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Saving the Saffron Brook - river restoration scheme

The Saving the Saffron Brook project ran from November 2021 to June 2023. Funded by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, the project restored the Saffron/ Wash Brook ( a major tributary of the River Soar) for the benefit of people and wildlife in South Leicester and Oadby and Wigston.

What were the aims and achievements of the scheme?

The project was a partnership between Leicester City Council and Trent Rivers Trust a river restoration charity) and much of the habitat restoration work was carried out by volunteers.

The brook begins in a rural setting in Oadby and flows through suburban areas. It continues through the racecourse and golf course, Knighton Park, and then through the Saffron Lane estate before it joins the River Soar near the gasworks on Aylestone Road.

Previous management works had made the brook unnatural with concrete banks and very little habitat for wildlife. Some sections suffered pollution and littering and were unsightly, bringing little value to local communities or nature.

The project restored river ecosystems along the brook through re-naturalisation works to create diverse natural habitats including new woodlands, improved wildflower-rich grasslands and new wetlands and ponds. A range of educational and social activities took place to bring the local community closer to nature.

Which areas were improved?

Works took place at key sites from Oadby though to Aylestone along the length of the Saffron Brook and surrounding habitats.

  • Lucas Marsh (Broxhill Country Park) (new wetlands).
  • Leicester Golf Course (removal of culverts/ grassland creation).
  • Knighton Park (river naturalisation/ access improvements/ tree planting).
  • Overdale School (riverside classroom and sculpture trail).
  • Knighton Green (new ponds and Interpretation boards).
  • Lancaster Academy (woodland creation/ outdoor classroom).
  • Sir Jonathan North Academy (forest garden/pond improvements).
  • Washbrook Nature Area (river, grassland and woodland works).
  • Hughenden Drive (new wetlands and grassland works).

How did you make the river more natural?

  • Cleared overgrown vegetation and cut back trees to allow more sunlight to reach the water.
  • Removed false concreate meanders.
  • Created nesting sites for river wildlife.
  • Improved the grasslands and woodlands near the river.
  • Put up dead hedges and introduced aquatic plants to help curb bank erosion.
  • Used brushwood mattresses and woody debris placed in the river to create changes to river flow.
  • Made new ponds connected to the river or on land close by.​

Activities for people

We wanted to offer a wide range of ways for people to connect with nature along the brook, so we co-ordinated a range of activities with our community partners:

  • Guided group walks run by Nature spot.
  • New footpaths, information boards and waymarked trails.
  • Sessions for schools and university students.
  • Play days at/in the river.
  • Hands-on volunteer days.
  • Work experience for people aged 16-18.
  • Wildlife I.D. training and family events.
  • Helped establish the Friends of Washbrook Nature Area
  • Set up a group of Otter Spotter to record otter signs.
  • Trained people in traditional skills, such as mowing with scythes.

Who did we work with?

Many local organisations contributed to making the Saving the Saffron Brook project as success:

  • Trent Rivers Trust
  • Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
  • Knighton Wild
  • EAGA Choir
  • Naturespot
  • The Woodland Trust
  • Saffron Acres Project
  • Leicester University
  • Friends of Knighton Park
  • Wildscapes

Contact us

Tel:     0116 454 3947