• River Garnock 02

    Garnock Connections

    Connecting people and places within the Landscape

Saving Shewalton Sandpits!


SWT Sandpits Balsam Problem

Shewalton Sandpits was under threat! Due to climate change, increasingly frequent flood events were causing the reserve to be devoured by the River Irvine.

Determined to save the reserve, SWT worked in partnership with Garnock Connections, East Ayrshire Woodlands, and a team of committed local volunteers to save this small, but locally important urban reserve.

SWT Sandpits Eroding Riverbank

The plan was to protect the riverbank from erosion from the river by using nature base solutions.

This means working with nature to bind the riverbank together without resorting to using tons of rock armour creating an unsightly, unnatural and baren banking.

SWT Sandpits Balsam Problem

The first task was to remove non-native Himalayan balsam. Himalayan balsam is an annual plant that grows in the summer months in a thick carpet along the riverbank. At the end of the growing season the balsam scatters its seeds using explosive seed pods. The carpet of balsam crowds out other riverbank plants then dies off leaving the riverbank bare. The riverbanks at Shewalton are made of sand and when they are bare, they and are quickly cut back by the swollen river.

The balsam was removed by SWT volunteers through pulling it up by hand. This removal will give other native plants, that won’t die off over the winter, a chance to grow, stabilising the riverbank with their roots and helping protect it over the vulnerable winter months.

SWT Sandpits Reprofiling

Erosion of the riverbank was also being aided by position of a drainage ditch that was helping to undermine it from inside the reserve. As part of the works an excavator was used to redirect the ditch so that it would enter the river at a less damaging point.

While the excavator was on site carrying out the drainage work SWT were also able to put it to work deepening and reprofiling the edges of the pond making it an even better place for wildlife.
Shewalton Sandpit Tree Planting

The final stage of the project was to carry out the planting of native trees. The roots of these trees would help to bind the light sandy soil together and prevent it from being washed away by the river.

The tree planting was carried out by East Ayrshire woodlands trainees. As well as honing their tree planting skills the trainees were able to carry out some ground works around the entrance to the site clearing back scrub.


This spring the works were completed that the hope will secure the future of the reserve!

Click on the arrows to see before and after pictures:



Photo credits:
Scottish Wildlife Trust & Garnock Connections

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