The paleo channels at the wildlife reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire are a set of old depressions that run across what is now intensively managed grasslands and mark a line of old saltmarsh drainage.
One old channel is around 700m long, a few metres wide and around half a metre deep in places. The focus in opening this channel up has been to create open water in the middle of a wide, open area of land.
The project that JPR Environmental has worked on with The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has been designed to attract a range of species and in particular, the wildlife that WWT is famous for, the grazing wildfowl: wigeon, teal and geese including white fronted geese. Many wildfowl like an open body of water in a big, wide open area.
There are other wildlife targets for this project including glaucous club-rush which has already colonised the edge of the channel and is associated with coastal floodplains and the wildlife they support.
Other birds have already been seen in the newly opened channel including broods of shovelers and wading birds, in particular, herons and egrets.
One of the aims of WWT is to look after migratory eel and fish populations and the good, clean water is going to be really valuable for them.
The project to open the channel has been hand in hand with a project to remove some larger trees to make the site more open. The reserve is already seeing increased use by wintering wildfowl with large numbers of wigeon, a species which is declining along the Severn.
The egrets have been the greatest suprise with how much they have used the area. Three species of egret are now common including little egret, cattle egret and great white egret. As egrets colonise the UK, this will be a valuable feeding area for them.
The removal of the trees and the opening of the channel has created some wide, open views which adds something to what would be a fairly sterile area of intensively managed grassland and has created some top notch wildlife habitat.