An exciting habitat restoration project is underway at Crosscanonby Carr Nature Reserve.

The area - which is the first nature reserve in the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, was previously the site of an abandoned car park.

Now it is an area filled with woodland, meadow and wetland and is a haven for animals, birds and plants.

After consultation with experts in fields such as biodiversity, conservation and water management, it has been decided that it would be a great step forward for the Nature Reserve to reroute the waterway. This work will complement the work planned to be carried out by Cumbria County Council and Highways England to fix the culverts under both roads.

Anna Pollard, project officer for Solway Coast AONB, said: “We are currently working towards restoring the grassland to a species rich wet meadow. The main reason for realigning the waterway is to improve the habitat management of the meadow and manage input from farmland water. “

She explained that a large ditch has been dug through the middle of the meadow to assist the drainage of farmland upstream and ensure their land drains. To achieve the flow the ditch has been ‘over deepened’ with steep sides and soil mounds. This will allow the water to move fast through the site and down towards the road culvert.

Currently the ditch water arrives at the culvert too fast for the culvert to manage the flow and this leads to backing up of water. This backing up means farmland water, with higher levels of nutrients, floods over the lower parts of the meadow. This occurs regularly and over time this will have an impact on the vegetation and benefit competitive species, which are the least desired. This is a process of diffuse pollution and is a known factor in slowly changing vegetation types.

As part of the habitat improvement and to increase diversification it will be important to mitigate the flooding, which in turn will reduce the nutrient loading of the soil and in turn improve soil conditions to allow for adding greater species diversity in to the grassland.

Diverting the waterway will also benefit from greater flood storage since the ditch will be created with bends, will be wider and have shelves.

Moving the waterway will mean the two current separate grassland areas can become one larger area. This will benefit any restoration work and will have a better chance of success. It will also increase the area of grassland habitat.

By creating one meadow area (not dissected by a ditch) will improve on-going management. It will be easier to manage and bespoke machinery will be able to cut and bale the area. This means the on-going habitat management will be improved and will again improve the site biodiversity.

It is essential to remove some of the trees to gain access to the waterway running along the Crosscanonby road to improve drainage and necessitate maintenance, and some trees within the reserve that sit on the natural waterway route.

Anna said that only two cubic metres of trees have been removed, none had Tree Protection Orders and all are under 40 years old.

She said: “Although it isn’t seen as ideal to remove these trees it is a necessity that in the long run will benefit the Reserve and the nature it provides for. Realigning of the waterway will deal with a number of on-site issues and go to improve the species diversity within the Reserve. It’s a great step forward for the reserve and the local wildlife and community will really reap the benefits in a few years’ time.”