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Restoration of the Rottal Burn Glen Clova

The Rottal Burn, an important South Esk tributary in Glen Clova, had been canalised since the 1800s and provided poor spawning and juvenile habitat for fish.

The restoration of the Rottal burn is the largest and most exciting project the Trust has been involved in since our inception. With all the necessary permissions and funding for the project in place work was completed in 2013.

Following initial work an options appraisal was undertaken to ensure that the most appropriate channel restoration course was selected.

The option chosen was the most natural course and offered the best mix of spawning and juvenile fish habitats.

Signs of the original channel were still detectable in places. The canalised channel extended to a length of 800m while the new channel is 1.2km.

Restoration was in two phases:

The new channel was created but not connected to either the burn or the main river. The new stream bed was then created using the dredged material from the Rottal Burn’s existing channel. The banks were allowed to vegetate over the summer months to provide a degree of stability before flows commenced in the autumn. A riffle, pool and  glide sequence was introduced by using large woody debris embedded into the banks.

Connection to the burn and main river took place in the autumn after the channel has been flushed and straw bales deployed to retain sediment. A “fish rescue” was undertaken immediately prior to the old channel being filled in.

The new channel is being monitored as it is expected to migrate to some degree. Limits however have been created by small flood banks and the use of natural features. The new channel reconnects the old flood plain of the burn.

The objectives of the project were:

  • Restoration of the canalised water course as far as possible to its natural course

  • Reconnection of the Rottal Burn to its flood plain

  • Creation of a diverse riparian and aquatic habitat including the incorporation of the existing wetland habitat into the final restoration design

  • Reduction in the unnaturally high sediment loading during high flow events which is then deposited in the lower reaches

  • A return to a more natural flow regime

  • Attenuation of flood peaks

  • Visual enhancement of the area by planting native tree species

  • Restoration of  sustainable, functional populations of multi-sea-winter salmon and trout and of freshwater pearl mussels

  • The possibility of transferring freshwater pearl mussels into the burn will be investigated

  • Development of  a demonstration site available for future research

  • Provision of restoration experience will be transferable to other similar situations within the catchment

The whole project cost in the region of £160,000 and was funded in part by grants from The SEPA Restoration Fund. This is one of the largest river restoration projects undertaken for conservation reasons and is the largest funded by the SEPA Restoration Fund.

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The Esk Rivers And Fisheries Trust would like to say thank you to Dee Ward, proprietor of Rottal Estates, for his cooperation and generosity.