A floodplain is a large, flat expanse of land that forms on either side of a river, stretching to the valley edges. Created over thousands of years as the river meanders back and forth across the valley floor, floodplains are a dynamic system that provide a range of benefits to the ecosystems and communities that surround them.
Stretching between Kingussie and Kincraig along the River Spey, RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes is a 1,000 hectare floodplain. Due to historical modifications, this amazing floodplain is unable to function in a sustainable way, with knock-on negative impact on floodplain management, wildlife and people.
Working with the local community, we’re developing a long-term vision to transform Insh Marshes into a prime example of a restored floodplain and river system. These changes will help increase the resilience of local communities and the natural riches of Insh Marshes against climate change and provide a home for a range of important species such as Spotted Crake and String sedge.
Across May and June 2023, we held events to engage our neighbours, nearby communities, and a range of stakeholders to share an update on our work, and explain why it is critical to tackling the challenges faced at RSPB Insh Marshes. These challenges are the reason why a number of projects are under development to help restore the floodplain, so it is important to understand the issues that need addressing. This engagement period also gave stakeholders an opportunity to meet our team, and ask us questions.
Later in the summer, we will be launching a public consultation on our proposals at RSPB Insh Marshes. The public consultation will provide an opportunity for giving feedback on our proposals. Further details will be released soon.
The RSPB Insh Marshes team have been working on a thorough response to feedback and questions asked during the community engagement in 2020. This has included commissioning some further work from the consultants, EnviroCentre, and giving careful consideration to the questions and concerns raised:
Any questions that we cannot currently answer are being held here, and will be addressed as and when further information becomes available.
Following these discussions, the first floodplain restoration project got underway in Autumn 2022. Nine spruce tree trunks were strategically installed in the River Tromie. The woody material will help to create pools and areas of sediment build-up, which is beneficial to spawning and feeding fish such as Atlantic Salmon. It will also slow the flow of water, which should help to reduce the peak of any future floods. Read the full story here.
There are three other projects that we are still considering alongside the feedback, support and concerns from the local community, but they will not be taking place for a number of years. We have appointed a dedicated Project Manager to oversee this work alongside the Insh Marshes team.
Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, throughout the winter of 2020, we undertook extensive community engagement to inform and provide opportunities to input on the river restoration work.
The ideas, concerns and suggestions gathered during this consultation phase helped to shape the proposal for the future of Insh Marshes, released for consultation in 2022.
By 2019 we had some possible options for floodplain restoration projects which would help to restore the marshes for people, nature and climate. It was important to engage with the local community with these options at as early a stage as possible, to shape proposals well before any planning application was made.
Historical modifications mean that natural processes on the marsh are restricted. There is growing concern that current management of the reserve is unsustainable, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain some of the designated features and habitats it is recognised for and the ability to keep them in a favourable condition.
In 2016, RSPB Insh Marshes commissioned a feasibility study, funded by SEPA's Water Environment Fund and Cairngorms National Park Authority, to look at options for the future to ensure the sustainability of Insh Marshes not only as an important site for flora and fauna but by continuing to offer flood protection.
EnviroCentre, our Environmental Consultants, created a computer model using data collected from the marsh and previous flood events. This model assessed the current conditions and offered different options to restore the river and floodplain by removing redundant embankments to reconnect the river and floodplain, initiating in river process where tributaries have been straightened and canalised, and reducing the drainage function of the defunct ditch systems to reduce the a negative impact on protected wetland habitats.
These different options underwent rigorous assessment and stakeholder engagement to assess viable options for the future of a healthy, safe and nature-rich Insh Marshes.
In the 18th and 19th century, humans extensively modified Insh Marshes floodplain, to create land for agriculture.
These modifications were never fully successful, mainly due to the dynamic nature of the floodplain. With population decreases from the 1800s onwards, they quickly fell into disrepair and once heavy machinery was introduced in the early 20th century, people were unable to tame the marshes, being restricted to the edges for hay crops and grazing.