Make a noise about the sorry State Of Our Rivers

Make a noise about the sorry State Of Our Rivers

Sewage pollution in the Hogsmill
Pollution in the Hogsmill River, by Toby Hull of the South East Rivers Trust

Brace yourselves: 0% of England’s rivers are in good overall health. A truly shocking fact for a habitat that’s so vital to all of us.

This and other alarming statistics come from the Rivers Trust’s 2024 State Of Our Rivers Report, which has been launched today (Monday 26th February).

Combining data, insightful maps, and illuminating case studies, the report dives into the data and evidence, offering us an insight into just how our rivers in the UK and Ireland are doing.

The data is clear:

  • No single stretch of river in England is in good overall health
  • Just 15% of English river stretches reach good ecological health standards
  • Toxic chemicals that remain in our ecosystems for decades pollute every stretch of English rivers

Healthy rivers can be a powerful ally in mitigating the effects of climate change, being able to protect communities from flood and drought, the report emphasises. They support a wealth of biodiversity. They also benefit our physical and mental well-being and are a fantastic way for us to reconnect with nature.

However, these vital ecosystems are plagued by sewage, chemical, nutrient and plastic pollution. They have been heavily modified, so they don’t function as naturally as they should.

All this means that our aquatic wildlife, from plants to fish, is having to work harder to survive – and that rivers can be unpleasant places to visit or to use for recreation.

So, what can you do? Here’s five actions you can take

1 Write to your MP to demand meaningful action

Demand better for your river
Demand better for your river

If you are shocked by the state of our rivers, write to your MP to demand change.

Tell them that restoring rivers is climate action, supports wildlife and protects communities.

The report allows you to search for your local stretch of river and use its stats and maps on sewage, barriers in rivers and chemicals to arm yourself with facts before contacting your MP.

You can contact your MP via the Rivers Trust’s portal – and add your own words to the template.

Ask your elected representative what they are doing about river health. We want you to demand better Government action for our rivers, through better water quality monitoring, investment in infrastructure for sewage treatment and better funding for Nature-based Solutions.

To help you when you write, we have compiled a State Of Our Rivers Catchment Crib Sheet with a basic comparison of Water Framework Directive ratings for our catchments between 2019 and 2022.

We would also encourage you to speak up for some of our recent work (below) and show how it is making a real difference to rivers.

For example:

  • Volunteers plant up berms at Morden Hall Park
    Volunteers plant up berms at Morden Hall Park in September 2023

    Nature-based solutions such as leaky woody dams are holding water longer in the landscape of the Beult area of the River Medway. This increases biodiversity and helps nature thrive, as well as slows water flow into the main river, where it is abstracted for human use. As those who went on our Nature-based Safari concluded: We need to make more of this happen on a wider scale.

  • Deflectors and planted berms extending parts of the bank have re-wiggled a straight section of the River Wandle in Morden Hall Park (pictured). This works wonders for wildlife, varying the flow of the water and giving fish and invertebrates places of refuge and areas to breed.
  • New wetlands constructed at Chamber Mead have brought fresh hope to the Hogsmill. They divert pollution which will help protect 5km of precious chalk stream.
  • Our Holistic Water for Horticulture project works with growers towards a 2030 target that 50% of the UK’s fresh food is sourced from areas with sustainable water management. The south east is an area already classed as water-stressed and this is an issue that affects our food security.
  • We’re also working to put rivers at the heart of landowner thinking as part of the Darent Landscape Recovery Project, a Government-funded pilot.

2 Shout out for your local river on social media

Join the fight for healthy rivers

What’s your local stretch of river? How do you use it and how does it affect your mood? Perhaps you visit it for pleasure with your dog on a daily walk, or use it for recreation such as rowing, canoeing or swimming.

However you care about your local river and interact with it, we want you to tell us online. Once you have found out about the condition of your local river via the State of Our Rivers report, make a noise about it!

Report what you see – for good or bad – whether that’s young fish thriving and wildlife flourishing, or plastic pollution and sewage outfall spills.

Use the hashtag #StateofOurRivers and find us on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Instagram.  Why not tag the elected representative you have emailed, too? You can also tag @TheRiversTrust on all channels.

3 Sign up to be an Everyday River Hero

Become an Everyday River Hero

Whether you are a seasoned, long-term river user or you’ve been caught up in the increasing wave of publicity around sewage and other river issues, we want you to become an Everyday River Hero.

It might be hard to believe given our wet winter, but the south east of England actually receives less annual rainfall than the south of France. We face a real threat of not being able to meet supply by 2050, because of a growing population and climate change.

Launched in January, our 10-week email programme will tell you why rivers are essential for our daily lives and how to care for and protect wildlife, when you are exploring the great outdoors or at home. How – and how much – water you use in your bathroom and kitchen, as well as your garden can be as vital for rivers and the wildlife that thrives in them as the flea treatments you use on your dogs.

Read more and sign up on our campaign webpage.

4 Volunteer with us to improve rivers!

Gravel seeding
Join us for gravel seeding on the Loddon in March

We always get a huge thrill when we can involve volunteers directly in work to help rivers thrive. There is nothing like enabling communities to take action for the stretch of water they love.

  • Help install gravel on the River Blackwater in Aldershot. Join us to improve this stretch of the River Loddon for fish and invertebrates on any of four days, from March 12th to 15th.
  • Sign up for Outfall Safari training on the Beverley Brook, on 20th. Join us and the Zoological Society of London to learn to spot and report misconnected plumbing that is polluting rivers. The results will help trace appliances such as washing machines that have been connected to the wrong pipes when they were installed.

To book, visit our events page – and bookmark it for subsequent volunteering opportunities during 2024.

5 Book our education sessions for your school or youth group

A school education session
A school education session

Educating our youngest citizens is a core part of our work on the Beverley Brook, Hogsmill and Wandle rivers, where we hold sessions for Key Stage 1 and 2, in schools and along rivers. Our sessions are available for youth groups, too, so inspire them to cherish their local waterway by booking a session.

We also run school sessions on the River Mole, under the Our River Our Water programme.

If you are a parent or teacher, read our education page for full details and encourage your school community to get in touch!

As one teacher said about our curriculum linked sessions: “They fit exactly with what we have been learning and the children enjoyed all the activities.”

 

 

 

 

New Chamber Mead wetlands brings fresh hope for Hogsmill  

The South East Rivers Trust (SERT) has completed the construction of a 2,000m2 pollution filter which will bring major benefits to the Hogsmill chalk stream.

When planting takes place in the spring, the newly constructed Chamber Mead wetland will protect and improve 5km of river downstream, filtering pollutants and becoming a haven for wildlife. 

Chamber Mead wetlands during construction
The wetlands took shape during several months of construction

The project has been carried out in partnership with Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, which owns and manages the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve, a popular greenspace which will now benefit from this new community asset. 

The wetland is a crucial project for the Hogsmill, which suffers adversely from pollution such as urban road runoff, raw sewage discharges and misconnected plumbing that sends drain water directly into the river.  

Water from the Green Lanes Stream has been diverted through a sediment trap and two wetlands. Filtered, cleaner water is then reconnected to the Hogsmill downstream of the famous Stepping Stones. 

News about the wetland’s completion comes in the week of World Wetlands Day, on Friday 2nd February. 

Dr Bella Davies, Co-CEO of SERT, said: “We are delighted that the construction phase of this important wetlands project has now been completed. It is destined to become a jewel in the crown of the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve. The public has shown great enthusiasm for this project, and we will soon be calling on volunteers and community groups to add the plants that will really make the wetlands flourish as a magnet for wildlife. The water quality improvements that will result from the wetlands are designed to help the river become a healthier place for all, especially wildlife that thrive in a chalk stream, such as brown trout.” 

Councillor John Beckett, Chair of the Environment Committee at Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, said: “The council is committed to protecting and enhancing biodiversity in our borough, as per our Biodiversity Action Plan 2020-30.  This partnership project with the South East Rivers Trust will help to ensure that the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve is a place where nature can thrive; from woodpeckers, hedgehogs and bats – to species whose numbers have dwindled such as water voles, fish and eels. We know our residents cherish this Local Nature Reserve and I hope that many can join the community planting days, which are a unique opportunity to be part of this fantastic project.” 

Michele Cooper, Environment Agency Catchment Coordinator, added: “In partnership with local communities, the Environment Agency is investing millions in chalk stream restoration projects across the country to foster more sustainable abstraction, tackle pollution from agriculture and the sewage system, and restore more natural processes.

“Chalk streams are precious habitats, havens for wildlife and highly valued by local communities and visitors alike. Together with our partners, we also continue to work hard to protect and enhance wetland habitats to benefit people and nature. Their future depends on collective action and this partnership project is therefore a much needed and welcome step towards addressing the many pressures these rare watercourses face.”

Part of the 2000m2 wetlands at Chamber Mead
The construction of the 2000m2 wetlands at Chamber Mead has been completed

SERT is now preparing a series of community planting days, to take place in the Spring. These will give residents the chance to plant the vegetation to help the wetlands counter pollutants.  

Schools, community groups and residents will be given opportunities to install plants that have been specifically selected to filter pollution, trap sediments and attract a variety of wildlife. Plants selected include yellow flag iris, ragged robin, purple loosestrife and brooklime.  

In time, SERT will also offer guided walks and outdoor education sessions for school children. A nature trail is planned for families to interact with the wetlands as they develop, alongside information boards which will detail the reasons why the wetlands were needed and the types of wildlife that should be attracted. 

The construction was carried out with Five Rivers environmental specialists.

Supported by the Hogsmill Catchment Partnership, the project has received funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, Natural England (through the Species Recovery Programme), the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council, the Rivers Trust, the Zoological Society of London, Garfield Weston Foundation and Thames Water, with in-kind support from the landowner Epsom & Ewell Borough Council. The new wetlands are part of the wider Replenish programme in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Rivers Trust. The aim of Replenish is to restore millions of litres of water in this and other local catchments, in turn improving biodiversity. 

 

The Chamber Mead wetland
The Chamber Mead wetland will become a ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve

Cast your vote at Tesco to help us educate children on the Mole

Shoppers at selected Tesco stores in Horley and Dorking can vote to support the South East Rivers Trust’s (SERT) programme to connect local children with the River Mole and its wildlife.

SERT’s school sessions bring children to their local river to spend time in nature and learn about the local wildlife – all while meeting the school’s needs for the curriculum.

Children explore what's in the river and record their findings in a session led by the South East Rivers Trust on the River Mole © SERT
Children learn about what’s in the river at a South East Rivers Trust session on the River Mole © SERT

Studies show that children who are connected to nature are happier, healthier and more motivated to learn – and feedback on our sessions shows the power of outdoor education.

One teacher said: “The session was a fantastic way to introduce the children to our rivers topic, the delivery and the content was engaging and the children had an absolute blast!”

A pupil added: “I loved making a promise to make sure that the river will keep flowing and not dry up!”

Polly Penn, Head of Working with Communities at the South East Rivers Trust, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen as a Tesco Stronger Starts community project because we know from our education sessions that children love the chance to visit the river. They are always inspired by being able to see for themselves the creatures they have learned about in the classroom.

“Our aim is that this and our lessons about how to use water wisely in their daily lives will instil lifelong habits – and might even inspire some of them to become scientists in the future. We hope shoppers will take this opportunity to support our work.”

Customer votes will decide how three chosen charities will receive awards of £500, £1,000 or £1,500.

The three stores where customers can vote for SERT, between mid-January and the end of March 2024, are:

  • Tesco Gatwick Extra, Reigate Road, Horley RH6 0AT
  • Tesco Express, Brighton Road, Horley RH6 7HL
  • Tesco Express, Reigate Road, Dorking RH4 1QB

Tesco’s Stronger Starts – previously known as Tesco Community Grants – has already provided more than £110 million to 60,000 projects across Britain.

Children explore what's in the river and record their findings in a session led by the South East Rivers Trust
Children explore what’s in the river and record their findings in a session led by the South East Rivers Trust © SERT

This £5m Stronger Starts grant programme, delivered in partnership with Groundwork UK, helps schools and children’s groups provide nutritious food and healthy activities that support young people’s physical health and mental wellbeing, such as breakfast clubs or snacks, and sports equipment for after school clubs.

Claire de Silva, Tesco UK Head of Communities and Local Media, said: “Helping schools and children’s groups access the food and resources they need is vitally important in getting children a stronger start in life. Children with enough food have more energy, better concentration, and ultimately achieve more too.”

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s UK Chief Executive, said: “As a community charity, we have seen first-hand how schools and other groups supporting young people have been playing a much bigger role in ensuring children are getting a healthy start to the day and getting access to spaces and services to support physical activity and mental health. Family budgets are tight and school budgets are tight, but it’s so important that children stay fed, fit and focused, so we’re delighted to be able to prioritise these activities alongside Tesco with the Stronger Starts programme.”

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities, particularly those helping to provide food and giving children the support they need for a good start in life.

 

New online tool highlights nature-based solutions to tackle road runoff

A new online tool has been launched this week to help tackle road runoff pollution in London’s rivers by highlighting the best places to install nature-based solutions such as wetlands.

The development of the first-of-its-kind tool by Thames21 builds on years of research by the environmental charity and its partners Middlesex University and the South East Rivers Trust, which contributed with mapping, scoping and reporting.

Pollution from our roads adds to a number of problems for our rivers coming from sewer overflows, litter and misconnected drains. However it is often the Cinderella of pollution topics, because it receives far less public attention than sewage or agricultural causes.

Research from the Rivers Trust shows that the UK’s 1,600 rivers are affected by a cocktail of chemicals that are speeding up aquatic nature-loss, affecting insects, birds and mammals.

Road runoff goes straight to rivers
Road runoff goes straight to rivers

Road runoff can contain residue from oil spills, as well as tyre and brake wear from vehicles. These build up during dry weather and are then washed into rivers and streams when it rains.

The new tool will help decision makers prioritise the right water quality improvements:

  • in greenspaces that lie between the road and the river
  • at road locations in Outer London where surface water drains to the rivers; and
  • on London’s main strategic road network (includes Transport for London’s roads and some sections of National Highways’ and local authority roads)

Thames21 started its initial road runoff project identifying key polluting roads in 2019, with funding from the Mayor of London, Transport for London, and the Environment Agency. The British Geological Survey built the online decision support tool ‘Road Pollution Solutions’ and provided some additional support through the UKRI NERC-funded CAMELLIA project.

The South East Rivers Trust contributed research on sites in South London, including Surbiton, using its GIS mapping technology and catchment-based approach, identifying places where solutions such as wetlands could be built to counter the pollutants. By providing a natural barrier and filter using nature-based solutions, some of this road runoff pollution can be captured and prevented from entering rivers in the first place.

Users of the tool can search different boroughs, pinpoint particular areas and see just how polluting they are. This will help to prioritise where solutions could be put in place as mitigation. The tool shows the location of rivers, sewage outfalls and areas that drain into waterways.

Online road runoff tool example
An example of how the road runoff solutions user guide works

Modelling has shown that 2,415 road sections covering a total of 451.43km of London’s roads assessed pose a high risk of causing road runoff and are therefore a priority. Roads where heavy goods vehicles regularly apply their brakes are often the worst affected.

Community groups can also easily see pollution hotspots and help to suggest solutions by working for example with the authorities or through catchment partnerships.

The tool – which extends to all outer London boroughs – allows uses to access data by boroughs or river catchment and includes the Wandle, Beverley Brook, Hogsmill, Upper Darent, Lower Cray and Upper Cray.

Working in partnership, authorities responsible for these roads could intervene by providing nature-based solutions in these areas to help make runoff cleaner, and improve water quality in local rivers and watercourses.

Find out how the tool works by reading the user guide.

Three actions to take after watching Swimming in Sewage

At the start of October, the South East Rivers Trust appeared on Channel 5’s documentary about sewage in our rivers. The programme demonstrated the extent of the problem nationwide, quoting swimmers and environmental campaigners. Below is a snippet of our involvement in highlighting the issues – and three actions you can take.

A combined sewer overflow
Dr Chris Gardner shows Michaela Strachan a combined sewer overflow © TurquoiseTV

“The soft sediment underneath – I think you can imagine what it’s made up of,” remarked Dr Chris Gardner to TV presenter Michaela Strachan during Swimming in Sewage: Britain’s Water Scandal.

Our Head of Science and Partnerships was describing what lies at the bottom of the River Hogsmill right next to a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), an  mechanism that sends raw sewage into rivers during heavy rainfall.

Aired on October 4, the documentary highlighted the effects of sewage being regularly pumped into our rivers, up and down the country. Rivers that were once clean to swim in are now full of what we flush down the loo, causing health issues for those unaware that raw sewage is being sent into them regularly, from these CSOs.

These pipes were designed to stop sewage backing up into homes during heavy rainfall, when sewage treatment works could not cope with the amount of waste and excess rainfall coming from urbanised environments. These single pipes combine waste water from our homes and businesses and surface water. They are supposed to be in operation sparingly. Last year, 15,000 CSOs across the country spilled water into our rivers for 2.5 million hours, the programme reported.

Chris Gardner and Michaela Strachan on the Hogsmill, for the Channel 5 Documentary Swimming in Sewage. Turquoise TV
Chris Gardner and Michaela Strachan on the Hogsmill, for the Channel 5 Documentary Swimming in Sewage. © Turquoise TV

Chris had given Michaela a tour of a clean looking section of the Hogsmill. One of only 210 chalk streams in the world, its clear water – filtered through springs – provides a superb environment for aquatic life.

But as Chris took the presenter to the confluence of where the river meets the Green Lane stream on the River Hogsmill, the colour of the water suddenly became much more murky. The cameras showed dirt and sediment on the riverbed.

Dressed in waders, the pair moved to the site of a CSO, where Chris pointed to clear signs of it sending sewage into the river very recently – most likely the night before when it had rained.

Investment needed

Michaela, recoiling at the thought of raw sewage in this rare chalk stream which should be rich in minerals, asked what could be done?

Chris replied: “We need to invest in the sewage works infrastructure. For the past few decades we haven’t had the investment to keep up with the population growth. We also have climate change and more intense rainfalls.”

Many of the sewers have been around since Victorian times, so Michaela also wanted to know if it was possible to upgrade them?

“There certainly is a technical challenge,” replied Chris, “but we put people on the moon with [what is now] the computer power of a pocket calculator 50 years ago so, surely, we can upgrade our sewage works to the standards required.”

Our Chamber Mead wetlands project, which began in late August, is very close to where the filming took place. The wetlands will help to divert water from road run-off and urbanised pollution away from the Hogsmill. It will divert the Green Lanes stream – as seen in the documentary – into a series of new wetlands and project 200 metres of this chalk stream.

But what can you do to help protect rivers from sewage and pollution?

First, you can demand action from your Water Company. The programme’s airing could not have been more timely, coming just after water companies submitted their business plans for 2025-30 to Ofwat. Our recent blog looks at these plans and urges you to sign up to your water company’s online session, where you can question them about the details. These take place before the end of November. Are their timetables for addressing this urgent problem of sewage fast enough? How will they upgrade infrastructure? What nature-based solutions in urban areas are they planning to combat water, combined with sewage, rushing into our rivers all at once during heavy rainfall?

Second, you can sign the Rivers Trust’s Nature2030 campaign, asking all political parties to make five nature pledges in their manifestos ahead of a General Election, which many expect to take place next year. This asks that the “polluter pays” and for a Natural Nature Service, to protect our environment.

Third, you can back the Rivers Trust’s call to end the #ChemicalCocktail polluting all our rivers. This letter to the Government asks for several protections to be included for rivers in the Chemical Strategy.

Natural England funds will bring back water voles, eels and trout to the Hogsmill

The South East Rivers Trust (SERT) has been awarded £393,000 as part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, which aims to support targeted action to recover the UK’s most endangered species.

On 14th September, 2023, Natural England chose SERT to host the scheme’s launch at the Hogsmill Stepping Stones in Ewell, Surrey, where the fortunes of water voles, eels and trout will be boosted by the project.

A total of 63 projects across the country have been awarded a share of £14.5 million by Natural England to help recover 150 species nationwide. Following a competitive application round, the money will be used by environmental charities, wildlife organisations, local authorities and charities to deliver the Nature Recovery Network.

Launch of the WET Hogs project
Citizen Zoo demonstrate a water vole realise box at the launch of the Natural Species Recovery Programme

The funding supports propagation, captive rearing, translocations, research and solution-trialling to find the best approaches to enable endangered wildlife to survive and flourish.

Some of the UK’s most iconic river wildlife has been in severe decline for decades, but now thanks to a generous grant awarded to SERT by Natural England, outcomes for rare and endangered wildlife and their habitat are about to improve on the Hogsmill river in South West London.

The WET Hogsmill project led by the South East Rivers Trust, will improve the habitat of the Hogsmill river, a chalk stream in South West London. There are only around 220 chalk streams worldwide meaning that this is an exceedingly rare and special habitat. The project will reintroduce Water Voles onto the river and create new habitats for both European Eel and Brown/Sea Trout. The project will run until Spring 2025.

Water quality testing on the Hogsmill
Water quality testing on the Hogsmill at the Natural Species recovery programme launch

Co-CEO of SERT, Dr Bella Davies said “We are thrilled to have been successful in our application to Natural England’s Species Recovery Grant to support the recovery of water voles, eels and native wild trout which have become near extinct on the Hogsmill river in South West London. The Hogsmill is a rare urban chalk stream meaning that it’s important for nature and an important resource for people too.

“Our project will restore river habitat and create backwaters where fish can take refuge from pollution by creating wetlands to improve water quality which will help reintroduce Water Voles which were once prevalent on the river. We are excited to see this much needed work begin on the ground to bring Water Vole, European Eel and Brown/Sea Trout back to the Hogsmill.”

The Hogsmill river is the first tributary of the non-tidal river Thames and a chalk stream making it a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority habitat. Despite its rarity and importance, the Hogsmill has suffered a wide range of pressures leading to decline and loss of habitats and species over the last century and beyond.

Water Vole numbers have declined sharply since the end of the 20th Century making them currently the UK’s fastest declining mammal with a 97% decrease in population. Once ubiquitous and found in their millions, they are now considered to be on the brink of extinction. Water Voles were once prolific on the Hogsmill but became locally extinct in 2017.

Partnering with Citizen Zoo, a conservation charity, SERT will release 150 Water Voles across two sites on the Hogsmill, supplementing 101 Water Voles previously released by Citizen Zoo in 2022. This will help to increase the genetic diversity of the population.

Water vole
Water voles will be restored to the river Hogsmill as part of our WET Hogs project

European Eel are also critically endangered with levels declining by 90-98% from historic figures. Eels migrate up rivers during their life span and recent surveys on the upper Hogsmill recorded just one eel in 2016 and three in 2022. The WET Hogsmill project will support the creation of a large wetland and backwater while also creating a more complex instream habitat which is favoured by European Eel.

Trout have been extinct on the Hogsmill since the 1900s, owing to 19 predominantly obsolete weirs barring their passage, and preventing them from reaching critical spawning grounds in the river’s headwaters. Over the past decade SERT has made 18 of these weirs passable for fish and other species by either removing them or installing technical fish passes or easements. In 2024 the final remaining weir will be made passable for multiple fish species including Brown/Sea Trout and European Eel. By spring 2025 these fish will once again be able to access and migrate throughout the whole river for the first time in over 200 years.

SERT will provide a wide range of complementary community education and engagement activities for members of the public, schools and local businesses. Planned activities include installation of an interactive nature trail, indoor and outdoor education sessions, and community talks to help local people and businesses understand how they can help protect rivers and wildlife.

There will also be several opportunities to volunteer. Those interested to learn more about the project and volunteering activities can sign up to our newsletter or bookmark our events calendar for more information.

Watch our Co-CEO Dr Bella Davies explain how the project will help species in the Hogsmill.

 

 

Construction to start on Chamber Mead Wetlands

Work to create a major new series of wetlands at Chamber Mead is scheduled to begin on 29th August – pushed back from 21st August – and is planned to take approximately 10 weeks.

The project, developed over several years by the South East Rivers Trust (SERT), is designed to help improve water quality along a stretch of the Hogsmill River near Ewell. The project will also help a wider range of wildlife flourish in this part of the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve and improve the area as a place for people to enjoy.

Water quality in this section of the Hogsmill River is adversely affected by pollution from road runoff, foul sewage pipes incorrectly connected into surface water drains and discharges from the Epsom Storm Tanks.

Wetlands are a nature-based solution to improving water quality. Water that drains through them is gradually filtered by plants and captured in the soil, intercepting and treating pollution.

Chamber Mead wetlands design
The shaded area shows where the Green Lanes Stream will be blocked and diverted through the wetlands

Increased plants, pollinators and other wildlife connected to the wetlands will provide an attractive addition to this popular open space, as well as providing opportunities for outdoor education.

The new wetlands will intercept water from the Green Lanes Stream, before connecting the river channel back into the Hogsmill River, downstream of the famous Stepping Stones. This will safeguard 200 metres of chalk stream from pollution, reducing the risk to health and improving the area as a community amenity.

Further downstream, the wetlands will continue to provide benefits to the Hogsmill River, which is one of about only 200 chalk streams in the world.

Planning permission was granted last year by Epsom & Ewell Borough Council.

Supported by the Hogsmill Catchment Partnership, the project has received funding and support from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council, the Rivers Trust, the Zoological Society of London and Thames Water.

It is part of the wider Replenish programme in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation and Rivers Trust which aims to “replenish” or restore millions of litres of water in this and other local catchments, in turn improving biodiversity.

Ed Byers, Senior Project Manager at SERT, said: “We are excited to be bringing the Chamber Mead wetlands to the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve.

“The wetlands are much needed to improve the water quality of a precious chalk stream for wildlife and for the enjoyment of the public, who have shown great support for this project.

Chamber Mead parking suspension details August 2023
Chamber Mead parking suspension details during construction of the wetlands

“As well as reducing pollution, the plants chosen, such as brooklime, marsh marigold and purple loosestrife, will also act as a magnet for an abundance of wildlife and further improve this much-loved local space.”

Parking restrictions will be in place at two locations along the Green Lanes during the works, to allow site access for vehicles involved in the construction phase and to ensure public safety.

The work will also require a large number of lorry movements to remove excavated material from the site.

Full details of the Chamber Mead wetlands project can be found on our dedicated webpage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign open letter to political parties to support nature

River lovers are being urged to sign an open letter calling on all political parties to adopt a five-point plan for wildlife in their manifestos for the next General Election, likely to take place in 2024.

The Rivers Trust movement has joined an 80-strong coalition of partners to support the Nature 2030 Campaign. It is led by the Wildlife and Countryside Link and supported by celebrities including television personalities Steve Backshall and Chris Packham.

Research shows that the UK has become one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with more than one in seven native wildlife species facing extinction.

The campaign outlines that in 2022 sewage was discharged for more than 2.4 million hours across England, Scotland and Wales, accounting for more than 389,000 sewage spills. Commitments were set in 2021 to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030, but there’s a long way to go to meet these targets. With only seven years to go, just 3% of land and 4% of sea have this protection. We need stronger environmental leadership and the Nature 2030 campaign demands it.

Wetland restoration scene
A wetland restoration scene from our nature based solutions safari © South East Rivers Trust

Thousands of people have already signed the letter, which was launched at Westminster in July.

As one of the largest regional rivers trusts, the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) is urging supporters to back the campaign, which has five key asks for political parties:

  • Double the wildlife-friendly farming budget to £6bn for ambitious farm improvements and large-scale nature restoration
  • Make polluters pay for nature restoration by requiring big businesses to deliver environmental improvement plans and funding to counter damage
  • Create green jobs on a large scale, including setting up a National Nature Service delivering wide-scale habitat restoration
  • Increase protection and funding for wildlife sites by creating a Public Nature Estate to fulfil the promise to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature by 2030
  • Set up a new law guaranteeing a right to a healthy environment, establishing a human right to clean air and water plus access to nature, plus building nature into decision making

Hester Liakos, co-CEO of SERT, said: “Rivers are at the heart of the battle to restore nature. Our work with local communities, farmers and landowners demonstrates the positive difference that nature based solutions and natural flood management can make in improving the health and biodiversity of rivers. But to make this difference on the scale that nature truly needs requires more funding and greater commitment and leadership from Government – so we’re asking our supporters to sign this open letter to demand action from all political leaders.”

Our work backed by either EU or the UK Government includes PROWATER and Environmental Land Management Schemes.

Tessa Wardley, Director of Communications and Advocacy at the Rivers Trust, said: “The public are rightfully outraged by the state of our rivers and we need political parties to make firm commitments towards their recovery, which are then backed up by action. Delivering the Nature 2030 policies would significantly improve the health of our rivers, which are absolutely core to tackling the biodiversity, climate and wellbeing crises we face as a nation and planet.”

Click here to sign the Nature 2030 letter today

 

Learn about London’s chalk streams on your rail journey

Have you ever looked outside a train window and wondered what it is you are passing, or thought about the history of the towns and the landscape around you?

Learning about the subjects that feature along your journey is exactly what you can now do on a rail journey between London Waterloo and Southampton, thanks to an App called Window Seater, launched today.

Tales of how the River Mole might have got its name, the lifecycle of the endangered European eel and what makes London’s chalk streams globally special now feature on the Window Seater app, which invited the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) to talk about rivers that passengers will pass.

Window Seater interviewed Polly Penn, SERT’s Head of our Working with Communities, to gather insight for an audio story on London’s chalk rivers.

Fascinating histories of art, culture – and rivers

Walking next to rail line
Polly Penn’s audio on Window Seater captures the essence of river life outside the train window. Picture by Adam Borkowski Pexels

The Wandle, Hogsmill and Mole rivers criss-cross under the railway and feature among 11 stories that listeners can enjoy  between Waterloo and Southampton.

Passengers who have downloaded Window Seater are notified as they pass points of interest on their journey, from art, culture and community to history and geography.

You can hear about links to author Jane Austen and fictional spy James Bond, plus Woking’s alien invasion and Britain’s first ever car journey, or pioneering women in motorsport, alongside Polly inspiring you to explore rivers and pathways along them.

The concept for Window Seater was born by Pete Silvester, who – living in Paris at the time – began talking to an old man, a regular on one particular route. This companion started telling him about all the places and histories they were passing.

How fascinating would it be to act as a  guide along rail routes around the world, Pete thought?

Meeting like-minded, story-loving travellers Marcus Allender and Richard Edwards in Myanmar (Burma) in south east Asia in 2016, the trio went on to develop Pete’s fledgling concept of Window Seater.

Now, it has been taken on board by South Western Railway.

Inspiring listeners about eels and river walks

Polly gives a commentary about the River Wandle, The River Mole and the Hogsmill River, which all feature along the route.

Eel monitoring happens along the route
Eel monitoring by the South East Rivers Trust happens along the route. Picture by SERT

She explains that where the train passes the Mole near Hersham, this is close to where SERT has a monitoring station for the European Eel as part of a project to help protect this critically endangered species.

Polly further explains the surprising lifecycle of this fish and how her perceptions of eels shaped her views before she moved from the countryside to London.

Her commentary outlines the ability to reconnect with nature via rivers, waterways being spaces where you can unwind and relax, telling listeners that they can walk right along the Wandle or Hogsmill and mentions points where the river intersects with the rail network.

A spokesman for Window Seater said: “At first glance from the train window, south west London suburbia doesn’t shout intrigue – but when we looked a bit harder and saw the little rivers that criss-cross under the railway we knew there had to be a story there.

“It was a delight to collaborate with the South East Rivers Trust and to get Polly’s personal insight into this fascinating part of London’s geography and ecology.”

So next time you are on a train from Waterloo towards Southampton, why not download the free Window Seater App from Apple or Android stores and listen to this tale of our rivers as your train passes through the rolling countryside?

Download the Window Seater App

Help us identify all South East chalk streams

The South East Rivers Trust has launched a Chalk Streams Review, to ensure that all rivers and streams which qualify across our catchments are identified and mapped. Dr Chris Gardner, our Head of Science and Partnerships, sets out the plan and how the public can help.

Beginning of the end for balsam bashing?

The battle to remove Himalayan Balsam from riverbanks by hand has become a staple activity of river conservation management. This invasive non-native species returns annually – and spreads profusely.

However, a biological method of tackling it could eventually rid our rivers of it completely. Nicky Scott, our Volunteer and Engagement Officer, reports the initial results of a trial on the River Hogsmill.

Seven reasons to put the local river on your school’s curriculum

Jonathan Dean, our Education Development Officer, plays a central role in developing and delivering the Trust’s education strategy. He oversees our formal education work, extending across all our catchments. Here, he shares his thoughts on why rivers should be an important part of the curriculum for any school in the south east of England.

Hogsmill Community Newsletter

The Hogsmill Community Newsletter summarises the results of River Monitoring Initiative (RMI) sampling on the Hogsmill, together with other pollution monitoring and river-related activities and events.

The RMI is a national scheme for monitoring the health of rivers. Volunteers undertake regular surveys using a standard net sampling technique to count the number of certain “water quality sensitive” invertebrates.

An overall “score” is then calculated. A sharp fall or a drop below a “trigger” level could indicate pollution. This can then be reported to the Environment Agency (EA) to enable further investigation.

Action on sewage in rivers

Raw sewage is entering UK rivers on a horrifyingly regular basis, damaging our river ecosystems and putting public health at risk. In 2019 alone, untreated sewage poured into England’s rivers for an astounding 1.5 million hours, over the course of 200,000 separate incidents.

What’s really shocking is that, much of the time, this practice is completely legal.

Across the UK is a network of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). These are essentially Victorian-era relief valves on the sewage treatment infrastructure. If sewage piping, or even a sewage treatment works, is becoming overwhelmed with sewage and rainwater, it is diverted and discharged into a nearby watercourse instead of backing up into homes.