"A Clear Future for our River"


Electrofishing surveys on the Wellow Brook

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, BART carried out electrofishing surveys on the Wellow Brook this summer.  The study was undertaken to provide part of a set of data being collected to monitor improvements made by the boulder weir removal (read more about this here) and also a number of in stream habitat improvements made following funding from the Environment Agency.

On 6th and 7th June 2017, BART worked with Five Rivers Environmental Contracting to conduct electrofishing surveys on the Wellow Brook between Stoney Littleton and Wellow.  Electrofishing is a fish surveying technique combining a mixture of electrical current with a known water conductivity to temporarily stun fish in order to measure and document the population and community fish statistics at a freshwater location.

The following fish were found during the survey:  Brown trout, European eel, Brook lamprey, Stone loach, Common bullhead, Minnow, 3 spined stickleback and 9 spined stickleback.  During the surveys, most fish were found at pinch points where both fish cover and flows increased significantly compared to otherwise straightened and canalised sections.  Recommendations were made to increase pinch points in these straightened sections of the river and introduce woody debris.  The findings of the electrofishing study were used to inform the river restoration works carried out by BART on the Wellow brook in September and October 2017. Read about the river restoration work to improve fish habitat here!


Bristol Avon Waterblitz – the results!

The results are in and the Bristol Avon Waterblitz is now over! This is the first year that BART have run the Waterblitz, and it was a great success with 176 water quality samples taken and a total of 375 people involved!

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Greggs Foundation, we worked in partnership with FreshWater Watch to get as many people as possible to take a water quality sample from their local river or stream. The water quality testing kits measured the concentration of nitrates and phosphates, which are naturally occuring chemicals in rivers and are essential for life, but in high concentrations caused by sources of human pollution they can degrade water quality and harm aquatic life.

We had a great response to the Waterblitz, with many volunteers keen to contribute and learn more about the quality of their local river. Samples were taken from all across the Bristol Avon catchment, and it was so interesting to find out how the concentration of nitrates and phosphates varies in different water bodies. The results collected will aid us in gaining a better understanding of the state of the river environment, and provide an evidence base for future work.


A Duke of Edinburgh group from Playwood Forest School getting involved with the monitoring

To view the summary of the results, including graphs, maps and statistics please click the links below:

Waterblitz results page 1

Waterblitz results page 2

To see the results on the Freshwater Watch interactive map, please follow the link below:

A big thank you to all of our volunteers, the results you have collected are invaluable in helping us determine the health and quality of the freshwater bodies within the Bristol Avon catchment.

We hope that all those who took part enjoyed sampling your local river, and found it interesting to learn more about water quality. If you would like to get more involved in protecting and monitoring the water environment, see the links below for more information:
– Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) – Riverfly monitoring and volunteering as a BART Beacon

Bristol Water and Wessex Water – Learn more about what you can do at home








Ecological surveying near Bath

Our Aquatic Ecologist, Jess, and Project Officer Harriet have been out on both the Corston and Newton Brook near Bath doing a variety of walkover surveys.

This will help us to gain more understanding of the issues facing these rivers, and identify opportunity areas for improvements. The surveys included habitat walkovers, water quality monitoring and macrophyte and invertebrate surveys.

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If you would like us to come and give advice on your section of river then please get in touch with our Project Officer Harriet at harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org


Riverfly Monitoring training 2017

As the Riverfly Hub for the Bristol Avon catchment, BART is responsible for recruiting and training new volunteers as Riverfly monitors. This is part of the Anglers Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) run by the Riverfly Partnership, which enables anglers and other interested groups and individuals to actively monitor and protect their local rivers. This is a national scheme, and the more people we have out monitoring our rivers, the more pollution incidents are identified and reported.

BART runs the training sessions during spring and early summer, and this year was no exception with alomst 50 new volunteers trained as monitors!

Taking a Riverfly sample from the River Chew

We ran training sessions in Lacock, Batheaston, Freshford and Chew Magna which were all booked up with keen volunteers, all very interested in looking after their local rivers and learning more about river invetebrate species.

Learning how to identify different river invertebrates

The ARMI monitoring technique involves volunteers taking 3-minute kick samples from the river bed each month, and recording the presence and abundance of eight pollution-sensitive invertebrate groups. The focus of the sampling is on ‘riverflies’ – mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. If invertebrate numbers drop below a ‘Trigger level’ (expected population abundances), the Environment Agency is notified so that the problem can be identified and action taken.

Monitors upload their results to the Riverfly database, and can track their surveys results over time. The Riverfly data held by each river group will also allow for long-term changes to be identified and will therefore help us to get a better understanding of invertebrate populations.

A sample of Heptageniidae

ARMI is already used widely in the UK as a ‘neighbourhood watch’ for rivers, practiced by anglers, community groups and individuals with an interest in their local river. It has proven effective in identifying pollution incidents and ensuring action is taken, and ensures that rivers are monitored more widely and more regularly than is possible for the Environment Agency to do alone.

A bunch of happy volunteers!

Thank you so much to everyone who volunteered and was trained as a Riverfly Monitor this year. We really appreciate your dedication and are really grateful for all the valuable data you record…keep it up!

Thanks to the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All programme for funding the 2017 training sessions.

Eel in the Classroom 2017

Following the huge success of our first Eel in the Classroom project last year, BART have embarked on the even greater challenge of delivering the project in 6 different schools across Bristol, Wiltshire, and Somerset.

The eels are safely in their tank

After being caught by elver fisherman, the elvers (young eels) were donated to UK Glass Eels in Gloucester. From there approximately 100 eels were installed into the tanks in each school. Each class of children will rear the European eels for the term, feeding them every day and learning about all aspects of their lives. At the end of the 5 weeks each school will have a release event, where the children will release the eels back into their local river.

They caused a lot of excitement!

Before the eels were brought into the schools, we had a lot of interesting and inventive guesses from the children as to what creatures would be going into the tanks set up in their classrooms. Ranging from whales to swimming chickens and self-juggling bananas, none of the children guessed that they would be looking after 100 elvers!

Once the elvers were in the tanks we had so many questions from the children, about the life cycle of the eels, where they are from and what they eat. Some of the more interesting questions included can eels talk to each other, and can eels cry? We are yet to find the answers!

European eels are amazing animals

The children will learn all about the fascinating life history of the eel, and the current issues they face causing them to be designated as a critically endangered species. Eels are thought to spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic ocean, before they float in their larval form on ocean currents towards Europe. Once they reach the freshwater estuaries around the coast, they morph into elvers and swim up into rivers where they spend up to 20 years living and feeding. Once they have grown and matured, they swim back to the Sargasso Sea where they lay their eggs.

The number of European eels which reach Europe has decreased by between 90 – 98% since the 1970’s, due to numerous factors all of which are human induced. Things like weirs, tidal gates and dams all act as barriers to migration as the eels swim up-river, and pollution, climate change, overfishing and habitat loss all have a negative impact on eel survival. Hopefully this project will inspire the children to take action for rivers in the future, not just for the survival of eels, but for the health of all wildlife which depends on the river and marine environment.

Lights, camera, action!

We even got a taste of stardom when we were joined by the BBC in St Andrew’s Primary School, Congresbury, who filmed some of the action for their 2017 series on wildlife in the Westcountry.

Thank you to Bristol Water for funding the eels and equipment, and to the Sustainable Eel Group and UK Glass Eels for their support. Watch this space to find out more about how the schools get on with their eels!