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Showing posts from 2014

Hillsborough College Tenkara in the Town River Experience Day

Through the invitation and efforts of Howard Bayley and Hellen Hornby, myself and long-time Conservation Champion Stuart Crofts enjoyed a day of bringing an exotic note to two groups of students that Hellen teaches about the great outdoors every Friday. Our idea was fairly simple - to show how an interest in rivers that has been fostered through paddling in and learning to fly fish local streams can take you to some unexpected and wonderful places.

Most/all of the students (prior to being involved with Hellen's lessons at the College) have very little experience or knowledge of, or engagement with nature and the outdoors. Consequently, it is exceptionally gratifying when you see their attention held by an activity like fly tying or a slideshow of their local river, which runs by the college, placed next to photographs and videos of mountain streams in Japan (and the people who pursue the same outdoor pastimes as we do in Yorkshire).

This event, and other outdoor engagement activ…

Latest Wandle progress is truly outstanding

All Photos: Tim Longstaff, Wandle Trust

That was then: Silt-choked channel in pleasant surroundings of Carshalton

Between 2009 and 2011, the Wild Trout Trust spent many hours alongside the Wandle Trust battling to get approval for some simple and cheap improvements that could start to relieve some of the impacts (at least to some degree) caused by poor habitat quality. Due to the location of the stream within a heavily urbanised and densely populated part of London, this process was extremely arduous; as consenting officers were extremely wary of any potential risks to surrounding structures such as walls, footpaths and the ever-present fear of flooding.

The culmination of that part of the process was a wonderful urban conclave event (2011 Urban Conclave) which saw urban stream-care volunteers from around the country gathering to take part in the in-stream habitat improvements that had, at last, been granted permission to go ahead.

At that time funding had also been secured for the ins…

Prioritising Dredging is a Danger to Effective Flood Risk Management

With the terrible impacts of flooding still very fresh in the memories of the electorate - being seen to be boldly meeting this challenge by deploying machinery to master nature could be a great way to win votes.

However, the evidence tells us that overall flood risk can be increased by dredging (by passing the problem downstream) and could not have prevented the recent extensive floods that had such terrible impacts.

That is just considering the flood risk angle - the problem with dredging is that it carries a lot of additional, automatic and unavoidable costs that can impact on our environment (which we have plenty of selfish reasons to protect - even if we have no regard for nature for its own sake).

Please consider reading this balanced report from Blueprint for Water: Dredging up Trouble

See also these easily digestible videos on a previous post:

Must-Watch Videos on Floodwater Management


Please don't let us sleepwalk into wasting money on an approach that does nothing to impr…

River Kennet Habitat Improvement Video

As Joint professional category winners in the 2014 WTT Conservation awards (Sponsored by Thames Water) - the Eastridge Estate habitat works project has a lot of interesting things to share. Video is often far more efficient at conveying these messages than lots of technical documentation:



The video above shows some of the works undertaken over this substantial section of the River Kennet which not only created a lot of new spawning, juvenile and adult trout habitat (and a lot of additional river corridor flora and fauna) - but connected huge sections of upstream and downstream habitat that had previously been kept separate for fish migration.

The project had to improve habitat and reduce long impounded (dammed) sections whilst at the same time retaining enough vertical head of water in certain places to be able to flood the SSSI water meadows adjacent to the river. They did this by introducing a series of gravel riffles to retain enough head - but to energise and diversify the flow wi…

Simon Cooper's write up inspired by his atttendance at our 2014 Conservation Awards

We will soon be able to bring you a video that details just one of the dozen entries to this year's hard-fought conservation awards. The standards of works submitted were incredibly high - with many projects that could have easily taken the winning spots in previous years of competition.

http://www.flyfishing.co.uk/news/fly-fishing-features/features/fishinguk/6862-chalkstreams-%E2%80%93-it%E2%80%99s-looking-good.html

Emerging Urban Efforts: Holme Valley Vision, Stoke-on-Trent, Porter Brook

Just three examples of the exciting projects that Trout in the Town is supporting at the moment as part of various partnerships that are working to get urban river restoration projects off the ground.

Holme Valley Vision: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/general-news/cash-plea-as-huddersfield-valley-unites-to-improve-river-1-6904319, will be launched with an exhibition in Holmfirth Market Hall from Thursday October 30 to Saturday November 1, which will tell the history of the river and its ecology, and ask the public what improvements they want to see. Come along, and if you think it is a good idea, please consider donating to their "River2015" campaign that will support their effort: The aim of River2015 is to make improvements along its route, which takes in Honley, Holme and Holmfirth, starting by recruiting 2,015 people to donate £20.15, £201.50 or £2,015.

Myself and my colleague Tim Jacklin have recently been involved with strategy meetings and also a nu…

Please watch before responding to EA Consultation on Flood Risk Management

The presumptions that dredging will a.) Reduce flood risk b.) Be benign for life in/around the river are misplaced and potentially dangerous.

Please watch the great videos below to see how we can do Flood Risk Management much better than we currently do (and far, far better than what is commonly being suggested). If we don't get on top of this now - the decisions that are about to be taken will really f&*£ things up for people and environments at risk of flooding.

What we should do at the scale of our properties:




What we should do at the scale of our neighbourhoods



What we should do at the scale of our River Catchments

SPRITE method for re-establishing Ranunculus in post-industrial rivers

Following on from the most recent blog entry (and very brief description of a method used by volunteers); please see the short 3-minute video below for a demonstration of how SPRITE members have successfully developed and implemented an efficient and robust technique for planting water crowfoot in freestone rivers (which would also work very well in more lowland settings too).

The method has a degree of resistance to grazing pressure during early phases of establishment and has also proven to be quite robust to the higher shear velocities experienced during spates on upland rivers.

Note the group's vital adherence to considerations for full permissions - including the requirement to source the plants from within the same river system and also from sites that are free from known biosecurity risk. Consultation with local Environment Agency (or equivalent local watercourse authority) is a way for volunteer groups to find out what permissions will be required in specific locations.

SPR…

Hull International Fisheries Institute Electric Fishing Survey of Trout in the Town Ranunculus Planting Site

Here is a video showing just one of a long series of ongoing surveys on a site that was impacted by dredging activities. The Environment Agency re-introduced large boulders and also installed some marginal plants to help the site to begin to recover. Subsequent to that, volunteers from SPRITE- a group set up in Sheffield through the Trout in the Town project applied for permission and carried out re-planting of water crowfoot to improve the structural and invertebrate community diversity within the channel. The method for doing this in spate rivers is highly original and was developed primarily by Dave Woodhead - a central and long-standing SPRITE member, with Ranunculus collection from biologically clean headwater sites and planting work parties being run by Dave and Paul Hughes.

SPRITE also carried out some wildflower seed planting and have joined with other local volunteers to reduce the amount of Himalayan Balsam in reaches upstream of this section.

The video shows how important …

(Un)Bricking It on the Medlock

I was fortunate enough to contribute to Tuesday's launch event for the mammoth achievements that have been made (both in the river channel and within the local community) around Greater Manchester's River Medlock (see this piece from the BBC last year reporting part-way through the initial works http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24562282)

Although a great many people have contributed both to the overall project (and to Tuesday's launch event) - a lot of credit has to go to key personnel like Ollie Southgate of the E.A., Jo Fraser of Groundwork and Dave Barlow of Manchester City Council. The ongoing success of this project owes a lot to their drive and vision - both in the brutally difficult world of making such challenging projects actually happen in the modern economic and social climate and in the amount of effort to involve local communities by reconnecting people with their local river.

Sir Richard Leese shouts "Trout!" along with the kids who lea…

Rise of the Wandle

Look what the Wandle Trust have achieved now.http://www.wandletrust.org/?p=5427The major connectivity AND channel habitat morphology improvements are hugely significant milestones in the ongoing assisted recovery of this London chalkstream. It is, also, on the site of the impounded reach I used on this video to illustrate the problems that weirs pose for habitat quality (not only fish passage, but river corridor biodiversity as  whole).



I'm looking forward to going back to take some footage of the 'after' shot :-)

Roger Wotton's Exopolymer Extravaganza: Turning S*** into Swifts and Swallows

Each year the WTT hosts a weekend event of talks, food, drink and fishing. This June's Annual Get Together (for members and non-members alike), saw some terrific talks from all speakers. Perhaps the one that surprised the audience the most is the one that is reproduced in full in the video below. A wide-ranging talk that drew on Professor Wotton's fascinating research career on how vitally important to life in rivers (and also all aspects of human existence - from tooth decay to safe drinking water!) are the tiny, stringy "chains" of molecules exuded by cells at the microscopic level.

Now retired, Roger Wotton can look back across a career of teaching and learning to give us a great "taster menu" of anecdotes relating to the surprising invisible world around us. From fish, to invertebrates to the way that classic chalkstream water weeds orchestrate themselves a supply of slow-release fertiliser right on top of their root stock (whilst keeping their leaves …

Volunteer Action on Urban River Corridor Biodiversity: It works!

Back in 2010 the photo above is what an area of Sheffield's urban River Don looked like. Later that year, local Trout in the Town group "SPRITE" organised a day that combined their own volunteer force with a group of University of Sheffield staff that had been released for the day to contribute to volunteer works in the local area. The volunteers cleared a substantial section of the urban Don of all the balsam that they could get their hands on. You can see that, where the balsam had been removed, there was not much else in the way of vegetation that was able to survive...




Then in 2011, as the video below shows, one of SPRITE's activities was to follow up on previous clearance work by removing any re-growth of balsam and then to consolidate that with sowing of a seed-mix of species native to the Don corridor.

SPRITE Winter Working Parties from Paul Gaskell on Vimeo.
Now, in 2014, the photographs below clearly tell the story of how local volunteer action has significa…

Sleep-walking into Flooding Fragility

In just one of many illustrative examples in his book "Antifragile - things that gain from disorder" author Nassim Taleb talks about the irony of sports-shoe makers touting that their most advanced models are those that most closely replicate the bare human foot. This is fascinating since it highlights that attempting to smooth out and cushion the shocks experienced during running actually had the effect of massively increasing muscular and skeletal injuries from running.

In barefoot running, the toes and arches of the feet act as shock absorbers and - crucially - allows them to be exposed to the action of running that actually strengthens them in this function. By contrast, the attempt to eliminate those specific stresses resulted in humans striking the floor with their heels rather than their toes and the additional padding robbed our feet of the varied "training" that prevents things like fallen arches and plantar fasciitus.

Another example favoured by Nassim…

Sheffield Has a Formal Strategy for its Waterways; Incorporating its Urban and Rural Catchment areas

Some readers may have already seen the various pieces that I've contributed on managing surface water in urban and rural catchments (e.g. videos embedded at the bottom of this post) alongside the organisational role to Sheffield's first One Big River event. This was a week of activities focused on the rivers of the Steel City and was timed to coincide with both the River Restoration Centre's Annual Conference (held for the first time at Sheffield Hallam University: http://www.therrc.co.uk/rrc_conferences.php) as well as the formal signing (and Cabinet adoption) of the Waterways Strategy.

The various community and volunteer events that formed the week-long programme (https://sites.google.com/site/sheffieldonebigriver/main-events-program included a family-day of riverside events run by the Sheffield branch of the Trout in the Town project (SPRITE) and the Wild Trout Trust. Everyone involved really enjoyed talking to local residents and visitors and showing them the life tha…

Sheffield Beneath The Waterline

Wildlife photographer and videographer Jack Perks visited Sheffield yesterday as part of his bid to document as many of Britain's freshwater fish species as he can. Some of these species face an uncertain or bleak future - and Jack's project (http://www.btwlfishproject.com/) could be the last time that they are possible to document on film. On this, his first recce visit, I took Jack on a whistle-stop tour of a number of locations spread across the city; ranging from retail/city-centre areas, heavy industry zones and suburban sites. Jack's VLOG gives a snapshot of his visit below:

Meeting United Utilities with Salford Friendly Anglers - part of the Trout in the Town family

Valuable proof that anglers and community interest groups can be taken seriously by large companies (as well as government bodies) was ably demonstrated yesterday during a meeting convened by the formidable Mike Duddy of Salford Friendly Anglers (centre of picture above).

Discussions over the current (and future-planned) status of a range of Combined Sewer Outfalls on the Irwell system were held at Mike's offices in Salford. Presentations by network managers and external affairs representatives of United Utilities (the local water supply company) were combined with debate over conditions in and around the river.

I'm pleased to have been able to support the group in getting to the stage in the discussions through some assistance in data crunching and interpretation that allowed the "priority" discharges affecting their rivers to be identified based on reported chemical discharge information. Coupled with detailed local knowledge from anglers such as Arthur Hamer on t…

Detailed introduction to how Erosion and Deposition in rivers provides a home for wildlife

Perhaps topical given current examples of river-bed-transporting extreme flows happening in many parts of UK...

In a striking similarity to the widespread lack of understanding of the impacts of dredging on flood risk - the problems caused by weirs that choke off the downstream progression of river gravels, cobbles, sands etc. are not widely appreciated.

The presentation below gives a basic outlining of why everything that lives in our rivers depends on the capacity for river channels to continually transport (and periodically deposit) river bed material from the hilltops to the sea. If we work better with (rather than against) these processes it would be far better for both societal needs/costs and the natural world.

Universal nature of risks with Wild Brood Stock, egg-boxes and similar supportive breeding schemes

Although extremely counter-intuitive upon first sight; trying to help wild populations of (for example) trout by boosting their reproduction actually has many more chances to go wrong than to actually help. There is a lot of coverage devoted to the various aspects of this in some of our WTT guidance pages (http://www.wildtrout.org/sites/default/files/library/Stocking_position_2012_final.pdf)

But as a really readily understandable example from the world of bird conservation; we can see just one of the prominent pitfalls of giving an artificial helping-hand to breeding success. The nub of it is that if the boosted numbers are made up of individuals that the natural environment would otherwise kill off; you risk actually pushing the population closer to extinction (or permanent reliance on human intervention). The story below and trout-specific research should give serious pause for thought to any club assuming that the best response to the Trout and Grayling Strategy (which will prohib…