The River Frome from Dorchester to Wareham is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the important chalk river and lowland, low gradient river habitats it supports.
These habitats support a diverse range of aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals. The condition of these habitats is assessed by Natural England, the most recent assessment, which was undertaken in 2009, shows that the SSSI does not meet the standards required in the conservation objectives, and is therefore in unfavourable condition.
The SSSI is in unfavourable condition for a number of reasons, including historical modifications to the physical structure of the river channel, its banks and riparian zone, and the way in which flow is divided between multiple channel sections. These have resulted in places in a straightened, over deepened channel that has very little geomorphological diversity, uniform flows, and enhanced siltation. Our vision is to improve the ecological health of the river by enhancing the characteristic habitats needed for the wildlife to recover and thrive which includes a diverse range of in-channel habitat features, clean gravels and mosaics of species rich riverside vegetation and wetlands connected to the river.
Aims and objectives of the River Rehabilitation Plan
Actions to restore the physical structure of the river to an improved condition for ecology have been set out in the River Frome Rehabilitation Plan. The plan aims to use the linkages between ecology and geomorphology identified in the accompanying Technical Report to identify opportunities and constraints for managing, conserving and enhancing the river and returning the SSSI to favourable or recovering condition. The plan suggests a range of catchment-scale and reach-based solutions that if implemented will help to restore the river to favourable condition. The plan then identifies the actions needed to deliver the solutions and prioritises which should be taken over the short, medium and long term. The ultimate goal is to move towards a more naturally functioning and un-constrained system that is able to adjust and respond to changes without constant management.
However, it is recognised that the River Frome supports a wide range of other interests in addition to ecology (e.g. agriculture and fisheries) and that all of these need to be taken into account when planning actions.
The future of the River Frome SSSI
Once the vision for the rehabilitation of the River Frome has been implemented, the river will begin to change. The main results of this will be a smaller, more dynamic channel with greater sinuosity, large wood features, and geomorphological diversity. The improved river will then be able to support high quality chalk stream communities, including abundant fish populations, diverse invertebrate and plant communities, and a wide variety of natural bird and mammal species.
The River Frome will be more responsive to changes in flow and sediment supply, and hence will be more able to adapt to any variations that occur. The main variations associated with climatic change over the next 50 to 100 years are predicted to be an increase in flow volumes and frequency of extreme events, and a corresponding increase in sediment supply from surface runoff. If the river is not rehabilitated, the likely response to these changes will be a further increase in channel capacity and an increase in in-channel sedimentation. The result of this process will be a continuing trend towards uniform geomorphology, and a further decrease in the condition of the SSSI. The rehabilitation options set out in this plan will ensure that the condition of the river improves, and does not deteriorate in response to climatic changes in the future.
Over the course of the coming months and years up to 2016 landowners, tenants and fishing clubs will be contacted through reach appraisals based on the outline proposals stated in the Plan and the reach summary sheets (see links below). Initial appraisals, outline and detailed designs will be developed through negotiations, consultation and agreement. Partnerships between the Environment Agency and others such as; Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Frome, Piddle and West Dorset Fishery Association, Fishing clubs, landowners and the farming community will be developed to help delivery of the plan and make the improvements needed throughout the river.
You can view a photo record of the Frome enhancement projects on Flickr and they will be referred to in Twitter.
Reach based newsletters
- Reach 1a summary sheet (PDF, 207KB)
- Reach 1b summary sheet (PDF, 213KB)
- Reach 1c summary sheet (PDF, 149KB)
- Reach 1d summary sheet (PDF, 214KB)
- Reach 2a summary sheet (PDF, 124KB)
- Reach 2b summary sheet (PDF, 149KB)
- Reach 2c summary sheet (PDF, 219KB)
- Reach 2d summary sheet (PDF, 359KB)
- Reach 2e summary sheet (PDF, 194KB)
- Reach 3a summary sheet (PDF, 180KB)
- Reach 3b summary sheet (PDF, 253KB)
- Reach 4 summary sheet (PDF, 210KB)
- Reach 5 summary sheet (PDF, 201KB)
- Reach 6 summary sheet (PDF, 181KB)
- Reach 7a summary sheet (PDF, 192KB)
- Reach 7b summary sheet (PDF, 147KB)
- Reach 7c summary sheet (PDF, 197KB)
- Reach 7d summary sheet (PDF, 154KB)
- Reach 7e summary sheet (PDF, 200KB)