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The Eddleston Water Project

This project investigates the possibility of reducing the flood risk to nearby communities, improving the river habitat and working with landowners and communities to maximise the benefits they would gain from such work.
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The Eddleston river

The Eddleston Water is a small tributary of the River Tweed, flowing 20 km north to south before reaching the main river in the town of Peebles. Over time, the course of the river has been extensively altered, with long sections straightened in the early 19th century to improve agricultural production and for a new toll road. Other changes in land management, both in the river valley and on the surrounding hill slopes, have also altered how the land drains. Together, these changes have resulted in an increased risk of flooding to Eddleston and Peebles, as rainfall and flood waters travel ever more quickly and directly from the hill slopes and along the river channels towards these communities.

Project Aims

The three main aims are to:

  • investigate the possibility of reducing the risk of flooding to the communities of Eddleston and Peebles by restoring some of the original natural features of the catchment
  • improve the river habitat for wildlife and fisheries;
  • work with landowners and communities in the Eddleston valley to maximise the benefits they would gain from such work, while maintaining the profitability of local farms.

Project results so far

A detailed physical survey of the river channel found that natural habitats along many of the stretches affected by past human activities have been significantly damaged. Straightening the river’s course has led to:

  • the river being shortened;
  • river disconnected from the floodplain;
  • loss of deep pools and shallow riffles;
  • loss of overhanging trees and vegetation;
  • increased flood risk to Eddleston and Peebles.

Water quality is generally good and brown trout are widespread but other species of plantsand animals, such as Atlantic salmon, are less widespread than might otherwise be expected.Current land use, especially intensive sheep and cattle grazing, in the river valley and on surrounding hillsides has increased the speed which rainfall runs off fields and into ditches, streams and eventually the river.

The survey indicates there are opportunities to restore wetland and riparian habitats in upstream areas and along the main river stem. Taking advantage of these opportunities and other land management changes could reduce flood risk and improve biodiversity.

The restoration strategy

A restoration strategy has been developed which will both restore natural habitats and help reduce the risk of flooding to Eddleston and Peebles.It focuses on three main areas of the catchment; the upper valley hill slopes including commercial forestry plantations (which are the main sources of flood water running off in to the river); the valley bottom or floodplain; and the channels and habitats of the river itself.

Working with land managers we have been able to introduce subtle changes to current land management practices in order to slow water flow off the hills in the first place, and reconnect the river with its floodplain.

So far we have:

  • Fenced off and planted 60ha of woodlands (over 70,000 trees), on less productive farmland in the headwaters which help slow down overland flow.
  • Installed a series of ‘high-flow restrictors’, which act to temporarily holdback flood waters along upland watercourses.
  • Created wildlife ponds with extra capacity for floodwater.
  • Restored the natural meandering form of the river at Cringletie and Lake Wood.This has increased river length, reducedthe slope and speed of the water flowand provided more space for flood waters by reconnecting the river with the floodplain,as well as creating new habitats andimproving the landscape.

Monitoring the effects of these measures is an important part of this project.A comprehensive network of rain gauges, groundwater and river level gauges have been installed throughout the valley to collect data on how the changes affect river flows and flood frequencies. Other monitoring programmes will reveal what changes occur to the river’s habitats and wildlife. Detailed monitoring and modelling of the groundwater has also been undertaken at a site close to Eddleston village.

The project will continue to work with local schools and other educational institutes by hosting field trips and study tours to show what can be achieved on the ground to reduce the effects of flooding and improve the morphological status of the river.

More detailed information and a detailed map of the project area can be found at the Tweed Forum website.

The project has been a collaborative effort involving the Tweed Forum, Scottish Government, Dundee University, Tweed Foundation, ClimateXChange, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Scottish Borders Council, National Farmer’s Union of Scotland, British Geological Society, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage & the Environment Agency of England and Wales.


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