Through 2023, BART ran a series of community river dipping events in the Chew and Bristol Frome catchments. Children and adults learnt how to capture minibeasts (and the odd fish!) which live below the surface and identified what they caught. Everyone was delighted with what they found and have been inspired to help protect and restore their local rivers. All events were funded by the Co-op.
From July- November BART hosted four community river dipping events in the River Chew catchment for various younger groups. The events involved educating the younger generation about the wildlife that lives in their local river, and reconnected them with their local blue and green spaces. The children learnt all about river invertebrates, what makes our rivers unhealthy, and what we can all do to help improve them in the future. The children also learnt about how riverfly invertebrates can be used as indicators of river health, and why it is important to look after their habitats.
The first event was hosted on the 19th July with Chew Stoke Church School, with 30 children sampling and identifying various river invertebrates. The children thoroughly enjoyed this new experience, and even managed to catch an endangered European eel!
The second event was hosted on the 25th July, and was a community river dipping event open to the public in Chew Magna. A group of 20 children and parents thoroughly enjoyed the session, with some of the children saying it was the best day of their lives! Small groups took turns to get into the river and collect the invertebrates, which were then taken and separated into the identifying trays and dividers. The session was finished off with a mini-raft building activity, where the children worked in groups to create their best mini rafts from foraged natural materials, which they then raced down the river.
The third session was hosted in Chew Stoke with a local beavers group. The children learnt about the different types of invertebrates and fish species that are present in their local watercourse and how they can be used to indicate river health.
The final river dipping session was with Chew Magna Primary School. A group of 30 students explored their local watercourse and used our Freshwater Nature Trail guides to identify the different types of invertebrates they caught. The session was finished off with a mini-raft building activity, where the children worked in groups to create their best mini rafts from foraged natural materials, which they then raced down the river.
BART hosted 2 community river events along the Bristol Frome in Winterbourne and ran one Riverfly Training Course over the summer months of 2023.
The community river events involved a Himalayan balsam educational session involving clearing out patches along the river side and a community river dip to explore and learn about the species living in the river.
The first community event was held on the 15th of June with members of the Winterbourne Environment Group. Meeting at Damsons Bridge, BART staff introduced the group to Himalayan balsam and explained the risks it poses to native species. While walking upstream along the Bristol Frome Walkway we identified and cleared all the balsam found, including a large dense patch positioned just before the bridge, which could have eventually caused a local flood risk if not managed appropriately. By removing these plants before they go to seed, we can begin to reduce the presence of the species in the seed bank, in doing so opening up space on the riverbanks for native plant species. Following this event delivered by BART, members of the Winterbourne Environment Group have initiated a long-term management programme which involves regular balsam bash events along the riverbank.
The second event took place on the 14th of September with members of the Winterbourne community joining BART staff for an educational river dipping session. Members of the local community got stuck in with kick-sampling to collect species from the river then identifying what they found on the riverbank. Those who attended reported that they greatly enjoyed the session and learned a lot about the species that live in their local river, the challenges faced by them and what can be done to protect and improve the river ecosystem.
As well as the river dipping session, a Riverfly training course was run, targeted at the Winterbourne community. This involved an online training course and a practical session on the Bristol Frome. Volunteers learnt to sample and identify Riverfly following the Riverfly Partnership’s methodology. A decrease in the numbers of riverflies can highlight a severe problem with water quality. BART are supporting the new volunteers to pick local sites and carry out monthly riverfly monitoring. The data collected goes on a National Database. As part of this monitoring initiative hundreds of volunteers are already working together all over the country to survey and to protect our rivers into the future. By teaching people to become monthly riverfly monitors and enabling them to set up networks with local, like-minded individuals we encourage them to continue to get out and about, helping to protect nature for years to come!
A big thank you to the Co-op for funding these events which have educated and inspired ongoing conservation activities to protect and restore the River Chew and the Bristol Frome catchments!