Rethinking single-use habits during Plastic Free July 

Rethinking single-use habits during Plastic Free July 

Preventing Plastic Pollution

The South East Rivers Trust has been tackling pollution in rivers ever since it was formed – as the Wandle Trust – 20 years ago. 

Therefore, becoming involved with the Preventing Plastic Pollution project, on the River Medway, seemed a natural step. Plastic pollution affects all rivers, however. Therefore we want to develop our work beyond one area by engaging with a wider public as well as including the issue in our catchment action plans.

A year’s worth of cleanups give us the perfect evidence to shape behaviour change across our whole area – and the annual Plastic Free July campaign presents an appropriate moment to raise awareness of the issues and strive to change our habits. Set up in 2011, the annual campaign aims to help people reduce their reliance on single-use plastic and live by more sustainable methods.  Below, we’ve come up with several suggestions for you to try in July – and hopefully continue with well after one month.   

Wandle Discovery Day

20 year anniversary of the South East Rivers TrustJoin us for a fun-filled Wandle Discovery Day on Saturday 16th July, as the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) celebrates its 20th anniversary during London Rivers Week.

Several events will be running from Merton Abbey Mills to Poulter Park, giving you the chance to don waders and find out what’s in the river, or learn about the wildlife and industrial history through a range of activities.

Managing soil via satellites and GIS

The South East Rivers Trust is using satellite image processing and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to target measures to improve soil management and water quality, writes Dr Alastair Pearson, one of our GIS analysts.

Methods of soil management include the introduction of cover crops to promote better nutrient balance and soil structure, improve weed control and biodiversity, and the reduction of erosion.

Have your say on sewage spills

The South East Rivers Trust is calling on its supporters to respond to the Government’s consultation on sewage spills – and ask for more urgency to tackle the issue.

The Government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan survey was launched on 31st March, with a deadline to respond by 12th May.

We’ve put together this short news piece to support you in understanding the issue and how your response to the consultation could help instigate the change we need.

SERT joins call to end CSO spills sooner

The South East Rivers Trust has joined calls from the national movement to set more urgent targets to reduce sewage pollution in our rivers, in reaction to Government announcements.

On Thursday, 31st March, the Government, via Defra, launched a consultation on the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which it aims to produce by September.

 

Volunteers find double number of eel barriers on River Mole

European eels face more than double the number of barriers as had previously been recorded when travelling along the River Mole and its tributary rivers, a pilot conservation project has found.

Volunteers trained by the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) as part of the Thames Catchment Community Eels Project found 119 impediments – such as weirs, sluices and culverts – 66 of which were new to existing data.

Volunteer interview “You can see you’ve made a difference”

At a River Wandle cleanup at the start of February, we caught up with Phil Stubbington, a regular South East Rivers Trust volunteer, to find out why he gets involved with our work.

At a stretch of river off Poulter Park in Carshalton, he was one of about 20 people who collected many bulky items and dozens of bags of rubbish.

Items collected ranged from wet wipes and clothing embedded in the berms and silt, to polystyrene, crisp packet, piping, a car number plate and wood that had been furniture.

 

SuDS not floods – pass it on!

The South East Rivers Trust has been working with Sutton Council to deliver a SuDS in Schools project in Carshalton. Delivering a sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) project has been a new and valuable experience for the Trust.

Timing could not have been better for this SuDS project.  Along with all the extreme weather events around the world that have been in the news, closer to home flash flooding has hit the headlines.  Not only does this demonstrate the urgent need to address surface water flooding, but it has brought the issue to the public’s attention.  It is the perfect chance to capitalise on the growing awareness of climate change and interest in environmental issues to get SuDS on the public agenda.

For more information on SuDS, click here.

Making a difference during Loddon Rivers Week

Almost a year to the day that the South East Rivers Trust constructed a backwater on the River Loddon in Charvil Meadows, we were back to do further enhancements as part of Loddon Rivers Week 2021.

This was just one of a series of river work that took place during this celebration of the River Loddon and its tributaries, between 18th-26th September. The work to co-ordinate the week was funded by the Environment Agency.

During the week, volunteers planted native plants to stabilise the banks of the previously constructed backwater, put in gravel to a chalk stream, tackled invasive species and enjoyed learning about bats.

Several partners were involved in the week, including Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative, Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Hampshire County Council and Dinton Pastures County Park.

School River Challenge on the Emm Brook

While works are being planned to restore the Emm Brook in Riverside Park, Wokingham, the South East Rivers Trust has begun engaging the community through an interschool competition.

Primary schools in the area were all invited to take part in the School River Challenge.   Schools competed to get the most pupils to become certified Junior River Rangers.  The prize? A class set of river dipping equipment.

The competition was run over the June half term.  It was launched in each school with an assembly – delivered virtually over Zoom – in the week beginning 17th May.  Many teachers took the week before half term to undertake some of the Junior River Ranger activities as a class.  Children were then encouraged to complete the remaining activities with family and friends.  In the course of the competition, we received more than 300 hits on our Junior River Ranger webpage!

Nature based solutions to man-made problems

There is no doubt that we are going through a massive and positive paradigm shift. It is finally hitting home that human activities thoroughly depend on the health of the natural environment and the sustainability of the many services it provides. The natural environment has rapidly moved from the periphery to the very centre of conversations, with action on fundamental issues from our own well-being to agriculture and the economy.

Humans are an increasingly urban species, although a major consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is how we have come to realise the importance on being in contact with Nature, and how Nature can provide us with many solutions to the problems we create.

One of those problems is road runoff.  Most of us are highly dependent upon cars or other vehicles and the massive road network carved into our catchments, to get us or the goods we buy from one place to another.

 

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.

Grand opening of Acacia

The Central Park/ Acacia Hall River Restoration Project took a massive step forward at the end of March, writes Sam Hughes.

On Thursday 25th March 2021, after months of delay because of the pandemic, the (rather ugly but essential) cofferdams were removed from the upstream and downstream ends of the project area, and flow was returned to the restored western channel of the Darent that runs through Central Park then past the redeveloped Acacia Hall.

I can’t tell you how excited the SERT team is about this, after more than three years of hard and very muddy work!

SuDS design and delivery

When Covid-19 affected our plans for the SuDS in Sutton’s Schools project, the South East Rivers Trust shifted its focus from Education and Engagement to Design and Delivery – increasing the expertise we are able to give on future sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) projects.

The primary objective of any SuDS scheme is to alleviate flood risk – capturing and storing rainwater, reducing pressure on the drainage system.

We worked with schools to deliver clear benefits, whether it be for wildlife, as calm spaces or to enhance the work of particular lessons.

The SuDS in Sutton’s Schools project was managed by the London Borough of Sutton council and our role has been to deliver education and engagement to help schools meet flood relief targets.  The primary aim has been to alleviate flood risk in the Hackbridge area – known as Critical Drainage Area 33.

The SuDS in Sutton’s Schools project was delivered in schools in two phases – using the summer holidays to deliver the bulk of the work.  The first phase was completed in 2019 and, because of delays caused by Covid-19, the second phase was completed in 2021.

Thames Catchment Community Eels Project

We’re eel-y excited to announce that Thames Rivers Trust in partnership with the South East Rivers Trust, Action for the River Kennet, and Thames21, have been successful in gaining funding to aid the long-term survival of the European eel.

Eels have a spectacular and complex life cycle! European eels spend most of their lives living in Europe’s rivers, including here in the UK. When they are ready to spawn they migrate more than 6,000km across the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea, where their lifecycle begins again.

Once hatched, the larvae make the incredible journey back across the ocean to our rivers, and develop into young eels, also known as elvers, before swimming upstream.

SERT on tour – delivering a fish passage project on the River Ock

In September 2020, we successfully installed two fish passes on a weir on the River Ock in Abingdon. The River Ock is a small tributary of the Thames and owes its name to the pre-Saxon word “Ock” meaning young salmon. Salmon were a common sight on the Ock and a staple part of local diets in the middle ages. So why are these migratory majesties no longer present on the river?

Aside from other more global issues, barriers to migration such as the weir at Abingdon would present challenges to upstream migration of all fish species, not just salmon. The weir results in fragmented habitat which in turn can create bottlenecks at varying life stages. As a result, the survival and success of fish is compromised. It was therefore in the river’s best interest to implement fish passage on this weir.

The weir is a standard crump gauging weir, used by the Environment Agency’s Hydrometry and Telemetry’s team to monitor flows in order to help predict downstream flooding and manage abstraction licenses. It is 5.7m long and split into two channels. The left hand channel (as you look downstream) feeds the River Ock and the right hand channel feeds the Sandford Brook. The design of the weir, coupled with the fact that it was a gauging station, added several complexities.

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.

How to solve a problem like soil moisture monitoring – featuring Friston Forest

We have finally been able to install some of our baseline monitoring equipment, which we are using at one of our pilot sites for the PROWATER project!

PROWATER is a partnership project that the South East Rivers Trust is delivering locally with Kent County Council and South East Water. The project will investigate the opportunities for ecosystem-based adaptation to water scarcity and climate change.

As water is a scarce resource in South East England, we are interested in understanding the impact of different habitats and land management options on the availability of water. A lot of our public water supply in the South East comes from groundwater stored in underground reservoirs, also known as aquifers. These aquifers are normally recharged by winter rainfall. The quantity and quality of water recharged is highly influenced by how the land on top of the groundwater body is managed. PROWATER aims to understand how to quantify the benefits from those different management options, and how to reward those managing the landscape, like farmers and foresters, for making choices that protect those water resources.