River Wye Backstream Restoration

The River Wye is an urban chalk stream, which played an important role in the industrial heritage of the Chilterns in terms of milling. There were once 34 mills along the River Wye, however the majority of these have now been lost. Few residents in High Wycombe today realise the important history of their local river.

The Problem

 The practical conservation work will restore and enhance the Wye, raising awareness of water conservation issues and educate schoolchildren about this rare ecosystem. The project aims were to restore 500m of the Backstream of the River Wye, involving the installation of instream woody habitats, bank restoration, installation of marginal habitat features (e.g. berms) and improvement of fish passage over two weirs.

Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

The Plan

The reach was split into sections, with the upstream end requiring the most intense activity and largest change. The top of Reach 1 included a 30m section where previous bank reinforcement had failed, resulting in erosion that had cut bank into the bank, undermining the railing fence, and putting the elderly residents at risk. This area would require extensive rebuilding to protect the fence, restore the bank and restore the character of the chalk stream. This project was  in partnership with the Chiltern Rangers.


We engaged with 109 adult volunteers and 17 young person volunteers, who contributed over 600 hours over two and a half weeks. The volunteers were from a variety of volunteer groups and corporate groups such as Chiltern Rangers, Buckinghamshire Council, Friends of the Wye, Chalk, Cherries and Chairs New Shoots programme, Thames Water, Red Kite, Chiltern Society, Chilterns Conservation Board, Arrow Planning , Revere Agency, Berkshire College of Agriculture and Alfriston School 

The chalk stream has been restored, with wood features such as berms and deflectors. A collapsing bank has also been repaired, reducing the amount of sediment falling into the channel. The Wye backstream will have a better flowing channel as a result, increasing inchannel growth of vegetation and improving the environment for animals such as brown trout.  


Chilterns ANOB

The Future

Working with local groups such as the Chiltern Rangers and Revive the Wye has helped identify a set of ongoing improvement tasks, as well as a way of affecting them using members of the community. Before next winter, the plan is to remove the majority of rubble that has been dumped into the channel and conduct a detailed litter-pick to remove man-made detritus. Both activities will provide opportunities to check the integrity of the installed features and, through the recruitment of volunteers, reinforce the importance of the stream within the local community.  

Both Chiltern Rangers and Revive the Wye have committed to looking after the channel on a volunteer basis for the foreseeable future.