"A Clear Future for our River"

Projects

Bristol Avon WaterBlitz 2017

BART are excited to announce the 2017 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz, a campaign to collect as many water quality samples as possible in one week from the Bristol Avon and its tributaries. Taking place from 10th – 16th June to coincide with the festival of nature, the project will gain an invaluable snapshot of the health of our rivers that will help to direct future conservation efforts.

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Greggs Foundation, BART is working in partnership with FreshWater Watch, a global citizen science programme developed by the environmental NGO, Earthwatch Institute. BART are asking individuals and community groups to take part and help to collect at least 250 water quality samples within the Bristol Avon catchment, including Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North East Somerset. Participants will use simple colour dip tests to determine the concentration of phosphates and nitrates in the rivers, which are naturally occurring chemicals but can be increased by man-made pollution. In high concentrations these chemicals affect the water quality, degrading river ecosystems and harming the widlife which relies on the river. The data collected during the Bristol Avon WaterBlitz will be used by in Earthwatch research into the state of the world’s freshwater systems and by BART to plan local improvements.

Using the free water quality test is quick and easy to do, and all volunteers have to do is sample their chosen river or stream in the Bristol Avon catchment and upload the results to the Freshwater Watch website. On the website you can compare the water quality in your sample to other sites on an interactive results map.

BART are encouraging people to show us how they’re getting involved during the WaterBlitz week by sharing a picture or video of you sampling on Twitter using #BAWaterBlitz.

To sign up as a monitor, volunteers must register by Friday 2nd June using the the following link:

https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/group/bristol-avon-blitz

You will then be sent your free water sampling kit by post. Please contact claire@bristolavonriverstrust.org with any questions.

 

Midsomer Norton disussion evening

We had a successful evening in Midsomer Norton  with the Town Council and local community discussing our new Our Wonderful Wellow project. The event in Midsomer Norton Town Hall was arranged to give the community a chance to learn about BART’s plans for conservation work  along the Wellow Brook walk, which will involve planting wildflowers, constructing flow deflecting structures in the river to improve brown trout habitat and running river dipping and water quality sessions with local schools.

Community discussion

Councillor Paul Myers opened the talk, which was also attended by Town Councillor Clive Stiwell and approximately 40 members of the community. The community gave their input and ideas for the river improvements they wanted to see, which included reducing litter and running Himalayan Balsam bashes to control the spread of the plant. Setting up a Friends of the Wellow group was also a popular point of discussion, which had a hugely positive response from the community.

Councillor Paul Myers opening the talk

 

Thanks to Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Postcode Local Trust for funding the Our Wonderful Wellow project.

Chew Magna primary school – river explorers!

Thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All programme, BART spent the day with some very excited children from Chew Magna Primary School. The children couldn’t wait to get stuck in and find out which invetebrates were hiding beneath the waterline of their local river. Armed with nets and trays, the children learned how to take kick-samples from a small tributary of the River Chew and examined what they had found back in the classroom.

Learning how to take kick samples

 

Hunting for minibeasts

The children found a wealth of invetebrates, including burrowing mayflies, freshwater shrimps and cased caddies flies. They also learnt why it is important to know the range of species within our rivers, as it helps us to measure the health and quality of the river. The children were so excited to find so much life in their local stream! Hopefully this will spark the childrens’ interest in the environment, and encourage them to be the next generation of conservationists!

Using ID guides to identify invetebrates

 

Learning about the importance of healthy rivers

This work is part of a wider project – the Beneath the Waterline: Minibeast Citizen Science Project. As well as providing river dipping sessions all over the Bristol Avon catchment, through this project we will train more people as Riverfly monitors. Riverfly monitors are volunteers who take monthly samples from their local river and identify the invetebrates they find in order to determine river health. This helps to reveal any water quality issues before they become a severe problem. We are hoping to expand our network of volunteers who provide us with such valuable information by regularly monitoring the rivers in the Bristol Avon catchment. For more information about our Riverly monitors please click here.

Extending the ‘Our Wonderful Wellow’ project

BART are proud to announce that we are extending the ‘Our Wonderful Wellow’ project to include the area of river by Stoney Littleton, Wiltshire. This project will involve a program of coppicing to let light into the currently overshaded river channel,  which is affecting the productivity of the river. Opening up views into the river which will also increase public access and enjoyment, and make spotting issues, such as pollution events, much easier.

The Wellow Brook

                   The Wellow Brook

The wood taken from the coppicing will be used to construct brushwood berms and flow deflectors in the channel, which will increase the river flow speed, especially in low summer flow. The wooden structures will concentrate the flow helping to scour sediment off the gravels on the riverbed. The current overwidened and overstraightened channel allows sediment to accumulate on the riverbed gravel, which smothers fish eggs, invertebrates and plants. The sediment will collect on the structures creating areas of slower flow, increasing habitat diversity.

These berms will also act as access points to improve fishing for members of the Wellow Fly Fishers. Improving access for anglers is important as they act as ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground, reporting water quality and habitat issues. We will also carry out electrofishing surveys to assess existing fish populations, as well as macro-invertebrate surveys. Data collected from these surveys will be used as part of a longer term plan that BART aims to put together for the Wellow Brook, in conjunction with the Wild Trout Trust, to ensure a joined up approach to improving the river corridor.

Thanks to the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership for funding this project.

BA Catchment Partnership

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!