Family fun in Elmbridge during London Rivers Week  

Family fun in Elmbridge during London Rivers Week  

A fun-filled family day in Elmbridge Meadows is the centre-piece of the South East Rivers Trust’s contribution to London Rivers Week 2024. 

Elmbridge Meadows
Residents have the chance to learn about our project to improve the river at Elmbridge Meadows

Residents will have the chance to learn how our Enriching Elmbridge Meadows project, starting later this year, will improve the River Hogsmill in this local nature reserve in Berrylands, Kingston. 

The community will have the chance to learn how to remove Himalayan Balsam first hand, via a “balsam bash”, alongside other activities such as guided walks and crafts.  

The event takes place on Sunday 23rd June, on the first weekend of London Rivers Week (22nd to 30th June), as groups across the capital invite people to celebrate the theme of ‘London is a River City’. 

Emma Broadbent, SERT’s Volunteer and Engagement Officer, said: “We are always thrilled when London Rivers Week comes around because south London’s rivers are where our work began.  

Craft activity by the South East Rivers Trust

“Our range of events give people the chance to learn why the Hogsmill, Beverley Brook and Wandle rivers are vital to communities and wildlife, and what they can do to help protect and enhance them.  

“In particular, London Rivers Week 2024 gives the communities of Surbiton, Tolworth and Kingston the perfect opportunity to find out how our Enriching Elmbridge Meadows project will re-naturalise 1km of the River Hogsmill. Our information stall and guided walks will give more information on the river and the project, children can enjoy our craft activities and people of all ages can delight in seeing what actually lives in the river at our river dipping table.   

“We will have lots of volunteering opportunities as part of this project, with a focus on managing Himalayan Balsam. This non-native invasive species destabilises river banks, spreads very easily and outgrows native plants.” 

Further restoration plans for Elmbridge include adding gravel to the river to give fish and invertebrates refuge places and areas to spawn, and adding woody debris to re-wiggle a straight and narrowed river so that nature can thrive better.    

A volunteer tackles Himalayan Balsam
A SERT volunteer tackles Himalayan Balsam

As well as the Elmbridge Meadows day focusing on the Hogsmill (10am to 3pm), SERT will also be staging three other events during the week, giving people the opportunity to understand the importance of rivers and take action to protect them. 

Sign up for: 

A balsam bash at Six Acre Meadows, to protect the River Hogsmill from this non-native invasive species, on Tuesday 25th June, 10am to 2pm. 

A guided walk from Richmond Park to Wimbledon Common (and back!) to learn about the history, ecology and restoration work along on the Beverley Brook on Wednesday 26th June, 10am to 12.30pm. 

A River Wandle cleanup at Poulter Park, Carshalton, clearing rubbish from the river to protect wildlife and help it thrive, on Thursday 27th June 10am to 2pm. 

The eighth annual London Rivers Week, organised for the River Partnerships in London, features about 60 events. These range from river clean-ups to cultural experiences, emphasising the intrinsic links between people and their waterways, all designed to raise awareness of the capital’s network of rivers, how they benefit us and how we can protect them.  

London Rivers Week is organised for the River Partnerships in London (RiPL) via the London Rivers Week steer group.  The principal organisations running London Rivers Week are the Environment Agency, Thames21, the South East Rivers Trust, London Wildlife Trust, ZSL, CPRE London, and the Thames Estuary Partnership. In addition to these organisations, many other groups run and contribute to events, walks, talks and seminars to demonstrate the value of rivers. 

 

GLi champions Project Kingfisher education programme with new film

We are delighted to have teamed up with GLi, the logistics warehouse company, which has produced a short film documenting Project Kingfisher, our flagship education programme which deepens the younger generation’s experience of urban waterways.

As part of the company’s dedicated social value programme, Urban Life, GLi has joined forces with Project Kingfisher to champion river sessions in Merton, close to its forthcoming Mitcham site, that offer children an immersive, hands-on experience with the river.

GLi’s Urban Life programme has supported our Project Kingfisher education programme

The film aims to share the experience of local children who, through these sessions, are encouraged to explore not only the riverbank’s visible features but also the world thriving beneath the water’s surface. Through these river dipping and outdoor learning activities, primary school pupils and youth groups get close to diverse river inhabitants, while having the opportunity to explore their local area.

Polly Penn, Head of Working with Communities at the South East Rivers Trust, said: “We are delighted that GLi has decided to support our education programme. Support by businesses such as GLi is vital in helping us to inspire children by connecting them to rivers.

“Our aim is that every primary school child should experience the fun of outdoor learning. This helps young people not only learn the importance of protecting water but also helps them develop fantastic personal skills. Studies show that children who learn outdoors develop confidence in diplomacy, negotiation and social skills which in turn will help them prepare as adults for the challenges we face from climate change. We are delighted that GLi wishes to share in our vision.”

Children at Project Kingfisher
Children learning at an outdoor Project Kingfisher session

London’s rivers, once a vital part of the city’s industrial heritage, now serve as vital sanctuaries for urban biodiversity and community well-being. Recognising their pivotal role, GLi’s Urban Life programme advocates for the preservation and revitalisation of these historic waterways. Its commitment extends to supporting initiatives that improve access for the community, enhancing water ecology and supporting canal and river heritage education – enriching the lives of those around our industrial units.

The company is pleased to support Project Kingfisher’s work in Merton, ahead of their Mitcham Park development in the area, set to begin later this year.

Visit the Urban Life webpage to learn more.

The South East Rivers Trust runs Project Kingfisher education sessions designed for Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils across the Beverley Brook, Hogsmill and Wandle rivers, outdoors and indoors. For details of all our sessions, along these and other river catchments, visit our education page where you will find details of how to book.

Vote for Rivers – question your candidates

How will you #VoteforRivers?
How will you #VoteforRivers?

We’re calling on you to join the #VoteforRivers campaign run by the Rivers Trust in the lead-up to the General Election on Thursday 4th July. 

This is your chance to use the power we have as voters to advocate for nature restoration and to take this vital opportunity to speak up for healthy rivers. 

We’ve set out asks under five headings, whether you plan to seek answers from candidates who come knocking on the door, question them at local hustings or want to write to them. 

You can find the candidates running in your area using The Electoral Commission and download the letter to write to them, or have the asks handy when meeting candidates in person.  

We want you to ask the new Government to: 

1. Prioritise nature recovery – make nature-based solutions like trees and wetlands to improve the environment and tackle climate change as first choice, rather than relying on chemicals and concrete. 

For example, we at the South East Rivers Trust have just completed Chamber Mead wetlands in Ewell, Surrey, which diverts road runoff away from the River Hogsmill. Plants being established there will also bring huge biodiversity benefits to the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve. 

We are working on restoring water voles, eels and trout via our WET Hogsmill project, we have restored a section of the River Blackwater in Hampshire and the Wandle in Morden Hall Park with woody debris and by adding gravel. 

2. Improve our understanding of rivers – support better data and evidence to improve regulatory monitoring and recognise the value of citizen science alongside it. 

Through our work engaging the public and encouraging them to take part in citizen science, we collect data on the health of our rivers.
Examples include training volunteers to:  

3. Support education and engagement about rivers – No one will protect what they don’t know about or understand – and what they have not experienced. So we need the Government to support education about the environment and rivers at all levels.  

Educating pupils
The South East Rivers Trust has an extensive education programme

The South East Rivers Trust has programmes supporting education of primary school children and community groups across London catchments and the River Mole.

Our events also demonstrate the value of our work through walks and talks across a wide range of topics and we take part in awareness campaigns such as London Rivers Week.  

4. Make polluters pay – drive strong enforcement of those who pollute to turn the tide on the abuse of our rivers. 

We have recently supported a campaign to clear Hoad’s Wood in Ashford of fly-tipping. After a petition, the Government has now issued a clean-up edict which will cost the taxpayer huge sums. Nobody has yet been traced to pay for the clean-up. 

We work on various projects funded after pollution incidents, through mechanisms such as voluntary reparations. One is the Mending the Upper Mole project which allows us to expand awareness of rivers and carry out restoration in many ways far wider than the original incident. 

5. Manage land with water in mind – empower collaborative working that gets everyone involved in restoring our rivers. 

Leaky wooden dams are a nature-based solution used by SERT on the River Beult among other places
Leaky wooden dams are a nature-based solution used by SERT on the River Beult among other places
  • At the South East Rivers Trust we lead several catchment partnerships across 12 river catchments. These work collaboratively with many other organisations and individuals to bring rivers back to life. They need investment and funding to do so. 
  • Our Holistic Water for Horticulture project also works with food growers in Kent and the South East to ensure water efficiency and resilience in the process of getting food from farm to fork. 
  • This is part of the work of our Water and Land Stewardship team, which has worked closely with farmers on the River Beult in Kent on nature-based solutions to retain water and enhance biodiversity, for the benefit of wildlife and people. We are involved in national pilots for Environmental Land Management Schemes, funded by Government, working with farms to manage land in sustainable ways.   
  • For example, we are working with farmers and landowners and other environment NGOs on the River Darent catchment to implement a radical, large-scale approach to delivering climate benefits – starting with rivers.  

Here are some questions you can ask your candidates 

  • How will you and your party tackle all types of pollution in our rivers? Sewage is not the only issue; farming and road runoff pollution are also devastating our rivers. 
  • Will your party boost funding for regulators and strengthen enforcement so polluters are made to pay for their pollution? 
  • How will your party work with nature to improve river health and tackle climate change? 
  • How will your party open up rivers and blue spaces in our towns and cities for health and wellbeing? 
  • How will your party support farmers and businesses manage their land sustainably for water? 

No matter where you live across our 12 catchments, there is a river near you. Find our river using our map, using your postcode. There a hundreds of candidates standing for constituencies from Berkshire through Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and south London who want your vote – so press them on the hot topics! 

Thank you for standing up for rivers!

Sewage a campaign issue BBC London News, 28th May:

Use our email template:

If you are writing to your candidates, you could use or adapt the Rivers Trust’s template, by copying and pasting the information below or adding in your own asks on rivers. Don’t forget you can source candidate details via The Electoral Commission. 

Dear [Candidate name], 

I will be voting for rivers in the General Election on 4th July 2024 and, as a local resident and voter, need to know how you intend to stand up for our waterways. 

The Rivers Trust’s State of Our Rivers Report 2024 lays bare the dire health of our waterways, which are facing devastating levels of pollution, swinging between extremes of flood and drought, and experiencing shocking drops in biodiversity: 

0% of stretches of river in England are in good or high overall health. 

This is not breaking news – the issues faced by our rivers have been hitting the headlines for years and causing widespread public outcry. Yet not enough is being done to restore or protect our waterways. 

Healthy rivers should be a priority for the next Government. From re-wiggling rivers, restoring floodplains, and greening our urban spaces, restoring our rivers means securing community resilience, a future for wildlife, and action for climate. 

This is why I am supporting The Rivers Trust’s asks for political candidates and parties: 

Prioritise nature recovery – make nature-based solutions like trees and wetlands to improve the environment and tackle climate change first choice, rather than relying on chemicals and concrete. 

Improve our understanding of rivers – support better data and evidence to improve regulatory monitoring and recognise the value of citizen science alongside it. 

Support education about rivers  – no one will understand or care about what they haven’t experienced. Outdoor learning is key to nurturing a lifelong love of rivers.

Make polluters pay – drive strong enforcement of those who pollute to turn the tide on the abuse of our rivers. 

Manage land with water in mind – empower collaborative working that gets everyone involved in restoring our rivers. 

Please let me know what actions you and your party intend to take to deliver the asks above and restore the health of our waterways. 

I look forward to hearing from you and, if possible, please copy info@theriverstrust.org in your reply. 

Yours sincerely, 

[Sender name] 

 

Banging the drum against road runoff at the UK Rivers Summit

Brown trout were able to return to the River Wandle and breed successfully for the first time in nearly 100 years thanks to the South East Rivers Trust’s work, Co-CEO Dr Bella Davies told the UK River Summit on Tuesday. Ian Lamont, our Communications Officer, reports.

An enthralled 100-strong audience at the second annual Summit heard that road runoff had been stopping trout spawning on the Wandle. The summit brought together campaigners, NGOs, politicians and industry experts to debate issues affecting rivers, in the historic setting of the National Trust’s Morden Hall.

Dr Bella Davies talks at the UK River Summit
Dr Bella Davies talks at the UK River Summit about preventing road runoff

Bella explained that a mechanical device called a hydrodynamic vortex chamber – effectively a big drum – had proven to be the solution to help brown trout thrive once more. It had been fitted to key parts of the river to filter out numerous chemicals and pollutants before they reached the Wandle.

Bella urged a captivated audience at the Summit to “implore policy makers to listen, investigate and do something about,” road runoff because the “solutions are there” to stop contaminants from roads reaching our rivers. She outlined the struggles to bring back brown trout, an iconic species, to the special habitat of this chalk stream, one of only about 220 such rivers globally.

The trouble trout had in the Wandle

A “top predator” and “keystone species” in the eco-system, brown trout had struggled to thrive in the Wandle because of pollution, with the last one caught there in 1934. The industrial revolution was huge in bringing about that scenario, but modern day road runoff had become the modern culprit, she explained.

One of the first projects run by the Wandle Trust (which later became SERT) was Trout in the Classroom, said Bella. School children helped breed the species, but after the fish were released they did not breed successfully in the river, surveys proved, despite Environment Agency data showing that the water quality was high.

Those who saw the Wandle regularly noted that the water turned black every time it rained. Conclusions were drawn that the cause was road runoff. A commissioned study by a Queen Mary university student identified 15 types of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) pollutants and copper in the river.

So how could the issue be solved?

Road runoff pollution filter
A giant hydrodynamic vortex chamber filters our road runoff and sends clean water into the River Wandle’s Carshalton Arm

A hydrodynamic vortex chamber was selected to capture the pollutants before they reached the river – and a year after its installation another EA fishery survey found there were 67 juvenile trout on a 200m stretch of the river.

“Urban pollution and road runoff are one of the three main sources of pollution in Britain alongside agriculture and sewage. It is the reason that 18% of water bodies fail their target of good ecological health. It is also massively underestimated and under-monitored,” Bella explained.

She added that road traffic sends about 300 toxic chemicals, for example from catalytic converters in vehicles, into rivers via drains. Microplastics, tyre wear, paint, rust, pesticides, road chemicals and garden runoff are other examples of sources of such pollution washed in by the rain.

Bella said about road runoff: “It’s toxic and much of it can’t be broken down by micro-organisms in the water environment. It’s persistent and it builds up in the sediment and can affect the entire eco-system.

“The impacts of road runoff are widespread and very scary. We know they can cause harm to insects and to human health. The PAHs are particularly nasty – they can affect an animal’s ability to reproduce…and can cause death outright, especially in the summer when it hasn’t rained for a while. When it rains, we often see fish kills because the contaminants have washed straight into the river.”

Describing how the vortex chamber worked, she said that dirty water goes into the device at the upstream side, the “big drum” retains the sediment and then cleaned water is sent into the river.

These had never been retrofitted into roads before, so our project leaders worked closely with manufacturers to make them work and fitted them on to the three main surface water drains coming into the Carshalton Arm of the Wandle.

“That was the first time trout had spawned successfully on the river for almost 100 years,” Bella stressed.

Other solutions to road runoff, she said, included nature-based ones such as wetlands, such as the  Chamber Mead on the Hogsmill. Ideally both would be in place, with wetlands bringing amenity, flood and biodiversity benefits.

‘It gives me hope, but policy has to change’

Removing pennywort
Removing pennywort at Morden Hall Park during the UK Rivers Summit

Bella concluded: “These solutions give me hope that it is possible to tackle road runoff, but we need to do it everywhere. It is estimated that there are a million outfalls in the country and that’s probably underestimated. They are completely unmeasured and unregulated.

“I implore the policy makers to listen, investigate and do something about it. We have to shout louder to make sure this actually happens. We know there are effective solutions out there so let’s build them quickly.”

In her welcoming remarks, Bella invited people to “celebrate all rivers” but in particular the Wandle. “It’s unusual to be a chalk stream, it’s even more unusual to be an urban chalk stream and it’s even rarer to have one with a footpath all the way alongside it,” she said, referencing the Wandle Trail.

The Summit also gave us the chance to show attendees our volunteers’ work on the River Wandle at the National Trust-owned park. About a dozen people donned waders to cross the river and head to the main park for a guided river wade to see how our volunteers have turned a straight river into one flourishing with wildlife. Participants also had the chance to remove pennywort from the river next to Morden Hall, appropriately during Non-Native Invasive Species Week, which highlights how plants and animals that have come into our rivers cause them harm.

Click below to hear Bella’s full speech about the road run-off solution.

Join environmental voices at the UK River Summit

Debating the issues affecting waterways, showcasing our river restoration and demonstrating how to remove invasive non-native species will be among contributions by the South East Rivers Trust at the UK River Summit on Tuesday 21st May.

The event, from 9.30am to 7pm, will bring together international environmentalists, businesses, organisations who protect rivers, plus the public at Morden Hall. The grounds of this National Trust property has the River Wandle, a precious chalk stream, running through its park.

This south London river has special resonance for SERT, which began as the Wandle Trust in 2002 – and our Co-CEO Dr Bella Davies will be among the speakers on the opening panel.

In the morning session, Dr Davies will be sharing the floor to discuss the importance of rivers and their challenges at the second ever annual UK River Summit. The event has been designed by Zambuni Communications to bring the public and thought leaders together.  

Dr Davies will be sharing the floor with panelists including campaigners such as Fish Legal’s Penny Gane and actor Jim Murray (The Crown) representing Activist Anglers. 

Leading a river walk
Our staff will be leading a river walk

In the afternoon, campaigners, representatives of water companies and politicians will come together to debate and hear about issues affecting rivers. Topics include The Freshwater Emergency, the Future of Farming and Effective Policy in Rivers.

Removing balsam
Our volunteers tackle Himalayan Balsam, one of several invasive species in rivers

SERT will be taking the opportunity to mark national Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) Week by hosting an INNS workshop alongside the National Trust, who own and run Morden Hall and its park. This will offer expert guidance to give attendees the chance to understand the importance of controlling species such as floating pennywort and Himalayan balsam. These species inhibit our rivers and their wildlife. Attendees will have the chance to learn how native plants can be encouraged to thrive instead along the River Wandle, a precious chalk stream.

We will also be leading in-river guided walks, exploring a section of the Wandle that our volunteers have restored. Summit participants will have the chance to learn about the Wandle’s history, wildlife and restoration work. They will see how this section has benefited from our volunteer work, having been turned from a straight river into a meandering haven for fish and invertebrates.

At the end of the day, SERT Catchment Officer Dr Jack Hogan – also representing The Fly Connection and President of the Wandle Piscators – will be giving a talk on the history of the Wandle.

Various short films will be shown during the day, demonstrating the plight of rivers, including “Wandle: A River at Risk”, a documentary on sewage spills into the waterway.

Dr Davies said: “We are excited to welcome the UK River Summit to the River Wandle in May 2024. The Wandle is a historic chalk stream at the heart of a diverse, vibrant community and it’s especially poignant for the South East Rivers Trust as this is where we began our work in 2022. Since then, we’ve learned that engaging people with river habitats is key to protecting and restoring them. We look forward to supporting the event wholeheartedly.”

Watch the video below to find out how the shape of the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park has changed through our volunteer work.

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

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.

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

 

Helping nature bloom at Morden Hall Park

Working in river restoration, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to see the difference made when you return to a site – and then embark on further improvements.

That feeling is heightened all the more when you return with volunteers and witness their delight, as they too see improvements, especially when their previous activities included put odd-looking obstacles in the river which, to the untrained eye, could look out of place.

So it was on the River Wandle earlier this year. We led two days of work as part of our ongoing Morden Hall Park restoration project, on a section of the river that is fairly hidden from view when the public visit this National Trust property.

Removing pennywort

Removing pennywort
Removing pennywort – just one of the boatloads taken away at Morden Hall Park in spring 2023

Since 2015, we have been taking volunteers out to this patch every spring and autumn, to carry our river improvement work. Activities have ranged from removing invasive vegetation and taking out toe boarding (which stops animals and fauna making their way from river to land and prevents natural river processes from occurring) and adding more natural looking riverbank materials such as berms – a ridge, made in this case of branches, sticking out from the bank into the river.

Back in the spring, working with the Morden Hall Nature Group, we started two days of work with a litter pick and general tidying. However, the main focus of the first day was to remove a significant amount of pennywort, an invasive species that regularly occurs at the site in large quantities.

We loaded up our small boat several times in our attempts to rid the river of this fast-growing plant, which smothers other important habitats and reduces biodiversity by crowding out native plants – taking oxygen from fish and insects.

Our hardy group of 20 volunteers then set about installing some sizeable deflectors – large tree trunks that protrude into the river – into the river channel.

These will help to improve the river. In this area, the Wandle has been widened and straightened, reducing the energy in the river. This means that silt and sediment settles to the riverbed and smothers natural gravels. Clean, loose gravels are a vital part of rivers, providing spawning habitat for fish as well as habitat for invertebrates and aquatic plants.

Deflector work was tough going

A deflector at Morden Hall Park
Volunteers take a deflector up the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park

Deflectors help to remove sediment and silt from the riverbed by reshaping the water flow and increasing the diversity of the river’s flow. Instead of being straight, the water now meanders around these impediments as it would have done when the watercourse was formed naturally. This work varies the flow in the river, scouring gravels and creating pools behind the deflectors, giving respite to fish and allowing them to hide, spawn and thrive.

Through this work, funded by the Environment Agency, we were able to put in four sizeable deflectors made from ash trees which the National Trust had stockpiled for us when undertaking Ash Dieback work.

Knocking in these large tree trunks into place (a pair at a time) after dragging them up the river and moving them into position, was hard work! The posts to attach them were driven into the riverbed, to make the deflectors look as natural as possible.

A deflector secured in place at Morden Hall Park. Picked for its ability to host birds
A deflector secured in place at Morden Hall Park. The wood was picked for its ability to offer a perching place for birds

Blooming the berms

Adding plants to a berm
Volunteers added plants to a previously installed berm at Morden Hall

Not as heavy work, but equally as important, was planting golden flag iris into one of the berms that we had installed on a previous visit. These berms are made of tree brash that has been pushed together and secured, to give fish and invertebrates another refuge in a varying flow river. The golden flag iris has beautiful yellow flowers in summer, which might still be in bloom by the time we return later in the year, as part of our continued work.

Having worked at this site repeatedly over time, it is amazing to see what a difference our work has made to the riverbed. In this once straight channel we have varied the flow by creating a meandering pathway. Instead of silt covering the whole riverbed, the deflectors and berms have helped to create clean areas of loose gravel; perfect for fish to spawn in and prosper – and now water crowfoot, is also thriving.

Typical of a globally rare chalk stream such as this, this aquatic plant thrives in fast flowing water, providing habitat to invertebrates and is a good source of food. It can also act a bit like the deflectors by redirecting water and increasing local speeds to create clean places in the gravel.

Biodiversity is certainly booming – and we couldn’t do it without our volunteers.

This summer, we made a short video of how our work since 2020 is having an impact on this section of river, changing it from a straight river into a habitat-rich one where a variety of wildlife can thrive in a river that has varied flow speeds.

Become a Junior River Ranger at London Rivers Week sessions

Children aged 5-11 can become official Junior River Rangers for the South East Rivers Trust during London Rivers Week (29th May to 4th June).

Nature scavenger hunts, craft activities and river dipping demonstrations are all part of three interactive sessions packed with family fun that are being put on by the waterways charity.

The sessions will give primary school-aged children the chance to explore and understand the natural world around them and learn about what thrives along popular spots in south London.

Learn from our experienced educators

Children learn by exploring nature
Children who sign up to our half-term sessions can become fully fledged Junior River Rangers © South East Rivers Trust

Children will learn why rivers are important and pick up water saving tips from SERT’s experienced educators, completing enough “green” and “blue” activities from the charity’s Junior Rivers Rangers scheme to earn a badge and certificate on the day.

The sessions, as follows, are free but must be booked in advance.

30th May 9.30am to 12pm: Discover wildlife by exploring the Beverley Brook in Barnes through crafts and scavenger hunts. Session supported by Barnes Common.

31st May 9.30am to 12pm: Sign up for river dipping and other fun while exploring the River Wandle at the Sutton Ecology Centre, Carshalton. Supported by Sutton Council.

1st June 9.30am to 12pm: Explore the River Wandle with scavenger hunts and a chance to get close to nature at Kimber Skate Park. Supported by Enable at Wandsworth Borough Council.

‘Experiencing nature first hand is key’

An education session
Children learn about nature by experiencing it in person

Robyn Shaw, SERT’s Assistant Education Officer who is leading the sessions, said: “Inspiring children to love and value water at the earliest opportunity in life is at the heart of our education programme.

“There’s no better way to understand the types of wildlife that thrives in our rivers than to experience it first hand and to explore it through creating nature art and seeing what is in the river.

“Our popular Junior River Rangers programme also ensures youngsters champion water saving in their homes and gardens. The activities are designed to show them how the water in our rivers is connected to what we use, stirring them to think about climate change, which is a key them of this year’s London Rivers Week.”

London Rivers Week, now in its seventh year, aims to inspire the public to help learn about and protect the capital’s waterways through walks, talks, interactive sessions and seminars.

Focus on climate change

This year’s theme is climate change and how river restoration can reduce its impact, for people and wildlife, through restoring habitats to reduce the effects of extreme weather.

London waterways charity Thames21 is co-ordinating the week, which features more than 30 events spread across the capital. Liz Gyekye, Communications Manager, said: “There’s a very wide range of events for people to get involved with this year, from meandering river walks to craft classes and topical debates.”

Sir Tony Robinson, actor, author and TV presenter, said: “As a devoted admirer of the Thames and its tributaries, I am proud to be supporting London Rivers Week 2023. We need healthy rivers to help us to tackle the negative impacts of the climate crisis.”

* London Rivers Week is run on behalf of the Catchment Partnerships in London (CPiL) via its sister organisation London Rivers Restoration Group (LRRG). The full list of events can be found here.

More than 40 river restoration projects – reinstating a natural process and biodiversity to waterways – have taken place in London since 2000. Since 2000, about 28 miles (45km) has been restored. The principal organisations running London Rivers Week are the Environment Agency, Thames21, the South East Rivers Trust, London Wildlife Trust, ZSL, CPRE London, the Thames Estuary Partnership,  and Thames Water.

* The Junior River Rangers scheme is part of the Trust’s educational programme. Education is one of SERT’s mission’s cornerstones. We have a range of initiatives to encourage young people to engage with rivers. Project Kingfisher is our core educational programme covering our South London Rivers (Wandle, Hogsmill and Beverley Brook). For more information visit our education page.

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

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.

Volunteers needed for Outfall Safaris this spring

Do you see drains – known as outfalls – spilling pollution into rivers when out on riverside walks? Do you know why this happens and would you like to help sort out the problem?

Our rivers should be healthy spaces for wildlife, but need protecting from many forms of pollution. One of them is household plumbing that is misconnected, meaning that foul water goes straight into the waterways through drains that should be connected to the sewage system.

This spring, river lovers along the Wandle and the Cray and Shuttle are being given the chance to train as citizen scientists to help rectify the problem in the latest roll out of the Outfall Safari programme.

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.

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.

Volunteer river restoration at Morden Hall Park

In March 2022, our volunteers and members of the Morden Hall Park Nature Group spent three days in the glorious sunshine restoring a stretch of the River Wandle as it flows through Morden Hall Park.

Now owned by the National Trust, Morden Hall Park was once a deer park for a country estate. With the Wandle splitting into many meandering channels, the park remained as a green oasis throughout the river’s industrial heyday.

This was the latest stage of an on-going project, started in 2015 and due to run until 2024, giving volunteers the chance to improve the river channel at the park, writes Jess Mead.

 

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.