Our garden border is defined by a steep bank about 4m high, into a small river - not quite a cliff but so steep you would struggle to climb it. The river bends into our border at one point which raises questions of erosion over time.

We're in the north of England in a fairly wooded area so the bank here is in partial shade.

I wondered if there are particular plants or trees which would be good to encourage to grow at the top and on the slope of the bank, which will help bind the soil together and reduce erosion risk?

Equally, if there are things which would be detrimental - whose roots might break the bank up, or whose weight/height make them likely to be blown down and the bank damaged?

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  • A photo or two would be very helpful, but who's responsible for the river and maintaining its banks? Sometimes, that's your local authority, or the Canal and River Trust, and there may be rules about whether you're allowed to plant or remove anything growing at the river's edge.
    – Bamboo
    Sep 11 '17 at 13:08
  • They claim our boundary is the middle of the river i.e. It's our responsibility, but are slightly cynical that's a play to avoid responsibility for trees and erosion on the bank!
    – Mr. Boy
    Sep 11 '17 at 13:11
  • Hmm, I agree with your assessment - no surprise these days! Any chance of photos so we can see the situation and what's growing there now?
    – Bamboo
    Sep 11 '17 at 13:28
  • Done.. it's about 1m from the top of the bank back to the fence.
    – Mr. Boy
    Sep 11 '17 at 13:45
  • Bishop's weed might actually be your friend here: google.com/… Sep 11 '17 at 14:09

I'm not sure whether your garden is the other side of the fence, or whether you've taken this shot from your garden and the fence belongs to someone else. Assuming your garden is the other side of the fence, I wouldn't touch the bank at all. The best thing for anchoring soil is actually trees and treelike shrubs; there are obviously a couple of trees there already, plus the trunk of a large tree over the fence can be seen.

Along the fence line on the other side, I can't tell what else is there already, but if there's nothing, then adding either a tree or two or a couple of very large growing shrubs (Prunus laurocerasus, Cotinus coggrygia for instance) should help to stabilise the bank too, over time. Salix (Willow) varieties are particularly fond of nearby water and damp soils, so if you've room for one of those, the roots are sure to head to the bank, where the water is.

If this is not your garden we're looking at, then please post a picture of that.

  • Yep my garden is the far side of the fence, I walked down a public path across the river to get the photos.
    – Mr. Boy
    Sep 12 '17 at 10:17
  • Okay, fine - if the stuff growing over the ground on the bank is Ivy, all the better - that produces masses of roots which get very woody over time, and will hold the bank together. I wouldn't bother with 'Bishops Weed' or, as we call it, ground elder - it spreads, yes, but ivy will do a much better job of stabilisation than ground elder will. So yea, leave the bank alone!
    – Bamboo
    Sep 12 '17 at 11:38

I once had a home in a similar situation. After watching a willow tree wash away , I went with railroad ties , steel pipes, and bricks. I recommend anything like stone/rock. You can also find many sea-wall / bulkhead products . The picture looks like relatively low velocity water all the time so you probably don't need to get too serious/expensive. If you you apply for a permit you likely won't get one . When the bank is stable , consider ash trees. they tolerate wet conditions. I stabbed in cuttings from ash, willow and red twig dogwood.


All rivers, creeks, wetlands are under the auspices of the city or county. For you to play with the banks of a riparian system is a HUGE no no. You could get thrown in jail or at least fined huge bucks or euros or yen? Leave that alone! There is also a 'buffer zone' that you need to be aware that extends from the edge of the water way. This buffer zone has rules and regulations as well!

Being so close to this little riparian system you most certainly need to learn how it affects YOU. You can only plant on your side of the fence but even that I would research before doing another thing. Those buffer zones might include your entire yard. Look in your mortgage papers.

Bamboo lives in your world. Give those people a call. Is this inside your property line? You lucky dog!! Gorgeous. Doesn't look like a problem at all for collapse of banks, riffles or seasonal flooding. Are there fish? Crawdads? Raccoons? Willow would be my choice. You've got Hedera helix...can't think of a worse plant that is the best plant for this bank. Too bad that this causes more English Ivy down stream...but it is working for you. Bishop's weed as proposed by Wayfaring would do the same...causing that plant to become a problem for everyone. Lovely plant however. If this is on your property I would just leave it alone. Cut back the foliage as you are doing but don't allow the clippings to go down the stream. What a beautiful water 'feature'!! With a 'beach' of gravel to boot!

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