An ambitious project to return the River Ver to its more natural state as it runs through the center of St Albans has been launched, according to the City and District Council.
The plan will include significant enhancements to Verulamium Park and the water quality of its artificial lakes.
Major improvements will also be made to the surrounding wildlife and landscape including the creation of accessible wetlands teeming with birds, fish and insects as well as plants.
Initial work is due to start in 2019 once the precise cost – likely to be a seven-figure sum – is established. It will take several years to complete with funding expected to come from several sources.
The main aim is to improve a 2.5 kilometer section of the rare chalk stream that flows through the park to Sopwell Mill Farm. This will involve narrowing the Ver at some points after it enters the park to improve the flow, and create riffles, pools and meanders. The gravel bed will be naturally cleared of silt.
The river’s concrete banks will be dismantled and replaced by soil, grasses and plants. Another major development will see part of the chalk stream follow its more natural course after it passes the gardens of St Michael’s Manor. It will sweep down to the lower ground with the larger of the two lakes being reshaped to make room for it.
The park’s artificial lakes – built in the 1930s – have become heavily-silted, reducing the water quality and causing unsightly algal blooms in the summer months. A number of improvements will be made during the project including dredging of the sediment.
A wetlands area will be created at the south-west corner of the large lake which will support many different colorful plants and animals. Sediment which has built up in the bottom of the lakes will be used to provide fertile material for the new planting areas.
In another initiative, the main islands on the larger lake will be extended and raised to create better conditions for herons. In the events meadow further south, it is planned to create two more wetlands with boardwalks.
Further downstream, a change to the course of the River Ver as it reaches the Cottonmill allotments is planned.
The project is being developed by the Environment Agency, St Albans City and District Council, which owns the park, and other partners.