Projects/River Warden Updates – Gt Ouse Bedford & Buckingham
2019 has been another good year of surveying for the river wardens on the Bedford Ouse, River Flit and associated brooks. We have maintained 40 river wardens in the scheme with some really up and coming active groups on their local stretches.
We are maintaining a steady stream of reports, particularly from certain stretches, which is good news. However, we are always happy to have more reports especially those that might just be ‘no changes’! We are also always keen to hear the good with the bad, whether it be otters or Himalayan balsam all reports and sightings a welcome!
Last year we managed to undertake some of the first river invertebrate surveys on parts of the River Ouse and Renhold & Ravensden Brooks. We managed to identify 23 netted invertebrates down to family level, with us all having grown in identification confidence since the initial survey workshop.
We also held a successful ‘introduction to aquatic plants’ workshop in the late summer, on a perfectly warm and clear day, attended by 12 river wardens who came to learn a bit more about what they see on their section of river.
Coming up this year, we are planning to run another ‘introduction to aquatic plants’ workshop and also a ‘further aquatic plants’ workshop that would explore some of the more complex plants.
We will also be putting on another series of invertebrate workshop surveys, resurveying the sections we surveyed last year. We would also like to expand the river invertebrates surveying to other suitable areas, so if you are interested in learning river inverts or even just think you have a section suitable for surveys please get in touch!
–Lewis Dickinson (Wildlife Trust Beds, Cambs & Northants)
Despite the delays in finding someone to take on River Warden Scheme in Buckingham, the Environment Agency (EA) did a fantastic job of recruiting interest following the pollution incident along the River Great Ouse in June 2018. Huge thanks go to Karen Paterson for being so dedicated to the cause and inspiring volunteers to get involved, before passing the baton onto me. Therefore, since being appointed to coordinate the River Wardens here in November 2019, accompanying my woodland-focused roles with TCV (The Conservation Volunteers), I was keen to get the ball rolling and start monitoring the river.
Training and Monitoring
A successful training workshop took place on Sunday 8th December 2019 at the Town Council Chambers at the Buckingham Community Centre, where 10 keen River Wardens demonstrated their passion for their local river and eagerness to get involved.
Since then, 15 stretches of river (each between 450 – 1,200 metres long), have been allocated to those who attended the workshop, including four others who have since got involved. Despite, high water levels over much of December and January, majority of the baseline surveys have now been completed, and the River Wardens look forward to doing their springtime surveys. With this coverage, we now monitor around 7.4 kilometres along the River Great Ouse and 3.6 km along it’s tributary, Padbury Brook, with a special thanks to the landowners and farmers for granting permissions for this, and some even becoming River Wardens themselves!
A Buckingham Local Area Forum Officer, Sophia who provided funding for the scheme also joined us for part of a walkover survey. She was pleased to see how the money was being spent and hear of future activities in the planning.
Plastic Collection Outfall Net Installation:
At the end of January, A plastic/debris collection outfall net was installed upon EA guidance by Rowan from Mott MacDonald Group Consulting. The outfall connects to the new development at Lace Hill and is under the A413 bridge. Any tyre particulates, plastics etc will be examined by a student at the University of East Anglia as part of a pilot project to monitor plastics entering our rivers. Some of the Buckingham River Wardens are keeping a close eye on the net and have offered to assist in its monitoring and emptying. Thank you Lee Phillips (Buckingham TC) for offering to keep the spare nets safe, providing training venues for the scheme and your support of the River Warden group in its entirety.
Since the pollution incident, the Environment Agency have restocked the river four times, totalling 28,000+ fish (Barbel, Dace, Roach & Chub), with the most recent being just before Christmas. Kingfishers have been seen in Bourton Park on a few occasions and we have a confirmed and verified water vole record to the West of the town centre. A promising start for wildlife to flourish here in future.
Activities and Training Workshops:
Two events have now been organised for the spring, including a water quality monitoring lecture by Claire Hurst (Environment Agency) and hopefully a Riverfly Monitoring Training session in April. Since the Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and Council Ecologists will be monitoring water voles and mink in the Buckingham area this year, we hope to run a mammal training day and add to their monitoring efforts in future.
Due to the high levels of interest and engagement so far with the River Wardens scheme, we are hopeful to continue providing training and events in the new financial year. Sources of funding have been identified and we hope to secure funding for this important work to continue.
I look forward to updating you on our achievements next time.
-Ruth Coxon (The Conservation Volunteers)
It has been a busy year on the Gt. Ouse with the set-up of the River Wardens scheme. Since the initial meetings held back in the summer of 2017 we now have a total of 40 volunteer river wardens watching out on the Ouse, Renhold brook, Elstow Brook, and Bromham Brook collectively with a few more interested and baseline survey to be planned in.
So far you have all done a great job reporting in your findings, many of you have identified large amounts of Floating Pennywort on your stretches in recent months which has been passed on to the Environment Agency. They have been taking into account your sightings and are happy to report the successful control of Floating Pennywort in 2018 with all the rafts on the Great Ouse controlled and a work programme started for the Gadsey Brook.
For positive native species sightings some of you have been lucky enough to have seen otters on your stretches, which is great news! Keep a look out for news on the upcoming Otter, Mink and Water Vole Monitoring project this year!
In the upcoming year we are looking to increase the warden’s coverage of the Ouse and expand into other areas of the Upper and Bedford Ouse Catchment with other partners taking on this scheme so we have a better chance of monitoring the health of the whole catchment.
Work has finished on the project at Harrold Odell Country Park. The project had two elements the first of which will seek to reconnect a silted up back channel to the main river to provide a refuge area for fish in times of flooding as well as off main channel habitat for invertebrates and small mammals. The second aspect of the project will be re-profiling a cattle poached bank to prevent excess sediment from eroding into the river.
I would like to thank you all for your hard work going out and monitoring our rivers health over the last few months. It is volunteers like you undertaking valuable citizen science that allows us all to manage our environment better, directing our limited resources more effectively.
–Lewis Dickinson (Wildlife Trust Beds, Cambs & Northants)