"A Clear Future for our River"

Projects

Somerset Frome Sediment Pathways project update

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, BART has been busy on the upper Somerset Frome since October working on our Diffuse Pollution Sediment Pathways Project. Sediment entering watercourses can have a detrimental effect on aquatic ecology, including fish and invertebrates.  This project has used predominantly field surveys to identify where sediment is entering watercourses in the upper Somerset Frome catchment and to determine the sources of this sediment.

The survey period of the project draws to a close at the end of March and we have so far visited 191 locations on the upper Somerset Frome looking for potential sediment pathways. Sediment pathways have been recorded at over 110 locations on the main river Frome and its tributaries including Redford Water, the Rodden Brook and the Marston Brook. At each location the source of the sediment pathway has been determined where possible and a diffuse pollution grade has been allocated to identify the severity of the pollution pathway.  Photo 1 shows an example of sediment entering the Rodden brook via a pipe during a wet weather event.

Pipe discharging into the Rodden Brook

Pipe discharging into the Rodden Brook

 

The most common, and sometimes very severe pollution pathways seen as part of this project have included poaching and trampling by cattle and horses (photo 2), muddy farm tracks, gateways and yards, maize grown to the edge of watercourses with very little buffer zone (photo 3), discharging pipes and road run off. The most severe pollution pathways have been re-visited during or shortly after heavy rain to collect further evidence.

 

Poaching and soil compaction

Poaching and soil compaction

 

Lack of maize buffer resulting in run-off into the Rodden Brook

Lack of buffer alongside a maize field resulting in run-off into the Rodden Brook

Alongside the field surveys the Somerset Frome project included a public engagement campaign to increase local awareness of the issues surrounding erosion risk and diffuse pollution and to build stronger relationships with the landowners surrounding the river Frome. As part of this work a farmers’ lunch was held on 9th March 2017 in the upper Frome area. This lunch brought together local farmers, BART and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) to discuss sediment pathway issues in the catchment and to encourage partnership work in the future.

Thank you to all interested individuals and organisations who have been involved in the project and sent in information to help us prioritise areas to visit. This work will be written up in April and the final report will include a diffuse pollution grade map and recommendations for future work so watch this space!

Our Wonderful Wellow Meeting

We pleased to be teaming up with Midsomer Norton Town Council on a project to improve the Wellow Brook.  This local initative aims to enchance the community conservation space along the Wellow Brook Walk, which will involve planting areas of wildflowers, constructing flow deflecting structures in the river to improve brown trout habitat and running river dipping and water quality sessions with local schools.

Come along to our talk in the Midsomer Norton Town Hall on Thursday 30th March at 7pm and find out more about our plans and give your ideas. Thanks to the People’s Postcode Lottery and the Postcode Local Trust for funding the Our Wonderful Wellow project.

Our Wonderful Wellow

Our Wonderful Wellow

 

BART’s ‘Our Wonderful Wellow’ project teams up with Midsomer Norton Town Council

We are pleased to be working with Midsomer Norton Town Council to improve the Wellow Brook, thanks to funding from Postcode Local Trust. The following article is from the Midsomer Norton Town Council Magazine and describes the work we will be getting up to in summer 2017!

 

Previous light coppicing work on the Wellow Brook

Previous light coppicing work on the Wellow Brook

 

Exciting new project at the Wellow Brook Walk

In the Winter 2016 edition of LIFE Magazine, we reported on plans to work with the Conservation Volunteers, a community volunteering charity and invited you to let us know if you were interested.  The response from the community was a little disappointing and then found out that the Green Gym initiative would not be able to support a scheme at the site.

We were not to be deterred however and we have now teamed up with Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) to launch a more local initiative at the site to implement our plans to create a community conservation space.

BART is a community led organisation which aims to deliver education, land and river management advice and practical river restoration work in the Bristol Avon catchment.  Through promoting an ecosystem-based approach, they aim to re-connect communities to their rivers and help river users and lovers better appreciate and improve their local rivers and streams.

We have already been discussing the possibilities for the site which include:

  • Continuing the construction of flow deflecting structures throughout the site to improve flow conditions for fish, including brown trout.  This would involve light coppicing at a 60:40 ratio of shade to light and the limbs and brash removed would be used to build the structures. As standard, these structures will be approved by the Environment Agency’s Flood Defence team.

  • Planting areas of wildflowers, probably in in late August on the sloped banks of the area.

  • Running river dipping & water quality sessions with local schools and possibly running a hibernaculum building session using the leftover wood and some pallets.

This would all contribute to the work that the Town Council has in hand to improve the footpaths, reduce the scrub which has encroached across a considerable area and rid the land of invasive and unwelcome species of plants.

To bring this together, the Town Council and BART have agreed to hold an evening forum in the Town Hall on Thursday 30th March at 7pm.  You are invited to come along discuss the project, river wildlife in general and express your views on the river and the Wellow Brook Walk as a whole.  Please also tell us about any improvements that you would like to see and anything else that you may want to bring up.

BART and the Town Council would like to create a ‘Friends of the Wellow’ group and this is an important first step to achieve that.  Come along and find out more on Thursday 30th March!

Volunteers building flow deflectors in the river channel

Volunteers building flow deflectors in the river channel

 

NEW 2017 Riverfly training sessions

Thanks to funding from Big Lottery Fund‘s Awards for All programme, BART are pleased to announce that we will be running 4 new Riverfly Partnership training sessions. These one day sessions will provide participants with the skills needed to monitor aquatic invertebrates on a monthly basis as indicators of water quality. More information available here: http://www.bristolavonriverstrust.org/what-we-do/riverfly_monitoring/

All sessions are free, will run from 10am-4pm and will be filled up on a first come, first served basis.

– Lacock, Wiltshire: 28th April
– Batheaston, Bath: 11th May
– Freshford, Somerset: 20th May
– Chew Magna, Somerset: 25th May

If you are interested in attending a session, please email harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org

 

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Celebrating #WorldWetlandsDay for the eel

This #WorldWetlandsDay, some of the BART Team will be spending the day at Steart Marshes in Somerset continuing a vitally important project to monitor population levels of the European eel in this important wetland. This 2 week project, led by Westcountry Rivers Trust and funded by the Environment Agency, will assess how the eel use the Steart as important feeding zones, life habitats or as part of their migratory route.

Opened in 2014, Steart Marshes is managed by the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and the Environment Agency and has been labelled as ‘a wild, wetland landscape for the future that helps people and wildlife adapt to climate change.’ Rising sea levels are predicted to completely flood thousands of hectares of saltmarsh and mudflats over the next 50 years. At some places, such as Steart Marshes, it is possible to realign the coastline, allowing vital new saltmarsh to form. As with all wetlands, the area provides habitat for a rich mix of wetland wildlife including otters, egrets, owls waders and wildfowl and its creeks are a nursery for the fry of important fish stocks. Not only this, but the habitat is a vital carbon storage area, absorbing tonnes of climate-polluting carbon as it matures.

We will update on the success of the project as it unfolds but we are pleased to have found the first evidence of eels using 2 different habitats within the site so far. We were joined in these findings by a familiar face from TV – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who came to learn more about Westcountry Rivers Trusts and BART’s conservation and research efforts. We look forward to seeing the plight of the eel on our screens in 2018 as part of Hugh’s new series exploring the Westcountry!

 

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Setting fyke nets in the managed intertidal habitat

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BART Project Officer Harriet meets Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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We got one! Hugh and Scott from Westcountry Rivers Trust admire a yellow eel found at Steart.