"A Clear Future for our River"

Projects

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!

Eel surveying on Blagdon Lake

Back in October we worked with West Country Rivers Trust and Bristol Water to begin an eel escarpment study on Blagdon Lake reservoir in Somerset. It was a week of stunning autumnal mornings, so it was a treat to get out on the lake with beautiful views across the misty waters.

The first part of this study investigated the population of the critically endangered European Eel in Blagdon Lake reservoir to see how many eels enter and leave it as they migrate upstream from the sea. This is a crucial part of their life cycle as the eels migrate from where they are born in the Sargasso Sea, across the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Europe. From here they travel into estuaries and upstream into rivers where they can spend between 5-20 years feeding and maturing until they are ready to migrate back downstream to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. Barriers to migration are one of the main challenges that eels face, which is why this study is so important as it will show whether the eels are able to survive in the lake and eventually exit it as they migrate back downstream.

Fyke netting

We used Fyke nets to fish for the eels overnight, which trap the eels as they swim into them. The nets do not harm the eels in any way, but simply prevent them from escaping until we come in the morning to count and measure them.  Measuring the size of the eels will help us to age them, which is important to know as it tells us the stage of their life cycle. This project will help us to find the best ways to help this endangered species, so watch this space for more eel related research!

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Working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Here at BART we like to give other ‘watery’ organisations a helping hand, so we spent a couple of weeks with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Water Team to help out with some of their river restoration work. We worked near Salisbury on the River Bourne, the River Nadder and the River Avon, installing woody debris to improve habitat and channel sinuosity in over-widened and over-straightened channels.

 

In some places there was no in-stream habitat available at all for invertebrates and fish, shown in the photo above, where a concrete wall has been used on one side of the channel. Installing woody material at the base of the wall will help to reduce erosion and protect the bank, provide shelter for small fish and help to trap any suspended sediment in the water column to prevent it settling and smothering the riverbed gravel.

We also carried out bank improvements in places where the river was beginning to erode a public footpath. Using the technique of hazel weaving shown above, we constructed a natural bank protection feature which was then back-filled to create a much wider bank, safer footpath and prevent further erosion.

Thanks to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for having us along, it’s amazing to see how much we can achieve by working together with the support of a great team of volunteers, we couldn’t have done it without them!

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