This year, Loddon Rivers Week 2021 took place between the 18th and 26th of September.
The week is a celebration of the River Loddon and its tributaries and we had some great events to get local people discovering more about their local river.
Thank you to everyone who attended the events lead by us and our fantastic partners Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative, Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Hampshire County Council and Dinton Pastures County Park.
Find out more about what we got up to below:
Almost a year to the day that SERT constructed a backwater on the River Loddon in Charvil Meadows (see blog HERE) we were back to do further enhancements. Alongside LFCC and some trusty volunteers, we planted over 500 native plants on the banks of the backwater. These plants included yellow flag iris, sedge, purple loosestrife and water mint. These native plants will help to stabilise the banks of the backwater while also bringing about biodiversity benefits. We also distributed 2 tonnes of gravel at the downstream mouth of the backwater, which shallowed up the area and also has provided some potential spawning habitat for local fish species such as barbell. LFCC also took the opportunity to carry out a brief fish survey on the backwater. The results were very promising, with over 100 individual fish found in the backwater at the time of the survey. There was a good mix of different species and notably, a lot of the fish were juvenile species (>1-year-old). These stats nicely demonstrate the benefits of backwaters as excellent nursery habitat for juvenile fish.
Wednesday was another scorcher of a day for our habitat improvement event on the River Whitewater. We were continuing our work with Hampshire and Isle of White Wildlife Trust to restore the chalk stream habitat found in Bassetts Mead LNR near Hook. Clean gravelly river beds are a classic feature of chalk streams, providing fantastic spawning areas for fish like trout as well as refuge for many invertebrate species.
Over the course of the day, with a little assistance from the HIWWT tractor operator, we added a whopping 30 tonnes of new river gravels to depleted areas. A monumental effort by everyone involved and the trout will appreciate all the pristine spawning habitat you helped create. Thanks also goes out to Hook Parish Council who funded purchase of the gravel.
Thursday was spent dealing with an occurrence of floating pennywort at Wyndhams Pool at Yateley. Floating Pennywort is an invasive plant species native to North America. Introduced widely across Europe as an ornamental pond species, pennywort has now become established in the wild with serious economic and ecological consequences.
This aquatic invasive can grow up to 20 cm a day producing 70 kg of wet weight per square metre. This high growth rate means pennywort can quickly cover a water body, smothering the wildlife underneath, blocking out sunlight and reducing oxygen levels.
The team worked extremely hard – the contrast in spending a day in a muddy swamp from the previous days work in a clear flowing chalk stream was not lost on them. However the results of the day were satisfying with the second sweep through the affected area producing very few plants. This is part of an ongoing initiative to attempt to totally eradicate this plant from the Yateley area. Monitoring and further removals, both by Hampshire County Council volunteers and contractors funded by the Environment Agency as a Fisheries Improvement Project, will continue on this site into next year.
This was followed up with a walk along parts of the River Blackwater near Farnborough. The main emphasis of this visit was to further assess the extent of Water Hawthorn (aka Cape Pondweed) in the river. This plant, not officially classed as an invasive species, is nevertheless not native to Europe, and there are concerns that it could outcompete some of the indigenous species and potentially disrupt the biodiversity of the River Blackwater and further downstream. Completing the Waterhawthorn Safari means the Loddon Catchment Partnership can record presence of this plant within the river and keep an eye on its spread – thanks to those who helped the Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative to conduct the monitoring.
On Saturday, bat experts Steve and Bernard from the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership led a party of 18 adults and children around Hawley Meadows an area of riverside floodplain near Camberley. As darkness fell a few pipistrelles were spotted along the tree belts in the Meadow but when they reached the River Blackwater activity really took off.
Everyone was captivated for half an hour watching the many close passes of Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and the Water Bats ( aka Daubenton’s) feeding over the river.
“I just wanted to say a massive thank you, to Bernard and Steve, for the bat walk yesterday. We really enjoyed it. It was amazing to see the bats flying over the river and absolutely fascinating being able to hear the sounds they make using the bat detectors – we both loved it and have been telling everyone about it today!”
The Emm Brook guided walk was incredibly well received. There is a real sense of community in the Woosehill area and participants were very enthusiastic about hearing what is planned for their stretch of the Emm Brook. The walk also gave an insight into the river’s hidden potential, highlighting both the habitat features that enable it to support wildlife and some of obstacles river species face. The expertise and local knowledge from participants enhanced the walk with wildlife sightings and local history. Thank you to all who attended. If you’d like to find out more about SERT’s project to restore the Emm Brook, click HERE.