from Scottish Wildlife Trust magazine, November 2013
Near Cringletie in the Scottish Borders, the river is starting to meander again. For the first time in two centuries, Eddleston Water is being allowed to flow down to join the Tweed in Peebles as it once used to - gently, lazily and naturally.
Since the early 19th century the water has been progressively straitjacketed. Cutting through the green, curving countryside, it has looked like an unnatural slit in the earth, sliced straight by human hand parallel to the A703.
But in August, the Scottish environment minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, donned a bright blue hardhat and sat in a shiny orange mechanical digger to oversee the opening of a new bend in the river. It’s called “re-meandering”, and it’s modern-day engineers trying to undo the damage that’s been done by their predecessors.
In the past, to recoup land for roads, railways, buildings and farms, rivers have been redirected, realigned, and remade. The trouble is that this has tended to make them flow faster, moving more water, more quickly and causing floods in communities downstream.
Eddleston Water frequently floods Cuddyside in Peebles, which is why it is highlighted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) as an area of high flood risk. In 2012 the river burst its banks as many as six times after heavy rain, causing much disruption and upset to local residents.