Struan and I collected a trailer load of willow ahead of upcoming work at Kilkerran on the Girvan and other areas on the Ayr that would benefit from some bankside cover. Our thanks to the Bullen’s of Stair House for permission to harvest some willow there. We also nabbed a few branches from a French Poplar to see how this tree roots. It’s widespread in Ayrshire but there’s not so many to be found on the riverbanks. I think we will use it sparingly as I wouldn’t want to be accused of changing the landscape (not that much is natural anyway).

Preparing cuttings

Collecting and preparing bundles of willow cuttings for use in bank stabilisation works

We’ve now collected at least 4 different varieties of willow from various locations. With the trailer loaded Struan and I set off to my house and stacked the cuttings in a pond to keep them alive until we need them.

Thousands of willow cuttings stacked into a pond to keep them alive before we use them.

Thousands of willow cuttings stacked into a pond to keep them alive before we use them.

We are planning to agree a course of action with the Kilkerran landowners to complete the stabilisation of their badly eroding riverbanks. Last season, some work was undertaken that certainly made a big difference but more could be done and hopefully by beefing up the willow spilling and planting other hardwood trees, this will keep things stable long enough to allow a strong root mass to develop. This should form a natural living barrier capable of withstanding the highest flows whilst protecting the bank from erosion. This would be a good project for volunteers to come along and help the Trust to weave some willow spilling and plant cuttings.There’s a lot of work to do so the more the better.

Partially completed hazel spilling. Hazel isn't the ideal wood for this as it doesn't root, so we plan to finished this with willow in the next few weeks. Despite it not being the best wood for the job, the results have been encouraging with a large amount of sediment building up behind it in a short space of time.

Partially completed hazel spilling. Hazel isn’t the ideal wood for this as it doesn’t root, so we plan to finished this with willow in the next few weeks. Despite it not being the best wood for the job, the results have been encouraging with a large amount of sediment building up behind it in a short space of time.

We hope to complete the spilling and plant willow cuttings to help stabilise the erosion

We hope to complete the spilling and plant willow cuttings to help stabilise the erosion

The spilling was started last year by an enthusiastic angler but willow wasn’t available so hazel was woven instead. Hazel doesn’t root and won’t last too long however it has worked wonders building up masses of sediment behind it. We aim to strengthen and complete the hazel spilling with willow that should root, binding the newly deposited sediments and collapsing bank together. Behind the woven willow, we will plant willow cuttings and alders (if we can get them). The Girvan DSFB agreed that we should undertake this work this year as part of annual agreement.

Looking upstream at the same erosion and it's clear there's still much to do

Looking upstream at the same erosion and it’s clear there’s still much to do

 

This is exactly the sort of work that angling clubs could undertake to improve fish habitat and cover, water quality, bank stability and to provide refuges from predator birds to shade to keep water cool in exposed stretches. The lower Irvine, Garnock and upper Ayr immediately spring to mind as being suitable and with a bit of guidance from the Trust, and a handful of volunteers, I expect great benefits could be achieved in just a few short years. Any clubs interested in finding out more, just give us a call. Volunteers to assist collecting willow and then installing it will be welcomed.

Thanks also to Jimmy Mair for the loan of his trailer. We have applied for funding to purchase our own but we will just have to keep our fingers crossed and wait and see.

UPDATE

Finally after the wettest winter for many years we eventually managed to use this willow (which had been stored in my pond and was rooting) to stabilise bankings at Kilkerran. We had gathered more fresh cut willow towards the end of last week and arranged to meet with a few volunteers on Saturday the 16th April 2016 to see what we could achieve.

This time we used willow faggots (bundles) staked into the tope of the previously installed Hazel spilling. Hopefully, this will allow deposition to continue rebuilding the eroded bank. Willow cuttings were planted across the area.

This time we used willow faggots (bundles) staked into the top of the previously installed Hazel spilling. Hopefully, this will allow deposition to continue rebuilding the eroded bank. Willow cuttings were planted across the area.

I’ve posted a full report on our blog titled ‘Kilkerran Bank Stabilisation Event’. Have a look and see how we got on. We will keep blogging on progress (or failures) as they occur. Hopefully, a couple of years from now,  the work we’ve undertaken will have transformed this part of the river and stopped this erosion.

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