WTT Blog

Please watch before responding to EA Consultation on Flood Risk Management

Posted on October 10, 2014

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

Posted on October 06, 2014

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.

SPRITE methods for Ranunculus planting from Paul Gaskell on Vimeo.

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

Posted on September 29, 2014



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 complex submerged cover is to trout (especially). In much simpler habitat almost all of the trout would have been caught at the upstream barrier after the activity of the survey team had flushed them all the way up through simple habitat that...

(Un)Bricking It on the Medlock

Posted on September 18, 2014


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.


For my part I had the highly enjoyable task of introducing local primary school kids to the wonders of fly fishing (in this case Japanese fly fishing - known as tenkara!) in a river that, until recently, had...

Rise of the Wandle

Posted on September 07, 2014

Look what the Wandle Trust have achieved now.

http://www.wandletrust.org/?p=5427

The 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

Posted on August 13, 2014

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 swaying just sub-surface for maximum photosynthesis) - the 25 minute talk has it all. Make sure to watch it right the way through because there are wonders of the natural and human world explained like never before throughout (like the...

Volunteer Action on Urban River Corridor Biodiversity: It works!

Posted on July 04, 2014



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 significantly improved the floral (and associated faunal) biodiversity within the river corridor. These benefits, initiated in 2010 have...

Sleep-walking into Flooding Fragility

Posted on May 20, 2014

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 Taleb is that of "regulators"; devices that were fitted to smooth out some of the slightly erratic running of steam engines. The idea was to make them more efficient - and for much of the time this is the effect that they had. However, on the...

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

Posted on May 12, 2014





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) 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 that abounds in the river via both bug sampling displays and also a demonstration of the "Mayfly in the Classroom" apparatus. This also provided an excellent opportunity to hand out the materials containing contact details and descriptions of SPRITE's monthly activities to people who have been living...

Sheffield Beneath The Waterline

Posted on April 17, 2014

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

Posted on February 19, 2014


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 the observed performance of outfalls - a useful exchange of information occurred; enabling plans for exploring collaboration and partnership efforts for the benefit of the condition of Greater Manchester rivers to be made.

Great stuff - and an inspiration to all who...

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

Posted on January 08, 2014

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

Posted on January 02, 2014



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/assets/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 prohibit the stocking of fertile hatchery-bred trout from 2015) is to set up their own wild broodstock programme. Especially as the stripping of wild brood stock removes the natural reproduction that would otherwise have taken place(and which would, consequently, have been subjected to the relevant...