Setting the scene
The Faughan Valley lies 6 miles south east of the city of Derry-Londonderry. It extends to 190 sq. kilometres, sitting in a setting of rolling hills, narrow valleys, rivers and wooded glens.
The Faughan Valley has a wealth of natural heritage. The River Faughan runs through its heart and is designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest in 2008 and Special Area for Conservation in 2009. It is one of the best salmon rivers in Europe, something local anglers will testify to, though I’ve never seen any with a catch under their arm!
The Faughan Valley boasts Ervey, Ness and Bonds Glen, all Areas of Special Scientific Interest ancient woodland sites. The Oaks Wood and Killaloo Wood are local nature reserves, forming hugely important and stunningly beautiful wildlife reservoirs.
The right trees in the right place
Riverside (riparian) tree planting is increasingly being recommended as best practice for land management. It can control riverbank erosion, intercept rainfall, improve soil structure and drainage and keep rivers cool. Trees and woodland in the landscape ensure the water that reaches our rivers is controlled and clean. By acting now to increase the area of native tree planting along our river corridors, we are contributing towards building resilient landscapes for future generations.
The Burntollet River flows into the River Faughan, which is used as a source of drinking water for the city of Derry-Londonderry and surrounding area. The discolouration of the water, due to high sediment levels mainly from surface runoff and bank erosion, makes the cost of treating drinking water much higher, a direct cost to the Northern Ireland economy.
As the trees mature, their roots will help to bind and strengthen the sides of the river, preventing erosion. In the Faughan Valley, landowners have seen parts of their fields essentially wash away, and while trees can’t solve everything, they certainly could have reduced the damage. Trees planted in the right place also help to prevent the run-off of resources such as fertilisers – soil erosion and nutrient loss are a real cost to the farming business.
With extremes of weather now commonplace and memories of last year’s floods across the north west of Northern Ireland all too vivid, we have been talking to landowners and partners to highlight the role of trees in helping to prevent flooding.
It’s a joined-up approach, but with numerous and individual rewards in the offing. The farmers we talk to appreciate the need for the right tree in the right place, once they learn about the benefits of planting native broadleaves. The stabilisation of riverbanks, improved drainage and shelter for livestock are high on the list, with wildlife and water quality also destined to benefit.
This is a perfect example of how the economy and conservation can profit in equal measure. As well as helping river quality, trees can help stop money from - literally - going down the drain.
Planting in partnership for wildlife and people
Planting by the banks of the Burntollet River started before Easter and amazingly it stopped raining when we met on site to set up for a week's work. The staff from Loughs Agency were there ready to plant and even brought their own all-terrain vehicle to ship the trees and guards supplied by NI Water across the fields. Huge thanks to Loughs Agency for their time.