The River Doctor - A bio-engineer making a difference

The River Doctor - A bio-engineer making a difference

Friday, 11 July 2014 13:16


A former South African engineer working in the UK has already improved many chalk streams, including sections of the Test, the Hampshire Bourne, the Avon and the upper Itchen. He is Simon Cain, owner of Cain Bio-Engineering Ltd. For 25 years he and his company have provided environmentally friendly engineering solutions for all types of aquatic erosion, river restoration and river management problems, with a proven track record for delivering river restoration projects, receiving awards from the Wild Trout Trust, the Institution of Civil Engineers, British Nature and The Famous Grouse Award.

Says Simon:

The Bourne project was a stream creation job we did for Vitacress, a watercress farm upstream of the viaduct. The upper section of that watercourse above the viaduct was de-culverted to expose the stream. However this was not the main Bourne but rather a feeder stream coming from the outfall flows of the commercial cress beds. The stream was then restored under the viaduct and all the way down to the confluence with the main Bourne rivulet some 300m further downstream.

Click in images to enlarges. All images per Simon Cain

91434 Viaduct Bpourne river

Simon fishing the reclaimed feeder stream to the Bourne with the famous viaduct landmark in sight

90477 River Bourne Hampshire 2089

91488 River Bourne SC 3094 resize

98499 River Bourne brown trout DSC 4062 resize

We did another job on the back of the Vitacress work a year later starting from what is known as the ‘parallel’, downstream for 800 yards. That was a very successful restoration of a heavily dredged and straightened channel. We used original river bed gravels piled up on the bank margins together with cricket bat willow trees that had just (fortuitously) been harvested so we utilised the unwanted boughs to create in-stream cover, new inside meanders and fly habitat etc.

90411 SC Bourne restoration-130

The restored Bourne, above and below

92457 SC Bourne restoration 6 - 149



97441 SC RESTORATION Hampshir Bourne

Browns in the Bourne on original riverbed gravels

In 2010 we completed the restoration of a 200m reach of a Test side-carrier which used to be a major spawning site for salmon. It had been impounded for over 100 years in order to provide a head for an historic waterwheel which was first installed in the mid-1800’s to pump water into the header tank of the neighbouring Manor house at Timsbury.

We’ve done plenty more restorations on other streams; the Kennet, the historic Frank Sawyer’s section of the Avon, the Loddon, the upper Itchen etc.

93438 SC upper itchen 0019

The upper Itchen at Mill leat before restoration (A leat is an open water course dug into the ground to bring water to a mill)

99487 SC Upper Itchen Mill leat restoration-97

The upper Itchen at Mill leat after restoration

I will be working with the well-known author, conservationist and artist Charles Rangley-Wilson in August for two months on the second half of a 7km chalk stream restoration project on the river Nar in Norfolk.

94439 SC Tree bridge 466

Charles Rangely-Wilson on the River Nar in Norfolk soon to be restored

(It is really worthwhile watching the short clip on the restoration of a section of the famous Avon. Warms the heart. See and scroll down to the video clip.)

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