservation-off  [at]  theDCA.org.uk.

Jenny Potts,
DCA Hon. Sec.

Why should cavers give their time for free, when Prof Gunn & colleagues are being paid for their consultancy?

Perhaps because some cavers, possibly, feel that their interests do not coincide with the interests of those who are purchasing an opinion from Dr Gunn and may wish to see more evidence presented from a different viewpoint.
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Offline graham

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Whilst not knowing or caring much about this either way knowing how construction costs tend to spiral I suspect £7,000 a year to rehome a few fish will seem a very cheap deal compared to building a weir?

But that isn't the choice, as presented. Building a weir was not presented as an alternative to continuing fish rescues but to an (uncosted?) scheme to  cause perennial flow by carrying out construction work related to soughs.
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Offline droid

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Looking more like angling interests.

It always has.

'UncleJ' seems reluctant to answer direct questions as to his involvement, and seems to be simply repeating his (possibly flawed) mantra that perennial flow is the norm.

I really would like to see some verifiable data that this was in fact the case.
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Offline graham

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Bit of an insight into why

Not really. According to the landowner, in that clip, the situation was very different in the 1920s to what it is now. That means that even if Magpie Sough had something to do with it, that is not the whole story and so concentrating on just that one aspect may not be sensible.
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Offline droid

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It isn't sensible anyway.

The assumption that blocking Magpie Sough will lead to the resumption of pre-mining water paths is, IMHO highly unlikely. Not highly unlikely is a repeat of the spectacular events of the last blockage.

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Offline unclej

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All of the above questions will be answered at the up-and-coming meeting.

The weirs were built in the 1850's by Symington. They restrict the passage of some fish to their chosen spawning grounds in the NNR.  They are taken out regularly, or rather their sluices are opened, to aid the distribution of sediment and the passage of fish.  Further downstream, most of the weirs have been removed.

I have attended the two WPRG roadshows held so far in Over Haddon and Monyash and heard the evidence presented by experts from studies carried out since the 1950's. The most recent report has been carried out by Professor Gunn and it is for him to present his evidence. You are invited to listen and ask questions at that meeting.

The point made by the landowner in the clip highlights concerns that the situation is getting worse.  The evidence suggests that it is. Come and hear it.

Offline unclej

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How would cavers interests be compromised by a control to flow in Magpie Sough?
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 02:50:20 pm by unclej »

Offline unclej

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Whilst not knowing or caring much about this either way knowing how construction costs tend to spiral I suspect £7,000 a year to rehome a few fish will seem a very cheap deal compared to building a weir?

Come August, after the predicted 2014 rescues, the total cost of rescues carried out by the EA will top £100 000. They manage to rescue about half the fish. The rest do not survive. A design has been carried out by an industry professional and quotes have been received from competent mining engineers. A control to flow in Magpie Sough would offer good value for money. 

Offline graham

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Question

If all this water currently draining out of Magpie Sough would be deemed 'spiffin' in Lathkill, what about the effect of removing it from the Wye? Just asking.
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Offline unclej

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If you want to stop having to rescue fish every year (like in the video) then build some sort of weir that will stop them migrating upstream and then getting stranded when the river dries up each year. That will save everybody a lot of time and money! Concentrate on improving the current permanent flow stretches of the river and maybe making some spawning areas where the river is permanently flowing. (Around Bubble Springs maybe?)

Regards Mel. DCA Conservation Officer.

That is one option. An alternative would be a river full of biology including water voles, fish, kingfishers, otters, osprey, with aquatic insects supplying food for dippers, wagtails, little grebes,daubenton's bats, all the way from bubble springs to Head Cave. The management of the river has involved installing spawning and nursery habitat on the Lathkill for decades, but the place of choice for wild Lathkill brown trout is amongst the tufa oncoids within the traditional spawning beds above and below Batemans House in the NNR.

Offline droid

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When were otters and ospreys ever in the Lathkill?
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Offline unclej

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Question

If all this water currently draining out of Magpie Sough would be deemed 'spiffin' in Lathkill, what about the effect of removing it from the Wye? Just asking.

A restoration of flow to 1880 levels may require some mitigation.  Studies have been carried out using the LIFE model of aquatic macroinvertebrates evaluation which have found no difference between population densities above and below the outfall at Black Rock Corner.  Professor Gunn offers some insight into likely distribution outcomes, post control.  Some water will continue to run to the Wye. I hope you are able to come along and find out for yourself.

Offline graham

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When were otters and ospreys ever in the Lathkill?

Possibly right up to the moment the forerunners of the current estate owners hunted 'em to extinction. ;)
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