"A Clear Future for our River"
Welcome to BART's Summer 2022 Newsletter
Catch up with what's been happening with Team BART! As Summer begins, we’re working hard on the ground to deliver river improvements, citizen science and education and engagement across the catchment! It’s been wonderful meeting our volunteers and local communities in person too.
We hope that you enjoy reading about BART's recent work to protect and enhance our local rivers.
We would like to extend a very warm welcome to the newest members of the BART team, John Lakin and Molly Boyce.
John has a strong conservation science background having completed a BSc and MSc in Conservation Biology / Conservation Science and Policy. Prior to joining BART, John took on a role as an Environmental Officer for a water utilities company in Kent carrying out ecological and habitat surveys, water quality surveys, GIS report writing, habitat restoration and creating opportunities for nature conservation through biodiversity enhancement. Before this, he worked as a Coast and Countryside Ranger in west Cornwall developing nature-based solutions to land and coastal management; as well as creating opportunities for community engagement and volunteer programmes. John has joined the team as a Project Assistant at BART looking to further develop habitat restoration and enhancement opportunities within the Trust as he is driven by a passion to protect our natural world.
Molly has a BSc in Geography with Ocean Science and has recently completed an MSc in Environmental Consultancy. Molly’s journey with BART started on a volunteering basis where she assisted with a number of restoration and conservation projects, which fuelled her passion to continue working to protect and improve river environments. Molly has helped to lead numerous volunteering events and carried out several environmental surveys for BART. She has acquired extensive knowledge on the sources, problems and perspectives of water pollution throughout her degrees and is passionate about restoring and enhancing our local river systems. Molly joins BART as a Project Assistant and will be delighted to offer assistance on any projects that helps the team and the local environment.
Farewell to George Clark
The BART team and Trustees would like to say a huge thank you to George Clark and we wish him the very best of luck in his new venture. The recent success of the Trust has a lot to do with the hard work and innovation from George and he will be missed by both our team and volunteers. It’s been an absolute pleasure working alongside George for several years, witnessing him progress from Project Assistant to Project Manager, developing plenty of new skills along the way. We wish you the very best of luck and look forward to keeping in touch.
A note from BART's CEO, Simon Hunter
"Since the Winter 2021 newsletter edition, the public and political focus on rivers and the issues that affect them has arguably been at an all-time high. Over the last six months or so, The Environment Bill has been passed, following extensive debate around how sewage pollution and water company responsibility should be incorporated, and the Environment Audit Committee report on river pollution has been published. It really feels like now is the time to build on this momentum to make a step change in looking after our rivers. Let’s hope that the words are followed with investment to deliver action on the ground.
The biggest development for BART in 2021/22 was winning £97k in new funding from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund to deliver a suite of “shovel ready” projects in the Chew Valley. This also included the recruitment of Amy Wade, our Chew Valley Community Engagement Officer, and the development and delivery of a community and school education programme for 12 months. Further details are included in the project summary below.
We also continued to deliver a suite of projects across the Bristol Avon, including work on the Bristol Frome, Little Avon, Upper Avon, Land Yeo, Congresbury Yeo catchments to name just a few and we’ve continued to grow our annual citizen science RiverBlitz project once again. We’re intent on doing all that we can over the years ahead to continue to deliver projects to improve our local rivers to achieve our ambition for thriving rivers and communities throughout the Bristol Avon.
I am so proud of all that the Trust has achieved over the last 12 months and look forward to more, even greater things in 2022. We could not manage any of this though without the support that comes from our volunteers whose own passion propels the Trust in its mission to protect and restore our rivers across the Bristol Avon. Thank you.
I hope you all enjoy our Summer 2022 newsletter – you’ll see that once again we’ve been busy in our quest to improve our rivers and streams for people and wildlife to thrive!"
The infographic below provides summary of BART’s achievements from March 2021 - March 2022. To see the full version of the infographic, click here. Further details of BART’s impact throughout 21/22 can be found on our website.
Freshwater Biodiversity Investment Model & UK Freshwater Biodiversity Code Funding Success
BART, working in partnership with Federated Hermes International and The Rivers Trust, have successfully received funding from the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) to develop a UK first Freshwater Biodiversity Investment Model that will monetise river restoration techniques and the subsequent benefits this provides to restoring freshwater biodiversity. Much like carbon credits, but for freshwater health rather than carbon storage. This will fill a gap in the private investment market to enable freshwater biodiversity investments to take place and accelerate the much needed gap in investment to restore freshwater biodiversity to a healthy functioning system. In addition to this, we shall develop the UK first freshwater biodiversity code and a mechanism to enable this to be scaled throughout the UK and potentially globally.
Our citizen science project has evolved since the first event in 2016, with the number of participants and amount of data involved growing year on year. Where we previously worked with a project partner to deliver the project, we have decided to go it alone in order to expand the number of events we can deliver throughout the year, engage more river guardians, monitor more of our watercourses and make more of an impact within the Bristol Avon catchment. At a time when Environment Agency monitoring is being reduced (by half since 2013), citizen science is more important than ever to help protect and enhance our vital freshwater ecosystems.
Our RiverBlitz project looks at both the chemical and ecological health of our rivers and streams, using a different, easy-to-use testing kits and asking volunteers to observe a wide range of ecological characteristics in order to build up an in-depth and very useful picture of our watercourses. We hope you enjoy using the new platform and take the opportunity to get involved in the next RiverBlitz event.
Read more about RiverBlitz in the 'Coming Up' section below or on our website here. If you would like more information or if you have any questions about the project, please contact Rozy Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wetlands could be key to saving our bumblebees study shows
Study finds wetland restoration could be the single best conservation action to benefit generalist bumblebees!
Another benefit of creating and restoring wetlands, alongside providing much needed wetland habitat, carbon sequestration and flood relief, as well as providing excellent recreational value. Exactly what BART are doing right now (find details in 'Project Updates' below)!
Thousands of eels get a helping hand with their migration in the Bristol Avon catchment
Over 15,000 elvers have been caught and released over barriers on rivers near Bristol to help their migration and the eel population to recover.
The annual spring migration of elvers (young eels of the common or European eel) from the sea into our estuaries and rivers is nearly over. Their migration upstream is often blocked by the multiple sluices and weirs, reducing their ability to inhabit all freshwater habitats that should be available to them. This limits the recovery of the whole eel population which is estimated to have reduced by 90 – 95% since the 1980s.
Our thanks to Gloucester elver fishermen for fishing voluntarily for conservation purposes, to the Sustainable Eel Group who organised the releases and to the Environment Agency who authorised the operation.
This will help the eel populations to recover in these rivers and will make a contribution to the eel’s recovery across Europe.
Volunteers work hard to clean up & enhance our rivers
Throughout 2021, BART led a number of river clean events throughout the Bristol Avon catchment. Our team and our dedicated volunteers have removed an astounding amount of rubbish, including trolleys and trampolines to TVs and car tyres! Unfortunately, a lot of these items are purposefully dumped into the river or along its banks, and other times it is blown in out of bins or from the side of roads. Whichever way litter enters our rivers, it is crucial to remove it, as physical pollution can have detrimental impacts on the wildlife under the waterline as well as those that colonise the riparian corridors. The impact of rubbish along our waterways also degrades the quality of green & blue spaces for local communities to enjoy.
Thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers that joined us on our 2021 litter picking events, we have been able to remove over 150 bags of litter from our rivers and over 40 shopping trollies! The sections of river that we have cleaned can be viewed through our interactive map, where you can also see more photos and further details about the type of litter found at those locations.
Perhaps you and your colleagues could volunteer with us on one of our corporate volunteer days? Find details of what is involved, and how to book a day, here.
“Levels Up” Green Recovery Challenge Fund Mendip Hills
BART completed improvement of nearly 2 km of watercourse and riparian habitat in the Upper Chew catchment of the Mendip Hills, reducing sediment pollution, leading to water quality and ecological improvements. Much of the work delivered will have positive longer-term impacts for nature that cannot yet be fully measured. One of BART’s project sites for Levels Up involved the restoration of a riverbank and its habitat. The riverbank was being trampled (photo below) by livestock accessing the river for drinking water. This meant that sediment & cattle effluent would be carried downstream impacting the health of the river.
Livestock can now access the water via this purpose-built drinking bay. This will vastly reduce the sediment that will access the river, as well as providing new riverside habitat to establish. The site will provide a demonstration to other local landowners in how to properly protect the watercourses on their land for the benefit of the local natural landscape.
The outputs of the entire Levels Up programme delivered the following benefits across the region:
Find out further details of the project by visiting the Mendip Hills AONB website.
River Chew Reconnected
The project is funded by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. We are delighted with the progress of our project, so far a total of 952 school children have received an educational visit to increase their understanding of local rivers, wildlife, and sustainable drainage systems. These children have developed their analytical, identification, reasoning, mathematical and biological skills through the activities delivered by our River Chew Community Engagement Officer. Children have been taken on visits to the River Chew and its tributaries, and have enthusiastically taken part in classroom based workshops. They have been identifying river invertebrates, pouring over maps, interacting with Lego house models, and plenty more.
BART has successfully delivered two shovel ready projects that improve river habitat. In December 2020, three wetland scrapes were created, alongside planting of hedgerows, and the sewing of wildflower meadow areas at Bell Farm adjacent to the River Chew. Following this in April 2022, four large wetland scrapes were created at Wild Things Farm adjacent to the River Chew. Both areas will provide benefits of enhanced biodiversity, carbon storage, flood attenuation and habitat connectivity. Wetland plants will be planted within the wetlands in September 2022 with tree planting scheduled at the site for November/ December 2022.
In May 2022, our River Chew Community Engagement Officer, working with the Sustainable Eel Group and with the local Pensford Primary School, released over 1,000 elvers into the River Chew at Pensford and other locations as a part of a reintroduction programme. This project has provided an opportunity to enhance the local river habitat to support the critically endangered European eel. Furthermore, our community officer went into other local schools to educate the children and provided them with the opportunity to look after another set of elvers in their very own classroom. This project called “eels in the classroom” was a real success with fantastic support from local schools.
Our project in the Upper & Little Avon areas around Malmesbury and Tetbury involves walking some 189 km of rivers to undertake baseline surveys. We are assessing river condition and looking for opportunities to engage landowners in improving the immediate river habitat and the wider riparian floodplain area. Habitat improvements aim to enhance freshwater biodiversity, water quality, and habitat connectivity. Better connected rivers enable endangered species such as eels, and salmonid and coarse fish species to move more freely through the river system to breed and feed.
This project is kindly funded by the Halpin Trust and has enabled us to engage fishing clubs, landowners, Town Councils and private estates in the management of rivers to allow them to recover and flourish again. We will be delivering opportunities for communities to learn more about their local rivers through Riverfly training sessions, River Dips and Water Days. We are working with some focussed community groups in Hullavington to look at detailed water quality monitoring and to restore the river habitat through the introduction of brushwood berms which will provide refuge for fish and invertebrates in the river.
If you would like more information or if you have any questions about the project, please contact Melissa Hoskings at email@example.com.
Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Plan
For many people, the eye bounces off the surface film of Bristol Avon’s rivers, and the life below the surface is substantially out of sight and so therefore out of mind. However, what lies beneath the surface of the water is a significant and often the neglected part of our ecosystem – take the fish away, and the functioning of the ecosystem changes drastically.
Fish play many roles in the life cycles of other species, including a food source for many organisms, and at the same time play a key role as predators, to maintain population sizes and health. Fish serve as vital links in food webs, cycling nutrients, other chemicals and energy that maintain not only freshwater ecosystems but also the terrestrial ecosystems that interact with them. Therefore, healthy fish populations form a significant piece of the puzzle for delivering nature’s recovery, including economic, physical and mental health benefits associated with recreational activities such as recreational fishing.
Despite the multitude of benefits that healthy river catchments can provide, freshwater biodiversity has declined dramatically around the world; WWF reports an 83% decline in the freshwater living planet index since 1970. This decline is also evident in England; fisheries statistics published annually by the Environment Agency show that salmon are ‘at risk’ in 93% of the rivers in England. Declining catches of salmon and sea trout show that the proportion of rivers at risk has increased over the last five years. The annual catch of eels and elvers is also declining and below the average for the last 5 years. Eels have been designated as a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and are listed as Critically Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Locally, a mere 12% of waterbodies throughout the Bristol Avon are classified as having good ecological status under the Water Framework Directive legislation, with failing targets due to factors including physical modification, elevated nutrient levels, and sediment loads from land use. These factors impact fish populations and their distributions throughout the catchment.
If you would like more information or if you have any questions about the project, please contact Rozy Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help raise the profile of freshwater ecosystems, a Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Strategy is being developed to provide a voice for ‘life under water’ and will guide collective action to deliver an agreed vision for better managed and connected rivers for the Bristol Avon, making a vital contribution to a thriving natural freshwater environment, society and economy. It will also ensure that action for rivers will be delivered throughout the Bristol Avon through embedding the value of rivers in decision-making across spatial planning, public health and economic development. This Strategy is currently being produced through the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership (BACP), with content commissioned from the BART via the BACP small grants fund. We look forward to providing further updates as progress is made.
Thank you very much to those of you who have supported us with riverfly monitoring throughout 2022. Our hugely valued riverfly monitors have been out and about collecting riverfly data, reporting potential pollution incidents and helping to protect our rivers and streams into the future.
This Summer we have held four Anglers Riverfly Monitoring Initiative training courses to teach new volunteers the skills to become riverfly monitors. Thanks to our fantastic new volunteers for bringing knowledge and enthusiasm to the courses and, of course, to our wonderful funders: The Halpin Trust, Co-op and the Green Recovery Challenge Fund.
BART’s 2021 training sessions resulted in monitoring on many new watercourses as well as extending the network of sites we had already established in some areas. We hope that the 2022 training courses will build on the successes of 2021 and we look forward to working with our new monitors to set up sites and grow our existing network.
SmartRivers is a scheme spearheaded by Salmon and Trout Conservation (S&TC). It is a water quality monitoring project that trains volunteers to undertake macro-invertebrate samples in order to collect species level data which can be analysed to understand more about the pollutants that are stressing our rivers.
BART signed up to the SmartRivers Initiative in 2019 and with funding from Bristol Water, Jessy Grant, BART’s Aquatic Ecologist, undertook our first macro-invertebrate sampling and species level analysis in Autumn 2019 at five sites on the River Chew. Since then we have continued to collect data on the River Chew sites and in 2021 extended our SmartRivers network onto the Congresbury Yeo. Thanks to funding from Bristol Water, we are continuing our monitoring on the Chew and Congresbury Yeo in 2022.
SmartRivers uses macro-invertebrate data to assess which of the following pressures are impacting on each macro-invertebrate sample site: Pesticides, Flow, Organics, Nutrient “P” and Siltation. It is no surprise to find that our results have showed that both the River Chew and the Congresbury Yeo are being impacted by multiple stresses and sources. The results from the most recent analysis on the river Chew data revealed that excess sediment was the pressure of most consistent concern at all but one of the sites. The SmartRivers Congresbury Yeo work found that pesticides and siltation were having the greatest impact on the macro-invertebrate communities sampled.
The data from the SmartRivers programme is continually reviewed and used to help inform and focus our environmental work within the Chew and Congresbury Yeo catchments. To learn more about our Chew SmartRivers work and to read our Chew SmartRivers report with details about our findings please visit our website page.
Become a BART Beacon BART are seeking every day river heroes to help us protect and restore the rivers of the Bristol Avon. We aim to expand our network of BART Beacons so we can gain a more comprehensive picture of what's going on around the catchment.
We know how much people love spending time near, in or on the water and we would like committed volunteers to use this time to help BART look after our rivers and streams. BART Beacons are our eyes and ears on the ground, responding to issues or letting us know if they spot opportunities for improvement on their local river. It is a non-committal way to volunteer and anyone can do it!
What is a BART Beacon? BART Beacons are our eyes and ears on the ground, responding to issues or letting us know if they spot opportunities for improvement on their local river. Our Beacons are individuals or groups who can be a local contact for the public seeking guidance on how to best respond to a problem with their local river.
Over the years our Beacons have helped us build cases for river restoration, brought communities together to look after their natural spaces and responded quickly to major issues such as pollutions or habitat clearance.
BART can guide Beacons on the best action to take if they spot an issue or are contacted by a concerned member of the public. This could involve gathering photos to share with BART or reporting an incident to the Environment Agency or local authority. By becoming a Beacon you will help BART to keep an eye on the whole catchment and save our charity time and resource by responding to queries we would otherwise need to respond to.
How to become a BART Beacon Sign up to become a BART Beacon by contacting email@example.com with your name and email address and the river or stream you would like to become a Beacon for. BART will provide you with guidance on the role and how best to carry it out.
The Bristol Avon RiverBlitz (formally Waterblitz) returns for the sixth consecutive year this July!
We have watched this citizen science project expand year on year and we expect even more samples to be collected again by our amazing volunteers in 2022! BART is therefore calling upon all experienced and wannabe citizen scientists to get involved by registering your details on our website to receive water sampling kits in the post in readiness to sample your local watercourse. The data will shed a light on the health and condition of our rivers and streams across the catchment during the week long Blitz.
BART are seeking enthusiastic volunteers between 11th-18th July to help take river water samples to determine levels of nitrate and phosphate levels as well as recording other river quality indicators, such as habitat and invasive weeds. Whether you are going for a stroll with your dog, friends or family; or simply enjoying being outside on a nice sunny summer’s day (we hope!) then you can easily get involved.
So what does the role of a RiverBlitz citizen scientist involve? As a citizen scientist you will sample a site along your local river or stream using our free and simple-to-use water testing kits which will be provided by us when you sign up to the project. The water testing kits will test for nitrate and phosphate levels, providing a high-level indication of these nutrient levels at that point. An increase of nutrient levels in a river can artificially stimulate plant and weed growth, as well as algae. Algae uses up valuable oxygen in the river and blocks out light and smothers riverbed gravels, which can impact the local wildlife that depends on the river, such as invertebrates and fish.
So why help?
Once the samples have been completed you will upload your results to the new RiverBlitz data entry sheet and these results will be published on The Bristol Avon Riverblitz Explorer. Check out the data explorer to find out how the health of your local river or stream has changed during the past 5 years of the RiverBlitz events. This interactive map of the catchment demonstrates the distribution of samples taken as well as helping to identify areas for further investigations and future conservation efforts.
The 2022 Bristol Avon RiverBlitz is a great opportunity to reconnect with your favourite river; or for those who have found a hidden gem wanting to have an excuse to revisit, all your hard work will contribute towards us building a better understanding our local rivers. So, sign up for your free, easy to use water sampling kit, get involved, get outside and immerse yourself for the benefit of our rivers!
Today is the last day you can sign up for your kit to have it posted in time for this year's RiverBlitz.
Fear not if you miss the deadline of the 12th July, as this year we’re excited to be hosting several RiverBlitz events at locations along the Wellow Brook, the River Chew, the River Biss and the Congresbury Yeo. These events provide volunteers the opportunity to collect their kit in person, with members of the BART team demonstrating how to undertake sampling and answering questions about the methodology or any other river related questions that you might have! The events will take place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July from 10am to 2pm. Please find details of each event below:
Cam & Wellow Brooks: Saturday 16th July – Midsomer Norton Town Park, Gullock Tyning, Midsomer Norton, BA3 2UH
The River Biss: Saturday 16th July – Fore Street, Trowbridge Town Centre, BA14 8ER
The River Chew: Sunday 17th July – Wild Things Farm, Pensford Lane, Stanton Drew, Bristol, BS39 4DX (What 3 Words: ///amber.loudness.rivers)
Thank you to all of our super Bristol Avon RiverBlitz 2022 project funders: Medlock Charitable Trust; Green Recovery Challenge Fund; Wiltshire Wildlife Trust; Avon Wildlife Trust; Waitrose; Big Give; Bath & North East Somerset Council; Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership. We could not make this happen without your support which we are incredibly grateful.
Do you aspire to protect your river, create a wetland, or interested in opportunities to enhance your land for the benefit of wildlife? Perhaps BART River Services can help?
Do you need support with farm advice, Natural Flood Management, Nature Based Solutions, river restoration, wetland creation, environmental monitoring or ecological surveys? Perhaps BART River Services Ltd can help? Our specialist team offers an array of skills to deliver projects to your requirements. We work with a diverse range of customers to meet their objectives including local authorities, farmers, land agents and estate managers as well as environmental consultants, engineers and developers.
BART River Services is wholly owned by Bristol Avon Rivers Trust and is designed solely to help provide income to the Trust to enable it to deliver its objectives. It is managed so that all profits are passed to the Trust.
Please give us a call if you think we might be able to help you – we are always happy to have an informal discuss by phone or email about the services we can provide.