A river restoration project in Cumbria is celebrating its success only a few months after completion as spawning salmon were spotted.
A one-kilometre area of the Swindale Beck river was filled in and replaced with a more natural curving course to slow the flow of the water with the aim of attracting breeding fish.
Atlantic salmon already spawn in other areas of Swindale Beck, but 16 salmon were seen in December.
“Habitat restoration is often a slow process,” said Lee Schofield, site manager for the RSPB. “We normally don’t see the benefits of our work for years and sometimes even decades.”
This part of the river had been artificially straightened around two centuries ago to create extra agricultural land for sheep grazing, but the resulting high water flow removed the small gravels that salmon require for spawning.
The restoration work was undertaken during summer 2016 in a partnership project between the RSPB, the Environment Agency, United Utilities and Natural England.
“River restoration projects such as this are truly rewarding,” said Beck Powell, lead adviser for Natural England. “You know you have created a better habitat, however when you see nature respond so quickly it is very inspiring.”
The salmon eggs will hatch in spring and emerge from the gravel on the riverbed after another four to six weeks, and will migrate to the sea during spring in two to four years’ time.