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Hen Beck, Wath Brow

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The River Ehen / Hen Beck, Cleator Moor
The River Ehen
The River Ehen is located at Wath Brow. Locally, it is known as Hen Beck. The river's source is at the west end of Ennerdale Water: it runs west through Ennerdale Bridge where it is joined by Croasdale Beck (flowing from Banna Fell). Ennerdale Water itself is fed by the River Liza

The Ehen continues past Cleator Moor and Cleator, where it is fed by the River Keekle, moving southwards through Egremont and eventually running parallel to the Irish Sea which it eventually joins at Sellafield at the same point as the River Calder.

The River Ehen supports the largest freshwater pearl mussel population in England. This may be the last sustainable breeding population. Exceptionally high densities (greater than 100 m2) are found at some locations, with population estimates for the entire river exceeding 100,000. The conservation importance of the site is further enhanced by the presence of juvenile pearl mussels.

The freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) is an extremely long-lived species of mollusc (a 134 year old mussel was found in Estonia in 1993), found in fast flowing rivers and streams across Europe.  The pearl mussel produces small, beautiful pearls inside its thick shell which is anchored to the riverbed.  However, freshwater pearl mussels are subject to increasing pressure, and their populations across Europe are listed as threatened by the IUCN due to habitat loss, declining water quality and illegal harvesting to provide pearls for jewellery.

The river Ehen was designated a Special Area of Conservation in 2005. The section of the coast into which it flows was designated as the Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone in 2013.

The freshwater pearl mussel relies for part of its life on the presence of salmonids, a group of fish including salmon and trout. Unfortunately, poaching is widespread along the river.

There is a weir on Ennerdale Water, and as at 2016 the valley continues to be an important source of drinking water for customers of United Utilities in West Cumbria. However, there are plans to supply these customers using a new pipeline from Thirlmere because the Environment Agency has confirmed that for environmental reasons it will rescind the abstraction licence for Ennerdale. This means United Utilities must stop using it as a source of water by 2025 at the latest, and therefore will need to find one or more alternative sources of water.

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: Hen Beck, Wath Brow
Hen Beck, Wath Brow
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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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