Chalk stream will be revitalised as part of St Albans’ River Ver restoration project

The River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

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

The River Ver could be restored to its former beauty as part of wide-reaching proposals to revitalise the rare chalk stream.

Water in most rivers comes from rainfall, but St Albans’ historic stream is fed from groundwater aquifers. This should produce crystal clear, meandering, babbling brooks and support an abundance of wildlife.

However, the River Ver has been moved, widened, and flattened to such a degree that it is unrecognizable as a chalk stream. It is often stagnant, dirty and shallow.

There are only 200 of these chalk streams in the world, 85 per cent of which are in England - but only 25 per cent of those are in tact and of good quality.

Many of the changes were historically made to facilitate the milling industry, but now much of the gravel bed is blanketed in a thick lining of silt which blocks the aquifers.

A partnership between the district and county councils, the Environment Agency (EA) and Affinity Water, the multi-million pound Revitalising the RiVer project is focussed on returning 2.5km of the River Ver to its natural state - which in turn will help clean out nearby Verulamium Lake.

EA project manager Nancy Baume said: “Our vision is to have a fairly unique chalk stream running through the centre of St Albans, that is both attractive and really valuable for wildlife.

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“It’s such a fantastic feature to have in quite an urban environment and there’s a huge amount of recreation and amenity associated with that.”

Trees currently shading the river will be thinned to allow wildlife and foliage to grow.

The EA director for Herts and north London, Simon Hawkins, added: “This exciting and ambitious project is part of a wider programme that aims to protect and restore rare chalk streams, such as the River Ver.

“The EA is overseeing numerous river restoration projects, alongside partners, that reinstate natural habitats and improve the flow in our rivers.”

Chair of the Ver Valley Society, Jane Gardiner, said: “We believe that these plans will help towards our society achieving its long term aims for the river.

“We are also very supportive of the plans to finally address the issues with the Verulamium Park lakes. These lakes and the River Ver are tremendous assets for St Albans but at the moment both are suffering.

“These plans represent a once in a generation opportunity to create a park and a river area that the people of St Albans can appreciate and be proud of and enjoy for years to come. We are looking forward to helping shape and develop the plans.”