River Spey at Aviemore – A Year of Coasts and Waters Case Study

Submitted by the Cairngorms National Park Authority

The Spey Catchment Initiative has worked with the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Pearls in Peril project to undertake some riverside restoration.

River Spey at Aviemore

Access Point – further info in the report on projects page of SCI website.


To restore and enhance a heavily degraded, eroding section of river bank which is a very popular access point in Aviemore, especially for canoe launching. Impact from people has made site vulnerable to further erosion under high water conditions. A sandy, de-vegetated area was getting bigger, especially after Storm Frank. The project aim was to maintain the use as launch site but restrict vehicles, make it more user friendly and attractive for all users.

What we did

  • Willow spiling trial spring 2017 with CNPA funding and support.
  • Bank restoration and stabilisation using green engineering, 2 tier willow spiling with Osier willow, trial successful.
  • Access point works autumn 2019. Partnership with Aviemore Community Enterprise Company, funding from Suez Communities Trust (Scottish Landfill Communities Fund).
  • Green engineering techniques were used including: Untreated larch log bank reinforcement structures, reinforced ramp using anchored logs, aggregate, geotextile, posts to keep vehicles out, seeded, tree planting nearby. All construction is now flood resistant. Willow spiling at ends.
  • An interpretation board was added.

Back water re-connection


To return river flow to an artificially disconnected backwater channel which was poor habitat, unsightly, stagnant, near houses and paths. This was causing problems for the local community. About 500m length. The back water was returned to a more natural hydromorphology which has created new habitat for freshwater pearl mussel, brown trout and salmon as part of the Pearls in Peril project. The work also improved access to river bank for walking and angling.

What we did

  • Construct a culvert that was designed to allow continual level of flow at all heights of river
  • Access maintained along bank through track and bridge work

‘Practice that worked’

  • Partnership working: joint funding, consultation and ownership with users/community, and landowner.
  • Encouraging access and enjoyment in a popular location but protecting from damaging impacts.
  • Innovative, sustainable green engineering approach (willow spilling), lessons have been disseminated through site visits and training for land managers
  • Green engineering was favoured to avoid expensive, ugly rock amour or hard structures, also much cheaper.
  • Re-connection – flow restored where previously blocked, then allowing channel to ‘restore itself’ through natural flow regime, sediment processes etc rather than dredging etc.
  • Multi-benefit, ecology, community, landscape.

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