Regeneration plans for River Ver and Verulamium Lake revealed

The River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

The River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Ambitious plans to transform Verulamium Lake into a wildlife paradise and bring an end to years of stagnation and disease have been unveiled this week.

In a multi-million pound project set to begin in 2019 and last several years, St Albans district council (SADC), the Environment Agency (EA), Affinity Water and Herts county council’s countryside management services will be working together to restore the natural beauty of the park and river.

Proposals forming part of the Revitalising the RiVer scheme include reshaping the main lake and reducing it by a third in order to make room for a new stream flowing through the park.

The two heron islands would be enlarged and raised using silt drudged from the bottom of the lake.

Concrete lining would be replaced with vegetative banks and some wetlands would be installed in the south west corner, with board walks across the marsh area.

Gravel beaches would provide access onto the current river, which will be narrowed to increase the water surge. The stronger current the River Ver can sustain, the more water will feed into the lake, keeping it clean in the long term.

These measures aim to discourage the current insurgence of Canada geese, in turn reducing the silt levels and allowing a more diverse range of plants to thrive.

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It would also increase the turnover of water, so silt would be washed away more quickly.

A faulty fish pass by the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks will be unnecessary once the natural gradient of the river is restored - fish will be able to swim unrestricted.

The top lake will still be accessible for model boating and St Michael’s Manor will be untouched.

EA engagement specialist Liam Dennis, said: “There are significant improvements that we can make that will benefit people and wildlife and make nature right on people’s doorsteps, right through the middle of St Albans, as well as addressing the issues with the lakes which is a really important part.

“We want to make a park that the people of St Albans can be proud of, that will sustain itself and is a beautiful place to visit and appreciate nature.”

Verulamium’s iconic artificial lake has been subject to controversy since a bout of avian botulism struck down many geese living in the water in 2015 - diseased silt had built up in the shallow basin and poisoned the water.

Only a trickle of liquid currently runs from the River Ver into the lake because it has been so changed from its natural state that it no longer flows freely and instead acts as a stagnant breeding ground for algae and bacteria.

SADC portfolio holder for the environment, Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles, said they have been working flat out behind the scenes: “The condition of the two lakes is a major local issue and we have been determined to find a comprehensive, long-term solution that will revitalise that area of the park.

“This project will do all of that and more.

“The Ver will be allowed to take a more natural course, the lakes will be freshened up, wildlife will be better supported and fabulous new wetlands will be created.

“Verulamium Park is already a major visitor attraction and this will make it even more popular in the years ahead as there will be so much more to enjoy and discover.”

The Revitalising the RiVer project is divided up into six sections over 2.5km of the River Ver, starting at Verulamium Park and ending at Sopwell Mill Farm. All sections will see improvement works.

To see the plans, visit