Riverflying the flag for healthy waterways

Riverflying the flag for healthy waterways

Lou Sykes, our Catchment Officer for the River Loddon, has recently recruited volunteers to undergo training for riverfly monitoring on this catchment for the first time. In this blog, she emphasises the importance of this monitoring, details what volunteers should be looking for and puts out a call for more volunteers across our wider river networks.

This year, the Loddon Catchment Partnership is focusing on investigating poor sources of water quality. We at the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) have conducted riverfly volunteer training to educate the public about freshwater invertebrates, as these creatures can serve as indicators of pollution.

Twelve volunteers have completed the riverfly monitoring training and are now regularly conducting surveys on the upper Loddon near Basingstoke to initiate the riverfly regime in this area. They are now part of a nationwide initiative to assess water quality in rivers. By consistently monitoring the river, they can identify reductions in water quality and report potential pollution issues to the Environment Agency.

So, what are Riverflies?

Volunteers checking a river sample
Volunteers checking a river sample for an RMI survey

They are tiny creatures that live in our rivers (hopefully!). Creatures such as mayfly have an evolutionary history going back hundreds of millions of years. They will spend most of their life in the water as nymphs or larvae feeding on plant life or algae.

They do important work, such as keeping things clean or stopping the build up of too much detritus.

Others are predatory and feed on other aquatic invertebrates. Some make cases from leaves, twigs, tiny pebbles and sand, acting as little underwater architects.

Others cling to rocks in faster moving waters. Some create little shelters in rocks and build little nets out of silk which they produce to catch food as it passes by.

Why are riverflies important?

Riverflies are often referred to as the canaries of our rivers as they are excellent biological indicators for monitoring water quality. The canaries reference comes from an era when mining for coal was a prevalent industry in Britain: canaries would be sent down mines before humans to test how toxic the air was. If the birds died, it was not safe for minors to enter.

Similarly, riverflies are sensitive to pollution, so finding them in the water gives us an indication of the state of the river. With Rivers Trust statistics showing that only 15% of rivers in England are rated in good overall health, riverfly monitoring is a valuable way to test the continued health of a stretch of river.

A polluted section of the River Loddon
A polluted section of the River Loddon

Riverflies live comparatively long lives as nymphs or larvae on the riverbed and are relatively localised within the waterway. The types of riverfly you can find vary based on habitat diversity, flow rate, water level and water quality, so you can tell how your river is functioning based on the groups that you find.

Monitoring for riverflies is a nationally important citizen science initiative (known as RMI), developed to monitor the health of rivers and to detect potential pollution events.

The Riverfly Partnership is a network of organisations, representing a wider range of stakeholders from anglers and water course managers to conservationists and relevant authorities that are looking to protect the water quality of our rivers and conserve riverfly habitats.

How  do we survey for riverflies and what are we looking for?

We survey for riverflies using a kick-sweep sample. Essentially, this involves kitting up in a pair of waders, grabbing a net and getting into the stream to ‘kick’ the riverbed and disturb the gravels to knock invertebrates living on them into your net. Your net is also swept through submerged vegetation to capture any invertebrates living in those, too. These, plus a hand search of large rocks or any other items that can’t make it into your net (yes that does occasionally mean the odd shopping trolley) make up the sample you look at.

This goes in a tray on the bank to be analysed, looking to estimate numbers of three key groups of riverflies: the up-wing flies or mayflys (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies or sedges (Trichoptera), and stoneflies (Plecoptera). We also assign freshwater shrimp (Gammarus) to this category too.

What’s next? Sign up to help!

A riverfly monitoring tray
A riverfly monitoring tray helps volunteers count numbers and types of samples

Having empowered our new volunteers on the Loddon, we are looking to expand and recruit more people to help monitor the health of rivers.

We have already lined up more training later this summer, for another group of volunteers on the Loddon catchment, giving more people the thrill of knowing they are contributing to vital data.

But we would like to know if you would like to get involved, across our 12 catchments (click through to a map to find your local river), which covers an area from Reading to Dover and down to Hastings.

Would you like to know more about the creepy crawlies living in your local river and what they show with regards to water quality? Could you spend a few hours each month monitoring a stretch of river?

We are interested in building a picture of potential volunteers, for whom we can design opportunities. Please get in touch on the below form to register your interest, so that we can understand how many people might want to be trained as riverfly monitors and where they are from.

Invasive species survey- training session

We are looking for volunteers to help conduct invasive plant species surveys along the Hogsmill, Beverley Brook and Wandle.

Invasive plant species such as Himalayan balsam and Pennywort have a detrimental impact to our waterways and we need your help to find and log them so we can target action to remove them.

This activity involves bankside surveys of stretches of river to map and record the presence and abundance of six key invasive plants.

The surveys will take place during June-July 2024.

As a volunteer, you can choose which stretch of the river and at what time to conduct the survey, within the survey period.

The survey will be conducted from the riverside path, in areas that are accessible and where the river is easily visible.

The training session will take place at:

Raynes Park Library, 21 Approach Rd, Raynes Park, London SW20 8BA

Google map HERE

BOOKING ESSENTIAL – please rsvp using the button below and complete the form to secure your spot. If the event is already fully booked then please sign yourself up to the waiting list and we’ll be in touch if a space becomes available.

Booking for this event will close at 5pm on Monday 3rd June.

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

 

Elmbridge Meadows Balsam Bash – Hogsmill River

Activity Description: Join us at Elmbridge Meadows to help remove the invasive plant, Himalayan balsam.

Himalayan balsam is a big problem for river banks up and down the country. In addition to competition for pollinators, native plants must also compete for light, nutrients and space, leading to an overall reduction in biodiversity. Moreover, the fact that the balsam dies back in the winter means that it leaves river banks bare and susceptible to erosion, and the dead leaves and stems can also cause blockages, which lead to flooding.

What’s more, each plant can produce up to 800 seeds per year – and one plant can propel copious amounts of that seed a distance of up to seven metres. This seed can spread considerably further if carried by the river, making it certain – if unchecked – to be more widespread year on year.

Meeting point: Meet at the entrance to Elmbridge Meadows Green Space, just off Raeburn Ave, Surbiton, KT5 8AN. Google map HERE

What to bring: Please wear appropriate clothes and footwear. If it is hot, please bring a hat and suncream. There will be options to work from the bank or in the water in waders. We will provide tea, coffee and biscuits but please bring a bottle of water and a packed lunch.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL – please rsvp using the button below and complete the form to secure your spot. If the event is already fully booked then please sign yourself up to the waiting list and we’ll be in touch if a space becomes available.

Booking for this event will close at 5pm on Tuesday 2nd July.

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

To read our Health and Safety Guidelines for this event please click HERE.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

Chamber Mead wetland community planting day – Hogsmill River

Activity Description: Join us at the recently constructed Chamber Mead wetland to help plant a range of native wetland plants. Once established, these plants will help to filter pollutants from the water and will provide food, shelter and habitat for local wildlife.

Meeting point: Meet at the entrance to Chamber Mead, just off Green Lanes, Ewell, KT19 9SZ. Google map HERE

What to bring: Please wear appropriate clothes and footwear. The site may be very muddy, you might wish to wear your own walking shoes/wellies but we might be working in shallow water and will provide wellies and waders if required. We will provide tea, coffee and biscuits but please bring your own lunch and water.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL – please rsvp using the button below and complete the form to secure your spot. If the event is already fully booked then please sign yourself up to the waiting list and we’ll be in touch if a space becomes available.

Booking for this event will close at 5pm on Tuesday 23rd April.

Please note: The event may finish early if all of the plants have been planted!

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

To read our Health and Safety Guidelines for this event please click HERE.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

Riverfly volunteer training – River Loddon

Are you interested in surveying and protecting the river Loddon and its tributaries?

Do you have an interest in what creepy crawlies live in a river?

 

Join us for a riverfly training session to become a certified riverfly monitor to learn how to survey river invertebrates as an indicator for water quality on your local river.

Please note that this opportunity requires a regular monthly commitment to conduct a riverfly survey at a specific site on the Loddon. The monthly survey dates are a pre-determined date window and can be conducted on a weekday or a weekday.

 

Where? Frank Goddard Room, Old Basing Village Hall, The St, Old Basing, Basingstoke, RG24 7DA

If you sign up for training we will share further details for the day by email.

 

What do I bring? Please bring your own lunch, steel-toe waders or wellies (if you have them) and clothing suitable for spending a few hours outside. All training resources, nets, trays and buckets will be provided.

Booking is essential for this training, please RSVP using the button below and complete the form to secure your spot. If the event is already fully booked, then please sign yourself up to the waiting list and we’ll be in touch if a space becomes available.

Please email lou@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it

Booking for this event will close at 5pm on the 17th April.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

Eel monitoring at Molesey Lock – Training session

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has one of the most fascinating of all animal life cycles. Beginning life as a leaf-shaped  larvae in the Sargasso Sea, they make an incredible migration across the Atlantic Ocean to the rivers and shallow coastal waters of Europe. They enter European rivers as elvers, spending between 12 and 30 years as adult ‘yellow eels’ before undergoing yet another metamorphosis  and starting the long swim back to breed then die in the Sargasso Sea.

Research over the last 30 years has shown all is not well with the European eel, leading to its 2008 Critically Endangered classification in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Recruitment of the European eel across Europe is believed to have declined by up to 95% since the 1980s. Reasons for its decline are thought to be a combination of habitat loss, barriers to migration, presence of a parasite in its swim bladder, over-fishing, and climate change affecting oceanic currents.

Activity Description: In partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), we will be continuing the annual monitoring of the eel trap at Molesey Lock from the end of April until October. The trap will need to be checked at least twice a week and we are looking for volunteers to help. Please only sign up to this training session if you are able to commit to regular checking of the eel trap. The training session will include:

  • An introduction to the European eel and its recent decline in recruitment
  • Background on the monitoring project
  • How the eel traps work and how to collect the data
  • Uploading the data to the ZSL site
  • Health and safety by the river

Only people aged 18 and over can monitor the trap.

Meeting point: Molesey Lock, Hampton Court, River Thames, KT8 9AW. Google map HERE

What to bring: Please dress for the weather and wear appropriate footwear.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL – please rsvp using the button below and complete the form to secure your spot. If the event is already fully booked then please sign yourself up to the waiting list and we’ll be in touch if a space becomes available.

Booking for this event will close at 5pm on 15th April.

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

Chamber Mead wetland community planting day – Hogsmill River

Activity Description: Join us at the recently constructed Chamber Mead wetland to help plant a range of native wetland plants. Once established, these plants will help to filter pollutants from the water and will provide food, shelter and habitat for local wildlife.

Meeting point: Meet at the entrance to Chamber Mead, just off Green Lanes, Ewell, KT19 9SZ. Google map HERE

What to bring: Please wear appropriate clothes and footwear. The site may be very muddy, you might wish to wear your own walking shoes/wellies but we might be working in shallow water and will provide wellies and waders if required. We will provide tea, coffee and biscuits but please bring your own lunch and water.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL – please rsvp using the button below and complete the form to secure your spot. If the event is already fully booked then please sign yourself up to the waiting list and we’ll be in touch if a space becomes available.

Booking for this event will close at 5pm on Friday 26th April.

Please note: The event may finish early if all of the plants have been planted!

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

To read our Health and Safety Guidelines for this event please click HERE.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

SERT is committed to becoming a more inclusive, equal and diverse organisation. We value people as individuals with diverse opinions, cultures, lifestyles and circumstances. This applies to our event attendees and volunteers as well as all our staff, trustees and job applicants. To help us maintain accurate data about who is coming to our events, we would be grateful if you would spend a couple of minutes completing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Questionnaire by clicking HERE. Completing this form is voluntary, and any data you submit will be held securely and only used for the purpose of monitoring our organisational profile.

Volunteers test pollution levels on River Mole

Volunteers are now collecting vital data about the health of the River Mole, after being given water quality testing kits as part of our Mending the Upper Mole project.

We are thrilled to have teamed up with River Mole River Watch, a local charity group which shares our aim to bring the river back to life for wildlife and people to enjoy.

Lewis briefs the volunteers on how to use the kits to test for pollution on the River Mole
Lewis briefs the volunteers on how to use the kits to test for pollution on the River Mole

Having picked up their kits this week, the citizen scientists will now be carrying out monthly tests for the next two years, to give us a baseline of pollutants. The volunteers will be measuring 10 aspects of river health, including levels of phosphate, ammonia, nitrate, conductivity, pH for acidity and temperature. All of this data is crucial to help us understand how to improve the river.

Lewis Campbell, SERT’s Catchment Manager in charge of the Mending the Upper Mole project, said: “It is fantastic to have a group of volunteers who want to get into the nitty gritty of looking after their local river by carrying out water quality tests to assess pollution levels. We know River Mole River Watch play an active part in caring for their stretch of river and it is brilliant to team up with them as they do so.

“The volunteers will be helping the Mending the Upper Mole project to assess the health of this section of river in a way that has not been done before. The results will allow us to highlight hotspots of pollution, helping the catchment partnership to implement strategies to  combat pollution and help the catchment thrive. We have already added gravels to the river at Maidenbower to help fish and we are working on a number of other projects to improve the waterway for wildlife.”

Simon Collins, one of the Trustees of River Mole River Watch, said: “Our fantastic River Mole River Watch volunteers have been collecting water quality test data across the whole catchment every month for a year. Partnering with SERT has been very helpful indeed and we are excited by the Mending the Upper Mole project as it focusses on water quality and pollution in the Upper Mole which is a particularly sensitive part of the river catchment area. More data will help to identify hot spots and areas we can work with SERT to improve.”

The River Mole catchment partnership is co-hosted between SERT and Surrey Wildlife Trust and the vision is set out on the river network’s Storymap website. The Water Framework Directive status for the water quality in the area being assessed is rated “poor”. The area being measured starts close to the source of the Stanford Brook and encompasses much of the Gatwick Stream.

So what are we measuring and why?

The water quality testing kits that will be used by volunteers
The water quality testing kits that will be used by volunteers

Self-contained testing kits will allow volunteers to monitor levels of chemicals such as phosphates and nitrates. High levels of both nutrients lead to algae growing in the water, depleting oxygen levels and obstructing light making the river unsuitable habitat for other wildlife. High phosphate readings would indicate pollution has likely occurred from untreated sewage – or domestic, misconnected plumbing that bypasses sewage treatment works and goes straight into rivers form surface water drains, known as outfalls.

Another chemical tested for will be ammonia, high levels of which would suggest pollution is coming from either sewage or agriculture. Conductivity measurements will also be taken to identify the presence of salts and heavy metals, indicators of road run-off washed into the river. A temperature reading will also be taken and higher readings are likely to be an indication of spillages from outfalls.

 

Volunteers with their kits
Volunteers from River Mole River Watch receive water quality testing kits to test for pollution

Gravel seeding on the River Blackwater, Aldershot – day 4

Activity description: The South East Rivers Trust would like your help with introducing gravels into the River Blackwater at Ivy Road Recreational Ground in Aldershot.

This is the final part of delivering our river restoration plan for this section on the River Blackwater, complementing the in-channel brash berms and deflectors already installed over the past couple of years.

NB: A decision on whether gravel seeding will take place on this day will depend on progress made during the preceding three days.

The newly seeded gravel will create riverbed features, such as pools and riffles, providing improved habitat for aquatic species. This habitat is essential for aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish as it offers refuge and spawning areas.

Come and enjoy this fantastic opportunity to put on a pair of waders and gloves, make a big difference to nature and meet new people also interested in conservation!

You will be moving gravel into the river at designated spots, using shovels and wheelbarrows, and spreading it with a rake along the riverbed.

All tools and equipment, inc. waders and gloves will be provided.

Tea and coffee will be provided but please bring your own lunch.

Time: 9.45am to 3pm

Meeting Point: end of Field Way, Aldershot GU12 4UG. Google map HERE.

 What to Bring:

  • Your own gardening gloves, if you prefer (note, they will likely get wet!)
  • Your own lunch
  • Plenty of water
  • Appropriate outdoor clothing, extra layers and waterproofs

Booking essential!

  • Please specify your UK shoe size (for waders provided by SERT)

 Booking for this event will close at: 5pm on Friday 8th March 2024

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

To read our Health and Safety Guidelines for this event please click HERE.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

SERT is committed to becoming a more inclusive, equal and diverse organisation. We value people as individuals with diverse opinions, cultures, lifestyles and circumstances. This applies to our event attendees and volunteers as well as all our staff, trustees and job applicants. To help us maintain accurate data about who is coming to our events, we would be grateful if you would spend a couple of minutes completing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Questionnaire by clicking HERE.

Gravel seeding on the River Blackwater, Aldershot – Day 3

Activity description: The South East Rivers Trust would like your help with introducing gravels into the River Blackwater at Ivy Road Recreational Ground in Aldershot.

This is the final part of delivering our river restoration plan for this section on the River Blackwater, complementing the in-channel brash berms and deflectors already installed over the past couple of years.

The newly seeded gravel will create riverbed features, such as pools and riffles, providing improved habitat for aquatic species. This habitat is essential for aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish as it offers refuge and spawning areas.

Come and enjoy this fantastic opportunity to put on a pair of waders and gloves, make a big difference to nature and meet new people also interested in conservation!

You will be moving gravel into the river at designated spots, using shovels and wheelbarrows, and spreading it with a rake along the riverbed.

All tools and equipment, inc. waders and gloves will be provided.

Tea and coffee will be provided but please bring your own lunch.

Time: 9.45am to 3pm

Meeting Point: end of Field Way, Aldershot GU12 4UG. Google map HERE.

 What to Bring:

  • Your own gardening gloves, if you prefer (note, they will likely get wet!)
  • Your own lunch
  • Plenty of water
  • Appropriate outdoor clothing, extra layers and waterproofs

Booking essential!

  • Please specify your UK shoe size (for waders provided by SERT)

 Booking for this event will close at: 5pm on Friday 8th March 2024

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

To read our Health and Safety Guidelines for this event please click HERE.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

SERT is committed to becoming a more inclusive, equal and diverse organisation. We value people as individuals with diverse opinions, cultures, lifestyles and circumstances. This applies to our event attendees and volunteers as well as all our staff, trustees and job applicants. To help us maintain accurate data about who is coming to our events, we would be grateful if you would spend a couple of minutes completing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Questionnaire by clicking HERE.

Gravel seeding on the River Blackwater, Aldershot – day 2

Activity description: The South East Rivers Trust would like your help with introducing gravels into the River Blackwater at Ivy Road Recreational Ground in Aldershot.

This is the final part of delivering our river restoration plan for this section on the River Blackwater, complementing the in-channel brash berms and deflectors already installed over the past couple of years.

The newly seeded gravel will create riverbed features, such as pools and riffles, providing improved habitat for aquatic species. This habitat is essential for aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish as it offers refuge and spawning areas.

Come and enjoy this fantastic opportunity to put on a pair of waders and gloves, make a big difference to nature and meet new people also interested in conservation!

You will be moving gravel into the river at designated spots, using shovels and wheelbarrows, and spreading it with a rake along the riverbed.

All tools and equipment, inc. waders and gloves will be provided.

Tea and coffee will be provided but please bring your own lunch.

Time: 9.45am to 3pm

Meeting Point: end of Field Way, Aldershot GU12 4UG. Google map HERE.

 What to Bring:

  • Your own gardening gloves, if you prefer (note, they will likely get wet!)
  • Your own lunch
  • Plenty of water
  • Appropriate outdoor clothing, extra layers and waterproofs

Booking essential!

  • Please specify your UK shoe size (for waders provided by SERT)

 Booking for this event will close at: 5pm on Friday 8th March 2024

Please email volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org to:

  • Find out more information,
  • Cancel your space if you can no longer make it.

To read our Health and Safety Guidelines for this event please click HERE.

Photos and video footage will be taken at this event and used by the Trust for promotional purposes (including but not limited to printed materials, social media, newsletters and the website) and potentially shared with our external partners and funders. From time to time, external media agencies could also take photos, film or record our events.

The Trust’s lawful basis for processing this is “Legitimate Interests” under the General Data Protection Regulations. As an individual you have rights. If you wish for SERT to stop processing this data for you, please talk to a member of staff or email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To read our Privacy Policy and see how we use and look after the information you provide when booking your spot at our events please click HERE.

SERT is committed to becoming a more inclusive, equal and diverse organisation. We value people as individuals with diverse opinions, cultures, lifestyles and circumstances. This applies to our event attendees and volunteers as well as all our staff, trustees and job applicants. To help us maintain accurate data about who is coming to our events, we would be grateful if you would spend a couple of minutes completing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Questionnaire by clicking HERE.

Community action kicks off Mending the Upper Mole

Engaging people with their local rivers is pivotal to the South East Rivers Trust’s mission to improve the health of our waterways. Communities that play a role in caring for their river are vital both in monitoring the river for signs of problems and for getting stuck in to help us fix them. Lewis Campbell, our Catchment Manager for the River Mole, reviews our recent community engagement events for the Mending the Upper Mole project and looks ahead to what we have lined up for 2024.

Lewis Campbell with volunteers at Horley
SERT’s Lewis Campbell with volunteers at Horley

Managing the amount of litter that ends up in our urban rivers is incredibly important. The presence of unwanted rubbish not only spoils the aesthetics of our waterways but also has significant ecological implications for the health of our rivers, streams and even our oceans.

For example, discarded plastic can cause problems if it is ingested by wildlife, or it can break down into microplastics and pose a significant pollution risk.

As part of our Mending the Upper Mole project, we have recently been out and about with our wonderful volunteers removing litter from two tributaries of the River Mole.

On 24th September, which just happened to be World Rivers Day, we set up our gazebo on Riverside Gardens in Horley and invited the local community to join us in a bankside cleanup along the bank of the Gatwick Stream. We were joined by our friends from River Mole River Watch and Horley Town Council.

Scout group members at our event
Local scout group members loved our event, from making crafts to taking part in the cleanup

Alongside individual volunteers from the local community, we also welcomed a local scout group, whose members not only enjoyed making crafts on our stand but set about gathering up the litter with tremendous energy.

After a few hours of work, we had removed a huge amount of rubbish from the landscape. Items mainly consisted of plastic bottles, drinks cans and food packaging. A shopping trolley and car tyre were among larger items.

Following the success of our Horley event, on 11th October we went south and hosted a group of enthusiastic volunteers for a clean-up along the Stanford Brook and its banks in Crawley. This time we were able to get into the river itself.

Looking in from the riverbank, the waterway looked relatively clean. Once we entered the water, however, the scale of the litter problem became clear: there was a lot of rubbish on the river bed which had clearly been there a long time. We collected large amounts of food wrappers and drinks cans and bottles. We also picked out three more shopping trolleys and the base of a vacuum cleaner.

Half a vacuum cleaner, found on the Upper Mole
The bottom half of a vacuum cleaner was found, among other items of rubbish

I’d like to extend a massive thank you to all who came and helped out at both events. To those who took part, the experience really emphasised the scale of the issue affecting our waterways: we can’t always see the extent of the damage being caused to our rivers, because much of it sinks to the bottom. Creatures in the river will try to feed on items such as plastic, while the larger items that we can see are an eyesore on cherished public spaces.

Besides tidying up our rivers, these events are also a great opportunity to engage with local people about our plans to improve the health of the waterways of the Upper Mole, around Horley, Crawley and neighbouring areas.

Back in 2017, a pollution event significantly impacted the health of the Upper Mole catchment. The South East Rivers Trust was given funding to deliver an ambitious suite of projects in order to improve the ability of the catchment to cope with such events in the future. These delivery projects will include removing barriers to fish passage, like the projects we have delivered on the Darent and Loddon, improving the quality of the river habitat, such as we have done on the Wandle, and creating wildlife refuges.

We will also work with schools and community groups in the Upper Mole to raise awareness of local rivers and to encourage engagement. Another aspect is to conduct citizen science to better understand how poor water quality is impacting the rivers and their wildlife, to help us form action plans to improve the river’s health. All of these projects come together to form what we have called the Mending the Upper Mole project.

We hope that 2024 will be the year when much of this work kicks off in earnest. A great appetite has already been shown not only by the volunteers who have turned up at our events, but by community leaders and conservation groups who are all keen to help.

There will be ample opportunities to get involved, whether you want to come and help us pick litter, clear overgrown river banks, take water samples, or all of the above. You can keep in touch with opportunities by bookmarking our events page, by signing up to SERT’s mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter or for direct enquiries email info@southeastriverstrust.org.

To learn about our Key Stage 1 and 2 sessions for primary schools on the Gatwick Stream at Grattons Park, visit our education page and read the Our River Our Water section.

The final haul at our Crawley cleanup
Volunteers with the final haul at our Crawley cleanup on World Rivers Day

 

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.

 

Sign up for our Plastic-Free Community Action Plan

The South East Rivers Trust has launched a new scheme to encourage groups to protect rivers from plastic, by cutting their reliance on single-use items. It is called the Community Action Plan and is part of our Preventing Plastic Pollution project. Below, Hannah Dry, our Plastics Project Officer, outlines the concept and how you can get involved.