Every year we produce an annual newsletter that consolidates and communicates our work from the previous year. It also provides us with an excellent opportunity to review and look back, whilst planning for the upcoming year.
2017 was a great year for our delivery teams as we were able to carry out a huge amount of restoration and conservation work across the region. This work has included over 22 km of river bank management, restoring stretches of water course to maximise the number of invertebrates produced, which in turn impacts on the carrying capacity for fish and other apex predators. Our farm advisors have worked with more than 180 farmers covering 1300 ha of the land that drains into our catchments. Our evidence and engagement team have worked with over 1623 people to get them actively involved in protecting their river and understanding the value of this important habitat. However, it is not enough for us to achieve these outputs. We have to be able to demonstrate that the outputs we do lead to the outcomes we want to see. This issue concentrates not only on the quality of the outputs we are delivering, but also explores some of the data we are collecting on our outcomes.
2016 was a challenging year for the Trust, mirroring the wider trials faced by Britain and the world in general. The move towards more nationalistic narratives, often seemingly at the expense of holistic integrated thinking, has brought division, uncertainty and unrest. Coupled with the passing of Dr Dylan Bright – a past WRT Director and dear friend – this meant 2016 didn’t relent to the very end. However, whilst we cannot go backwards, we can move forwards and for every challenge there is an opportunity. Already we have started to see more nuanced conversations within the environmental sector about what we need from our land and greater cooperation and understanding from the agricultural sector that any support will be hard fought against other public services. Yes, there are threats on the horizon – the level of protection and funding afforded to the environment is unsure – but as a society, we are improving our ability to explain the collective benefits we derive from our rivers and the land they drain.
2015 turned out to be another year of change but this time slightly more predictable. We came to the end of some of our bigger projects, such as the Catchment Restoration Funds projects, and transitioned from the previous Upstream Thinking Phase 1 project into a bigger, more expansive Phase 2 project. Fortunately, there has been a lot of consistent activity that the Trust does on an annual basis to offset the change. This has included delivering a wider reaching partnership programme across all the catchments in the West Country and assessing the fishing stocks in many of our key rivers. Indeed 2015 saw us breaking our record with electro‐fishing at well over 300 sites, so a massive thanks to all the supporters and assistants who have helped make this happen.
A busy year for us here at the Trust, 2014 also marked our 20th anniversary. This issue of Confluence focusses on our many achievements during 2014 as well as a nostalgic look back at the actions we have delivered since the Trust was originally formed in 1994