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Makeover for the River Medlock

A project to breathe new life into the River Medlock is complete.

The River Medlock was modified over a hundred years ago by lining the channel with concrete and bricks. This provided essential power and resource for local industry, but damaged natural habitats in the process.

Shout 'trout'!

The project sought to return the river to its natural state by widening the channel and replacing the Victorian brick lining with gravel that provides a more natural-looking and fish-friendly section of the river, and reduces flood risk at the same time.

Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese visited the site where he spoke to the team behind the project and met a group of school children from St Willibrord's RC Primary School in Clayton enjoying a fly-fishing demonstration in the river, an activity only possible thanks to its re-naturalisation.

Oliver Southgate, Environment Agency Project Manager, said:

“Over recent years large sections of the brick channel started to disintegrate and much of the material was washed downstream, leaving behind a sterile concrete environment that couldn’t sustain life. Removing this lining, coupled with widening the river channel, has given nature the chance to take over once more."

“Monitoring of aquatic life has already shown a huge improvement, including the discovery of sensitive species of invertebrates like Mayfly and Caddis fly larva. There has also been an increase in fish rising and birds visiting the area."

“This was one of the most challenging river restoration projects that the Environment Agency has ever tackled. Working in partnership with Manchester City Council and Groundwork enabled us to take a more innovative and proactive approach to improving this sterile and constrained river corridor. This ambitious approach has been recognised as one of the most innovative in Europe and has been nominated for three national conservation awards.”

Medlock fishing

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, added:

"Generations of people living in east Manchester were unaware that a river ran beneath their feet, as the Medlock had been harnessed in a brick lined channel to constrain its power for more than a century. Manchester changed the world during the industrial revolution but the factories and mills left a sad legacy on many people's lives."

"Following the Commonwealth Games and the continued regeneration of east Manchester, the landscape around Clayton Vale is unrecognisable from the bleak backdrop that stood there a few decades ago. It has become a place for fun, sport and relaxation and now, thanks to the Environment Agency's pioneering project, once again has a river flowing through it. This scheme has enjoyed worldwide attention, attracting visitors from Malaysia who wanted to see for themselves how formerly blighted rivers can be brought back to life, but most importantly it has had the backing of local people throughout. The rebirth of the Medlock means young children can now paddle and even flyfish in the river - something that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago."

UPDATE - 2 October 2104

The River Irwell Restoration project of which the Medlock is a part has just won the prestigious National Living Waterways Award. Hosted by the Canal and Rivers Trust, the Project won in the Natural Environment Category. The Irwell has been leading the way on realising the European Water Framework Directive, with 20 old weirs removed to reduce the barriers to fish migration and restore natural processes.

The Medlock Restoration Scheme has also been nominated for a Wild Trust Conservation Award, and a BIG Challenge Business award for Conservation - watch this space for results!


UPDATE - 16 October 2104

The project to restore Manchester’s historic River Medlock has been recognised at TWO prestigious awards ceremonies in just two days!

Last night, on Wednesday 15 October, the project won a Wild Trout Trust Conservation Award at a ceremony at the Savile Club in London. Just a day earlier, on Tuesday 14 October, the project was recognised by the Construction Industry Research and Information Association’s (CIRIA) Big Challenge, which encourages businesses and organisations to add new biodiversity enhancements to their construction projects.

Environment Agency project manager, Olly Southgate, said:

This flagship river restoration project has transformed one of the most neglected and sterile stretches of river in the UK, and to be recognised at two prestigious awards ceremonies like this in just two days is the icing in the cake.

Wild Trout Conservation Award Winners Oct 2014