WTT Blog

Giving Wildlife (Including Urban Wild Trout) a Fighting Chance on The Lyme Brook: Video

Posted on April 12, 2016

Here is a short video showing just the first phase (out of three phases we have completed so far) of works to re-introduce structural variety into a historically abused watercourse on the River Trent system in Staffordshire.

Wild trout are slowly making a comeback on the main river and - although water quality is a constant worry - there was a huge scope to improve the chances of fish to breed in a small tributary called the Lyme Brook.



With the willing support of the local council (Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council - through Becky Allen), the project was able to become a reality. It was delivered as a partnership project under the Catchment Based Approach (the local hosts for the Trent Valley Partnership are the folks at Groundwork West Midlands). The Environment Agency (as well as Staffordshire Wildlife Trust) are other key members of the partnership.

For this specific work, Matt Lawrence (E.A.), Steve Cook (Groundwork) and Lynne Morgan (Groundwork) arranged funding and logistics for each of the physical works events (that involved contractors/plant hire as well as volunteer days). I had the most fun job of designing the appropriate interventions and directing exactly what Geoff needed to do with the mini-digger...

Mike Blackmore's 'Mad March'

Posted on April 05, 2016

Mike Blackmore's 'Mad March'

Mike is the WTT Conservation Officer for the South and West. 

At this time of year, there is often a hectic dash to get money spent before the end of the financial year and get trees pollarded/coppiced/hinged before the start of the bird nesting season. March 2016 was no exception and my very understanding wife allowed me to work through three weekend days and a bank holiday to fit it all in.

What do we need, to know if it works?

Posted on February 11, 2016

What do we need, to know if it works?

Typical! Not two weeks after completing my round-up for the Science Spot in Salmo trutta, the annual glossy WTT publication that our members receive, an interesting paper on IMWs (Intensively Monitored Watersheds) lands on my desk. While not exactly on topic, it includes interesting snippets that would have embellished my article. However, as I wrote in the Salmo piece, the means by which knowledge is transferred nowadays means: I can (and have already) tweeted about this paper (but not included any precis or personal view of its content); I can (here, now) blog about it and impart some detail; or I can sit on it for 12 months and tell you all about it in the 2017 issue of Salmo!

IMWhats? In the Pacific Northwest, a vast tract of land with a very loosely defined boundary but it’s roughly 67 times the size of Wales if you’re interested in that sort of thing, there are at least 17 IMWs. They are an attempt to test the effectiveness of a broad range of stream restoration actions for increasing the freshwater production of anadromous salmon and steelhead and to better understand fish–habitat relationships. This is no mean feat, and the paper by Bennet and his colleagues reports on the lessons learned so far.

Start 'em young

Posted on January 15, 2016

Start 'em young

There has been much ‘Twittering’ of late as various organisations across the UK are venturing into classrooms to engage with children via aquatic beasties, and particularly our totemic species - the brown trout.

WTT chums at the Clyde River Foundation (CRF) coordinate #Clydeintheclassroom. It’s a huge venture, working with some 90 classes to engage with >2000 kids this year alone. It’s also very much a hands-on project, using aspects of the trout life history to promote awareness of river ecology, to engage with nature, and to help young people across the River Clyde catchment develop a sense of pride in their local environment. Furthermore, it provides a great basis for outdoor learning and STEM education.

Scoping out Habitat Opportunities in Sheffield's Porter Brook

Posted on January 13, 2016

Jerome and I scoping out bits of the Porter Brook - finding a big weirContinuing with the recent theme of the radical deculverting and habitat improvement work on Sheffield's Porter Brook - here is a quick update on a day spent walking and talking about potential further opportunities. The morning and some of the afternoon was spent in the company of Jerome Masters (EA Fisheries) in a combination of searching out potential sites to assess and then discussing options along with Sam Thorn and Jack Foxall of Sheffield City Council.

The series of short sections might be possible to combine with some more planned deculverting work on another City Centre Tributary (The Sheaf) for further improvements to the connectivity of the Don Catchment - and also the quality and variety of available river corridor habitat.

It will be my job in the coming weeks to come up with a variety of optional scenarios for each of the sites. Depending on the various constraints of either funding, available surrounding land and existing infrastructure - there could be several options for each site. Some of these could be long term aspirations (requiring significant funding...

Sediment sources and salmonid successes

Posted on January 11, 2016

Sediment sources and salmonid successes

On my WTT-inspired ramblings recently, I came across a shocking sight, above. Shocking because firstly, I was expecting to see a village pond complete with a raft of local ducks bobbing around, not a barren mudscape stuck behind a defunct dam; and secondly, because I immediately started to wonder where all that accrued sediment was being washed away to….. and where it was being deposited… and might it not be being dumped upon some salmonid redds at a rather inopportune time?

Porter Brook - Part of the Deculverting Process

Posted on December 18, 2015

Picking up from my previous post of the in-channel habitat creation - here are just a few photos to give an impression of the site's previous states.

This gives a bit more of an idea of how little of the river was allowed to see the open air until pretty recently. Sheffield City Council have been steadily working to expose this buried watercourse...

View downstream from the road bridge note the balcony/gantry on the right in the foreground


Same view immediately after the in-channel habitat-works (note balcony/gantry on right of frame in foreground


Starting to remove the brick-arch culverting


At the downstream end of the removed brick culvert - a series of steel RSJs can now be seen spanning the river. These previously supported the concrete floor of a factory that was built on top of the river


Here is a picture of...

Porter Brook - Channel Habitat Improvement in De-Culverted City Centre Stream

Posted on December 15, 2015

There will be more pictures and video to come to document this bold project by Sheffield City Council to uncover a section of stream that used to live beneath a factory floor. They are in the process of creating a "pocket park" that will provide new flood-water storage (when the rivers are in spate) and an improved public park amenity (when the rivers are calm).

The pocket park itself will be excavated out from the current high ground level (and a major construction project is underway at the moment to achieve this).

The Wild Trout Trust were brought in to design in-channel features and riverbed morphology that would maxmise the improvements for the ecology of the stream - including for the prospects of a small and fragmented native population of wild brown trout.
 

The site after uncovering the stream - but before the in-channel works Click here for lots more photos!   

Reflecting on all this rain

Posted on December 14, 2015

Reflecting on all this rain

This is the view from my office window. Of late, I have been lucky to see across the valley. When it has been sufficiently clear there has been a stark message staring me in the face. So, what’s wrong in this image? OK, it’s not a great image but then it was taken in blowing rain. The field (centre shot) has a similar slope / exposure as those surrounding it yet it is the only one veined with rivulets of water. It is also the only one under permanent livestock grazing as compared to the fields on either side through which stock is rotated regularly. The result is a reduced crop plant height, root structure (and probably diversity), and more compacted soils leading to serious (visible) overland flow during times of heavy rain. At the bottom of that field is a tributary of the River Aire; little wonder that the Aire is often occupying the full width of its floodplain (below).

Friends of The Dearne - Open Village Day Report

Posted on November 23, 2015



It was a great pleasure to be involved at the end of this summer with a vibrant "Open Village" event in Clayton West in the Kirklees region of West Yorkshire. As well as the many musical, local business and art exhibitions - a local angler and wildlife enthusiast Phil Slater had arranged an event to help reconnect people with their river. Alongside Chris Firth MBE of the Don Catchment Rivers Trust we hoped to increase the awareness of the river and the challenges it faces.

So many of the local families that came to the riverside activities (including bug dipping and fly casting lessons)came away with a real enthusiasm for the river and its future care and enhancement. It was a great testament to Phil's own passion for the river and the commitment he has made to see things continue to improve on this tributary of the Don (in 2015, right down at the confluence with the River Don, the first salmon parr was recorded on the Dearne in an Environment Agency survey).

The river faces many problems - from discharges of poor quality water, to invasive plants like giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam and habitat degradation through industrialisation and...

Never Mind the Environment - What About Our Jobs and Economy?

Posted on November 20, 2015

Westcountry Rivers Trust worked on 5 river catchments. For every £1 they spent on restoration - between £1.91 and £4.50 of economic value to society was gained (Click Picture to view full size)
It seems to be quite a common view that "nature" is a "nice to have" once we have taken care of jobs, business and the economy in general. A bit of a luxury when we've got some loose change left over from taking care of progress...

The problem with that is it misses the point that nobody will be doing business/earning money without functioning, healthy ecosystems. You'd struggle to breathe, for example, if there isn't enough photosynthesis happening.

The epic (and fantastic) project to restore rivers in five catchments in the south west of the UK (by Westcountry Rivers Trust) included work by independent financial analysts "NEF". The costs of doing habitat improvement and restoration were smaller than the economic value that they added to the Westcountry region.

In cases where angling passport schemes benefited from habitat improvement - that showed the highest Return On Investment. A staggering £4.50 return on each £1 spent on environmental restoration...

Small land use changes reap big freshwater benefits

Posted on November 18, 2015

Small land use changes reap big freshwater benefits

The UK landscape is a mosaic primarily of agriculture interspersed with woodland, grassland, urban enclaves and veined with river networks and wetlands. We should all realise by now that this pattern in the landscape has a marked effect on 'ecosystem goods and services', the natural benefits that the environment provides to us, and particularly those associated with freshwater. How we use (or abuse) the land, i.e. influence the landscape pattern, and the downstream consequences to water quality are a focus of the current consultation on diffuse pollution to which WTT has already responded (and I encourage you to do so too).    

A new study of an urbanising but predominantly agricultural landscape in the US draws upon data from 100 Wisconsin sub-watersheds and has important implications for managing and restoring landscapes to enhance surface water quality, groundwater quality, and groundwater supply. The study considered the landscape pattern in terms of composition (the type and amount of particular patches) and its configuration (the layout of those patches); and while both appear to have some bearing upon freshwater services, the composition had a stronger influence on water quality and supply. 

Making Connections

Posted on October 28, 2015

Making Connections

Man-made barriers, obstacles, call them what you will, are commonplace along our waterways as we have (typically) in the past tried to harness or control the flow of water for our own use. Some of these installations were incredibly insensitive to the local and more widely spread ecology and physical processes in rivers and streams, not just the fish that might want free passage both up and downstream at all life stages, and in all seasons.

I recently spent an afternoon with Mike Forty, a PhD student registered at Durham University, and based with the Ribble Rivers Trust. His work, using telemetry to assess the efficiency with which fish can pass obstacles, has been enlightening, and some of the statistics he can rattle off are mind-boggling. His work was featured in the presentation that Jack Spees (Director of RRT) gave at our recent WTT Gathering and captured on video here. For example, the low cost baffle system that was installed on a previously almost impassable weir on Swanside Beck (picture to right) can now be ascended in 23 seconds (according to one sea trout), and several resident brown trout have been up and down it numerous times!