News & Events


5th November 2019
The Growing Team at WCSRT

Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust has been growing in size over the last few months with more team members still to come...

Over the last few months the Trust has recruited three new staff members with another Project Officer to join the team in December. Alex Deacon joined as the Catchment Partnership Manager which will provide a lot of support to all our catchments in the Wessex area. Alex will liaise with all partners, look at ways of improving our waterways in a cohesive, catchment based approach. Amy Ellis has replaced Vee Moore as Education Officer. Amy will lead on the school education programme, community events and social media presence. Maddie Crabb joined in a new role of Trainee Project Officer. As a recent graduate from Southampton University Maddie has a masters degree in environmental science and brings a lot of enthusiasm and innovation to the Trust. She will assist in all areas of the Trusts work, especially to the project delivery team. In December Matt Irvine will join the team as Project Officer for the Hampshire Avon. We look forward to welcoming Matt to the ever growing team at the Trust!

                                                                    

2 May 2019
Jon Bass Receives 2019 River Champion Award from the RRC

Earlier this week, Jon Bass, the Trust’s voluntary Scientific Officer received a very much deserved River Champion Award at the Annual River Restoration Conference in Liverpool. Jon received this award for his ongoing contribution to the work of the Trust.

Jon has been volunteering with the Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust as Voluntary Scientific Officer for ten years. He helps set up and manage monitoring programmes, through installing and maintaining water temperature loggers, which provide invaluable datasets for academics, NGOs and regulatory bodies. On a voluntary basis, Jon helps out at educational events, surveying and sampling, as well as data interpretation. He is also keen to help out anyone interested in rivers, including fisherman and students. Jon’s unwavering commitment to supporting the conservation of chalk streams is invaluable and has had a great impact on the rivers in Wessex.

Here's what Jon had to say about the award: " I was pleasantly surprised and a little shocked to hear I'd been proposed as a River Champion. Being lucky to have worked as a freshwater ecologist and now in 'retirement' I enjoy linking new initiatives with the often forgotten (but still relevant!) pre-internet information and helping highly motivated staff in my local Rivers Trust (WCSRT) ."

                                                                    

5 February 2019
Backwaters Are Making a Comeback on the Avon

In summer 2018, WCSRT, in partnership with Sopley Mill Weddings, Christchurch Angling Club (CAC) and Avon Roach Project (ARP), created a half acre backwater near Sopley, Hampshire.

Floodplain backwaters, also known as fry-bays, are an important part of a naturally functioning river system. They provide a mosaic of spawning, nursery, refuge and hunting habitat which fulfils the lifecycle requirements of multiple coarse fish species. Unfortunately, in recent centuries the quality and quantity of this valuable habitat has been progressively reduced. Agricultural intensification and drainage interventions for flood relief are the primary culprits. Many rivers have been straightened or realigned to increase farm machinery efficiency or reduce floodplain connectivity to protect property, ultimately decreasing floodplain connectivity.

Fortunately, the WCSRT and our partners were able to obtain funding from the EA to start a project to increase the number of backwaters (and wet woodland) throughout the lower Avon system (Salisbury – Christchurch). Building on the successes of several partners’ past projects which created multiple small-scale fry bays, the WCSRT are planning to create several large backwaters each year as an ongoing programme of works. This process started in Autumn 2017 with the development and subsequent creation (summer 2018) of a 0.45 acre permanently connected backwater within a meadow at Sopley Mill.

Once we had been granted capital funding in autumn 2017, Christchurch Angling Club volunteered their time to clear the area of several low-quality mature trees and various shrubs. We then mapped the maximum available area available to establish a backwater and proceeded to design and permit the works. Based on several studies assessing the value of floodplain wetland habitats in relation to their environmental variables (i.e. depth), we decided to produce a varied depth profile and assorted tree canopy cover around the backwater. In addition, we did not plant any aquatic plants in the hope that the historic seedbank, perhaps 100+ years old, would re-establish.

Delivery commenced in September 2018 with a helping hand from Ecolibrium Environmental Contractors. Upon creation of the backwater, the WCSRT, ARP and CAC were back in the water ensuring the entrance/exit was fully secure using some naturalised revetment techniques. Delivery of this project was dependent on the enthusiasm and support provided by all stakeholders, principally the landowner (Sopley Mill Weddings), CAC and ARP. Annual maintenance of the short connecting channel will be undertaken by CAC volunteers to ensure the backwater’s longevity. Furthermore, the WCSRT will now monitor the site using electrofishing techniques for the next three years as part of the Lower Avon Backwater Monitoring Programme. We are now in discussions to continue programme delivery in 2019 and beyond!

       

5 February 2019
Ripley Brook - An Ideal Candidate for Holistic Restoration

WCSRT, in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, has implemented a suite of joined-up restoration projects up and down the Ripley Brook, a tributary of the River Avon, since autumn 2017.

Holistic partnership working is something we advocate wholeheartedly at the Trust, but like river connectivity, partnerships are generally perceived as a single process. For example, rivers are often viewed as only being connected laterally (i.e. flooding), forgetting three of the four fundamental principles; longitudinal (i.e. upstream migration), vertical (i.e. groundwater) and temporal (i.e. winterbournes) connectivity. Similarly, partnerships are generally viewed in the conservation industry as collaborations between organisations. The Ripley Brook project tells a different story.

In November 2017 the WCSRT commissioned a fluvial geomorphological audit of the entire Ripley Brook in response to concerns surrounding the health of fish and invertebrate communities. The report identified several issues and allowed the trust to develop bespoke projects to try to improve water quality, restore in-channel habitats and reduce local flood risks. Above and beyond this, the report provided a baseline engagement tool to share with local stakeholders. Following several site visits with a large proportion of riparian owners and extensive communication with the local parishioners, we managed to get our first project agreed just five months later in April 2018.

This first project was an EA-funded habitat enhancement project that aimed to mitigate the impacts of an old quarry operation upstream. The discharge from the quarry was perceived to be causing concretion of the river bed due to high aluminium concentrations. However, the outputs of the report, in combination with wider expert consultation, concluded that concretion is a natural process in the iron-rich, highly acidic catchment. Our attention therefore turned to reinstating natural processes by increasing flow diversity and reducing the dense rhododendron canopy to promote macrophyte growth and reduce concretion potential.

As reported in our last newsletter, this aspect of the project aimed to improve 0.5km of in-channel habitat over a week in October 2018. However, with support from the Wild Trout Trust and our trusted contractors, the enhanced reach increased to 0.75km, which now consists of 25 in-channel woody habitat structures. Feedback from the scheme has been very positive and we are now hoping to extend the project to incorporate a further 0.5km directly downstream. In addition, before the project commenced we undertook electrofishing and invertebrate sampling throughout the 0.75km stretch and are now planning to return in July 2019 to assess the benefits of the project.

I started this article with a reference to holistic partnerships and you’re probably wondering how it all fits together. Following the guarantee of funding for the restoration project, we started looking to build momentum and improve Ripley Brook at the catchment scale. First, we spoke to the community to understand their priorities, and the overwhelming response was ‘flooding’. Their views coincided with that of local authorities, landowners and the EA so we instinctively started looking to establish a Natural Flood Management (NFM) programme. Luck was on our side and we soon managed to secure a small amount of funding from a landowner and the EA to deliver a bespoke ditch blocking project in the upper catchment.

Despite funding being comparatively low in relation to similar NFM projects, our ambitions were high. During the last week of November, the WCSRT, in collaboration with the Wild Trout Trust and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, installed 52 leaky dams throughout 550m of forestry ditches. Furthermore, we wanted to show the value of this type of work, particularly how it can reduce peak flows and therefore decrease flood risk downstream. As such, we invested in water level monitoring equipment which was installed before the project began in the improved ‘impact’ ditch and in a nearby unimproved ‘control’ ditch. In spring 2019 data will be extracted from the water level monitors to assess how the dams have influenced flows and hopefully help us attract further funding.

That said, we’ve already managed to find further project support and now have funding to undertake a full catchment walkover this winter to identify problematic flow pathways. Using the data collected we will create an online prioritisation map which ourselves and catchment partners will be able to refer to when designing and delivering local mitigation measures. This top to bottom approach, targeting in-channel and out of channel issues with extensive community and stakeholder involvement is what we see as true partnership working, and something we’ll continue to advocate.

       

5 February 2019
River Temperature Monitoring Update

WCSRT has now completed eight years of 15-minute river temperature recording at many sites, amassing over 1,800,000 measurements through major droughts, floods, freeze-ups and heat waves.

Recent interesting highlights include the apparent impact of strong groundwater flows reducing summer warming in June 2018 throughout the Wessex area. An underlying message here, perhaps?

Moreover, the tracking of within-gravel winter temperatures (2017-18) reassuring us that the required egg-incubation conditions for our local salmon and sea trout were not compromised, though that was a comparatively cold winter. In future it will be possible to calculate egg-incubation temperatures experienced in a particular year from the relationship between within-gravel temperature and the overlaying river temperature regime at a site. This could inform attempts to offset and delay the impacts of climate warming.

The charts below show an example of annual river temperature patterns for the River Dun near Mottisfont. This site consistently displays the lowest summer temperatures each year when compared with river channels of similar size throughout our region. Why? That's another question for the future!

Full summer data for each monitoring site is now available on our website: www.wcsrt.org.uk/all-data and currently we are exploring more user-friendly ways to display river site summaries, particularly for the use of the fisheries kindly hosting the WCSRT loggers.

      

5 February 2019
Sparsholt College Habitat Demonstration Event

WCSRT and the Wild Trout Trust (WTT) teamed-up to deliver an in-stream / riparian management demonstration at Whitchurch on the Upper Test in autumn 2018. This event was a repeat of a similar demonstration delivered for Test & Itchen river keepers in autumn 2016, however this time Sparsholt College provided the willing audience in the form of 20 or so fisheries students. The study site was kindly provided by Richard Maitland, owner of Fulling Mill.

The demonstration event tied-in with footpath and bank stabilisation works planned by the riparian owner. A bespoke flood risk permit application was submitted by WCSRT in advance of works following liaison with Environment Agency and Natural England staff. On site, Mike Blackmore of WTT demonstrated his chainsaw proficiency, felling and hinging bankside trees with pinpoint accuracy. Using the site-won materials WCSRT and Sparsholt staff and students installed approximately 15 in-stream structures within a 400m reach of the river.

The objective of the works was to increase habitat heterogeneity through a combination of channel narrowing and flow deflection. Scour created by new in-stream woody structures will promote the cleaning of gravels where velocity is increased and the creation of depositional areas behind structures where velocity is reduced. The aim is to work with natural processes to create a range of habitats capable of supporting all age classes of fish populations, plus the invertebrate food source upon which they rely.

In addition to delivery of in-channel habitat works, WCSRT and Sparsholt volunteers assisted with the creation of a formalised ‘dog-dip’ structure at a highly eroded location at the top of the beat. Created entirely from site-won timber and back-filled with chalk and gravels, the structure is intended to encourage responsible members of the public to utilise this area of the river, reducing bank erosion and allowing vegetation establishment across the remainder of the beat.

It is hoped that the event provided an interesting and practical insight into a sympathetic approach to chalk stream management and restoration which can be taken forward by the eager Sparsholt students as they graduate into the world of fishery management.

In addition to those mentioned above, WCSRT would like to thank Lucie Follett for providing much appreciated refreshments to all staff and volunteers and the keeper Mark Burns for his efforts.

       

5 February 2019
Improving Eel Habitat on the Broadlands Estate

In summer 2018, the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust, in partnership with the Environment Agency, Broadlands Estate and Marchwood Power delivered a project to restore an element of the historic ditch network and redundant fish farm stews to enhance and create additional eel habitat and to increase connectivity between habitats for the benefit of European eel.

Under the Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009, there is a legislative requirement to protect eels from the adverse impact of abstraction. However, the Environment Agency’s assessment of Marchwood Powers Solent abstraction deemed upgrade screening to prevent the entrainment of eels and elvers (i.e. to reduce the risk of eels becoming trapped in pumps and turbines) to not be cost efficient. As an alternative, compensation measures or ‘alternative measures’ were determined to be most effective, with WCSRT receiving funds from Marchwood Power to deliver benefits to eels, which are deemed to be greater than the adverse impact of the abstraction.

The proposed project required a wealth of permits and permissions before works could proceed, including: an Ordinary Watercourse Consent from Hampshire County Council, an agri-environment agreement derogation from Natural England, and a Water Transfer (Abstraction) Licence from the Environment Agency. In addition, protected species surveys including Water Vole and breeding bird surveys were undertaken by WCSRT in advance of works to ensure that disturbance of these species was avoided and the county archaeologist was consulted.

In total, the project delivered a total of 145m of ‘new’ ditch – relinking the Test Carrier to a relict ditch system, restored 770m of overgrown ditch network through scrub removal and re-excavation, and re-worked five relict fish stews to create approximately 2000m2 of new wetland habitat. The project is intended to benefit European eel through the creation of new habitat for adult and juvenile eel, whilst also providing new opportunities for other priority species including water vole and potentially southern damselfly.

WCSRT appointed R.J. Bull Environmental Contractors to deliver the main works including wetland creation and re-excavation of a historic water meadow drain. The Broadlands Estate was appointed to undertake ancillary works including scrub clearance and sediment removal from a disused ditch system. Robert Bull and his team were a pleasure to work with – responding quickly to challenges thrown up by the nature of the site. Their input to a revised outflow ramp to allow elver migration into the wetland was invaluable (see photo) and it is hoped the structure is utilised this spring when elvers run in the lower catchments.

The works revealed some interesting insights into the previous management of the river and floodplain. A buried water meadow hatch (estimated turn of the century) was re-exposed in order to provide water to the newly excavated water meadow ditch and much to everyone’s relief was found to be in perfect working order. Even the cast iron hatch door was brought back to life with a few gentle taps from a lump hammer! Re-excavation and re-profiling of the abandoned fish stews also revealed the rubber liners installed by Bernard Aldrich in the 1950’s. It is hoped that the works completed as part of this project are still benefitting biodiversity in 50 or even 100 years’ time.

Additional funding provided by Marchwood Power has allowed WCSRT to undertaken pre-works species monitoring of the stews and ditch network, including electrofishing and water vole surveys. Post-completion monitoring including southern damselfly is scheduled for summer 2019 and this will provide valuable data on the response of species and speed of colonisation following wetland habitat restoration.

Drone photography was provided by Arron Watson (EcoDroneUk) who specialises in conservation, ecology, and photogrammetry projects. For more information, please visit his website www.ecodroneuk.org .

WCSRT were very sorry to hear of the passing of Philip Marshall, Estates Manager at Broadlands. Phil’s interest in conservation was instrumental in the development of the project and all the Trust would like to extend our sympathies to his friends and family.

     

5 February 2019
River Meon Riverfly Report Completed

Final edits have been made to the Meon Catchment Invertebrate Fingerprinting (CIF) study and the report has now been issued in print and electronic formats.

The River Meon CIF study is a partnership project between the WCSRT, Test & Itchen Association and South Downs National Park Authority with the objective of identifying the current and recent pressures facing the River Meon. The Meon report is a continuation of previous studies undertaken within the Wessex region, including those on the Hampshire Avon and Test & Itchen. The CIF studies examine the responses of aquatic invertebrate communities to a range of environmental stressors, including; sedimentation, low flow conditions, phosphate pollution, organic pollution, and pesticide pollution.

The River Meon drains a small catchment, covering an area of ~108 sq. km on the eastern extent of the Trusts operational area. Often referred to as a ‘Cinderella river’, the Meon is one of Hampshire's several diminutive small chalk streams – lacking the fame and designation but less obviously modified than the larger Test & Itchen. Although appearing more natural in character, the Meon is still subject to many of the same pressures and invertebrate monitoring is an effective approach to identifying these acting upon the biology of the river.

Invertebrate samples were collected at 12 pre-determined sample sites by WCSRT staff and volunteers from the South Downs National Park Authority in spring and autumn 2017. The standard three-minute kick sampling methodology was employed and samples were preserved for identification by Dr. Nick Everall from the Aquascience Consultancy. Invertebrate taxa were identified to species level and subsequent analysis was undertaken using a range of biotic indices. These are used to determine how a range of pressures are impacting upon an invertebrate community, including: low flows, sedimentation, organic pollution, phosphate, and pesticides. In addition to analysis of the 2017 samples, historic (2002 – 2016) Environment Agency monitoring data from three sites provided by the Solent & South Downs team was also analysed using the same biotic indices, allowing an assessment of trends over this period.

Overall, the results from the 2017 Meon data are positive, with the vast majority of sample sites shown to be ‘Slightly Impacted’ or ‘Unimpacted’ for most pressures. However, the autumn 2017 data does indicate that the invertebrate communities at over half of sample sites across the catchment were ‘Moderately Impacted’ by pesticides, with the affected communities distributed from the upper to lower catchment. The three sample points within the upper – middle catchment for which trend analysis of historic EA data was undertaken broadly display a level or increasing trend for all biological indices. This indicates that the investigated pressures acting upon the invertebrate communities within the Meon have decreased or remained stable since the early 2000s.

Whilst useful as a stand-along study, it is anticipated that the CIF report will act as a ‘benchmark’, providing a baseline against which further invertebrate monitoring by volunteers such as those of the South Downs National Park Association can be assessed. Regular monitoring of our rivers is essential for identifying the pressures acting upon their ecology, allowing targeting of projects to address these issues, and monitoring the success of projects post completion.

To download a copy of the Meon CIF Report or to view interpretation maps produced for the previous Test & Itchen and Hampshire Avon CIF projects, please visit our website: www.wcsrt.org.uk/science .

             

9 October 2018
New Avon frybay completed at Sopley

The Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust (WCSRT) were pleased to deliver this collaborative habitat improvement project, managed by Liam Reynolds (WCSRT Avon Catchment Officer). The project primarily targets creation of fry shelter during bank-full floods with parallel gains for semi-aquatic fauna and flora that historically occupied the now less utilised ditch systems connecting the Avon with its floodplain.

Initial discussions involved the landowner and his tenant farmer, along with representatives of the Avon Roach Project and Christchurch Angling Club. Once agreement in principle was achieved funding and conservation advice were sought from the Environment Agency and Natural England. Their staff were most helpful in securing appropriate consents and funding. Work then proceeded in two stages, with a ground levels survey (WCSRT) and initial ground clearance by Christchurch Angling Club (CAC) volunteers in autumn 2017. This was followed by excavation of silt from the frybay and connecting the frybay to the Sopley Millstream (see picture, ten days post-construction, autumn 2018).

Delivery of this project depended on the enthusiasm and support provided by local stakeholders, principally the landowner and his farming tenant, the Avon Roach Project and CAC volunteers, plus the skills of the machine operator. All are gratefully acknowledged by WCSRT. Annual maintenance of the short connecting channel (CAC volunteers) and fry surveys next year (WCSRT) will reveal the effectiveness of this project.

                                                                                   
               

14 August 2018
Need an ecology or fisheries survey? Think WCSRT 

Over the past year WCSRT has been developing the organisational capabilities in ecological and fisheries monitoring, through investment in equipment and staff training. In addition, the arrival of new staff members has brought in new skills and experience – strengthening and diversifying the technical expertise within the trust. The survey and monitoring of priority and protected species is an integral part of the trust’s role, be it increasing the evidence base or ensuring that delivery of river restoration projects provides benefit for all aquatic and terrestrial species.

In spring 2018 WCSRT purchased electric fishing equipment to allow in-house fish survey. The Electrafish twin-annode 50m bankside equipment allows for fishing in a wide range of waters and conditions. Led by our Hampshire Avon Catchment Officer and keen angler Liam Reynolds, the trust has been undertaking monitoring of in-channel works delivered by the trust and partners and will continue to do so throughout the summer.

Having worked as a fisheries officer on the Isle of Man Liam is a highly competent lead surveyor, and our other staff members bring additional fisheries experience including major fish rescues and translocations using electrofishing and netting techniques.

                             

Avon and Test & Itchen Catchment Officers Liam Reynolds and Andy Blincow, respectively, recently attended a freshwater macrophyte refresher course near Wareham, led by academics from University College London and Goldsmith Ecology. With a combination of field visits to the River Frome, laboratory identification sessions and lectures, this has re-enforced the trusts ability to undertake macrophyte surveys and monitoring programmes. This may include WFD compliant ‘LEAFPACS’ survey and pre/post monitoring of capital delivery projects.

Recently appointed Test and Itchen Catchment Officer Andy Blincow also brings a range of freshwater and terrestrial ecological species survey and mitigation experience, including water vole, white-clawed crayfish, bats, herpetofauna and invasive non-native species. With this experience and crayfish and bat protected species licences, this allows the trust to undertake habitat and protected species surveys in-house to inform restoration projects and to design and implement mitigation measures where necessary.

The trust's Scientific Officer Jon Bass brings many years of experience working for the Freshwater Biological Association, the Institute of Freshwater Ecology and latterly the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. His key interest is in freshwater invertebrates and he is a national expert on blackflies (Simuliidae), an important chalk stream species. He is also an expert on the nutrient dynamics of chalk streams. Capitalising upon this experience, Jon was appointed in June 2018 to devise an invertebrate monitoring programme for the Watercress and Winterbourne HLF project, including the professional sampling of perennial and winterbourne reaches and a catchment-wide volunteer monitoring programme.

In addition, WCSRT Education officer Vee Moore will shortly be attending a macroinvertebrate training course in Malham Tarn; further improving and consolidating skills within the trust.

As well as undertaking in-house works, WCSRT is able to provide fisheries and ecology surveys and mitigation to partners and landowners. All our surveys are carried out at the correct time of year, using methods that are right for the species and the area in question, and comply with guidance issued or endorsed by the relevant statutory nature conservation body.

Should you be in need of an ecology or fisheries survey, please do not hesitate to contact Catchment Officers Liam ( avon@wcsrt.org.uk ) or Andy ( test.itchen@wcsrt.org.uk ) who would be happy to provide advice or undertake a site visit to discuss.

14 August 2018
Improving recruitment on the lower Avon

In summer 2018, WCSRT, in partnership with several landowners, NGOs and statutory partners, will be delivering three habitat improvement projects on the lower Avon.

The Hampshire Avon is the crown jewel in British Rivers, renowned for having the most diverse biologic alassemblage of all UK rivers. That said, there are significant pressures chipping away at the river's sustainability, as demonstrated by 68% of its waterbodies failing to exceed ecological thresholds. One observable example of the issue has been the collapse in Atlantic salmon stocks in recent decades.

In order to help address these issues, WCSRT has been working at the catchment scale to improve water quality, quantity and habitat structure. Part of our holistic approach is the delivery of local restoration projects, particularly those that deliver multiple benefits and develop partnership working. The three projects planned for delivery this year are Sopley backwater, Ripley Brook habitat improvement and Downton channel re-creation.

Sopley backwater is a partnership project between WCSRT, Avon Roach Project, Sopley Mill weddings, Christchurch Angling Club and the Environment Agency (EA). The project has been developed to enhance recruitment and survivability of cyprinid fish within Sopley Mill race and will further improve lateral connectivity with the floodplain, reducing flood risk downstream.

Ripley Brook is a partnership project between WCSRT, Avon Tyrell estate, EA and Sopley Parish Council. The project aims to improve 0.5km of the brook below Ripley where the riverbed has become concreted due high acidity waters combined with a lack of sunlight. This combination has impeded in-channel development of both fauna and flora. As such, spawning potential within this stretch is largely limited and simple interventions will significantly improve spawning and recruitment successes. The interventions proposed are the installation of several woody deflectors and brash berms coupled with heavy sky lighting of the tree canopy.


Downton channel re-creation (see drawing above) is the largest of the three projects and involves the restoration of a secondary channel that once divided the island adjacent to Millennium Green, Downton. The 270m-long channel was permanently shut in the late 90s for reasons unknown, leading to significant sediment deposition during flood events. In response to historic actions the new landowner, with support from Longford Estate and the EA, has decided to reinstate the channel to its former glory.

If we backtrack just one generation, the habitat and fishery resource of the old channel are heavily documented. Local anglers recall the backwater running between 0.75 – 1.25m deep over golden gravels and between Rununculus aquatilis beds that teemed with fish and invertebrates. Most notably, the channel was known as a fundamental winter refuge for juvenile course fish, which for context was/will be the only suitable habitat for over 1km in either direction.

In addition, we will be installing two wheelchair accessible fishing platforms for disabled fishermen and woman and days will be offered at no expense. Many still water fisheries now offer wheelchair friendly fishing assess in the shape of purpose-built platforms. Similar resources are rarely found on riverine fisheries and the landowner and WCSRT would like to offer the opportunity for all anglers to fish on the Hampshire Avon.

If you would like to learn more about any of these projects, please contact Liam at avon@wcsrt.org.uk .

6 June 2018
Revitalising the Monks Brook: Southampton University Conservation Volunteers join WCSRT to clean up local river 

A plethora of items ranging from shopping trolleys to golf balls were found and removed by volunteers taking part in a river clean-up in Eastleigh, Hampshire on Sunday 27 th  May 2018.

Organised and led by the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust (WCSRT), the river clean-up took place on a small tributary of the Monks Brook running along the southern boundary of Fleming Park in Eastleigh. An enthusiastic and extremely hard-working group of students from Southampton University (the Southampton University Conservation Volunteers) braved the heat and humidity to remove 14 bags of (mostly plastic) waste, four shopping trolleys, a child’s bike and other miscellanea from the stream channel and its banks.  

                                         


What’s the problem with litter? 

Litter enters a river or stream in a number of ways. Surface water drains collect rainwater from our neighbourhoods, car parks and other public areas. This water is not treated before it reaches our local river therefore plastic bags, bottles or cigarette butts that end up in a surface water drain are washed directly into our streams and rivers. 

In addition to posing a health risk to the wildlife (via entanglement and ingestion), litter decreases oxygen levels in the water when it decays and hence reduces the overall water quality and biodiversity of the river. 

How can you help keep our rivers clean?

  • Please dispose of waste carefully. Carry a bag for waste along in the car to eliminate the temptation to throw it out the window. Put litter in your pocket until you find a recycling container or waste bin.
  • Recycle and reuse items whenever possible.
  • Make sure your waste bins have lids that can be securely attached. Do not put out open containers or boxes filled with debris.
  • Join a clean-up event. Many volunteer groups host such events. One opportunity is WCSRT’s clean-up day held each spring.

6 June 2018
Water quality workshop with the Wiltshire Young Farmers 

On Friday 18 th  May 2018, the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust, in partnership with Frontier Agriculture, held a young farmer workshop focusing on rural diffuse pollution. Around 30 Wiltshire-based young farmers and their families attended the event at the picturesque Manningford Trout Fishery near Pewsey, Wiltshire. 

The evening began with a series of brief presentations about the impacts of rural diffuse pollution, the mitigations methods adopted in the Hampshire Avon catchment and the win-wins of implementing best practice. The young farmers also learnt about the work of organisations involved in rural diffuse pollution mitigation (e.g. Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme and the Pewsey Downs Farmers’ Group) and the support available to farmers and land managers to help them implement best practice.

During the hands-on part of the workshop, the young farmers worked in small groups to test water quality for a number of parameters, namely turbidity, nitrates and phosphates, and were encouraged to interpret and discuss results in relation to factors affecting the river and its surrounding catchment. They were also able to examine the freshwater invertebrate community of a short stretch of the Avon at Manningford and make an assessment of water quality based on the (riverfly) families found.
                                               

What is rural diffuse pollution and why is it a problem?

Often driven by rainfall and how we manage land, diffuse pollution occurs when nutrients, pesticides, faecal bacteria, chemicals and fine sediments are lost from the land into local streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and groundwater. Diffuse pollution often comes from a range of sources hence the effect is cumulative. Therefore small amounts of runoff from one field, when added to all the other sources that also feed into a local stream or river, can have a big overall impact on water quality.

However, it is not just an issue at a local level. The effects of diffuse pollution on water quality can often be seen miles away from the source, for example beaches designated as ‘bathing waters’ can be affected by runoff coming from further up the catchment.

Why take action?

Reducing diffuse pollution risk doesn’t just benefit water quality and the environment; it can also help to improve farm business efficiency, profitability and can lower a farm’s carbon footprint.

Three key ways to tackle rural diffuse pollution:

  • Re duce the source of the pollution – where is it coming from? Can the pollution source be minimised?
  • Block the pathway – assess how the pollution source is getting from the source to the problem site
  • Prevent it getting to areas where it will become a problem – divert or collect the pollution before it reaches the watercourse

9 May 2018
Come and join the Monks Brook river clean-up

The Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust is joining forces with Southampton University Conservation Volunteers to run a river clean-up event to help highlight the importance of keeping our rivers clean. We will cover the stretch of the river (Monks Brook) running along the southern boundary of Fleming Park in Eastleigh. 

Date: Sunday 27th May 2018
Time: 10am-2pm
Meeting location : Pavilion on the Park car park, 1 Kingfisher Rd, Eastleigh SO50 9LH (please see green marker on site map). 

If you'd like to take part, please contact Vee Moore on 07908 800403 or email education@wcsrt.org.uk . All equipment will be provided however volunteers are asked to wear sturdy footwear (hard boots or Wellingtons are fine) and weather-appropriate clothing. 

10 April 2018
'The Lost Words for Dorset's schools' campaign

Inspired by Jane Beaton's wonderful campaign - to get a copy of  The Lost Words  into every primary school in Scotland - a group of local residents headed up by Emma Fernandez, Paul Angel and Richard Bradford have decided to do something similar, and get a copy into every primary school in Dorset.

The Lost Words  was created by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris in October 2017 to celebrate once-common “nature” words – from acorn and wren, to starling and dandelion – that were dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary some ten years before. The book takes twenty of the words that have been falling out of use amongst children - such as adder, kingfisher and bramble - and brings them back to life, through the magical paintings of Jackie Morris and the 'spell poems' of Robert Macfarlane.

The aim is to enable all primary age children in Dorset to have the opportunity to share in what this book has to offer. Depending on how you count them, there are about 180 schools in Dorset that work with 4 - 11 year olds, plus there are some Special Learning Centres and Forest Schools that will receive the book, too. As well giving the book to schools, the campaign aims to supply a copy of “An Explorer’s Guide to  The Lost Words ”, a fantastic accompanying resource written by Eva John and published by the John Muir Trust which will help teachers get the most out of the book.

The Lost Words  is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke, and is set out in an ideal way to share these words across the generations. Words allow children to give things names, to share stories and memories. Without the right words we cannot name, love, or - ultimately – care for these things.

Please, if you can, support this campaign and give the children of Dorset a chance to bring these ‘Lost Words’ back to life. 

25 January 2018
Appointment of New Director of Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust  

The Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust (WCSRT) is delighted to announce that Dr. Martijn Antheunisse has accepted the role of Director of WCSRT. He will join the team full-time in April 2018.

Martijn was born and raised only a few kilometres away from the mighty estuary of the River Scheldt in south-west Netherlands. A passion for the environment, and especially wetlands and rivers, was fuelled from a very young age with many days spent outside bird-watching and beach-combing. This passion has been the main driver throughout his academic studies as well as working career.

Martijn has an MSc degree in Biology from Utrecht University where he studied fen wetland vegetation and estuarine fish populations. In 2007 Martijn successfully completed a PhD thesis on river floodplain restoration, focussing on the relationship between water and soil quality, nutrient cycling and vegetation. He continued to work as a post-doctoral researcher at Utrecht University for two years, before moving to work for a Regional Water Authority in Holland.

Since moving to England five years ago Martijn has worked on the Hampshire Avon and other rivers in Wiltshire for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust where he set-up and managed a successful river restoration team. Martijn brings a wealth of knowledge to WCSRT on catchment management, river restoration, hydrology and freshwater ecology.

WCSRT welcomes Martijn to the team and looks forward to the continued growth of the Trust – building on the successes that Dr Paul Jose has put in place.

11 January 2018
Opening up the Dun for fish movement

Good progress is being made with the fish passage improvement project currently being delivered on the River Dun, enabling fish to navigate past two historic mills that are recognised as complete obstructions to fish. The project is being delivered in collaboration with the Environment Agency (EA) and landowners on the River Dun. 

Since 2015 the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust (WCSRT) has been working in partnership to improve fish passage at Holbury and Lockerley mills located along the lower reaches of the River Dun. The project has involved hydraulic modelling and design work by the civil engineering company Black & Veatch Limited (B&V) with project management provided by the Trust working in close partnership with the EA. Final design drawings were completed toward the end of 2016, agreement by the EA National Fish Pass Panel was gained in February 2017 and further planning and formal consents were ascertained over the summer. The location of the two mills along the River Dun is shown on the map below.

The River Dun is a tributary of the River Test, the latter of which is popularly regarded as being one of the finest chalk rivers in the world with its crystal clear spring water supporting a rich diversity of fish, mammal, bird, invertebrate and floral communities. A commonality of both the Test and the Dun is that they have been modified in many ways over time, resulting in multiple in-channel structures and braided channels, which impact on flow dynamics, morphology and the resultant river qualities, including fish passage. This situation is compounded by the abstraction of water from the Test (and neighbouring River Itchen) catchment for potable supply, supporting the growing urban conurbation of Southampton and wider Hampshire towns and villages (including the Isle of Wight).

The combination of in-channel obstructions, historic land drainage and channel modification works (parts of the Dun were canalised in the 1800s) and abstraction pressures mean that it is increasingly important to ensure that all efforts are made to improve the resilience of our rivers. This includes enhancing fish migration opportunities alongside river habitat improvement works to promote improved, stronger sustainable ‘wild fish’ populations within the wider Test and Itchen catchment. 

Much time and effort has been invested by the WCSRT and the EA alongside other key stakeholders to improve fish migration opportunities along the River Dun, with a number of small weirs having been removed and in-channel habitat improved. For example, the NatWest Flying Fishing Association’s reach immediately downstream of Lockerley Mill has worked with the EA to improve channel sinuosity by creating bankside berms as well as the removal of small weirs to better energise the flow regime and hence boost biodiversity potential. These works will complement and add to the sum of benefits gained from the Dun fish bypass improvement works at Holbury and Lockerley.

The River Dun is just over 18km in length with the mills at Lockerley and Holbury located on the lower reaches that consequently limit fish access to approximately three-quarters of the remaining upstream reaches of the Dun. It is anticipated that the proposed fish bypass project will significantly open up the Dun for fish spawning and nursery areas that will yield benefits to the Dun and wider Test catchment. Many large rivers depend upon their tributaries to act as important spawning and nursery grounds for young fish and fry and the Test and Dun are no different in this respect.

The fish bypass designs for both mills involve the modification of existing mill bypass streams and includes the construction of a Larinier, i.e. a ‘fish ladder’ that enables fish to navigate a steep gradient over a relatively short distance. This is required in part to accommodate the artificially raised water channels at both mill sites, enabling fish to move from a relatively ‘low’ bed level downstream of each mill to the much higher bed level immediately upstream of the mills. The photo below shows the Larinier fish bypass that has been built at Lockerley Mill. Please note the eel pass structure secured to one side of the Larinier wall, which will enable eels of different sizes to navigate the Larinier.

Five Rivers Environmental Contracting Ltd won the contract to deliver the fish bypass improvement works for the Trust and are doing a superb job. A competitive contractor tendering process was undertaken to ensure best value. The works commenced in September 2017 and are mostly completed at Lockerley Mill with works ongoing at Holbury Mill, where the Larinier has just been constructed and new channels excavated to accommodate the new dedicated fish bypass channel set within the wider Holbury Fishery.

The fish bypass works at both locations will help both coarse and larger migratory trout and salmon to move up and down the River Dun. It was very exciting to hear the recent news of juvenile salmon being identified at electro- fishing surveys conducted along the lower reaches of the River Dun near Mottisfont in November. With salmon recolonizing the river now is the best time to be delivering a fish bypass project that will help to support and improve their survival prospects for the future. 



11 January 2018
Reducing sedimentation on the Hampshire Avon  

Replicating the Rural Sustainable Drainage Systems (RSuDS) work undertaken by the Test and Itchen catchment partnership, as showcased in the spring 2017 newsletter, the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust and partners have been giving advice, developing initiatives and installing RSuDS throughout the Hampshire Avon catchment. Our partners include Natural England (NE), Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council Highways and our collaborative working has led to over 20 farms, properties and highways being visited and targeted to reduce localised sedimentation. 

An example of a project delivered through the Avon Sediment Pathways programme is our surface water diversion and track improvement works on the Fovant trackway. The project was managed by WCSRT in partnership with NE and ADAS Environmental Consulting and aimed to address sediment runoff from the surrounding catchment.

In periods of heavy rainfall the trackway replicated a muddy stream, delivering excessive sediment loads into the River Nadder (a tributary of the River Avon at Salisbury). In order to address the issue, six new and four existing surface water diverters and grips in the adjoining verge were installed/restored. In addition, a surface water diverter connected to a culvert was installed in the area of highest risk to transfer contaminated surface waters to a safe receiving area.

To supplement the physical works, local farmers were contacted and advised on best practise to retain soils on their fields, amongst other environmental initiatives. As a result, sediment entering the Nadder system via the Fovant trackway has declined significantly. This was witnessed first-hand by our Avon Catchment Officer during recent heavy rainfall, rendering the project a success. If you have any queries regarding the project, or would like to bring a rural, urban or domestic pollution source to our attention, please contact Liam Reynolds at avon@wcsrt.org.uk. 

11 January 2018
River Till receives a restoration boost

In autumn 2017, the Wilton Fly Fishing Club (WFFC), Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust (WCSRT), Wild Trout Trust (WTT) and a number of local landowners joined forces on the latest phase of the River Avon Restoration Project (RARP) on the River Till near Stapleford. 

The River Till replicates many rivers nationwide with 90-degree ‘meanders’ hugging historic field margins and perched banks created from old dredging activities. Agricultural intensification has shaped this reach, but within its confinement once lay a bustling chalk stream.

In 2015 WCSRT met with partners to assess restoration options due to the river section’s canal- like structure and a mixture of over-shaded and barren sub-reaches. The project was taken forward in two phases and in 2016 tree works were carried out to brighten the shaded areas and to gather woody material for in-channel works in 2017. 

Following preparatory works in 2016, delivery began this September with the help of WTT, volunteers from WFFC and local contractor Woodland Water and Gardens.

Nearly two kilometres of river has been enhanced through the creation of 22 in-channel structures (brushwood mattresses and flow deflectors), bank regrading and the removal of two small impoundments. In carrying out this work we have created a diversity of habitat for fish, invertebrates and macrophytes, which will help secure the ecological richness of this chalk stream. 

Bob Male, Habitat Manager for the Wilton Fly Fishing Club said: “We have been very happy to work with the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust to restore and improve a significant stretch of the river this year. Overgrown banks have been cleared and woody materials introduced to the channel, with the aim of increasing weed growth and channel diversity. It has been a pleasure to work with the WTT, volunteers, contractors and with Liam Reynolds from WCSRT, who has project managed the work and kept us all on track. We shall look carefully at the improved stretch over the coming seasons and hope to see the fish give their approval to the job”.

Finally, 2017 marks the end of the first phase of the RARP programme (RARP1), which after seven years of partnership-led delivery has restored approximately 36km of river throughout the Hampshire Avon catchment. The River Till project finalises WCSRT’s practical involvement in the RARP1 legacy, but more river restoration is yet to come as we are currently developing the second phase of the project in partnership with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and many other catchment partners. 

11 January 2018
Improving eel habitat on Broadlands Estates 

In summer 2018, the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust, in partnership with Broadlands Estates, will be seeking to restore and enhance part of the Estates' historic ditch network in order to create additional habitat for eels. 

In 2015 the waste management company, Veolia, commissioned WCSRT to deliver a two-year project aimed at improving the passage of eels and elvers in the Test, Itchen and Meon catchments. Under the Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009, there is a legislative requirement to protect eels from the adverse impact of abstraction. However, the Environment Agency’s assessment of Veolia’s abstraction deemed that it was not going to be cost beneficial for Veolia to upgrade the screening of their abstraction to prevent the entrainment of eels and elvers (i.e. to reduce the risk of eels becoming trapped in pumps and turbines). Instead they applied the innovative concept of ‘alternative measures’ whereby Veolia could pay a third party (in this case WCSRT) to deliver benefits to eels, which are deemed to be greater than the adverse impact of the abstraction.

Following successful delivery of the project with Veolia, Marchwood Power approached WCSRT at the beginning of 2017 to develop another mitigation project that would be funded through this ‘alternative measures’ route. Since January 2017, WCSRT have been working with Marchwood Power and Broadlands Estates on proposals to undertake a habitat improvement project that will create and enhance additional habitat for eels within the floodplain of the lower Test.

The project will be seeking to restore an element of the historic ditch network and redundant fish farm stews to enhance and create additional eel habitat and to increase connectivity between habitats. 

The proposal is to re-naturalise part of the estate’s fish farm and provide connectivity between this and another recently enhanced wetland area by restoring a section of relic channel and ditch network so that water can flow unrestricted, enabling free passage for eels throughout the year.

The work is going out to tender in early 2018 and is scheduled to begin in the summer. WCSRT is looking forward to working with Broadlands Estates to deliver this important habitat restoration project. 

11 January 2018
Analysis of Meon riverfly samples under way

The Meon Catchment Invertebrate Fingerprinting (CIF) study is nearing its completion with the autumn 2017 samples collected at the beginning of October by our Scientific Officer Jon Bass alongside Rupert Kelton and the South Downs National Park Authority volunteers.

The autumn samples have since been sent to Dr. Nick Everall from the Aquascience Consultancy for analysis, the results of which are due in early 2018. Samples collected in spring 2017 were analysed during the summer and these will be combined with the results of the autumn samples to help establish the condition of the River Meon based on the health of its invertebrate populations.

The results of the analysis will be summarised in our next newsletter and will be published in a booklet format in spring 2018. For more information about this project or to view the Test & Itchen or the Hampshire Avon CIF documents, please visit our Science page

Pictured below: Autumn underwater images of the Meon streambed taken at two different CIF sampling sites illustrate that there’s more fine sediment within the gravel at downstream sites (i.e. Wickham). 


Warnford Park

Wickham

09 January 2018
2017 river temperature update 

Though possibly now forgotten, we experienced two short spells of exceptionally warm weather in 2017 (between 17-21 June and around 7th July), followed by a cooler than average late summer. All WCSRT temperature loggers installed in chalk rivers across our area reflected these events to a greater or lesser extent. By coincidence this was the first year we had June river temperatures recorded throughout the Itchen, so it was interesting to see the early high temperature peaks and their impact on the monthly average, maximum and minimum values for June. 

With many of the sites on other rivers now having information for 3-5 years, including contrasting summers, we can see each site has its own temperature 'signature' reflecting distance from source and local influences such as channel volume, bank side shading and additional groundwater inputs.  Our website  hosts the extensive data files and these can be browsed at leisure by downloading particular files for sites that interest you. 

28 September 2017
Learning about chalk streams with St Mary Bourne Primary

Vee Moore, Education Officer with the Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust visited St Mary Bourne Primary School on the 14th September to give an indoor lesson on chalk streams to the very bright Sycamore class of Year 6 pupils.
 
Just before the start of the lesson, the children and their lovely teacher Fern ran a mile in the school grounds as part of their ‘daily mile’ challenge so there was plenty of energy and enthusiasm in the classroom.
 
First, the children learnt about chalk, the white porous limestone that helps to keep the water in our chalk streams clean and cool. Vee handed out small rocks of chalk for observation and explained that each centimetre of it is a product of a thousand years of deposition.
 
Then the lesson moved on to how chalk streams were formed during the last Ice Age when gushing flows of melting ice carved these rivers into the landscape. When asked about the last Ice Age, one of the pupils guessed correctly that it occurred around 10,000 years ago.
 
It was then time to inspect a sample of invertebrates and small fish that Vee collected from the local chalk stream, The Bourne Rivulet, earlier that day. Needless to say the bullheads stole the show. Vee pointed out the many different insects that have developed unique structures and functions that enable them to live in water.  The children keenly studied the protective cases of caddisflies and the external gills of mayflies, which allow then to breath under water.
 
Before the end of the lesson, the children were asked to choose and draw one of the invertebrates or fish from the sample. The children embraced the task with gusto and produced some impressive pieces of artwork.

Children drawing invertebrates
Class drawing invertebrates towards the end of the lesson

20 September 2017
Summer/Autumn 2017 Winchester Primary Schools programme update

WCSRT’s collaboration with Winchester College is going from strength to strength. The aim of the programme is to provide Winchester-based primary schools with an opportunity to learn about their local chalk stream, the River Itchen and the abundant fly life that inhabits its gravel-rich bed.
 
140 Year 5 and 6 pupils from St Bede Church of England Primary School took part in the programme during the summer term and a further 30 Year 5 pupils from All Saints Church of England Primary School attended the outdoor lesson this month. The lessons took place on the Winchester College nature reserve, which is normally inaccessible to the public so it was a real treat to experience this beautiful stretch of the river in the centre of Winchester. The larger classes were divided into smaller groups and each one had an opportunity to learn from a WCSRT employee about the basic principles of hydrology and observe a kick sampling demonstration and then help identify the fly life found in the sample.

WCSRT now looks forward to spring term 2018 when Stanmore Primary School will participate in this fantastic environmental education programme.

01 September 2017
Hampshire Avon DTC stakeholder meeting

The Wessex Chalk Stream & Rivers Trust is hosting the final local stakeholder meeting under the Demonstration Test Catchments programme on the 4th October 2017. The event will be held at the Red Lion Hotel, Salisbury (Milford St, Salisbury SP1 2AN) between 10am - 3:30pm (buffet lunch provided) and will provide an update on:

(i) work characterising the target sub-catchments and their pollution issues;
(ii) the economics of on-farm measures for diffuse pollution control, and;
(iii) optimising on-farm measures for controlling diffuse pollution in the Avon catchment.

All those who have been involved in the programme in the past or are HACP members or stakeholders are invited to attend. For more information email Liam on avon@wcsrt.org.uk .

20 July 2017
River Temperature Monitoring Update

Across our local chalk catchments 25 sites currently have WCSRT water temperature loggers installed through the summer months. Measurements are recorded automatically every 15 minutes and the full data are recovered each autumn and added as a new 'worksheet' within an excel file for each site. These files are free-to-download from  our website  as widely compatible xlsx files. At some sites information now covers six summers, while the ten lower Itchen site loggers have data for 2015 and 2016.

In summer 2017 we are experiencing low river flows and high air temperatures which will influence our rivers and wildlife. Some WCSRT loggers will be deployed throughout the coming winter months, as following a recent mild UK winter the higher than average river temperatures were blamed for low salmonid fry numbers. We aim to collect data that can be used to assess temperature impacts on developing salmon and trout eggs, both within the maturing fish resting in the lower reaches and subsequently in the river gravel adjacent to spawning areas further upstream. 

Temperature highlights from 2016
All sites showed temperature trends that tracked weather conditions in a similar manner through summer 2016, with subtle between-site differences. July had the normal peak river temperatures, but this reflected only a short period of warm weather in the third week of July and at most sites average monthly temperatures were actually higher in August and September (our 'Indian Summer'). Quite a contrast with preceding years when monthly maximum and average river temperatures have always been in July.

Future options
Using the WCSRT data anyone can explore how particular rivers zones respond to heat waves, cold snaps, different extents of tree-shading, groundwater inputs, water abstraction and discharge of treated sewage. Realistically, comparisons really need to take into account differences in downstream speed-of-travel, river depth, site distance from source and North/South river channel orientation, which all influence the daily warming and cooling patterns at each site.

As an example, some between-site river temperature relationships are shown  'here' .

02 May 2017
WCSRT New Appointments

The Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of three new members of staff with effect from May 2017.  

Liam Reynolds (Hampshire Avon Catchment Officer)
Liam has a BSc in Environmental and Countryside Management and just finished a masters degree in Aquatic Sciences. Liam was Catchment Officer for the Norfolk Rivers Trust and has experience in stakeholder engagement, project management and delivery. He has particular interests in salmonids, coarse fish and eels as well as water quality and soils. He has a range of habitat management experience and is a keen angler.
 
Ses Wright (Projects Manager)
Ses was a senior researcher at the University of East Anglia and former deputy director of MSc courses in Environmental Impact Assessment and Environment Management/ Auditing. She works on a part-time basis for both the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust and Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust. An experienced project manager, she leads delivery of river habitat, fish passage and a range of river enhancement projects.
 
Vee Moore (Education Officer)
Vee is a freshwater conservationist with a passion for citizen science, school and community education. She has experience as a project officer with the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust where she led educational activity, projects and training on water related work. She was formerly water policy officer with RSPB and has a masters degree in Environmental Management (Water Resources). Additionally qualified in photography and journalism, Vee brings a portfolio of skills and competencies to the role of Education Officer.
 
Please visit our ‘Officers and Trustees’ page for more information. 

04 April 2017
River Avon Restoration Programme wins 2017 UK River Prize and Nigel Holmes Trophy

As a partner organisation in the River Avon Restoration Programme (RARP), the WCSRT would like to extend big congratulations to all those who helped this project achieve this year’s UK River Prize and Nigel Holmes Trophy.

RARP was set up to restore the River Avon Special Area of Conservation to a naturally functioning river system to meet the government’s obligations under the Water Framework and Habitats Directives. The River Avon was selected as the overall winner of the UK River Prize for the excellent demonstration of a whole river approach to restoration and management. The project partners were also awarded the coveted Nigel Holmes Trophy.
 
The Challenge
In many places the River Avon has been straightened or moved to the edge of the floodplain to work mills or water meadows and there are now some 150 weirs and sluices on the river. It has also more recently been dredged for land drainage resulting in an over-wide and deepened channel and has been embanked in places.
 
Restoration
A range of restoration methods has been used to restore the rivers natural processes. These include the removal, modification and bypassing of structures; re-alignment of the river through the centre of the floodplain; re-meandering the channel within its existing plan-form and much more.
 
The completion of Phase 1 is not the end point but a springboard for new phases of restoration using the knowledge, experience and goodwill built up over the past ten years. A further programme of work is needed on the remaining 185km of river to fully realise a more naturally functioning river catchment, able to respond and adapt to climate change.

For more information, please visit the RRC website .

March 2017
Hampshire Avon Fish Habitat Projects

The Barbel Society (BS), Environment Agency (EA) and Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust (WCSRT) are pleased to announce details of the latest habitat improvement projects completed as part of a continuing partnership, which plans to improve habitat for fish fry and other wildlife on the Hampshire Avon.
 
Using funding provided by the EA and BS, and technical and logistical support from WCSRT, ten log deflectors and five fry bays were constructed at a site near Fordingbridge. These will improve diversity of flow and create refuges for fish fry of all species, as well as connecting hundreds of metres of water meadow ditches to the main river. Live willow was also planted to create overhead and instream cover.
 
An old silted flight pond within a historic oxbow area, upstream of Ringwood, has also been enlarged and connected to the river via a ditch, creating a large backwater which will again be an important refuge for fish fry, as well as important plants, invertebrates and other wildlife.
 
Pete Reading, Conservation Officer for the Barbel Society said; “We are delighted with the positive results of our continuing partnership with the EA and WCSRT, and also with local landowners, and can see huge benefits for fish and other wildlife from these restoration measures”.
 
The fish surveys, carried out last summer by WCSRT, the Barbel Society and Bournemouth University of similar projects undertaken the previous year showed excellent results. There were good numbers, of a range of species, of fish fry using the bays, to take advantage of the shallower, warmer water to develop. The results demonstrate that these projects are delivering genuine improvements for fisheries and wildlife along the Avon valley.



 

In November 2016, WCSRT also completed a second phase of habitat improvement on the River Nadder. This was a continuation of work done in 2015 by WCSRT, Wild Trout Trust, Barford and Burcombe Angling Club and the landowner. We continued to install more woody material and hinge trees, were possible, upstream from the earlier works. The works will create more in-channel habitat for fish and invertebrates, as well as narrowing the channel and pushing the flow across the channel to recreate natural processes that have been lost in a dredged channel. The work was done in partnership with the Wild Trout Trust and the Wessex Chalk Streams Project, part of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Volunteers helped build the structures in the channel, whilst contractors felled the trees and supervised the volunteers. There are further works planned upstream to continue the improvements this year.
 
Funding for these works has been and is available from the Environment Agency’s ‘Fisheries Improvement Programme’ which is directly funded by rod licence holders through the purchase of their EA rod licence. We would urge clubs or groups with any similar projects in mind to get in touch with Liam Reynolds, WCSRT’s new Avon Catchment Officer: avon@wcsrt.org.uk .

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