Trout in the Town Blog

11/12/2014 - 18:04

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 installation of a pre-fabricated fish pass onto a high sluice gate (part of a historic mill) which, at the time, was deemed impossible to safely modify. This meant that the potential benefits of such a fish pass were constrained by the fact that fish were being afforded access to a section of pretty poor, silty and uniform habitat (with some better habitat further upstream, if fish were inclined to explore that far). This compromise is talked about in some of the video (from 3min and 46 seconds onwards) telling the story of the first part of these works here:

Wandle Case Study from Wild Trout Trust on Vimeo.

Fast forward to 2014 and there have been some tremendous developments that the Wandle Trust have been able to achieve through their successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the restoration of the Wandle catchment. Many weirs have been removed or notched. The "impossible" sluice gate has been substantially lowered and the fish pass re-fitted to much greater effect. The channel has been narrowed by redistributing the accumulated sludge and stabilising it by planting. As a result, flows are substantially energised and this is keeping the introduced gravel substrate sweet - with root wad and branch installations helping to grade those gravel mounds and preserve a varied topography.

The same section of channel as pictured at the top of this page part way through narrowing works enabled by the lowering of the "impossible to modify" sluice gate (looking upstream towards where previous photograph was taken)

All this is a fantastic proof of how significant it can be to pursue what might, at the time, seem to be quite small victories. In this case, winning the permission to run modest (largely volunteer-led) habitat improvement was a small but significant first hurdle that, when combined with the skills and drive of the Wandle heroes has snowballed into a completely transformative project. It is precisely this function for which the Trout in the Town project was established. The WTT's ability to provide high-level technical advice under a range of different scenarios and constraints (and also to connect ambitions of local interest groups to the knowledge and additional specialist professionals) can be a vital push that helps people's ambitions to reach a tipping point.

Gravels being introduced to complement new, narrowed channel dimensions and associated planting activities

This is, of course, just one cog in a much bigger machine - and without the tireless efforts of all the Wandle faithful along with some very smart appointments of brilliant employees; nothing at all would happen. What I am trying to say is that, the result of intermittent and reciprocal support between the Wandle and Wild Trout Trusts has produced a "whole" that is so much greater than the sum of its parts - and far greater than the WTT could ever hope to achieve in one location on its own. If we can catalyse just a handful of these kinds of projects over the years, our urban rivers will reap massive benefits. That, clearly, relies on the existence of brilliant custodians such as the Wandle Trust and they thoroughly deserve your congratulations and support.

So go ahead and tell them that they are doing a great job. Join their working parties if you are within striking distance and tell everyone about what is happening on the Wandle - because many more of our degraded urban streams deserve much better than they are currently getting. If you end up casting a line on the Wandle; the only reason that there will be trout swimming there once again is due to the ceaseless efforts of the Wandle Trust and the partnerships that they establish and maintain.

For a run down of some significant milestones on this project, please see my recently-updated web page summary here: Wandle Trout in The Town summary

The "Silt Trap" in the top photograph in this blog has now been transformed to a well-featured, free-flowing chalk stream with natural cover and flow-focusing structures.

14/11/2014 - 11:59
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 improve (and can actually make worse) the situation for people at risk of being flooded. Let us also not return to procedures that destroy the environment that we depend upon to exist.
06/11/2014 - 13:14

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 within the introduced habitat.

Coupling this type of activity with lowering the banks (and narrowing the channel where appropriate) has also increased the connectivity of the main channel with its flood plain - providing a place for floodwater to spill out safely onto wetland (potentially instead of spilling out of banks further downstream in people's properties and businesses at Hungerford and Newbury).

Main project Consultants were Windrush AEC in partnership with Eastridge Estate and the Environment Agency. Video produced by Cinepic productions.

03/11/2014 - 13:22

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.

31/10/2014 - 09:25

Worth bearing in mind when responding to hydropower proposals,

24/10/2014 - 12:48

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:, 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 number of walkover visits on sites in the urban Trent catchment. We, along with Nick Mott of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust will be proposing and designing (as well as helping to deliver) habitat improvement projects in these urban reaches as part of a great Catchment Based Approach partnership between many organisations including the E.A., Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wild Trout Trust and more. Liz Horton, Nick Mott and Bernadette Noake are heading up the Staffs Trent Valley CaBA Team.

Also a really exciting bit of work planned for next spring is our involvement with the Sheffield CC efforts to improve ecological conditions in heavily engineered sections of the Porter Brook right in Sheffield city centre. Trout in the Town has submitted proposals for measures that will augment existing schemes by introducing simple, yet significant, additional ecological and geomorphological processes into improved reaches of the brook: