Julian Greaves, BART’s Chair and one of the founders, reflects on what BART has achieved in the last 10 years.
Well, when it was brought to my attention that BART was about to reach its 10th birthday, it stopped me in my tracks!
Ten years…How did that happen?
I’ve spent quite some time since, reflecting on the journey from an idea that wouldn’t go away, to a few middle-aged blokes sitting around a kitchen table and onwards to the thriving, dynamic and successful organisation that BART has become. So many people have played a part along the way, giving generously of their time and expertise, that it would be impossible to name them all. However, a very special thanks must go out to Ian Mock, without whom, BART would likely never have made it away from that kitchen table. It would also be remiss of me not to acknowledge and thank the wonderful Harriet Alvis for all her work as a project officer and builder of relationships across the catchment, for most of BART’s journey. Four years ago, we were lucky enough to recurit an entusiastic, talented and dynamic member of the team, Simon Hunter, who has now become our CEO. Simon is now supported by a multi-talented team of dedicated individuals with a broad range of knowledge and experience, supported by a group of experienced Trustees. BART has come of age!
Looking back over the very long list of river improvement projects that the BART team has achieved, and the several hundreds of school children and adults that now know so much more about our rivers and the creatures that inhabit them, than they ever would have without BART, it makes me extremely proud. There is so much to celebrate.
For all of modern history, our rivers have been abused and neglected. Sadly, they are now in a very poor state, chiefly from over abstraction, poor land management, road run-off and pollution from agriculture and sewage. Barely a week goes by without one headline or another detailing appalling releases of farm slurry, untreated sewage or toxic chemicals. However, while these headlines fuel the public imagination, it is the insidious, low level nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, pharmaceutical contamination and over abstraction happening every minute of every day that form the real challenge. On top of this, our rivers and streams are also full of barriers, in the form of historic and modern weirs and sluices. These impede the movement of migratory fish and reduce habitat diversity for all inhabitants.
In a natural setting, our rivers provide essential wildlife corridors, rich, diverse ecologies, reliable clean water for all and essential flood management.
It is BART’s goal to restore, as far as possible in the context of our modern world, our rivers to this natural state and to raise awareness amongst present and future generations as to the beauty and wonder within.
Fortunately, our little band of river heroes has been punching well above their collective weight for a whole decade now, making a real difference. The BART team has built partnerships across the catchment with all the key organisations. We have raised £millions, all of which has been spent on improving our rivers and providing education to children and adults alike. BART has built a network of “BART Beacons” from Yate, to Devises and down to the Somerset levels. Hundreds of pairs of eyes, looking out for our rivers and streams on a daily basis.
The BART team has planted thousands of trees, protected and enhanced many, many kilometres of river habitat, removed several weirs, installed hundreds of natural flow deflectors, restored and created wetland habitats and worked with many farmers to protect waterways flowing through their land.
BART is now the Bristol Avon catchment leader in natural flood management, river restoration, sediment pathway analysis and fish passage enhancement. BART is also leading on the novel use of e-DNA to analyse fish populations in a non-invasive way, that doesn’t involve electrocuting our poor fish in the process!