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.”

 

 

 

 

Loddon Rivers Week puts focus on the long term

Volunteers came out in large numbers during this year’s Loddon Rivers Week, held in September, to enhance river habitats in various ways, such as by adding gravels and installing deflectors.

Some of the 80+ volunteers across half a dozen sites, who clocked up more than 300 volunteer hours, were part of established groups which regularly look after sections of this river network.

However, this year’s focus week on the Loddon, co-ordinated by the South East Rivers Trust, was also a launchpad for future action to enhance this river network, which stretches across Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.

Many people became involved in caring the river for the first time, including families keen to get involved in volunteer work parties or learning to assess river health through carrying out Riverfly monitoring for invertebrates, which they can do regularly in the coming months.

Our Loddon Catchment Officer Lou Sykes reports.

The Fish: improving habitats

Volunteers prepare to install gravel into the River Whitewater
Volunteers prepare to install gravel into the River Whitewater

Volunteers installed 21 tonnes of gravel into the River Whitewater at Bassetts Mead, Hook, to establish deep pools and shallow riffles, creating a rollercoaster of newly improved habitat for fish and invertebrates. Fresh gravels allow fish to spawn.

Over the past three years, in partnership with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, 81 tonnes of gravel have been added to the river, improving a 200 metre section of the river.

During this year’s Loddon Rivers Week activities, volunteers also built a willow dead hedge, protecting the new riffles from dogs and children passing by on the footpath.

The new dead hedge at Bassetts Mead protecting the river
The new dead hedge at Bassetts Mead, protecting the river

The sun: bringing light to the Petty’s Brook

Petty's Brook cutting back trees to bring light to the river
Vegetation at the Petty’s Brook was cut back to bring light to the river

In Chineham, near Basingstoke, volunteers ‘daylighted’ a section of the Petty’s Brook. The stream in this section is largely overshaded, has a concrete lined bed and banks, and acts more like a small canal than river environment.

Overshading of a river can be one of the reasons that prevents the river from reaching good ecological status under the Water Framework Directive.

Trees are a vital element of the ecology of a river environment: they help to reduce water temperatures in summer months and to maintain oxygen levels in the water. Aquatic plants and algae are also an important component of a healthy stream, and excessive shading and reduced light prevents these from growing. We must create the right balance when restoring rivers, creating dappled shade to get the best of both worlds.

With the Chineham Volunteer Group, a relatively new group, we removed vegetation that was causing the river to be enclosed in a tunnel of trees and shrub, giving the stream encouragement to grow some aquatic plants.

Sticklebacks – a torpedo shaped small fish – moved in quickly post-clearance, giving young children at the event the opportunity to catch and inspect them in a net before setting them free back into their revamped environment.

The bugs: training communities to identify invertebrates

A riverfly sample from the upper Loddon
Families learnt to identify invertebrates in a Riverfly sample taken from the upper Loddon

Water quality is the hot topic in the Loddon catchment this year, with projects starting to accurately monitor the state of the water on our patch.

Riverfly monitoring, in part measuring which invertebrates are in rivers, is a nationally important citizen science initiative used to monitor the health of rivers and to detect pollution events.

This year, we included a riverfly ‘show and tell’ for a keen group of residents in and around Basingstoke who will soon be donning wellies or waders to start monitoring the upper stretches in our catchment.

We introduced the basics and set them up to get them identifying the invertebrates in the samples. The four bullhead fish that made it into the invertebrates sample were a happy addition to the , freshwater shrimps, mayflies, snails and leeches also found.

Revisiting the past to see the difference

In addition to all the new activities this year, we also revisited on old project at Arborfield near Reading – a novel nature-like bypass channel facilitating fish migration around four permanent weirs, which impound and restrict rivers: 11 years on, a quick fish survey showed brown trout, chub, barbel, perch and pike all living in the established channel.

As part of this event, the Wild Trout Trust demonstrated some habitat improvement techniques, installing a woody deflector and willow ledge, to improve habitat in the new channel.

Our video shows the water flowing over the new deflector.

Thank you to partners and funders

Loddon Rivers Week, which has been running since 2017, does not happen without an enormous amount of collective effort from partners, and a special thank you must go to the Environment Agency and Network Rail for funding the coordination of the week.

We would also like to thank the partners involved in the week, including Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative, Wokingham Borough Council, Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council, Chineham Volunteer Group, Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, SOLVE (Save Our Loddon Valley Environment), Hook Parish Council and Rushmoor Borough Council.

We’ll be back next year to repeat the progress made this year! Meanwhile, read our River Loddon storymap to find out the issues faced by this network, learn about what the catchment partnership, comprised of dozens of organisations, has achieved already and how you can become involved. Or keep an eye on our events page for volunteering opportunities.

 

Making a Wish come true for fish

Luke Beckett, one of our assistant project officers, reports on our latest river restoration work on the Blackwater Restoration Project. This has improved the ability of fish to move along the river, opening up a 4.5km stretch known as the Wish Stream tributary, where it meets the River Blackwater, in the north Hampshire stretch of the River Loddon.

Helping fish move between river sections

Concrete shelf in the way
A concrete shelf, just visible below the water, made it difficult for fish to pass when the water flow is low

This was my first fish passage improvement since joining the South East Rivers Trust, so it was particularly fulfilling to deliver this work, which will help fish pass between the two watercourses and access good spawning habitat.

The River Blackwater, a tributary of the River Loddon which stretches across parts of Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey, has long suffered from ‘poor’ fish classification status and only recently gained ‘good’ status. We aim to maintain or even exceed this status in the future and one way to contribute towards this is by improving the ability for fish to move easily between different sections.

The Wish Stream is an important semi-rural tributary of the River Blackwater, which supports a population of brown trout (Salmo trutta) and offers good spawning habitat in its lower reaches. Subsequently, improving connectivity between the Wish Stream and the River Blackwater is important for ensuring resilient fish populations in the catchment.

At the confluence of the two watercourses, we identified a concrete shelf which poses an obstruction to fish and eel movement, particularly during low-flow conditions.

Sloping notch and coping stones

Coping stones added to the river
The coping stones were added to the river, above the concrete shelf

The concrete shelf reduced the water depth, making it too shallow for fish to pass over. It also created a small weir between the Wish Stream and the River Blackwater during low-flow conditions, preventing fish moving up into the tributary. The smooth concrete also made it difficult for European eels to move along the river. This critically endangered species requires rougher substrates and slower flowing water to migrate along rivers.

Wish Stream brush and notch
An eel brush (right) and notch improve fish passage on the Wish Stream

To make this confluence more fish friendly, we created a sloping notch/ramp down the front of the concrete, allowing water to flow more naturally. The concrete was particularly hard – too hard for our machines and so we had to return with a hydraulic breaker to finish the notch.

In addition to this, we installed coping stones along the edge of the concrete to increase water depth over the shelf, enabling fish species to swim through. Finally, we improved the climbing substrate for European eels by adding an eel brush over the crest of the coping stones and safely down onto the concrete bed and vegetation upstream.

This passage improvement work was a relatively simple and straightforward delivery project. Most of it was completed in just over a day, although we had to wait until conditions were right to complete the final notch, and we were able to use coping stones which were left over from a previous project.

Great for brown trout and eels

Completing the work on the Wish Stream
Completing the work on the Wish Stream

The work enables fish, such as brown trout and European eels, to access important habitat for spawning and juvenile recruitment along the Wish Stream, which is roughly a 4.5km stretch of waterway.

It also allows mature individuals to disperse down into the River Blackwater and mix with other populations. With improved access to these habitats, fish numbers will hopefully increase and provide a greater prey source for other species such as kingfishers and herons.

Such improvement works show that sometimes it doesn’t take much to connect habitat and improve conditions for a range of species. I am looking forward to returning over the coming months to see these benefits. We hope this enhanced connectivity will strengthen fish populations in the catchment long into the future and I hope this is my first of many fish passage improvement deliveries.

 

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

 

A week in the life of a catchment officer

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a catchment officer? What is it exactly they do? The South East Rivers Trust’s catchment officer for the Loddon River catchment, Lou Sykes, takes us through a typical week; from admin tasks to going out and assessing the state of sections of rivers with partners, to plan improvements.

Hopefully Lou’s insights below will give you a flavour of what to expect in our two current vacancies for Catchment Officer and Catchment Manager. These roles have various aspects to them and have at their heart a desire to help rivers thrive by improving biodiversity, for both wildlife and people.

Lou says: “My job in its simplest form? I host Catchment Partnerships, meaning I chair meetings of different stakeholders with a geographical common interest in a particular collection of rivers which make up one named network. In my case, one of these is the River Loddon and another the Cuckmere & Pevensey Levels.

“The external partners in a partnership could be water companies, the Environment Agency and Natural England, environmental NGOs, community flood groups, local councils, fishing groups. All of them have an interest in improving the health of the river. Collectively, we want to improve and maintain the health of the river network as a whole, not just treat sections in isolation.

“As detailed on our Catchment Partnerships page, this method is guided by the national Catchment Based Approach (CaBA). Every catchment partnership is different, and this is why they work so well: you can tailor them to your patch and work on the specific needs of that river system.”

Monday 

Typically, this is a working from home day. I start with a morning catch up with the Science and Partnerships team before going through my emails. I complete admin tasks such as writing minutes from a Catchment Partnership meeting I hosted recently, then send off a few emails for events and activities planned for later in the week.

Tuesday 

River Lyde, Water Quality
Assessing water quality on the River Lyde

Today I was involved producing a statement piece that provides a holistic view on the water quality of the river.

This included information gathering on legal and illegal discharges into rivers, drinking water standard breaches and citizen scientist data collection.

We have been working with local MPs who have a keen interest in their local river and want to work with citizen scientists – members of the public who volunteer for tasks in their spare time.

Through them we want to understand the current state of the water quality and investigate ways that we can monitor and make improvements.

Wednesday 

Meeting the catchment partnership members
Meeting the catchment partnership members out on site

Catchment Partnership meeting day! These happen quarterly and it was exciting to have our first one in-person, post-COVID. Typically, our meetings have themes – this one focused on looking at emerging water company plans as they go through their next phase of business planning for both their Water Industry National Environment Programme (known as WINEPs) and their Water Resources Management Plans (WRMPs).

Other topics at meetings can vary from looking at biodiversity and wildlife (both native and invasive species) to investigating ideas for tearing up a weir that is acting as a barrier to fish who need to move between different sections of river to find the best feeding and breeding grounds.

By engaging many different parties in this collaborative format, we are providing the opportunity for community groups, government bodies and water companies to come together and form common goals to help rivers thrive. This is particularly important as it allows us to look at the area in a ‘big picture’ format because in every river system, what happens upstream impacts the downstream area.

Thursday 

Backwater exploration
Thursday was spent exploring funding for a potential backwater

This was a strategic day of investigating new funding opportunities that could be available for research, project development and delivery – the on-the-ground restoration work that will improve rivers for wildlife and as places people can enjoy.  Being a project-funded organisation means we are constantly looking for funding opportunities. We might be looking to “rewiggle” – or remeander – a straightened river. We might want to help fish connect to different parts of a river network by removing man-made, historical objects such as weirs, as we have done at Acacia Hall, Dartford, or by installing eel or fish passes, like we have done further along the Darent. We might be wanting to look to create backwaters to increase biodiversity and mitigate against potential flooding. For one such example, read about Charvil Meadows, on our Loddon Storymap (in the “Action plan” section under “case studies”).

All this work requires funding, and the co-operation of landowners and other interested groups to make it happen, so the over-riding strategy has to look at prioritisation to improve the whole catchment. On this particular week, I also got out to meet and continue to develop a relationship with one of the key stakeholders on my patch. These meetings are some of the most vital parts of my job. Time and resource in every environmental job is a stretch and collaborative working is the key to keeping everything on track.

I finished off the day with a catch up of our Catchment Officers team at SERT. We are constantly evolving and working out ways that we can work more efficiently, working together so that we are not reinventing the wheel every time something new crops up.

Friday 

A large part of my job also involves putting on a pair of wellies, getting out on site and identifying opportunities in the catchment for improving stretches of river or their surrounding land.

A scene from the Lyde tributary
A scene from the Lyde tributary

On this particular Friday, I walked three miles up the River Lyde – one of the tributaries of the River Loddon – with members of a local fishing club. They were looking at how they could possibly manage the river for both their fishing club members and to keep the waterway as healthy as possible. This stretch of river is a chalk stream, so we would like the water to be clear, with clean gravel, plenty of underwater plants and a decent buffer of green on the banks. Chalk streams are globally rare habitat with only about 200 of them left in the world, 160 of which are in the UK.

Pleasingly on this day, on this river, a healthy amount of aquatic plant growth was evident and there was a good amount of shade and light getting to the channel. However, it could do with some habitat or restoration work to help mitigate erosions on some stretches.

Not every week looks exactly like this, but this is an average one. There will be weeks where there is more home working, the odd day in our HQ office in Leatherhead in Surrey, or you could end up hosting a week of volunteer events that put you in a pair of waders all week, such as during Loddon Rivers Week held annually in September.

This is the beauty of being a catchment officer or manager – it’s varied nature keeps you on your toes and gives very little opportunity for burn out from doing the same thing over and over again.

 

  • The South East Rivers Trust currently has two positions available, one for Catchment Officer and another for Catchment Manager, which has line management and team development responsibilities on top. Take a look at our job opportunities page for full details and apply by 26th June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going live on the Loddon

The launch of our River Loddon Storymap, on behalf of the catchment partnership, allows residents across the area to see the problems faced by the river and the collective actions of around 20 partners in trying to improve the waterways. Residents can also sign up to join in, as individuals or to join the partnership as a group. Lou Sykes, catchment officer for the Loddon, introduces the new Storymap.

Capturing the work of catchments

The Whitewater, a tributary of the Loddon

Since its inception in 2000 as the Wandle Trust working on one river, the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) has grown exponentially and now cares for and maintains watercourses across 12 catchments in the south east of England.

SERT is also long established in the Beverley Brook and Hogsmill catchments, hosting and chairing the catchment partnerships. These lead a variety of organisations to devise ways to assess the issues faced by rivers and create plans to improve them using the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA).

Our growth is such that we now partially or fully host and chair 11 of the 12 catchment partnerships throughout the south east. This area stretches from the Kent coast to the Sussex coast, meandering through Surrey and encompassing much of Berkshire and north Hampshire.

It is for this latter area, the 680 km2 River Loddon catchment, that SERT has now launched a Storymap, capturing the partners, issues and plans to improve the whole network of watercourses. This will be the first in a series of new Storymaps on various catchments that will be released in 2023, funded by Thames Water.

The ArcGIS Storymap portal is a story authoring, web-based application, that enables an organisation to share maps in the context of narrative text and other multimedia content.

Using this facility, SERT’s catchment partnerships can detail the pressures faced by the river networks and introduce objectives for improving rivers and the surrounding areas, as identified by the partnership.

Bringing different groups together to solve the river’s issues

A scene from the Lyde tributary
A scene from the Lyde tributary

By creating this presence online, the catchment partnership raises awareness and becomes a supportive group, speaking with one voice.  In the case of the Loddon catchment, this brings about 20 different groups together: this better empowers collaborative working and helps to ensure all issues affecting the river are noted, captured and addressed under one umbrella. By working together, the catchment partnership can plan and deliver positive actions that will improve the riparian environment across a whole river network, as opposed to working on sections in isolation.

Leading on the Loddon catchment partnership, SERT brings together people from various local organisations and interest groups including water companies, government bodies, local flood groups and angling clubs.

Giving communities and groups the chance to have their voices heard is crucial to the Catchment Based Approach, empowering them with a sense of ownership as the partnership delivers action on the ground.

The Loddon Storymap allows readers to explore the character of the catchment including its tributaries, outlines the issues facing the river, the actions being taken to address them and how to get involved in actions to protect this vast network of water. The maps on the Storymap are ‘live’, meaning that whenever they receive new data they update automatically. Data comes from a variety of different places, with the latest from the Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency showcasing the issues of the catchment.

Maps capture the issues

Summaries of issues affecting the river range from the general to the specific, such as under water quality. Did you know, for example, that road runoff can carry more than 300 different pollutants which can cause short and long-term damage to watercourses?

Consented discharges on the Loddon
Consented discharges on the Loddon

Meanwhile, one of many bespoke maps details the phosphate status of the river network, which rises from chalk-fed streams in Basingstoke and goes all the way to Reading and stretches across to Aldershot. Another map shows the pollution from waste water. Another details the topical issue of sewage spillages.

The extend to which the catchment is affected by flooding, low flows and abstraction is also outlined, with a warning: “The primary risk of flooding in the Loddon catchment is from rivers – and flooding events are being projected to become more frequent and more severe as the climate changes.”

Flood zones and areas most susceptible to flooding, from both rivers and surface water, are shown in another map.

The site also reports the extent to which physical modifications have impacted river health. Like many rivers, the Loddon has been modified over centuries – straightened, widened or deepened – to improve drainage for land, housing, industry and farming.

Habitat quality
Habitat quality on the Loddon

River habitat quality is also shown, with just one area rated as having a truly diverse habitat, according to River Habitat Survey methods. Many areas across the catchment have good ranges of habitat, but others are rated as poor. Another map outlines the results of fish surveys, compiled as indications of river health, allowing readers to click on specific areas.

The issues section ends with a warning: “The number of people living in Basingstoke, Wokingham, Sandhurst, Fleet and Aldershot is rapidly growing and these towns have multiple areas of new development proposed between 2023-2040.

“The south east of England is in the midst of a water shortage crisis. Growing populations together with our changing climate pose a severe risk to the health of our rivers. Many of the challenges faced by our river catchments are likely to be intensified by the demands of a growing population.“

So what can be done?

Perch at Tice's Meadow
Perch found at Tice’s Meadow in Loddon Rivers Week 2022

A key section of the Storymap is the action plan, outlining “natural processes opportunity mapping” that includes the potential for “floodplain reconnection”, for example lowering artificially incised riverbanks, the potential for riverside woodlands and such opportunities across the wider catchment.

Key priorities are to identify habitat improvements, deliver restoration or enhancements, improve fish passage by tackling barriers, keep rivers cool in the face of a changing climate and tackling invasive species.

It also outlines the benefit of natural capital mapping. “Taking a GIS-based catchment approach to understanding the location, condition and potential of natural assets,” the portal says “allows us to target action to protect water resources and communicate change. This enables us to integrate a catchment-scale nature-based solutions approach with water company plans, catchment partnerships, and landowners.”

Mentioning work that has been carried out on the catchment so far, the portal highlights Loddon Rivers Week, which takes place every September. Last year, residents witnessed instant improvements after taking part in gravel seeding in Hook and installed large woody materials at Tice’s Meadow and Ivy Recreation Ground in Aldershot. Other work on the Loddon involves a long-standing effort to remove Floating Pennywort and creation of the Charvil Meadows backwater in 2020.

Lastly, the Get Involved section prompts people who see issues with their river to report them to the relevant authority, to suggest enhancement protects, join the partnership as a group, volunteer for events or invest in the river by financially supporting enhancement work.

Whatever you want to know about the Loddon, visit the Storymap and get involved!

Have your say on your local water company’s five-year plan

Every five years, water companies in England are required to produce a Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP), which outlines how they intend to meet the expected water demands not just in the next five years but over the next 50 in their respective service areas.

These plans take into account increasing population, climate change and growing risks of drought – while also protecting and enhancing the local environment.

An important part of the WRMP plans is customer feedback on topics which concern them most. They are currently in draft form and out for public consultation.

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.

Loddon Rivers Week has instant impact

Some of the volunteers who took part in Loddon Rivers Week witnessed immediate improvements to waterways, reports Lou Sykes, our Loddon Catchment Officer.

The annual week of events took place at the end of September. Activities varied from walks and talks to giving people hands-on opportunities to get involved in river restoration.

Launch yourself into Loddon Rivers Week

Come and join the South East Rivers Trust and partners for a fun-packed series of events to improve the health of the River Loddon.

During Loddon Rivers Week, running between Monday 26th September and Sunday 2nd October, there’s something for everyone, whether it is joining in guided walks or donning waders and taking positive action via restoration work in rivers across several parts of the catchment.

You’ll need to sign up for all activities in advance on our events page or via the contact details below.

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!