The artificial straightening of the Sid

Last week, the town council’s environment committee met – and was presented with the latest report from the Wild Trout Trust from November 2022, commissioned by the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group:

Charles Sinclair gave an overview of the River Sid partnership project (summery attached at the end of the minutes) the project had 2 objectives; the first being that they want to engage with the public to enhance the habitat and the biodiversity along the river Sid. The second objective was to set up a project to encourage river fly monitoring and to carry out electronic fish monitoring.  minutes-130223-Environment.pdf

The report itself follows on from the earlier exploration of the River Sid undertaken in April 2021: Advisory Visit River Sid, Devon – Wild Trout Trust

The new report builds on this – and follows its recommendations with specific proposals:

Artificial straightening above Sidmouth has disconnected the river from its floodplain and energised the channel. Historic milling and land creation are the primary reasons for such straightening. Though milling has ceased, the densely populated town of Sidmouth has spread onto the floodplains. The previous report recommended greater channel sinuosity to add length to the river, thereby reducing gradient… The lower Sid is therefore locked into its incised setting and so interventions must work to try to improve the current situation, not re-engineer it. Upstream Extension of Sid Advisory Visit – Wild Trout Trust

the Sid's varied habitats

An example of the Sid in a more ‘natural state’ further upstream. Photo: Mary Walden-Till

In other words, it’s about allowing for some minor ‘un-straightening’ of the River where practicable.

The Guardian gave us a look at how rivers have been artificially straightened over the years:

It’s the result of centuries of industrial and agricultural development. And it’s become a problem, exacerbating the impact of both extreme flooding and extreme drought. Josh Toussaint-Strauss looks into how so many rivers ended up this way, and how river restoration is helping to reestablish biodiversity and combat some of the effects of the climate crisis.

Why rivers shouldn’t look like this | It’s Complicated – YouTube