Trout in the Town Blog

28/04/2017 - 07:53
Ant Graham from SPRITE

You've done a big, ambitious partnership project to deculvert a section of urban stream, but now the civil engineering contractors have gone to their next job. The site is left to mature...what next? Very seldom does this kind of project have any budget for ongoing ecological monitoring (which is a frequent and justified criticism of habitat improvement works - the lack of ecological effect data).

The same can be said for general "husbandry" of the site - whether it be litter or invasive plant control; or even fairly substantial running repairs...

Step in SPRITE (Sheffield Partnership for Rivers in Town Environments) whose site you can check out on http://www.sheffieldsprite.com, the Sheffield Trout in the Town group and a supporting donation of pre-established planted coir products from Salix River and Wetland Ltd. (with their site here: https://www.salixrw.com)

You can see SPRITE talking about their aquatic invertebrate monitoring and see their repair and site care works in action in the embedded video below:


18/04/2017 - 11:39

Although this is the start of what is planned to be a wider project that tackles multiple issues throughout the full length of this heavily-modified river, the first set of works are shaping up really pleasingly. 

Click Picture to Launch on YouTube
Alec and the rest of the YWT team have made impressive progress to organise and deliver the program of works that we designed on just around 1 km of the River Went, on a project supported by the Environment Agency.
 
It was particularly impressive due to a last minute loss of the previous project manager due to a career move. In the video you can see how Alec worked with the WTT to power through the first, steep part of the learning-curve on in-river structural improvements to a heavily-modified river.
 
The main challenges stemmed from the historic realignment of the channel (and general lack of in-stream structure/debris necessary to create vital habitat for different lifecycle stages of fish and other aquatic life). Coupled with the relatively low gradient and fine particulate material/potential associated diffuse-pollution inputs from upstream, this had made the channel very uniform (boring) and also lacking in diverse substrate (bed material).
 
While the future parts of this project will explore ways of improving land-use (and other measures) to reduce the particulate material runoff, the creation of alternating scour and deposition in this section should significantly increase the complexity (and hence value) of the habitat here. There is also, now a massive amount of extra cover from predation - which will help to keep populations of predators and prey in a more resilient balance.
 
The increased complexity (and scour/deposition processes) were complemented by the "seeding" of gravel upstream of some of the new "roughness-generating" structures in the channel. Spate flows redistributing that gravel should mimic the creation of spawning conditions that have been historically cut-off by changes to land-use (open-cast mining has inverted top and sub-soil horizons in the upper catchment!). 
 
Natural gravel inputs have also been constrained by the channel being straightened and locked in place. Normally, the gradual movement of a channel across a floodplain would cut into gravel "lenses" in the banks and continually replenish supplies to species that need gravel to breed.
 
You can see Alec describing this first phase of works in the embedded version of the video here:
 
 
25/11/2016 - 14:21



Catching and Releasing the first Fly-Caught wild trout from a stream that was dug out of a city-centre pipe was probably the highlight of 2016 for me!

Buried in a brick tunnel under England's industrial developments of the 1800s, a section of the Porter Brook in Sheffield was brought back to the surface by a bold project co-ordinated by Sheffield City Council and involving the Wild Trout Trust, The Environment Agency and many more partners.

You can now witness the actual process of freeing the Brook from its pipe - and the creation of functioning trout-stream habitat in this short video.



Yet, the above video does not show the completed park that was a huge part of the entire project - and it does not show the planted vegetation beginning to develop in the summer of 2016. And, it does not show any fly fishing or video of a trout capture...

But the film, below, that was made by the excellent Huckleberry Films as part of the Canal & Rivers Trust "Living Waterways" awards (in which this project won the "Contribution to the Built Environment Award")...Well that DOES show those things too:



Hopefully, with visits from town planning staff from as far away as Bristol, this type of project will become more widespread in our towns and cities in coming years...
 

14/10/2016 - 14:05

Well, the results are in and the fish above were all captured (carefully measured and then returned unharmed to the Lyme Brook)...

All of them were caught clustered around the installed logs and planted flag iris that were introduced throughout the second phase of habitat creation works completed on through the partnership between WTT, Groundwork West Midlands, the EA and The Friends of Lyme Valley Parkway.

The short video below shows the channel transformation - and they ways that the re-shaped river channel is maintained by harnessing the flow of water so that it works with the introduced materials and planted vegetation.

You can also see footage of the very first fish population survey carried out after the habitat works in this section of the brook (and although we didn't see any trout this time, we will continue to work on bridging the gaps between the main River Trent and the potential spawning habitat that has been created in this tributary stream.



 

19/09/2016 - 08:22


I'm delighted to say that the Porter Brook Deculverting project was selected as the 2016 Winner in the Canal & Rivers Trust for "Contribution to the Built Environment". This was a multi-partner partnership project (with key involvement of Sheffield City Council, the Environment Agency and more) that I was fortunate to have the opportunity to design the in-channel habitat features to provide the best functional benefits for trout and the wider aquatic foodweb.

As well as my previous blog posts on the subject, the awards scheme made short videos (less than 2-minutes) long that captured key elements of each project entry. You can see the film for the winning Porter Brook project below. Please enjoy and share (and also check out the other project videos on YouTube from this year's awards).

22/08/2016 - 16:41
The many willing volunteers who cleared a big stand of Himalayan balsam and many sacks of rubbish in Scisset

I had the privilege of contributing to a great event that was set up by Phil Slater (Friends of River Dearne) and hosted by both Don Catchment Rivers Trust and The Wild Trout Trust.

It was also (importantly) supported by the local branch of Tesco - whose car park and store front the River Dearne runs past in the little West Yorkshire village of Scissett - and also by the Environment Agency.

The concept was simple - invite local volunteers to join together and remove the invasive, non-native Himalayan balsam, clear-up litter and also learn some simple river-habitat protection and improvement techniques.

This last part is why I was on site - to run a mini "habitat workshop" to explain the appropriate balance between light and shade; as well as the huge importance of "cover" habitat or refuge for different stages of a wild trout's life-cycle. When take together, removing the competitive dominance of the invasive plants (which not only benefit native plants - but also the bugs and other wildlife that depend on those native plants) and creating a more varied habitat can have a great benefit to the species of river corridors.

Diligent litter removal!

I would argue that this is especially valuable when those river corridors are surrounded by the tarmac and buildings of urban areas - but could the volunteers be found and convinced to attend?

Well, it is a great compliment to the local village communities that well over 20 volunteers gave up their free time on a week day to come down, learn and get stuck in. Many hands really did make light work.

I had many interesting chats with attendees and I got to demonstrate some simple habitat-creation techniques that had multiple benefits for fish, birds and invertebrates alike.

Himalayan Balsam: Before...

...and after


Simple laying technique to create diversity in tree canopy as well as producing cover habitat in the stream margins

Cover habitat on the far bank - beneficial to fish, invertebrates and birds.

Urban and River Corridor environments - side-by-side.

Big thanks to Phil and all of the Friends of The Dearne, NE-region Environment Agency, Tescos Scissett and everyone at Don Catchment Rivers Trust Denby Dale Parish Council, Upper Dearne Valley Navigators, Scissett Litter Pickers, Ten Villages Conservation Group and Made in Clayton West for a great event all round (and a wonderful result).

Paul
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