Habitat Loss

Landowners and managers of river environments can have a profound impact upon the quality of the riparian habitat. Download the "Cherishing the Chess" leaflet (PDF, 1.4 MB) for useful tips on how to manage riparian land for the benefit of the river. The Environment Agency's leaflet 'Living On The Edge' is also a useful source of guidance for landowners. Below are examples of practices which can have a negative impact upon the Chess:

Manicuring the Chess

Over-tidiness, particularly where the Chess runs through gardens, can cause real problems for the river. Mowing right up to the banks removes vegetation that provides habitats for wildlife. It is best to leave an undisturbed border along the banks. While tall vegetation can be cut back from late summer through winter, try to leave uncut areas as wildlife refuges. Don't dump garden waste in the river as it smothers valuable habitats, causes pollution, encourages the spread of non-native species and can cause a flood risk. You can compost garden waste away from the river or take it to the local household waste site. Using pesticides can seriously affect local wildlife populations and you need the Environment Agency's permission to apply certain chemicals near rivers.

Clearing all the woody debris from the banks and channel also removes important habitats for invertebrates and spawning places for fish. Leave some dead wood in the river, unless it presents a flood risk.

Stripping out aquatic plants like water crowfoot removes a source of food and shelter for many species. These plants are also important in summer as they help to naturally narrow the channel, which maintains flow rates and water depth in times of low water. If you are the landowner and you feel that the channel is becoming choked, you can remove a proportion of the plants - take them out of the channel and leave them on the side for a few days to give small creatures the chance to escape back into the river. Don't allow the cut plants to float downstream where they may clog up someone else's stretch. If possible, liaise with neighbouring landowners to avoid removing vegetation at the same time as them. And avoid heavy cuts in the autumn as these are particularly damaging to wildlife.

Occasional overhanging branches and mature trees make great perches for kingfishers. Tree canopies can provide dappled shade that will help to encourage the growth of marginal plants. Where it is safe to keep old trees with cavities, these create roosting sites for bats and nesting locations for birds.

Avoid planting non-native plants in the river and along the banks as these can suppress native plant species and reduce the wildlife diversity along the Chess. The worst problem species along the Chess are Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam - see our Invasive Species page for more information.

Bank modification with rockery stone or wood boarding remove plant cover for wildlife and destroy water vole habitat. Sometimes banks need to be reinforced to combat erosion, but there are wildlife friendly ways to do this. All modifications to the riverbed, banks or works within 8 metres of the river are subject to Environment Agency approval, so contact them for advice.

Grazing cowsThe Chess in the Countryside

Allowing cattle grazing up to the edge of the river can damage the banks, destroying water vole habitat, impeding water flow and increasing siltation, which smothers the gravels needed for fish spawning. Fencing along the riverbank can protect marginal vegetation and emergent vegetation, helping to maintain wildlife habitats and a narrow, fast-flowing river.