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‘Backroom BART’ update, BART CEO

By Ian Mock, BART CEO…

The above picture is a bit like Backroom BART at present. It is a time of year when Accounts and looming AGM’s cause you to have to take stock of what happened last year whilst also ensuring the foundations are laid for the next. It is also the tie of year when being ‘backroom’ is certainly not what you want to be.

Looking back for AGM purposes means signing off Accounts and reviewing the year through the lens of external stakeholders. Have we survived financially and have we delivered against targets set. Well, yes – we did in the end have a very strong year and I am hoping our accountant will agree with me. We also delivered on all our projects despite the awful Winter. There was a time when we worried that this might not happen but that seems to be the way of small charities and small businesses.

We also managed some ‘firsts’ during the year. Sadly, one was having to let an employee go. Apparently something that is not unusual in our sector where funding is not secure but very hard to do all the same. We also received our first commitment to a regular monthly donation. The fact that someone appreciates what we are trying to do to that extent is wonderful. We also received several donations for offering simple help and advice which again is extremely gratifying and a tribute to our team, including a kind £1000 donation from a community group. BART does not expect donations to be a great contributor to funds and to end the year with a donation from one community group we have supported came as a huge boost to morale.

Looking back and logging the events and people we have met and who have helped us, BART really would like to thanks supporters and funders alike for what turned out to be a near record year in the end.

A final look backwards:

BART Trustees again reviewed the work we carry out with the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and agreed we should continue to put effort into supporting the partnership in the year to come. Our ability to take part in more complex joint enterprises is vastly increased by our membership of the partnership and we look forward to helping shape future work whenever we can. We are so convinced that Partnership working is the way forward that BART have agreed to become Joint hosts of the Partnership this year.

Repeat business is the aim for most successful businesses. Working on a large estate to help create an inventory of actions to improve water quality and habitat led to a report – like many projects do. A wash up meeting attended by a nervous BART duo resulted in a commitment to £50k of improvements being implemented in the coming year. A delighted BART duo left the meeting looking forwards.

Looking forwards:

We have some incredibly exciting opportunities which we will share through the newsletter as they unfold. We will be

  • Restoring habitat on at least four locations
  • Removing some more boulder weirs and improving trout spawning areas
  • Continuing our eel in the classroom work
  • Working with teachers to improve GIS skills (and river catchment knowledge) in schools
  • Interviewing four new Trustees
  • Carrying out three Natural Flood Management projects
  • Undertaking some exciting eel monitoring
  • Delivering multiple fish passage feasibility studies

And that’s what we have planned so far, we are sure many new opportunities will arise.  Backroom BART is not a chicken counter but we have made a strong start to the year already.

Finally, most importantly at this time of year, Backroom BART has been walking the rivers – been wading chest deep in some and peering over bridges with team members, landowners and some very knowledgeable anglers. Sharing a love of rivers with others is infinitely more enjoyable than just being a solo carer. Showing my team barbel hovering below spawning beds in beautiful clear Spring sunshine and clear water a few weeks ago and hearing their excitement is perhaps my favourite event of the year so far. These beautiful fish literally held station in the strong flow with tiny fin movements whilst smaller fish were swept across the current dramatically. A stunning sight. Add this to multiple hare and dipper sightings and it has been a marvellous few weeks.

I hope you all get some time on our lovely rivers and streams this Spring and Summer – it really is important that BART and many others continue to work hard to look after them.

Thank you,

Ian Mock

BART CEO

The Bristol Avon Waterblitz returns!

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) is excited to announce the 2018 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz; a campaign to collect as many water quality samples as possible in a week from across the Bristol Avon Catchment, between Sat 23rd– and Fri 29th June 2018.

Our rivers are the central artery of the catchment with a fascinating history, beautiful scenery and stunning wildlife. Water quality in rivers across the country has been a key conservation issue over the last few decades and efforts to monitor and clean up our rivers mean that otters, kingfishers and water voles are all making comebacks on the banks of the Avon and its tributaries. However, water quality is still a massive challenge and BART need your help to fill the gaps in our knowledge.

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, BART is working in partnership with FreshWater Watch, a global programme developed by the environmental NGO, Earthwatch. This charity aims to connect people with science and nature, engaging people in citizen science to build up a wealth of research data collected by volunteers from all over the world.

BART is asking individuals and community groups to take part in the WaterBlitz this year and help to collect as many water quality samples as possible (last year we had 376 people involved!) within the Bristol Avon catchment, including Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North East Somerset.

The Bristol Avon Catchment

Using the free and simple to use water testing kit, volunteers can sample their chosen river or stream in the Bristol Avon catchment and upload the results to the FreshWater Watch website to compare the water quality level to other sites on an interactive results map.

To register and take part this year please follow the link below to sign up and you will then receive a free water quality sampling pack in the post.  Sampling kits are limited so please register by Friday 15th to ensure you can participate: https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/group/bristol-avon-blitz

If you have any questions or queries about the 2018 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz please contact Alec at alec@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Thank you for helping to improve the water environment in the Bristol Avon for future generations!

BART welcomes new team members

We have had a very exciting few weeks as an increasing workload has meant that we have able to take on two new recruits, Alec Richardson as Education and Community Officer and Simon Hunter as a Project Manager!

 

Alec Richardson has spent nine year as a Secondary School Science teacher working in a variety of education and leadership roles in the State Sector. More recently he has been employed in Water Quality and Environmental Management at Bristol Water on a range of projects. As a graduate in Ecology, riverboat captain and former volunteer with BART he has passion for improving our river systems and the natural environment. Alec joins our team as Education & Community Officer.

 

Simon has a BSc Geography and MPhil with a strong focus on Applied Fluvial Geomorphology and Ecosystem Services. Simon has spent his career to date developing and delivering river, wetland and coastal restoration throughout the UK and overseas for various design and build consultancies. Simon has developed a comprehensive multi-disciplinary understanding across various disciplines including fluvial geomorphology, bio-engineering, land drainage, flood-risk, fisheries, local habitat requirements, protected species and designated sites. Simon is a Project Manager for BART, leading the development, funding and implementation of BART projects including technical restoration design for catchment-wide enhancement measures – starting on our ongoing Wellow and Cam initiative.

 

You can read more about the rest of the team here.

Welcome to our new team members, we look forward to working with you to delivering a greater number of river restoration projects into the future!

River Marden 2018 fisheries improvements

Project background

In 2017, Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) applied to the Environment Agency’s ‘Fisheries Improvement Fund’ following a walkover survey of the entire length of the river and several small improvement projects over recent years.

The River Marden rises in Calstone Wellington, Wiltshire and runs through the town of Calne, then
through pasture and villages before joining the Bristol Avon to the north east of Chippenham. Water
Framework Directive (WFD) status along the river varies between Good and Moderate (in the lower
catchment). The river has a number of issues along its length that are resulting in the degradation of
both water quality and fisheries habitat. These include river impoundment and fish passage
restrictions by weirs, as well as the historic straightening of large sections of river.

The objective of this project was to contribute to addressing some the main issues affecting the river.

 

2017-2018 Improvement works

Weir fish passage feasibility studies

The River Marden is predominantly a coarse fishery (notably roach, dace, chub, perch, pike, bream,
barbel, bleak and gudgeon) though wild brown trout are found in large numbers throughout the
river. There are a number of obstructions along the river which impact on the movement of fish and
also the quality of habitat upstream of the obstruction i.e. the creation of a silted bed substrate and
impounded flow conditions.

BART identified three weirs; Moses Weir, Stanley Weir and an unnamed bedrock weir where fish passage and, if feasible, upstream riverine habitat improvements following the weir removals, would gain significant benefits for the river. Hydro-Morph Ltd was commissioned by BART to undertake an initial site visit and pre-feasibility investigation of possible options for improving fish passage and upstream habitat at each structure. These reports have been completed and provided to the Environment Agency Fisheries and Biodiversity team.

 

In-stream habitat improvement works

This element of the project worked on an overshaded and straightened section of the river
downstream of Chilvester Hill, Calne. Low cost improvements were delivered here including coppicing to re-instate a 60:40 ratio of shade to light. In-stream wooden flow deflectors were
constructed from bankside materials to help re-meander the river within it’s straightened banks.

In total BART constructed 11 structures, which will have a variety of benefits including increased
flow diversity, cleaner spawning gravels and providing enhanced fish cover for fry and adult fish. We
are looking forward to seeing how these structures develop as similar structures we have built on
the river in Calne have been very well received and had an almost immediate impact on the river
and the sport provided. The Marden is a relatively spatey river so we anticipate that the structures
will be well hidden by silt accumulation in a year and will form part of a newly meandering bankside
within 2-3 years. We will continue to monitor the progress of these structures as this occurs.

 

Figure 1. A ‘pinch point’ created with a wooden berm which will encourage flows to scour the gravels, flushing out silt and improving fish spawning potential.

 

Figure 2. Alternate berms constructed to re-form a meander within the banks of this straightened section.

 

Boulder weir removal

BART’s survey work on the Marden identified two boulder weirs immediately above the confluence
of the river with the Bristol Avon at Chippenham. The weirs presented a barrier for smaller, weak
swimming species as they were only passable in high flow conditions. The lower sections of the
Marden have important spawning gravels and increasing access to these will help gravel spawning
species increase recruitment. The lower Marden also acts as an important refuge when the main
river is in spate. The weirs were also contributing to silt build up in the stretch of river above them
which was having an adverse effect on fish spawning as the riverbed gravels had become smothered
in sediment.

The two boulder weirs were removed as part of this project and the once uniform deeper section of
river with slow flows, is now shallower with riffles, exposed gravel bars and less silt deposition
creating new potential spawning grounds. BART will now leave the stretch to adjust to the new
conditions for a year before reassessing whether there is a need for any follow up habitat work.

 

Figure 3. Before and after – removal of one of the boulder weirs.

Thanks to all of our fantastic volunteers for their help with this project, to the landowner, land agent and tenant farmer for their help and enthusiasm and of course to the Environment Agency for funding these works. A huge thank you also to Wroughton Angling Club and Calne Angling Club, without whom this project would not be possible. We are looking forward to continuing to improve the Marden!

New BART/University research students

BART are pleased to welcome our newest University research students this month from the University of Bristol who will be continuing our water quality monitoring along tributaries of the Bristol Frome, this time looking at potential urban sources!:

“We are from the University of Bristol, School of Geographical Sciences currently studying towards our BSc in Geography. We are working in partnership with Bristol Avon Rivers Trust to assess for pollution levels from the two brooks running from separate neighbouring housing estates. During this research we will be implementing various different techniques and procedures in order to collect the data required to research this aim and test it effectively.”

Thank you and we are looking forward to seeing your results!