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"A Clear Future for our River"
Welcome to BART's Autumn 2020 Newsletter

It's been an incredibly challenging year for us all... but despite periods of furlough and uncertainty, we've managed to keep ourselves busy throughout the summer to protect and enhance the Bristol Avon!
We hope that you enjoy reading about BART's recent work to protect and enhance our local rivers. 

 
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Latest News


A note from BART's Operations Manager, Simon Hunter


Its been a rather strange year with pandemic restrictions impacting us all. It's been no different here at BART - our engagement, education, training and volunteering workstream's have had to be postponed so that we can go about our business as safely as possible. Although many of our activities have been restricted, we have kept ourselves rather busy throughout the Summer and into Autumn...

The snippets below within the newsletter below create a patchwork of our whereabouts over the past several months. Despite a global pandemic, I am incredibly proud of what the team has achieved and the way we have all adapted to deliver work in accordance with government guidance regarding Covid-19. I am also very grateful for the flexibility shown by our project funders throughout this difficult time. Without this flexibility, we really would have been in trouble. 

From all of us at BART, we wish you good health through the winter months. Thank you very much for your continued support.

Welcome to BART's Agricultural Project Manager, Federica


We would like to extend a very warm welcome to Federica Reitano who joins BART as Agricultural Project Manager.

Federica has an MSc in Applied Ecology and a BSc (Hons) in Wildlife and Practical Conservation. She is a keen conservationist and a botany enthusiast with a particular interest in ecological interactions. She worked in the public sector for the past 5 years in different roles. Federica worked at Natural England as Lead Adviser in Cornwall, where she advised landowners and stakeholders on sustainable land management and sustainable farming, incentivising good practice through the Countryside Stewardship work programme. She also worked on monitoring the condition of terrestrial protected sites. Federica then worked at Cornwall Council as Project Development Officer where she worked on a wealth of environmental projects aimed at delivering Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy, including the implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain at a county level.

Federica is already working on key projects in the Bristol Avon catchment, including investigating the opportunity for shovel ready measures through landowner engagement on the Belluton Brook and Candlestick stream. 

Volunteer Award for Martyn


A huge congratulations to Martyn Hale for achieving the River Restoration Centre River Champion award!  The support Martyn has given our Team and all our riverfly monitors has been absolutely vital in delivering all of our Riverfly Partnership work. We’re looking forward to continue our work with Martyn into the future. We couldn't be more proud (and lucky!)!

The Importance of monitoring our rivers...


Water Quality – perhaps the most important of the very many aspects of our work. And perhaps one we still know too little about from a data and scientific perspective on our own local rivers.

We know that life in our rivers and streams relies on good water quality at all stages in the food chain – from invertebrates through different fish species and iconic birds like the kingfisher and dipper through to water voles and otters. And people of course – of all ages and interests from small children paddling, through walkers and runners to those who just like to sit and take it all in. Most activities are enhanced by being beside water, particularly a healthy stream supporting an abundance of life.

That’s why BART are really pleased to have been working in partnership with the Rivers Trust, Wessex Water and the Environment Agency in monitoring water quality at Warleigh Weir recently – helping to test if the river there might qualify for a bathing water status designation. If this results in improvements being made for the benefit of people we hope all river life will benefit.

BART will be increasing the monitoring activities it can carry out over the next year or so – directly linked to our aim to involve more and more communities in helping to improve their local rivers and streams.

Bristol Avon WaterBlitz


The Bristol Avon WaterBlitz ran throughout August and into September 2020. The annual citizen science event aims to gain a snapshot of water quality in the rivers and streams across the Bristol Avon catchment. The WaterBlitz has, once again, enabled people passionate about their local green and blue environment to contribute to its conservation. By working together across the catchment, we can find areas of good water quality in need of protection and areas of bad water quality in need of further investigations and improvements.

313 Citizen Scientists took part in the 2020 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz! Together, they took samples at 266 locations giving us a fantastic spread of data across the catchment.

You can view the results and analysis in a StoryMap here along with results from the previous three years. 

WaterBlitzers collected data on two key nutrients found in our freshwater systems: nitrates and phosphates. The key high-level findings from this years event are as follows:

  • 13% of the samples from fresh water sites showed a nitrate level classed as low pollution (<0.5mg/L)
  • 66% of samples showed a high nitrate pollution level (>1.0mg/L).
  • 52% of samples were of a low level of phosphates (<0.05 mg/L) 
  • 30% of samples showed a high level of phosphates (>0.1 mg/L).

Where floating algae was observed, the average phosphate level far exceeded the catchment wide average: 60% higher in these spots.

10% of sample sites identified litter pollution on the surface of the water. This is very concerning and highlights the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling materials, and of the importance of community groups who carry out litter picks and river cleans in our green and blue spaces.

Nitrates and phosphates are nutrients that enter watercourses through fertilizers, manure, sewage, waste, urban surface runoff and the use of household products such as washing detergents. They can speed up plant growth and eutrophication and, in extreme cases, cause algal blooms in water bodies.

The results will help us target these areas and influence future conservation projects. The WaterBlitz results also contribute to a global water quality database which assesses the quality of freshwater ecosystems all over the world. We're already busy planning the next WaterBlitz events for Spring 2021. 

For more information on the event or to support upcoming WaterBlitzes across the catchment please contact george@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Riverfly Monitoring update


The Riverfly Monitoring Initiative, supported by the Riverfly Partnership, uses citizen science to get people out and about on our rivers, enjoying the natural environment and helping to monitor and protect it into the future. Despite the difficulties in 2020, we are very pleased to see that our volunteer monitors have been able to get out on our rivers and have entered their results on the riverfly database for many sites and samples. There has even been an increase in our riverfly network on the Bristol Avon Catchment!

We now have 70 sites within the Bristol Avon Catchment and as always we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone for all your efforts!

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we couldn’t, unfortunately, hold our Marden or Somerset Frome riverfly training days planned for this summer. We do, however, hope to be back training in 2021 if the government’s guidelines allow it. Please contact jess@bristolavonriverstrust.org if you are interested in becoming a riverfly monitor, would like more information or would like to be included on the list for training next year.

Ecological Monitoring - River Marden


As well as another fantastic year as the ARMI riverfly hub for the Bristol Avon, BART have also been out undertaking our own macro-invertebrate sampling to support our projects throughout the catchment.  Earlier this year BART’s Aquatic Ecologist Jess undertook ecological monitoring to assess the current ecological conditions of the river Marden and its tributaries. 

The macro-invertebrate surveys found a variety of taxa within the watercourses including cased caddisflies, caseless caddisflies, stoneflies, mayflies, beetles, freshwater limpets, fly larvae, freshwater shrimps and worms. The diversity of macro-invertebrates found varied considerably between sites, from excellent to poor, most likely as a result of both the habitat available and the water quality in the watercourses. The taxa found in the samples included the Nationally Scarce beetle larvae Riolus subviolaceus and the Red List (Least Concern) cased caddis fly Melampophylax mucoreus. These were found in the top two sites on the upper stretches of the river Marden.

Macro-invertebrate data creates a baseline of ecological data that helps improve our understanding of what impacts are facing the Marden in a variety of locations. This information will help us to
target the main issues impacting the river and develop project scope that contribute towards addressing the issues.

Become a Water Guardian


Wessex Water is seeking volunteer Water Guardians to monitor conditions along the River Trym, Beehives Brook Tributary and Badock’s Wood area and act as an early warning system for any signs of pollutions, bursts, and leaks. No need to set aside time from your day as we only ask that you incorporate volunteering into your daily routine, be it dog walking, cycling, bird watching, or a leisurely stroll, and report any problems back to us.

All volunteers will be given training and continued support and engagement, to help safeguard the environment and provide a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ for local rivers.

If you are interested in being our additional eyes and ears on the ground, or would like further information, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jordan.Clydesdale@wessexwater.co.uk


© Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
 

BART support the WW scheme and would encourage our own local contacts to support it BUT STILL keep us informed as your efforts are highly valued by us.

Project Updates


River Chew Catchment Project - eDNA Pilot Project


During September BART began the delivery of an exciting eDNA (environmental DNA) pilot project on the River Chew, to explore the presence or absence of fish within a section of the Chew itself and within one of it’s tributaries the Candlestick stream, known to have excellent spawning habitat potential. 

eDNA also known as metabarcoding, is a relatively new technology with proven success, and it works by DNA sequencing biological fragments, such as shells and scales within a water sample collected from the river, to provide a valuable indication of organisms present.

The technology has revealed identification of organisms missed during more traditionally used survey methods; such is the case of electrofishing which is known to particularly miss bottom feeders and some trickier to catch minor species.

If results from the pilot project indicate a relatively low abundance or even absence of a particular species upstream of a structure, for instance a weir, it will help identify connectivity issues and habitat types. At BART we would like to see the reconnecting of the River to expand the spawning areas for migratory fish, but also to provide wider habitat for the plethora of other fish and ecology found lower within the River Chew. These outcomes drive a multitude of benefits, attracting other wildlife, people to the area and with hope to reignite the Chew’s Heritage.

BART is working towards securing funds to deliver the project throughout the entire River Chew catchment and if the trial is successful, we have aspirations to roll this technique out across the wider Bristol Avon. 

To follow our River Chew eDNA project progress please keep an eye on our website for further updates, or contact simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org for further information.

River Chew Catchment Project - "Working with Natural Processes" in the Winford Brook


During summer 2020, BART delivered the first phase of a multi-benefit scheme on a tributary of the Winford Brook, North Somerset. The scheme is situated within the headwaters of the catchment, where measures were designed to intercept surface water runoff and in doing so, temporarily store surface water to improve drainage of a road and delay the volume of surface water entering the Winford Brook downstream.

The measures have been designed to contribute towards reducing fine sediment and nutrient input to improve water quality of the Winford Brook which is currently failing Water Framework Directive status. During November, BART and a group of volunteers will be planting 170 trees throughout the scheme.

The second phase of the scheme, was delivered several hundred metres downstream of the measures described above, and includes and the installation of a shallow scrape and in-field bund that will intercept the flow pathway.

The combination of the measures introduced throughout this watercourse will improve floodplain connection, slow the flow of water during rainfall events, reduce sediment & nutrient inputs, sequester carbon and create new woodland habitat. Overall, the scheme will contribute towards improving the health of a failing watercourse. This work has been funded by the Environment Agency, and the tree planting supported by Bristol Water.

BART is working in partnership with a number of landowners in Winford and throughout the Chew Valley in order to develop plans that improve the health and functioning of the river environment, including measures to reduce sedimentation, diffuse pollution and enhance riparian habitat.

For the full project update visit the BART website. For more information on the project and on BART’s wider work in the catchment please contact Simon Hunter: simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org

River Chew Catchment Project - Investigating multi-benefit opportunities on Candlestick Stream & Belluton Brook


BART has been conducting a multi-objective assessment of the Candlestick stream and Belluton Brook, tributaries of the River Chew. BART’s team have delivered field surveys to identify sources of diffuse pollution and sediment pathways, nutrient input from land-use and Natural Flood Management (NFM): opportunities to ‘slow the flow’, such as attenuation features and tree planting opportunities. Over the next month we will be engaging with landowners to develop multi-benefit opportunities to support improvements to WFD (Water Frame work Directive), flood-risk and habitat throughout the Chew catchment. The project is being supported by the Environment Agency Water Environment Improvement Fund.

                     

 

Tree planting to benefit rivers & wildlife


With tree planting high on the local and national agenda due to their ability to capture carbon, improve air quality, increase biodiversity and provide public amenity in an increasingly nature-depleted landscape. BART's approach to tree planting is to plant the right trees in the right places in order to deliver the most benefit for our rivers, streams and brooks and the wildlife that they support.

Tree planting is one important element to our aim of improving rivers for nature and for people. Earlier this year, BART delivered a pilot project in the Chew Valley, with an initial focus on the Winford Brook and tributaries of the River Chew catchment. Using a combination of hydraulic modelling and walkover surveys to ground truth the most suitable locations for tree planting, we've developed plans that will benefit catchment hydrology, contribute towards improving water quality and connect riparian habitat as well as deliver for the wider more well-know benefits that trees provide such as carbon sequestration. Trees also pay an important part within our natural flood management schemes that include wider measures including scrapes, ponds, leaky dams to reintroduce natural processes. Trees increase surface 'roughness' and infiltration of surface water into the soil, slowing the flow of runoff, while creating unique areas of wet woodland habitat.
 
Having identified priority areas for tree planting our team has been busy engaging with landowners and developing feasible multi-benefit planting plans. We've begun delivering planting work on the ground and are working towards securing additional funds to deliver several other schemes during this planting season and into the next. We look forward to providing you with further updates as our plans progress.

For more information or to find out how you can help with tree planting events please contact simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org
 

Congresbury Yeo walkover survey investigations


BART is planning to develop and deliver future projects within the Congresbury Yeo catchment. To better understand some of the water and sediment related issues within the catchment during summer 2020, Lauren, BART Project Manager, conducted a series of walkovers of the Congresbury Yeo between Congresbury Village and Blagdon Lake, including the Congresbury Yeo’s minor tributaries and ditch networks.

By addressing issues identified during the surveys, measures could result in multi-benefit outcomes:

  • Natural flood risk management solutions that will contribute towards reducing flooding
  • Reduction of fine sediment input to the Congresbury Yeo to improve water quality, riverine habitat and it’s ecology
  • Further river improvement opportunities to improve the diversity of the river’s habitat

BART aim to improve habitat, water quality and river connectivity to create a better place for wildlife and deliver environmental improvements which collectively aim to create a better place for the benefit of people: locals, community groups and visitors to the Congresbury Yeo.

"Nature Based Solutions" implemented in South Brook


The second phase of delivery in the South Brook catchment has now been delivered by BART, aiming to ‘slow the flow’ of surface water during peak rainfall events. In 2018 & 2019 BART carried out natural flood management (NFM) walkover surveys with the overall aim of identifying opportunities to implement ‘nature based solutions’ in the South Brook Catchment near Melksham, Wiltshire.

The South Brook NFM walkovers aimed to complement existing work programmes by identifying opportunities to work with natural processes in order to benefit localised hydrology in response to rainfall events, particularly in the South Brook headwaters. BART found that measures such as improved land and soil management and flow path attenuation may benefit localised hydrology while also delivering multiple benefits such as reducing sediment runoff and improving water quality issues in the river network.

As part of a suite of measures planned in the catchment, BART worked with contractors to reduce the gradient of the banks of two sections of stream. This increases the opportunity for water storage in the channel before flowing downstream and will allow for a greater succession of vegetation to establish. Late summer seed planting has taken place along one of these stretches which receives good sunlight.

This work complements the installation of leaky dams, or ‘log jams’, within an active, spring-fed stream and the installation of large woody material to the woodland floor to ‘slow the flow’ of surface water runoff from an adjacent field before it enters the watercourse.

Our work will help contribute towards ‘slowing the flow’. The accumulative impact of multiple small-scale interventions is likely to benefit localised hydrology in response to rainfall events.

Next month BART will be delivering tree planting along the riparian corridor to increase the infiltration of surface water and promote biodiversity. The project was funded by the Environment Agency. 

To find out more please get in touch or contact Project Manager, Lauren directly: lauren@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Congresbury Yeo river enhancements


BART have implemented measures to reduce the impact of suspended sediment and open up the dense tree canopy to encourage habitat diversity within an over-wide section of the Congresbury Yeo below Blagdon Lake. This second phase of the project was designed to capture fine sediment from upstream sources that were smothering river bed substrate throughout the over-wide section of the river to improve diversity of flows and provide habitat for invertebrates and fish. 

To help improve flow diversity, BART designed three structures using wood harvested from the river banks during the first phase of coppicing works earlier in the year. The brushwood structures will capture fine sediment, pinch the channel to create flow diversity that will help to maintain clean bed substrate  and improve habitat for aquatic invertebrates and fish. The project was funded by Bristol Water.

For the full project update visit the BART website. For more information about this project please get in touch with simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Little Avon headwaters project - Cotswolds AONB 

BART is very pleased to announce the start of a new partnership project with Cotswold AONB that will deliver filed investigations and development of plans to improve the watercourses throughout the headwaters of the Little Avon.

The surveys aim to identify gaps in the collective evidence base to complete our understanding of priority areas for targeted improvements across the AONB with a strong focus on the water environment. BART will identify restoration potential including opportunities for habitat creation and floodplain connectivity and work towards securing funds to deliver “quick win” enhancements on the ground during 2021.

 
If you wish to find out more information regarding this project, please contact Simon Hunter at simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org

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