"A Clear Future for our River"

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Can you offer us ‘Bags of Help’?

BOH logo BART are delighted to have been selected be a recipient of the Tesco Bags of Help initiative to continue our habitat enhancement works on the River Marden in Calne, Wiltshire!

Tesco has teamed up with Groundwork to launch its Bags of Help initiative across England and Wales. The scheme will see three community groups and projects awarded grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag charge. However much we receive is up to you – the voters – so if you like what we do, then please give us your vote! The more funds we receive, the more improvements we can make and the closer we can get to improving the whole of the Magnificent Marden for people and wildlife.

Bags of Help offers community groups and projects in each of Tesco’s 390 regions across the UK a share of revenue generated from the five pence charge levied on single-use carrier bags.

Voting will take place from 27 February until 6 March in the following stores:


For more information about the initiative, please visit www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp

Before and after: habitat enhancement works on the River Marden

                                       An example of previous improvements to flow conditions on the River Marden



Magnificent Marden Project – End of Phase 1


The River Marden by local resident Richard Loveday

The River Marden by local resident Richard Loveday

The Magnificent Marden Project (Phase 1) was an initiative to restore a popular section of the River Marden through Castlefields Park, Calne, that was suffering from various anthropogenic impacts. Overwidening and straightening of the river, bank erosion and impoundment had led to the smothering of substrates essential for invertebrates and trout spawning.11 flow deflector and brushwood berm structures were constructed by BART over 8 days, thanks to Environment Agency and Wessex Water funding. These have shown immediate benefits in flow conditions with new riffles and pinch points created throughout the stretch of river, all of which will help to scour gravels and flush out silt. We have also noted a dipper, wagtail, moorhens and ducks using the structures, likely because they provide helpful resting places and sources of invertebrates.


Before and after: habitat enhancement works on the River Marden
Before and after: habitat enhancement works on the River Marden


A program of coppicing was also conducted along the whole of the stretch of river through Castlefields Park. This will increase the productivity of the river, notably Ranunculus populations that are present in the less-shaded upper reaches of the river. We have several local residents who will be keeping an eye on the distribution of this macrophyte, a valuable habitat for brown trout and invertebrates, and we hope to see it extending into the project stretch. Furthermore, opening up the river will allow for increased community engagement with the river, which we hope will increase recreation within the area as well as reducing the occurrence of litter (a significant problem in the town and river).

Whilst working in the river, we became aware of a number of misconnection issues in the form of large flows of sewage (including sanitary waste) and detergent. These came in dry conditions so it is unlikely that these are the result of Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) discharges, which would also have filtered any sanitary waste before it entered the river. We believe that this issue is an ongoing one and is therefore a significant problem within the river and one that needs to be addressed. This issue is being followed up with Wessex Water’s misconnection team and The Environment Agency field monitoring team (some of which were present as pollution incidents took place) have taken a note for consideration in future sampling. Our coppicing of the river will aid in the visibility of pollution events as the river has been opened up to passers-by. When combined with the pollution spotter guides that we have distributed amongst locals and put up on park noticeboards, we hope that this will lead to a rise in reported incidents to the Environment Agency, so that the scale of the issue can be made clearer.

Sewage pollution entering the River Marden
Sewage pollution entering the River Marden

BART are extremely grateful for the support and interest we have received during this project from Calne Town Council, Castlefields Canal and River Park (CARP) Association, Calne Angling Club, Calne Wildlife and local residents. We would not have delivered such a successful project if it wasn’t for your hard work and enthusiasm. In fact, a total of 54 volunteers contributed 342 in-kind hours to this phase of the Magnificent Marden Project!

Two Riverfly sites are in the process of being set up in the project stretch, following training by BART at the end of 2015. These sites will be invaluable in assessing long term population changes in macroinvertebrate populations within the river. We hope to see improvements to population diversities in previous samples as a result of our works.

Angler feedback

“As for the Castlefields’ structures, they have become the preferred habitat where the increased flow has created beeper pools and shifted the silt. I had nine fish from just below the second lot of deflectors where an existing pool has now been washed clean and deep. Weed growth is already evident, and the structures are silting up nicely and already have reeds coming through. The willow pegs are budding too.”


This isn’t the end!

BART are already looking for funding to continue works on the River Marden. BART’s aim is to deliver improvements to all 11 km of the river through coppicing, in-stream improvements, barrier removal and farm improvements. This would then allow the river to be used as a model example of what can be achieved by a river catchment based approach. BART are also looking for funding to run a river education programme with local schools and community groups. This programme includes pollution education, such as the Yellowfish project, as well as hands-on aquatic wildlife learning, such as ‘Trout in the Town’ and river-dipping sessions.


Glass Eel Citizen Science Project


The eel is a critically endangered species, more endangered than the snow leopard and the tiger. Bristol is one of the leading European forces in saving the eel.  


As part of their ongoing commitments to deliver alternative measures under the National Environment Programme, Bristol Water have teamed up with Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) to trial a unique glass eel monitoring programme.


The Eel is a red list endangered species and through its extraordinary life cycle it migrates across the Atlantic to live in our rivers and lakes, where if grows for decades before making the return journey to spawn. Throughout its epic journey it faces a number of threats, such as barriers in the form of weirs and dams, over exploitation and a distinct loss of wetland habitats.


The aim of this study is to trial a new monitoring methodology samples glass eels (eels that have just reached our coastal waters and have yet to develop pigmentation) at coastal “pinch points”. These pinch point sites are areas where the eels will gather to ascend a barrier or tidal confluence, such as tidal flood gates, weirs, etc.  The young eels are attracted to the fresh water outputs and big tides bring them up the rivers searching out a home where they develop for many years.


The new methods involve a vertical drop net, otherwise known as the ballerina Skirt net, that provides refuge for eels while they wait out the tide to access their new habitats, the net bundle is lowered into position and checked regularly through a tidal period, and once high tide is reached the eels will likely continue upstream and leave the refuge of the nets. We will be out of the River Axe on Thursday 11 February using the equipment for the first time.


This monitoring effort has a number of aims; to gather data on an important life history stage which we don’t know a great deal about, to help provide information for rivers where we know eels access but don’t have the data on numbers, to “re-stock” the captured eels over the nearest barrier as a conservation effort and finally to unite volunteers in a large scale citizen science programme.


This first stage is focused on trialling the sample efforts and will be undertaken on the Rivers Axe and Pill (Bristol Avon) in Somerset with the expectation that what we learn can be applied to other rivers and tributaries in the Bristol water catchment area.


Scott West, Fisheries Scientist, from WRT said:

“This is such a fantastic opportunity, not only to gather some much needed data on juvenile eel stocks but to also help steer other eel conservation projects like fish passage solutions or habitat improvements, especially in a time of limited resources. In addition we can develop this work to involve volunteers, people in our community that care about the health of our rivers and want to make a difference”


Sophie Edwards, Environment Strategy Manager, from Bristol Water said:

“Our commitment to deliver alternative measures under the National Environment Programme means we can back innovative schemes, such as the Glass Eel Citizen Science project. This project engages volunteers to collect meaningful data on elver migration, to improve understanding of the pressures facing the European Eel. It is fantastic to partner with Westcountry Rivers Trust and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust, who have outstanding expertise in this field of work. We also have support from local elvermen, whose knowledge, enthusiasm and experience is fundamental to the success of this project.”


Finally, this project has become part of the “World Fish Migration day”  and will be showcased as a UK conservation effort alongside other important projects.

New Catchment Plan launched for the Bristol Avon

BA Catchment PartnershipBART are pleased to announce that The Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, with whom BART are a member, have launched a comprehensive plan for improving our water environment.

The new plan has identified four priority issues that need addressing to improve the health of the river environment:
•Phosphorus (water quality issues)
•Sediments (water quality/water quantity issues)
•Degradation of habitats (ecological)
•Flooding/low flows
The plan sets out what actions need to be undertaken to address these issues. Visit www.bristolavoncatchment.co.uk to find out more and to view a copy of the Catchment Plan .