They battled driving rain, gale-force winds, the darkest, smelliest black silt and even a terrifying creature from the deep but at last they’ve put a much-loved landmark on the road to recovery.
Engineers at Five Rivers Environmental Contracting have now completed the first stage of the major works on Brooklands Lake which has been funded by Worthing Borough Council.
If you visit the lake today you will see fast flowing, clear water and an abundance of wildlife but that was not always the case.
When Five Rivers took on the contract in 2017, the lake was stagnant due to a build up of silt which was having an impact on the environment and wildlife. In October the company set out to remove 15,000 cubic metres of silt and create new margins on the edge without reducing the footprint of the lake.
Even though they faced cold, wet and windy working conditions they ended up redistributing
19,000 cubic metres of silt, 4000 more than expected, the equivalent of almost eight Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The Teville Stream which flows into the lake has also been completely transformed. The former sluggish four metre wide stream has been reduced to a one and a half metre stream of fast, flowing water which stops silt building up.
Apart from removing the silt, works have been carried out to create a new and thriving habitat for a diverse range of wildlife:
- Thick mats of coconut fibres and UK plant species have been planted to provide a diverse habitat around the lake & up the river.
- By the stream, the paths have been ripped out and recycled. Coir – coconut husk – carpets have been laid to bed in marginal plants and encourage a diversity of species.
- 100 tons of gravel have been used in the lake to make Riffles (a rocky part of a stream of river) which create different widths & depths which encourage diverse wildlife.
- Bog plants such as Irises and Marsh Marigolds have been planted on the western bank.
- Berry trees are being planted on the new island to provide food for the birds during winter. Species will include Holly, Hazel, Guelder Rose and Blackthorn
The wildlife are certainly taking to the new lake and a Swan is already nesting on its margins. This year the Five Rivers team provided her with some straw to build her nest, but in future years she will be able to take full advantage of the reed (Phragmities) that have been planted across the site.
And that’s not all, Five Rivers will be providing the ducks and swans with their very own floating nests. Giving them extra safety during the nesting season.
It’s not just the birds that are coming back. A shoal of rudd and carp have also been spotted in the river, proving that the fish are able to swim over the Riffles.
Despite facing one of the most wet and windy winter and spring periods on record Jacob Dew, Operations Manager of Five Rivers Environmental Contracting said he was pleased with the way the project has turned out.
“We’re really pleased that we have completed the main works to such a good standard, but the project wasn’t without it challenges,” he said, “It was incredibly difficult during the coldest months when we were battling the wind and rain. The lowest point must have been when the silt became so waterlogged it was almost impossible to use our equipment.
“Despite the weather, the project has had some great moments. The best part about the project for me has been the local community and the incredible support that they have given my team and I.”
Earlier this year in the silt one of the engineers found a full-grown Common Snapping Turtle an extremely rare creature in the UK which is thought to have been dumped there by a pet owner. The creature is well named because it has been known to bite the finger off a human hand. Nicknamed Terry the turtle is now recovering in quarantine.
Five Rivers will be on site for the next few weeks tying up the loose ends and generally tidying up.They’ll be seeding,raking and planting the remaining 11,000 Phragmities.
The fencing will be kept around the lake until the plants and reeds bed in, making the margins more stable.
It will take up to two years for the lake to return to its former splendour and Five Rivers will be visiting the site regularly to make sure everything is going to plan.
The entire Brooklands Park, owned by Worthing Borough Council, is the subject of a major improvement plan to revive the area.