For the love of Essex rivers

What I do and why

Matt Butcher
Matt Butcher

I'm responsible for making improvements to our water environment in Essex.  My focus is onpartnership working, making sure we put our resources (both time and money) into broader projects that get the most benefit to people and the environment.  It is vital to ensure that local communities and groups have their say and the opportunity to get involved. For hundreds of years we have deepened, straightened and widened our rivers for navigation, drainage and flood defence.  We also use them to take away our waste water and polluted runoff as well as providing water for farming, industry and drinking supplies.  All these pressures have taken their toll and we need to strike a better balance between all these uses and giving wildlife a chance to thrive. The past 12 months have seen some significant changes which I’m really proud of.

Changing how we maintain rivers

Our work to manage flood risk can have an impact on the natural environment.  I have worked closely with our local maintenance teams to look at what we do and where we do it and how by making small changes to what we do we can make a big difference to the environment. One example is the River Wid, where we used natural materials and adopted a different approach to manage flood risk and enhance habitat.  We removed silt deposits downstream of Buttsbury Ford, which were potentially increasing flood risk.  Willow faggots to provided erosion protection on the opposite bank and kept the channel narrower, preventing further siltation in the future.  We also selectively desilted elsewhere which created new habitat features as well as reducing flood risk.  All this for no additional cost, or detriment to previous ways of working. These videos show the work being carried out and how things settled down a year later.

A new Rivers Trust for Essex

There was no Rivers Trust covering our county, and with the great track record they have had around the country we were keen to help launch one locally.  We provided support and some initial funding to allow a core team to talk to interested partners to see if the demand was there. It certainly was! I am proud to say that the Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust is now up and running, and should be making a real difference for our rivers in the coming years.  Check out for more information.

A Kingfisher on the Mardyke in Thurrock, Essex
A Kingfisher on the Mardyke in Thurrock, Essex - we want to see more of these!

 The Essex Rivers Hub

One of my main goals has been to share data and information on our rivers, and to allow the sharing of project ideas and successes.  As part of the successful Catchment Restoration Fund, we put resources into developing The Essex Rivers Hub with Essex Wildlife Trust.  Using our data, it provides up to date information about the quality of rivers in Essex, the surrounding environment and a way for people to get more involved in local projects. There is plenty more to do for the site to reach full potential, but it has already proven to be a great place to learn more about our rivers and how to help them.

Essex Rivers Hub website
Essex Rivers Hub website

You can find out more about Matt's work with Essex Rivers on his blog, Tales from the Essex Riverbank or follow him on Twitter @MattButcherEA.

1 comment

  1. Comment by John Smith posted on

    I am trying to organise getting the River in Halstead back to normal levels.
    I am told by Halstead Council that the owner of Townsford Mill Sluice gets had agreed to pay for the installation of new gates, but that the environment agency will not allow this to happen.
    Do you know about this, and can you please let me know why the environment agency will not do this. In the meantime, I have recently
    seen rats in the small volume of water that now exists. Sorry, but rats cannot be good for the environment, and what is being done about this.


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