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Brook Hollows is a former fishing lake at the heart of the Rolleston community. The lake required some restoration work including silt removal from the lake and management of the trees overhanging the water. The lake is filling with silt that is being washed in by the Rolleston Brook and it in danger of silting up completely. By removing nearly 1,500 cubic metres of silt, we have increased the capacity of the lake and bought some more time until a catchment-based solution can be implemented.
Rolleston village has a great community spirit and, in 2021, we helped to establish a new Friends of Brook Hollows volunteer group. You can find out more about the Friends of Brook Hollows here.
The Friends of Brook Hollows have been working hard helping to improve and manage the lake and spinney (woodland), including improving the network of paths that run through the wood, removing invasive plants like Himalayan balsam and Snowberry, and litter picking. The site is a beautiful space for visitors to sit and enjoy the area and, by working together, we are helping to create the best possible environment for people and wildlife.
Schools and families have started using the site more frequently and, thanks to the Friends of Brook Hollows, you can now find log seating areas, bird hides and an eagle sculpture trail in the woodland. There are also new information boards that tell the story of the wildlife and the fascinating history of the Hollows and how they once formed a network of fishing lakes for the Mosley Estate.
East Staffordshire Borough Council is responsible for on-going maintenance of the site. They are working closely with the Friends of Brook Hollows to make the most of this excellent community asset. The local community is proactive and will continue in voluntary activities.
Louise MorrisTransforming the Trent Valley Partnership Manager
Julia BakerSenior Enterprise Officer East Staffordshire Borough Council
After a very wet summer and a late harvest this year, the fields are ready for us to begin spreading the silt. Machinery will be on the private farm land adjacent to Brook Hollows from the second week in October. It shouldn’t take long to spread the silt, if ground conditions allow, following which we will make good on any damage caused by the work.
We have had quite a wet summer this year and as a result we have not been able to access the land adjacent to Brook Hollows to remove the silt. It is currently piled on farm land close to the Brook Hollows lake and has vegetated over. We still plan to remove the silt, we are just waiting for the fields where the silt will be spread to be ready.
Thanks to Burton Conservation Volunteers and the Friends of Brook Hollows, a reedbed has been planted with reeds (Phragmites rhizomes) taken from Branston Water Park. The plan is for the reedbed to establish over the next few years and help to filter the silt flowing into the lakes from the Rolleston Brook. In addition to this, the silt trap will be regularly cleared thanks to Rolleston Parish Council and the Friends of Brook Hollows.
Lake desilting work is completed
The desilting work within the lake has now concluded and nearly 1,500 tonnes of silt has been extracted. The area we have focused on are the northern channel (mainly to allow access for the machinery) and within the main lake and around the waterfall. We have extracted silt to a depth of approximately 1m and also removed boggy areas such as the accumulated silt around the outfall.
The lake is dynamic and the silt shifts with the flow of water so we expect to see silt moving within the lake and establishing areas of deeper and shallower water. This is perfectly natural. Please do be aware that the lake is deeper now so please supervise children and keep dogs under close control.
The project is not complete as the change in weather meant we needed to alter our plans. We are pleased that we were able to continue with the silt extraction but we were not able to spread it as originally planned. We hope to complete the silt spreading in later summer and we are thankful to the private landowner for accommodating us.
The silt is stored behind an earth bund close to the lake on a private field. We politely remind residents and visitors that the field does not have public access and no one should approach or try to walk on the bunds or stockpiled silt as the silt is deep and soft. We hope to remove the material as soon as conditions allow.
Lake desilting work starts
Work started on site on Monday 13th March and the channel was cleared quickly to allow the equipment to reach the lake and begin work removing a quantity of silt. Our contractor, Land and Water Services, are using an amphibious excavator to extract the silt, which is then loaded into barges and floated down the channel to the adjacent field. A 360 excavator when unloads the barges in the field.
Our original intention was to spread the silt on the agricultural fields surrounding Brook Hollows, but unfortunately the recent wet weather has meant we have modified our plans and are retaining the silt behind bunds until ground conditions allow us to spread it.
Silt is being removed to a depth of approximately 1m between the island and the waterfall bridge. We propose to remove approximately 1,400 cubic metres of silt. The remaining silt in the lake will settle and move over time, particularly during periods of high water flow, however there should be a noticeable increase in water depth.
Amphibious excavator removing silt from the lake bed (credit James Dennis LAWS)
(James Dennis LAWS)
Due to the recent period of dry weather we have been able to schedule the silt removal work to begin on Monday 13th March. The work is anticipated to take 2-3 weeks and there will be some noise and disruption during this period. Our contractor will access the lake from an adjacent field meaning that there will not be machinery kept within the Brook Hollows amenity space. There will be machinery on the lake itself and we will be putting environmental protection measures in place including a silt screen across the waterfall to prevent silt from washing down stream. We will also be monitoring oxygen levels for fish.
Initially, a channel will be cleared for the excavators along the northern edge of the island. Silt removal will then be focussed in the main area of the lake and by the waterfall. The aim of the silt removal is to remove a large quantity of the silt that has built up over the last few decades and to increase the depth of the water.
The removed silt will be spread on adjacent agricultural fields. It is essential that no rocks, branches or litter is spread onto the fields and so we will be screening the silt before it is transported in the spreaders. This process will create some noise and we ask for your understanding and patience during this time.
Please take care when visiting the site, observe any notices and keep dogs under close control.
The weather has been dry for a number of weeks and the land around the lake is much drier than it was in the autumn. We have a meeting with the contractor, landowner and specialists to determine if the work can begin in March. If conditions on site are good we will notify the residents who back onto The Lawns field and put up notices for the community to raise awareness of the work going ahead. It is hoped that the work will only take 2-3 weeks to complete, but we will keep the community updated. We are exploring contingencies in case we cannot undertake the work this spring.
The trees have been removed helping to open up areas around the lake where there has been significant overshading. Alongside the work carried out by our arboricultural contractor, the Friends of Brook Hollows have also undertaken some clearance around the banks of the smaller self-set saplings.
We have received one of our key permissions from the Environment Agency relating to the silt removal and are in communication about our Flood Risk Activity Permit (a standard permit that is required for work within a water course). Once all permissions are in place we will be able to plan the silt removal activity. The intention is to begin work this spring as long as the ground is not saturated and the weather remains suitable.
We are planning to remove a small number of trees overhanging the lake in January 2023. We will be coppicing (removing to ground level to allow regrowth) four multi-stem willows from an area to the west of the island where the Rolleston Brook splits. This is to open the area up to more light and allow bankside and marginal plants to grow. We are also removing four medium sized sycamore trees that overhang the lake to the east of the island. These are poor specimen trees and allowing more light to the banks of the lake will help to create more diverse habitat.
We have surveyed the trees for bats and found no evidence of roosting or hibernation, however an ecologist will be supervising the removal of some of the trees.
We hope to remove the silt from the lake in spring 2023 and are currently applying for the necessary permits from the Environment Agency. We have had ecological surveys undertaken over the last few months to identify any protected species. We have found no evidence of Great Crested Newts and so can proceed with work on the lake. We are restricted as to when work can take place and so the weather will be a limiting factor. We will be monitoring the weather and ground conditions over the coming few months and will be able to provide an update when we have more certainty.
We are exploring how we can remove silt from the lake as Brook Hollows has started to silt up over the past few decades. The lake was originally desilted back in the 1970s. The process is complicated due to where the lake is located and where we can put the silt. We are working with a specialist contractor, a local landowner and the Environment Agency to explore options for safely removing the silt and transporting it away from site.
How was the silt being removed?
The silt was removed mechanically from sections of the lake. We only had capacity to remove a certain volume and therefore didn’t be remove all the silt that has built up over the years, but picked the areas worst affected. This included removing silt from the main area of the lake, particularly around the waterfall.
The silt does not lie as a uniform sheet but is affected by the water movement. Any remaining silt will level itself out and form its own channels again. The project is a medium-term solution to what is actually a bigger and more nuanced issue. By removing a large quantity of the silt build-up we are buying time.
What did you do with the silt you took out?
We spread the silt on the adjacent agricultural fields with permission from the local landowner. We needed to apply for a special permit to allow us to do so. When work started on site the ground conditions were dry and firm and we were able to start spreading the silt using a tractor and spreader. However, subsequent heavy rainfall meant the ground conditions became boggy and the loaded spreaders couldn’t pass. We stockpiled the silt in a bunded area close to the lake with permission from the Environment Agency until the ground conditions improved.
Why did you work in that location?
We were restricted on site by where we could work as there was a lot of heavy machinery and we need to ensure residents and visitors remained safe when visiting Brook Hollows. We didn’t work from the amenity grass area beside the lake as it would’ve been difficult to keep visitors safe from moving equipment. Also, there are underground services we needed to avoid. We wanted to avoid transporting the silt by road as this is very costly and would cause disruption in the village. We couldn’t work from the woodland side as there is insufficient space.
We are thankful to the farmer who owns the fields surrounding Brook Hollows as he has allowed us to access and work from his fields. Whilst conditions on site are very wet in early spring, this is the best time for us to work as it is before fish spawning season, bird nesting season and planting season for the farmer. We had an ecologist on site monitoring for birds and we were testing the water temperature and oxygen levels to ensure fish and other aquatic life were not negatively impacted. When we returned in autumn to spread the silt we were outside of bird nesting season.
What measures will be taken to prevent future silt build up?
A reedbed has been planted thanks to Rolleston Parish Council and Burton Conservation Volunteers with reeds taken from Branston Water Park. The reeds will establish over the coming years and will work to filter water entering the lake to the west of the island. There is also a silt trap and it has been suggested that this will be clearer periodically. We have removed some of the overhanging trees in this location to allow the light to the area. This will allow bankside and marginal vegetation to naturally grow and will also help reduce some of the organic matter that falls into the lake each year.
The Environment Agency will be looking to encourage upstream landowners to use Natural Flood Management techniques in the future. These could consist of planting trees, leaving un-farmed strips next to watercourses and installing woody material at specific locations in watercourses. All of these techniques can contribute to reducing flood risk and also help to keep silt out of watercourses.
What are the intended outcomes?
Brook Hollows is a man-made lake, originally part of a network of fishing lakes for a large estate. It is now the only remaining lake and is fed by the Rolleston Brook. The waterfall is an important feature on the site, it has cultural and historical significance to the village.
Over the years the lake gets silted up. It has been desilted in the past and the island was created from this silt. Without further action the lake will continue to accumulate silt until it no longer holds water. It is likely that the waterfall will stop flowing as it currently does and more water will flow through the channels in the spinney.
Through Transforming the Trent Valley, we have undertaken a series of studies and explored a number of potential options. We have engaged specialist consultants and worked with the Environment Agency. It has become clear that a comprehensive engineering solution will be costly and in excess of the funding we currently have available. It therefore became clear that the best use of the funding was to undertake silt clearance as a medium-term solution.
In the medium-term, the outcomes are that the lake continues to function as a lake. It provides habitat to fish, invertebrates and birds. It is also an important part of Rolleston village where families feed the ducks and people enjoy walking or sitting. Furthermore, the waterfall will continue to flow and is an iconic feature of the village.
In the long-term, further exploration is required. The Environment Agency is undertaking a catchment-scale study due to flooding in the village and this will help to provide greater information on what interventions may be taken.
What is the future maintenance for the site?
The site is owned by East Staffordshire Borough Council and they are responsible for the management of the site. They are working with Rolleston Parish Council and the Friends of Brook Hollows, among others, to maintain the site for wildlife and the community. This involves managing the spinney (woodland) and the lake, with interventions including footpath maintenance, removal of invasive species (such as the Himalayan balsam that is out-competing our native plants on the banks of the lake), tree thinning, bulb planting and much more.
Ongoing woodland maintenance
Now that a large number of improvements have been made to Brook Hollows spinney, the site will require ongoing maintenance and care. This will be undertaken by ESBC with support from the Friends of Brook Hollows.
Desilting the lake
The lake has been desilted and over 1,500 tonnes of material has been removed. Thanks to the Burton Conservation Volunteers, reedbed has been planted, which will help to filter the water as it flows into the lake. It will take a few years to establish fully.
We have improved some of the wettest sections of footpaths in the spinney and the Friends of Brook Hollows are continually surfacing the woodland paths with woodchip.
Look out for the carved eagles hanging in trees around the woodland. The eagle is the emblem of the Mosley family.
Two new interpretation panels designed by the Friends of Brook Hollows provide information about the wildlife and the history of the site.
Brook Hollows spinney is a plantation woodland from the former Moseley Estate. It now needs management due to large numbers of self-set sycamore trees. ESBC, the Friends of Brook Hollows and TTTV are working together to improve the woodland. A number of trees have been remove from around the edge of the lake and the Friends are helping to clear glades by removing small self-set trees.
We have removed a selection of trees from the water’s edge to help reduce shading and increase bankside vegetation.
A bird hide/screen has be installed on the northern bank of the lake so visitors can view the birds and wildlife.
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