Case study:Whit Beck River Restoration Project

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Location: 54° 36' 41", -3° 18' 43"
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Project overview

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Status In progress
Project web site
Themes Environmental flows and water resources, Flood risk management, Habitat and biodiversity, Hydromorphology, Land use management - agriculture, Land use management - forestry
Country England
Main contact forename Ian
Main contact surname Creighton
Main contact user ID User:Ian Creighton
Contact organisation West Cumbria Rivers Trust
Contact organisation web site
Partner organisations Natural England & Environment Agency
Parent multi-site project

Case_study:Cumbria River Restoration Strategy

This is a parent project
encompassing the following
Project picture

Project summary

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Whit Beck was an ambitious major pilot river restoration project undertaken by West Cumbria Rivers Trust on the behalf of the Environment Agency and Natural England summer 2014. This project was undertaken on Whit Beck, a fast flowing spate tributary of the River Cocker (River Derwent SSSI) in the English Lake District. A 350m section of heavily modified raised river channel was successfully diverted to natural self-sustainable diverse watercourse. The benefits include: • Restoration of natural river processes and associated features (WFD requirement) • Increase in stream length (over 3 fold - 1205m) and channel area (4/5 fold) • Provision of a wider range of habitats enabling fish to carry out the various stages of their life cycles within the new reach • Significantly improvement in floodplain connectivity (flood storage) • Increased in channel storage for gravels • The provision of wildlife corridors (plants, insects and animals) • Increased flood proofing for fish redds • New deciduous woodlands and woodland strips • Enhanced landscape

There were four parties with a vested interest in Whit Beck, two farmers, one tenant and an independent landowner. The scheme was entirely voluntary and all parties had to be on board for the project to get off the ground and succeed. It took two years of planning, investigations and engineering to complete. The total cost over the life of the project is in the vicinity of £700k. Construction was completed by the end of September 2014.

Monitoring surveys and results

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Monitoring being undertaken in partnership with Aberystwyth University - preliminary results not be available until late 2015

Lessons learnt

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• Need for guaranteed funding over the life of the project (year to year) – possible delays • The need to be flexible, projects drop out (cost implication) prior to agreements being signed • Need to confirm ownership and vested interest in land (e.g. pension fund / banks / trusts etc) • Valley bottom land is vital for the farming business to succeed in upland areas • Complications caused by multiple landowners – e.g. access provision (cost implications) • Still belief in farming community that the continued maintenance of watercourses are vital • Agricultural schemes can be inflexible and can result in increased costs & complexity • Disturbance payments may be necessary as a form of inducement and to cover period of construction and recovery (short and long term losses) • Need to comply with State Aid rules • Constraints and compromises – they will significantly affect the detailed design (e.g. agreeing route of new channel with landowners, footpath temporary closures / re-routing etc) • Question of liability for new channel once handed back to landowner • Scale of engineering required in new channel design and at point of break out • The need for sufficient mixed bed substrate to enable natural processes to sort and deposit • The necessity for appropriate land licence agreements and construction contracts to protect all parties • Planning permission (National Park) – could be significant delay and is an additional cost • Flood risk (significant flooding in 2005 and 2009) – may require detailed flood risk assessment and associated public consultation (takes time) • Weather conditions during construction (delays) and land area required for de-watering (potentially additional costs and risk) • Commuted sum required for new bridge construction under roads • Demand for public access to site once scheme completed • Need for future monitoring (harder to secure funding for) • Need a means to access funding for any unforeseen future liabilities

Image gallery

The heavily modified raised river channel
During construction of new channel
Box cut channel - Reach 3
Unconsolidated mixed substrate in channel bed
First cut box excavation
Channel following diversion - no geomorphological floods
Channel following geomorphological floods
Reach 3 ptc new channel
Reach 3 new channel


Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district North West
River basin Derwent (NW)


River name Whit Beck
Area category 10 - 100 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category 500 - 1000 m
Maximum altitude (m) 785
785 m
0.785 km
78,500 cm
Dominant geology Siliceous
Ecoregion Great Britain
Dominant land cover Permanent pasture and woodland strips
Waterbody ID GB112075070380

Other case studies in this subcatchment: Cumbria River Restoration Program - Whitbeck restoration project - West Cumbria


WFD water body codes GB112075070380
WFD (national) typology Mid, Small, Siliceous
WFD water body name Whit Beck
Pre-project morphology Straightened, Reinforced banks
Reference morphology Actively meandering
Desired post project morphology Actively meandering, Single channel
Heavily modified water body No
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Otter (Lutra lutra), Floating water-plantain (Luronium natans), lamprey
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use Improved/semi-improved grassland/pasture
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m) 0.3km increased to 1.2km
"kmincreasedto1.2km" is not declared as a valid unit of measurement for this property.
Project started 2013/10/01
Works started 2014/06/16
Works completed 2014/10/03
Project completed
Total cost category 500 - 1000 k€
Total cost (k€)
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources Environment Agency, Natural England

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure
Hydromorphology Heavily engineered high level carrier
Biology Limited habitat
Other reasons for the project Re-connect river with floodplain and reduction of substrate delivery to R Cocker


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications Improvement of natural flows, Recovery of channel morphology, Introducing sediment
Floodplain / River corridor Connection to wider floodplain
Planform / Channel pattern Channel naturalisation, Re-meandering
Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement) Community involvement, Community consultation


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

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Supplementary Information

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