July saw the Environment Agency’s 2014 summary of pollution incidents published. They report a 11% decrease in serious pollution incidents overall in 2014 and in particular a substantial decrease in incidents caused by sewage treatment works. However, whilst water companies may be cleaning up their act, the report shows a 7% increase in serious pollution incidents affecting water caused by the farming industry, and in particular a sharp 100% rise in incidents caused by arable farming. The report makes interesting reading and a full copy can be viewed here.
Whilst we have been reporting a number of sewage & oil pollution incidents in recent months, we do not know of any available figures for our own catchment. However, we will be suggesting these should be something which we aim to have available for use within the Catchment Partnership.
BART have completed a two year study of the By Brook catchment as part of a partnership project funded by the Environment Agency. The objectives of the project were to identify options which if pursued would lead towards the catchment meeting targets set within the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The documents uploaded to this section of the website relating to the By Brook are:
- BART phase I report – completed 2014.
- Feasibility study by Royal Haskoning designed to ground truth BARTs study and set it within a whole catchment concept.
- An Ecosystem Services Assessment for the catchment.
- BART walkover study of remainder the catchment not covered in 2014.
The purpose of these reports is to determine what is possible NOT what is planned. The reports show what is feasible to improve the catchment as measured against WFD targets and which in many cases would restore the river to a more natural and sustainable stream. The report even suggests what a five year improvement plan might look like if money were no object. What happens in future must however be a balance which best meets the needs of the catchments landowners, sporting interests and those heritage and environmental factors valued by the many users of the brook and it’s banksides.
BART hope to encourage all stakeholders along the brook to work together to bring about improvements within the catchment into the future.
During the course of this project BART received help from a great many people who clearly care deeply about the brook and the creatures which depend on it. BART are thankful to everyone who helped, in whatever way, but would particularly like to thank the Friends of By Brook who have shown particular interest in the work we do throughout the project. We hope to maintain these excellent relationships into the future.
The following blog post comes from Andrea Goodmansen, our BART education volunteer who has joined us from Monterey, California:
“This summer I have spent time at Southmead Adventure Playground teaching children about the invertebrates living in their stream and the importance of keeping litter and pollution out of streams. Once a week during the summer holiday we held a River Dipping activity to take the kids down to the stream at their playground, nets in hand, and kick up river rocks in hopes of catching freshwater shrimp, hog louse, mayfly snails and other critters. The children loved jumping into the stream and learning about the variety of inverts that were in their backyard! I hope that they will now be more inclined to take small steps to protect their water environments. I have also been helping BART to plan a new citizen science project which I am really excited about.”Thank you for all of your hard work Andrea!
Wildflower meadow planting
Meadows and grasslands were once an intrinsic part of British agriculture, bursting with colour and the hum of insects, but it has now been estimated that these important habitats have declined by over 97% since the 1930s, largely to our agricultural practices. Traditional farming practices would have had a mixture of different crops, permanent pasture land and meadows for hay that were cut and stored to feed the livestock over winter. Management followed an annual cycle of growing in spring and summer, cutting in late summer and grazing in winter. But the turning point came during the Second World War when six million acres of grassland were ploughed to grow cereals, starting the inevitable decline.
It is this decline that continues today as monoculture rises to keep up with food demand. Meadows are crucial habitats, supporting a myriad of insects from bees and beetles to grasshoppers and butterflies, which in turn support many small animals and birds. A meadow can contain up to 40 species per square metre – a diversity that few habitats in Britain can match. As well as supporting pollinating insects that are valuable for many food crops they help mitigate flooding by holding on to rain water and capture vast amounts of carbon. It is this worrying predicament that has driven BART to add to our river restoration works by incorporating wildflower meadow planting into appropriate project sites. Our SHRIMP Project site (you can find out more about this project here) was an excellent pilot for these works for a number of reasons, the main three being a lack of nutrient (fertilizer) input onto the field for several years (wildflowers thrive in low nutrient soils where they are not out-competed by grasses), evidence of wildflowers already establishing in certain areas and finally thoroughly helpful and supportive farmers (a huge thank you to the Smiths!). So, with the help of 2 teams of fantastic local volunteers we set off this weekend to plant over 400 metre squared of wildflower meadow – a mixture of seeds and plugs. It will be extremely interesting to watch these meadows develop over time and we already have a number of expert (and expert in training) volunteers who are on hand in the area to monitor plant life on site. Hopefully the start of lots more similar work into the future!
If you are interested in planting your own wildflower meadow, check out Plantlife and their great work with their ‘Save our Magnificent Meadows’ project for advice. Anyone can do it!
Thank you to our fantastic botanist volunteers, Plantlife and the Wildlife Trust for the advice, to the farmer for making this possible, to everyone who helped volunteer, and last but not least the local community and People’s Postcode Trust for funding these wildflowers.