Environmental Stewardship Scheme Guidance Notes (PB10494)

Environmental Stewardship Guidance 004:

Protecting Rivers, Streams and Ditches - Grassland

This guidance has been developed specifically to support Environmental Stewardship agreements. It does not replace your Agreement and you must continue to follow the prescriptions and specifications. The outcomes shown may not be appropriate or suitable for all sites. Please consult scheme handbooks or your RDS adviser for further information.

Intensive grazing, poaching and other soil disturbance adjacent to water courses can contaminate water with significant amounts of sediment containing soil, nutrients and pesticides. This sediment can smother river gravels, damage fish spawning areas and affect the quality of down stream water supplies.


  • Bank side vegetation helps to stabilise stream and river banks.
  • Vegetation acts as a barrier preventing sediment, nutrients and pesticides from entering the watercourse.
  • Reduce soil compaction and surface water run-off by careful grazing management.
  • Keep livestock out of watercourses to reduce bacterial contamination.

The benefits of good bank management include...

  • Barn owls hunting along river and stream banks.
  • Reed buntings, dragonflies and damselflies in lush waterside vegetation.
  • Otters re-colonising rivers that are well stocked with fish and free from bank side disturbance.

Do not...

  • Locate manure heaps where there is a risk of run-off polluting water.
  • Site ring feeders on damp ground and near water courses where there is a high risk of poaching.
  • Allow uncontrolled stock access to watercourse.


  • Intensive grazing, particularly in the winter.
  • Heavily poached river or stream banks.


  • Fencing off bank sides encourages the development of vegetation. However, this may have landscape implications and temporary fencing may be more appropriate than permanent fencing.
  • Where livestock receive their water supply from watercourses, install water troughs or, where suitable, drinking bays or stock operated pasture pumps.
  • Feed away from watercourses and move feeding sites regularly to reduce poaching.
  • At locations where stock frequently cross a watercourse, consider providing stream culverts and fencing to restrict access.

Rural Development Service. RDS is part of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Environmental Stewardship: Farm Environment Plan Guidance 004
First Edition, Published March 2005

PB 10494D. Produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Illustrations by Jackie Hunt and Dan Powell.
Crown copyright 2005. Reproduced for ADLib under licence.

ADLib logo Content provided by the Agricultural Document Library
© University of Hertfordshire, 2011