MORE than four miles of artificially-straightened water channels have been restored this year, protecting the area’s wetland habitats.

Stream and mire restoration is part of the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme. And over the last eight years it has returned miles of drainage channels, first artificially straightened by the Victorians, to a more natural state.

This helps support the unique biodiversity of the New Forest and also slows water flow, helping to prevent flash floods racing downstream.

Nick Wardlaw, the HLS contract manager at the Forestry Commission, said: “This year has been a fantastic one for restoration of our very valuable habitats in the New Forest. The sun has shone brightly on us and we have been able to deliver a large amount of work which is essential for helping to protect and enhance the outstanding biodiversity that we have in the Forest’s wetlands.

“A lot of effort has gone into large scale works such as the re-meandering of the Avon Water downstream of Wootton Bridge, and smaller restorations such as restoration of at-risk mires to the east of Ringwood.

“We now look forward to monitoring the progress of these sites into the future and hope our work helps to ensure that future generations can enjoy seeing and hearing the New Forest wildlife as much as we do.”

The restoration programme is also important in ensuring the survival of the New Forest’s internationally-important mires.

This year extensive work was undertaken on streams at Wootton, near Burley and Pondhead near Lyndhurst.

There were also smaller restorations of streams and mires from Deadman Bottom in the north of the Forest to Ferny Crofts in the south.

The 10 year Higher Level Stewardship scheme is an agreement with Natural England, held by the Verderers and managed by them in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.