We might not realise it, but water is central to almost everything in our day-to-day lives. Without it, no longer would there be lush green countryside, buzzing hedgerows, juicy strawberries or the gin in our G & T. There is no denying that Westcountry rivers are part of us as well as our landscape.
An iconic part of the Westcountry landscape, rivers bring vital sustenance to even the furthest corners of our countryside. In the Westcountry, you are never further than 2 miles from your nearest river or stream. Rivers which supply us with drinking water and nourish our fields and gardens also give us places to walk, play and relax.
Our ancestors recognized the immense importance and power of our rivers, with rivers deeply embedded in our history as sources of drinking water, power and transportation. However, the increasing demands on our landscape have resulted in polluted rivers that are struggling to deliver these valuable services.
Every time we turn on a tap in the Westcountry, the chances are that the water came from one of our rivers. 90% of our tap water is taken from surface water, such as rivers, and treated before being piped conveniently into our homes. This water sustains us, our families and our pets, while farmers use it to raise their livestock and grow our food.
A myriad of plants and creatures have made the river and riverbanks their home, rewarded by a plentiful supply of food and shelter. Insects living in the river gravels provide food for fish, which in turn are food for kingfishers and otters. Pollution in the rivers has led to the decline of these iconic creatures, however the work of many people to improve the health of the river has led to the return of salmon to their spawning grounds and an increase in wildlife such as otters and water voles. The diverse community of plants and animals make them fascinating and rewarding places to spend time.
When we consider the multiple benefits that rivers bring, our own health & wellbeing are probably not the first things that spring to mind. However, the importance of nature to our health and wellbeing is an aspect that is only beginning to be fully appreciated and understood. Rivers provide us with places to go and unwind, be it walking the dogs, fishing, swimming or kayaking. As well as the physical benefits these activities bring, it has been scientifically proven that spending time in nature improves our mental health.
Despite this, rivers have faded from our thoughts as humanity races into a more technological age. Yet our rivers are the foundations upon which we exist. Here at the Westcountry Rivers Trust we are working hard to improve water quality and to reconnect communities with their local river. As a result, we are starting to see wildlife returning to our rivers and now we are on a mission to spread the word, to remind people of the amazing natural resource we live alongside. Everything we do, from liaising with people and communities to painting with children is in the interest of preserving our rivers. We want to share that passion with you. To paraphrase Baba Dioum “In the end we will conserve only what we love ”. We want to celebrate Westcountry rivers in the hope that more and more people will come together to love and protect our rivers, all the while helping us bring water to life.