A NEW footbridge, created as part of the River Tamar Walkway & Wetland Project in South East Cornwall, is now open, enabling local people and visitors to enjoy the wildlife that is flocking to the recently flooded wetland area.

The footbridge is the final piece of the jigsaw in this £3.1 million flood defence scheme in the village of Calstock, delivered by a partnership between the Environment Agency, Tamar Community Trust, Calstock Parish Council, Calstock Footpath Society and Tamar Valley AONB.

The 11-hectare intertidal habitat is part of a new flood defence scheme to manage the risk of flooding to properties and critical infrastructure in Calstock. The organisations say that the new habitat which has been created will improve the area’s resilience to the changing climate and provide a richer environment for people and nature.

The intertidal area was made following the breach last year of the old flood bank along the Tamar.  Environment Agency surveys showed the flood bank to be in poor structural condition and as a result the Agency has built several new embankments totalling over 600 metres, protecting local properties, the village preschool and village hall, and the wastewater treatment works from flooding.

Working at night during low tides in November 2021, the old flood bank was breached, and water from the estuary allowed to flow into pools and creeks previously constructed as part of the habitat creation.

The aim is that the new habitat area will help off-set some of the impacts of sea level rise and climate change and clean river water by trapping sediment.  An increase in biodiversity has already been seen, with birds and other wildlife attracted to the new intertidal habitat.

The new bridge has been designed and constructed to span the breach through the old flood embankment (now redundant as a flood defence) and to maintain the much-valued permissive footpath. This was a condition imposed by Cornwall Council on the Environment Agency’s planning application for the wider flood defence and habitat creation scheme.

The community’s new footbridge is an integral part of the works, maintaining the 1.2km stretch – described as a jewel in the crown – of the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail that extends some 35 miles from the north to the south of the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Walkers can safely use the bridge now, and it will be officially opened on Tuesday, June 14, at 4.30pm.

Jane Kiely, Chair of Tamar Community Trust, said she was delighted that the project is now complete, before adding: “Tamar Community Trust is delighted to see the bridge open, enabling people to once again enjoy this fabulous stretch of the river and the new wetland habitat.

“It’s great to see the increasing abundance of wildlife beginning to use the wetlands too, include sedge and reed warblers, Canada geese, shelducks, moorhens, heron, little egret and even an otter! Thanks to all our partners on this scheme for the hard work and determination in getting to this stage.”

The best way to keep up to date with the wildlife that has been spotted on the wetlands, please join the Calstock Wetlands Bird Watchers Group on Facebook.

The flood defence scheme in Calstock has also made the field next to the football pitch available to the Tamar Community Trust so it can be managed to the benefit of the local community.

Last year the Environment Agency was a key partner in a similar project with the National Trust to create a new 1.7-hectare intertidal habitat not far downstream at Cotehele on the Tamar.

Rob Price, Tamar Catchment Coordinator at the Environment Agency, said: “The creation of new intertidal habitat on the Tamar at Cotehele and now this work at Calstock reinforces our aims to improve resilience to the changing climate and to provide a richer environment for people and nature.

“It will provide an invaluable tool in the fight against climate change by locking in carbon and also help improve overall water quality. This valuable work is an important part of an integrated programme of works to build the Tamar catchment’s resilience to a wide range of environmental pressures including those related to biodiversity and a changing climate.”