The formal opening of the new river course took place yesterday (4th November 2020).
There were really positive keynote speeches from Sir James Bevan (Chief Executive of the Environment Agency) and Craig Bennett (Chief Executive of the Wildlfe Trusts) before ceremonial ribbons were cut on a Zoom call. All a bit strange – but we live in those times!
So what about Anguilla Anguilla?
In the morning I visited the site with a planning officer and the Staffs Wildlife Trust to look at some of the issues I had previously raised. It was really interesting to see the comparison between the old channel and the new river course. The old route was canalized many years ago and had served as a millrace for the mills that once stood to the South of the school.
Since the 1990s I had been arguing for the naturalization of the river. My original motivation was over safety after the river washed away some of the playground of the school. It was obvious that if a child fell in there would be no way to rescue them. However, over the years the idea came to include access to the river, wildlife needs and a general improvement in the environment.
It was really interesting to see the new river, the outfall from Smith’s Pool in Fenton and the features that had been added to the new river course. It was also interesting to see the various professionals at work – from the operators of the earth moving machines to the specialist contractors removing Japanese knotweed and the Environment Agency and Staffs Wildlife Trust people removing fish from the old river channel. They rescued various fish including trout and eels. They were particularly excited by the eels so I asked which one and why were they excited.
It turned out that they were the European Eel a “Critically Endangered” species. It’s scientific name is Anguilla Anguilla!
So from being as straight as a ruler the river now meanders much more eel-like than before.