Had a great visit to and discussion around Shipley weir recently. Stephen Bottoms (who organised it all) has done a great blog post here. Also, do go and check out the rest of the "multi-story-shipley" website. It is great and a perfect example of a central theme to the Trout in the Town project - local communities' relationships with their urban waterways:
You'll find explanatory text on the site about Stephen's great short film (below) on Bradford Beck...a stream we've featured a few times on the Trout in the Town Blog and you can use the search function to find those too :)
You can always have too much or too little of a good thing. When it comes to revetments (re-inforcements) of river-banks; there are a whole host of pitfalls.
On the one hand, many sections of river suffer from excessive grazing of the land surrounding them that leads to a dramatic reduction in the variety of bugs, plants as well as fish populations that can be supported. In addition, many rivers that run through towns and cities often pass through quite intensively used land upstream of urban reaches. The excessive inputs of fine silt and sand where bank-erosion is rampant and extensive often end up being accumulated in the engineered sections of channels in towns and cities. As well as causing maintenance problems,this can smother what may, otherwise, be perfectly good spawning gravel.
Conversely, where efforts to "lock" a river channel in one place are over-zealous; the result will be the strangulation of supply of spawning gravels and a variety of cobbles and other river…
The WTT borrowed the fabulous Emriver kit from Severn Rivers Trust during the 2013 CLA gamefair. It allowed us to set up a whole range of common river-channel scenarios in an accurate scaled-down simulation. Dredging was one of the things we modelled:
Dredging river-bed material is something that is of particular relevance to the urban/heavily-modified channel environment. As is so often the case with rivers, what seems like the obvious and correct thing to do can actually blow up in your face (or someone else's face several miles up or downstream!).
Just as intriguing are the potential knock-on impacts of ad-hoc dredging in rural environments in an effort to increase the capacity to drain land...
Nature abhors a vacuum and removing accumulated material from a river channel can have far-reaching and unintended consequences. The first principle effect is to increase the demand for eroded river-bed and river-bank material from upstream. This can dramatically increase the rate of ero…
The Wild Trout Trust very gratefully benefited from the generous loan of Severn Rivers Trust's "Emriver" at this year's CLA gamefair. As well as proving to be a great way to engage game fair attendees of all ages, it provided a fantastic opportunity to accurately simulate many scenarios that we routinely encounter in our river habitat works. This first video introduces some of the basics - and shows the effect of two common habitat installation techniques: marginal brash and log flow-deflectors.
There will be a series of short videos that follow this first introductory piece. Each subsequent film will look at specific scenarios and model their outcomes - which are often highly unexpected unless you have quite a lot of existing experience with geomorphology...
Met with Phil Williams last week to chat through the questions he had for me about the Trout in the Town project. Phil has now put his interview up on his website; and it is available to listen to below:
Shaun Leonard gave a huge amount of masterclass training over both days of the Urban Conclave - enabling attendees to benefit from just a small part of his extensive experience in decoding the secrets of the lives (and sometimes deaths) of fish just using visual examination of small samples under a microscope.
Combining the Trout in the Town friendly competition monitoring methods with training in scale sampling (which does not harm the fish)provides anyone who cares about an urban (or rural!) river with a wonderful tool for understanding the fish populations in their river.
For instance, the picture at the top of this blog entry gives a clue to why one of the most commonly-heard myths about taking large fish for the table is completely wrong...
Just by way of explanation, the picture shows a trout scale under a microscope. The scale was taken from the fish (caught and released by the WTT's Gareth Pedley from the river Tweed) in the photograph below:
Another of the MANY great talks that the participants in the 2013 Urban River Champions Conclave benefited from was Professor Lerner's account of how the Aire Rivers Trust has set up the plan for the restoration of Bradford Beck.
I felt that it was important to set up the whole Conclave by bracketing the subject of Resilience with two talks; the first of which was Phil Sheridan's deeply personal and incredibly inspirational dissection of the qualities of resilience that we encounter (and require) during each of our "lived experiences". The second key talk was very deliberately designed to expose the bare nuts and bolts of a highly structured series of practical solutions to many of the problems that Trout in the Town groups routinely encounter. In other words, the second talk offered one possible "route map" of how to turn the inspiration and personal resilience identified and instilled by Phil's talk into a series of effective an efficient actions.
Friends of Bradford Beck have taken a simple but profound step in replacing the series of signs that were first erected in the 1970s. The signs previously warned people to stay away from the dangerously polluted waters. Now that there have been significant strides made in improving water quality - these signs are misleading. They were just one more reason for local people to either overlook or actively avoid valuing and engaging with their local river corridor.
There were many more fantastic talks that I was unable to video unfortunately (and I only chose to film the presentations by people who I absolutely knew wouldn't be fazed by the camera pointed at them!)
The video embedded below documents the meeting of around 25 core members who run Urban River restoration projects from around the UK including: Wales (Rivers Taff and Ogmore), Salford, Sheffield, Newbury, Burnley, London, Huddersfield, Bradford, Keighley and Wigan.
It was an honour to host them all and to hear all of their reports, stories, trials and tribulations. I also believe that the weekend …
Just as we are getting to a point that we can start to move onto the first steps on agreeing some in-channel habitat improvements; the recovering River Erewash reminds us of the potential that the local River Erewash Foundation is fighting for with the support of the Wild Trout Trust's Trout in the Town project.
Well done to all at REF for continuing to fight the good fight. :) :)
Here is a short video that was part of a talk that Mike Clough invited me to give at the conference launching "INNSA" (http://www.innsa.org/). I've added some explanatory voiceover - in place of me talking and pointing at the screen in person :)
The clip explains why invasive plants that die back in winter cause huge increases in "wash-load" sediments (i.e. sediment that is washed into the river from the surrounding land - rather than derived from existing river-bed material).
When you realise that this can bury and suffocate spawning beds, the problem becomes much more obvious than the situation you see in high summer (when growth is lush). The loss of large areas of spawning beds has the potential to be far more serious in terms of reducing the population of fish in your river than occasional (and still serious) poaching. It is just that the fish impacted by silt accumulation never had a chance at life in order to become large enough to be visible victims (un…
I recently hosted Justin, the winning bidder for my lot in the Monnow Rivers Association auction. The WTT has worked closely with the MRA for a long time, so it was a very pleasurable way to support their ongoing efforts.
We were fortunate to secure supporting funding from the Fishmongers' Company which allowed us to subsidise attendance at our biennial event in support of Trout in the Town project leaders. Brilliantly hosted by Salford Friendly Anglers; the theme for this year's Urban River Champions' Conclave was "Resilience". It is a characteristic that urban rivers can show in spades. It is also something that every volunteer - and especially every person who takes on the responsibility to run an urban project - needs to have buckets of.
However, everyone involved in these labours of love will experience real low points. It can get to feel like a hopeless cause in the face of external opposition as well as internal group tensions.
This was the reason that I asked Philip Sheridan to give the keynote address at this year's Conclave - for reasons that will become clear when you watch his presentation. Phil not only kindly agreed to speak, but also allowed us to reproduce his…
An important video from Trout Headwaters.com - The amount of damage caused by the floodwaters on the Otter Creek associated with Hurricane Irene was worse where there was access to healthy wetlands and floodplains was reduced.
Last year key people from SUBSTANCE social research co-operative: http://www.substance.coop/ and the Get Hooked On Fishing project: http://www.ghof.org.uk/ and myself put a LOT of work into an extensive funding bid to the Big Lottery Fund. The idea behind it was to generate interest, interaction and greater care of urban river corridors in the communities living close to them.
This expands upon the excellent achievements of GHOF that uses coarse fishing activities to train up "peer mentors" who then coach people their own age in angling skills and achieve accreditation that helps them into careers in angling. They have been able to report significant successes in reduction of antisocial behaviour and many benefits to the life-choices made by participants in the scheme. Some of the most comprehensive evidence for these successes was gathered through the involvement of SUBSTANCE as part of their huge research project covering "The Social and Community Benefits of Angling…
Following my initial Advisory Visit on 8th December 2010 we were finally allowed to get our wellies on and make some habitat improvements to a stream in the Wigan area (close to where I partially mis-spent my youth!). So in March 2013 an intrepid band of local volunteers were led by Paul Kenyon, whose house backs onto the river, to participate in a WTT Trout in the Town habitat Practical Visit. We were also joined by local landowner Ian Parker who got firmly stuck into the labour – and is interested in additional works on his section of river just upstream.
The presence of a few wild trout in the reach shows the potential of this river – although it is currently periodically struck by serious pollution incidents that have emanated from a Victorian-era dye works upstream as well as Combined Sewer Outfall discharges. The provision of improved habitat in this reach is hoped to provide opportunities for generations of fish to thrive and reproduce in-between pollution incidents on the ma…
Although the weather shows no signs of warming up just yet, do check out the writings of Kathryn Maroun - previously a very active angler and now battling with stage 3 Lyme disease that is transferred via tick bites and, improperly treated, kills you by attacking the body's organs (including the brain).
Kathryn Maroun is one of a handful of Canadian women to be certified as an FFF casting instructor. She is the award winning executive producer of What A Catch Productions. The 52 show series highlights Kathryn's fishing adventures from around the world. Kathryn exposes never talked about hazards of the sport, conservation, culture, as well as showcasing exotic game fish in her series. Her show first aired in the US before being internationally distributed.
Kathryn is featured in the collection of two prominent museums for her significant contribution to the sport of fly fishing.
Kathryn Maroun is the president and founder of Casting for Recovery Canada, past director of Trout U…
We trout in the town types occasionally come in for some snide comments regarding playing round the edges of things at a local scale when we do volunteer balsam bashes and contract knotweed stem injection work. Well, as our own experiences with recovery of native seedbank plant species following the removal of Himalayan balsam concur, there is also now peer reviewed published science that indicates Global plant diversity can hinge on local battles against invasive species. It also explains why some of the previous literature can, sometimes, give conflicting conclusions depending upon the scale at which studies measured diversity.
A number of projects that I am involved with in the UK have ambitions towards "daylighting" sections of urban rivers. I eagerly look forward to the full production of the film whose trailer appears below. There will always be sections of river that cannot be brought back up out of the underground tunnels. However, I hope that we will be able to witness more and more sections of river as they get their first glimpse of daylight in over a century...
This is the underlying passion that Trout in the Town needs to kindle and ignite in communities that live around some of the best, most valuable and most un-loved wild trout and grayling populations in the UK.
So, at this time of year, trout streams across the UK will play host to some genuine - and almost entirely hidden - miracles. Much of this will be played out in the microcosmos found in the tiny breathing spaces between irregularly-shaped gravel chips. It doesn't matter whether the trout stream is in the middle of a busy city or in pristine countryside - new life is currently finding a way. In fact, I can think of a bus stop only a few hundred meters from where I currently sit that the queues of passengers will be standing almost within touching distance of a new generation of tiny trout. Each occupying parallel but completely separate universes.
Our (largely) warm and wet winter of 2012 will mean that lots of streams would have seen spawning efforts starting perhaps in November. The males chasing rivals away from prime spawning sites and the females fluttering their bodies sideways to thrash and scrape small depressions in the gravel bed.