"A Clear Future for our River"

Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Bristol Avon – our Blue Planet

From where we are sat in the centre of Bristol or the more rural areas of the Bristol Avon Catchment, we rarely consider how our livelihoods and environments are linked to the sea. But in reality, our everyday actions have a direct impact on the health of our oceans, and a key part of this link is our rivers.

Rivers are a major pathway for plastic waste, washed into rivers from land during heavy rainfall events before flowing into the sea. In fact, it was reported that ‘just 10 rivers carry 90% of the plastic polluting our oceans’. This problem is not limited to developing countries and is ongoing in British waterways. Rivers are also suffering the same issues with plastic waste as we see on ocean awareness programmes such as the fantastic Blue Planet.

Plastic waste in the River Thames (Credit: Steve Taylor ARPS/Alamy Stock Photo)

Not only this, but toxins that run off from land, from urban and agricultural sources, bind to plastics in the ocean.  It is now well known that these various sized plastics are ingested by a range of organisms from plankton, to fish and birds and cetaceans. These toxins prefer to bind to fatty layers than plastics so enter the bodies of those that ingest them. In this way, these toxins enter the food chain and accumulate in larger animals such as the fish that we eat, posing a real threat to human health.

So how can you help?

Well, we have the potential to stop ocean waste at its source – by preventing waste from getting into our rivers and therefore into our oceans. BART run a number of riverbank litter picks throughout the year, so keep an eye on our volunteering page to get involved with these. We have also produced a guidance pack to help community groups to run their own litter picks, including risk assessments, blank posters and how to dispose of waste collected that we are happy to share (contact harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org). There are some other really great organisations out there that are running litter picks in your area, such as local ‘Friends of’ groups and organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage. We are happy to help you find local groups you can get involved with, just get in touch! Or how about starting your own?

However, the best approach is to reduce the amount of single use plastics that we are using, for example using reusable cups, bags and other containers and buying from local shops such as greengrocers where you can purchase loose vegetables that are not in plastic packaging. We love the great Refill Bristol scheme started by City to Sea that is now going national and encourages business owners to put up stickers promoting that they are happy to fill up refillable bottles!

So, in summary, looking after our rivers is a fundamental step in protecting our oceans!



Backroom BART

Want to know more about the behind the scenes work that goes on at BART? Well keep reading to learn more about our work in the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and how this shapes our projects!

The Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership is part of a national network of partnerships attempting to show that working together will deliver more for our watery environment than working in isolation. Working in partnership is hard.  It is rarely the case that everyone has the same priorities and partners are certainly not all “equal”. Some are huge and are driven by regulation – others are tiny such as BART and are driven by passion. Sadly many important partners simply cannot find the time to get involved. The partnership has no legal authority and operates within existing regulations, we simply believe that we can achieve more together, and BART certainly feel that by taking part we are going in the right direction.

Current priorities are to turn the very laudable aims to improve our rivers contained  within the Bristol Avon Catchment Plan into real action. This is extremely hard work, not least because it is pointless creating a plan that will not be supported or financed, and in an economy seemingly inexorably driven by a “jobs and growth” agenda all partners already have stretching business as usual objectives which often vie against each other for funds. The partnership strives to overcome this by identifying how these business objectives can become pillars around which multiple benefit projects can be built – hopefully attracting new investment towards improvement for our rivers and the watery environment.

You will have seen the headlines about local cities and towns being stretched to the limit with budget cuts, this is also true of the agencies tasked with looking after our environment. The net result is that rivers and the riverside environment is often at the end of a long queue when seeking funds to protect these fragile and degrading environments. If you are wondering how you can help please read on!

There is a huge amount of change taking place within our catchments caused by the “jobs and growth” agenda and the need for house building. These changes will affect all of us and of course our rivers and streams, and BART believe it is vital that the public play a part in shaping what happens to our rivers whenever there is an opportunity. It is by commenting on local plans and the many consultations currently taking place (e.g. as currently in Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire) that public views can help shape these changes and protect our rivers.  Getting involved can help inform decision makers that you value your local river environment. Please take the time to do this if you possibly can.

In case you do wish to comment on local plans – whenever you see the word environment it pays to clarify that it is the river you want protected and improved. In too many cases our river environments are negatively affected and mitigation is made in an indirect way. The rivers we have in our catchment cannot be replaced by offsetting elsewhere – they are the only ones we have. We support any environmental improvement but not at the expense of our rivers!

During the coming year our business plans – such as they are for a small charity – include spending up to 20% of our time on activities that you will rarely see on our Facebook pages or this newsletter. These activities include helping to influence the plans the Catchment Partnership and Environment Agency are making, responding to consultations and working with communities to help them look after their valued blue spaces, as well as championing the wildlife that exists underneath the surface of our rivers and along their banksides. None of this is attractive and interesting enough for our funders and therefore we fund it ourselves. If you think this is valuable work BART would very much appreciate hearing from you – donations, volunteer time or even just a letter of support are all welcome. We are also looking for very special volunteers – Trustees – so if you think you have the skills or business contacts to help BART and our rivers to manage an uncertain future please contact ian@bristolavonriverstrust.org

If you read this before Christmas have a good one – otherwise enjoy your New Year!


The Magnificent Marden Project continues to grow

BART have been working to improve the River Marden in Calne for a number of years now. To date, this has included in-stream habitat works, local engagement with presentations, education sessions (such as river dipping with the local Scouts Group) and Riverfly monitoring training.

Calne scouts out river dipping in the River Marden in 2016.

Whilst all of these activities have been occurring, we have been working in the background to get together a river Catchment plan for the River Marden by doing a series of walkover surveys and landowner/leaseholder meetings along the length of the river. As a result, we have a number of improvement areas that we will be searching for funding for over the coming years.

We are pleased to announce that a number of these improvement areas will be ticked off as we have secured funding from the Environment Agency’s Fisheries Improvement Fund, which comes from the sales of rod licences and goes directly into capital improvements in our rivers of angling interest – another great reason to make sure you have a rod licence before you go out fishing, the other one being bailiffs!

This project (which will hopefully be Phase 1 of several) will include the following actions:

  • The removal of two boulder weirs which are impounding the river, resulting in reduced flow diversity and silt accumulation on substrates.
  • Coppicing of a large section of overshaded, canopied river.
  • In-stream woody habitat works to increase flow, habitat and depth diversity in a straightened section of the river.
  • Initial fish passage investigations for two barriers to migration.

One of the impounding weirs

We will keep you updated as this project continues!

We would also like to thank the individuals who have recently reported local concerns regarding river health to us as well as the community groups who have recently met with us to discuss sourcing funds for future improvement options.

If you have any questions or would like to help out to improve the Magnificent Marden with either volunteer time or sourcing funding, please get in touch with BART Project Manager on harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Thank you volunteers!

In 2017 our wonderful volunteers contributed 4226.5 hours to BART to help restore and protect our rivers!

We would like to say a huge thank you to every single one of our volunteers, we couldn’t achieve half as much without your support. In total 826 people from across the Bristol Avon catchment got involved with our projects ranging from research, practical river habitat improvements and education.

If you would like to volunteer with us in the future please keep an eye on our website volunteering page, where you’ll find a summary of opportunities and our events calendar (www.bristolavonriverstrust.org/who-we-are/rivers_trust_supporters/).  On this page you’ll also find information on volunteering as a BART Beacon, where you can sign up to be the eyes and ears on a section of river local to you. We are building a network of beacons across our catchment so that we can keep an eye on as many rivers as possible!

Once again a huge thank you and well done to everyone who volunteered with us this year, we look forward to seeing you again in 2018!

Walkover surveys find room for improvement!

BART have been very busy recently, travelling all over the catchment doing walkover surveys and writing advisory reports for river improvement projects including the Corston, Newton, and Nunney Brooks and the River Somer. Jess, our Aquatic Scientist, has found many issues on the Nunney Brook including channel straightening and re-enforced banks which means there is limited bankside and in-stream habitat. She also found sections of the brook were overly deepened, sluggish, full of sediment and heavily shaded, preventing light from reaching the channel. These factors will reduce water quality and productivity in the channel, suppressing invertebrate populations due to lack of habitat and food sources which in turn reduces populations of other river wildlife.

Over-deepend, straightened and channelised section of the Nunney Brook

More survey work took us to a section of the River Avon near Sherston, Wiltshire, where we spent a beautiful evening assessing numbers of spawning Brown trout. We marked the locations of ‘redds’, which are depressions dug by the Brown trout into which they lay their eggs. This survey followed concerns of reduced numbers of the fish each year along with lower water levels. We are planning to put in some woody debris structures here next year to increase the diversity in water depth and flow, which will also help to scour the riverbed gravels of sediment which can smother the fish eggs and reduce spawning success.  To best position the woody debris structures to give the greatest benefit we are going to be monitoring locations of the redds over the winter.

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A beautiful evening for survey work!