Not Just a Bed of Roses

Did you know that March is National Bed Month?

While we’re not in the traditional ‘bed’ business, our Oren Environmental team helps to look after the largest portfolio of single-owned reed beds in Europe, covering an area of over 300,000 square metres.

In this article, we mark National Bed Month by sharing some information about our favourite kind of bed, the reed bed.

What are reed beds?

Reed beds are wetland areas dominated by reed plants. Phragmites australias are the ones most commonly used, due the fantastic filtering properties of their root structure.  

You’ve no doubt seen them out and about on your walks in areas where there are low levels of water. The reed plants themselves are often a few metres high. They’re green in summer and golden brown into autumn.

What purpose do reed beds serve?

Reed beds serve many purposes, both environmental and commercial.

They’re home to lots of common and rare species of wildlife, so they’re essential in promoting biodiversity. Aesthetically, they can look beautiful and are often found in popular places of interest, like nature reserves.

But one of their most important uses is in wastewater or surface water treatment – before the water is put back into the water cycle.

Reed beds are mother nature’s way of treating contaminated water. They’re important assets that help to remove impurities such as ammonia and phosphates, as well as solids. When contaminated water or waste passes through a reed bed, the reed bed plants catch the solid materials. Then the organisms living within the reed beds, naturally break down the waste.

Where are reed beds found?

Natural reed beds can be found where there’s shallow river floodplains, or on the edge of coastal estuaries.

Many of these types of reed beds are managed by charities, public sector organisations, and tourist businesses. They help to attract visitors, slow down the decline of species, and enhance the natural surroundings.

Man-made and natural reed beds are also used by commercial organisations to treat sewage and trade effluent. Including water companies, breweries, and farmers.

In fact, the Oren Environmental team manage the hundreds of reed beds used to treat contaminated water that comes from the many disused mines across the UK.

Do reed beds need looking after?

Reed beds do many important jobs. That’s why, if they’re not looked after, they won’t do what you want them to do.

The Oren Environmental team is on a mission to dispel the myth that reed bed maintenance isn’t required.

Dan Allman, Head of Oren Environmental, explains: “While reed beds are low maintenance, they’re certainly not no-maintenance. This is one of the most common misconceptions in the industry.

“For example, if you’re a business using reed beds in the final filtration process to treat trade effluent, your consent to discharge might be dependent on a fully working reed bed. One that’s properly managed and maintained to act as a safety net and protect our waterways from pollution.

“Many of the reed beds we come across have been abandoned because companies don’t know the best way to manage them. They’re no longer doing what they were intended to. The weeds have overtaken the reeds, and this often means they need a complete refurbishment, which is very expensive. But there are alternatives.”

So, they’re not just a bed of roses

Reed beds aren’t literally a bed of roses. But they are home to a wonderful haven of flora and fauna.

They help to treat contaminated wastewater, which in turn, protects the environment from the dangers of polluted water. And what’s more, some say a healthy reedbed absorbs ten times more carbon than a neglected one.

Dan adds, “Reed beds are our favourite type of bed. We already successfully manage and maintain reed beds nationwide, so we know first-hand how beneficial they are to business and biodiversity.”