We all have a good understanding of the importance of our rivers in our landscapes and why we should work to maintain and restore them. However what exactly this involves is much less well known.
In early November I headed to the UK’s most equatorial county to begin a six month internship with the Westcountry Rivers Trust’s Data and Evidence team and familiarise myself with the ins and outs of river restoration. Across the next few months I will be inter
viewing a number of the Westcountry Rivers
Trust team to share this insight into the huge variety of work undertaken by the Trust and the multiple aspects of river restoration. To begin, here are my first experiences of working at the Westcountry Rivers Trust…
What is my main role in the Westcountry Rivers Trust?
Now six short weeks into my internship, I have already had the chance to get involved in a number of the many projects that the Trust is currently working on. For most of my working day, I am involved with the ‘Upstream Thinking’ project. It’s so satisfying to be able to contribute to a project which takes such a refreshing approach to river restoration. It recognises the importance of considering the entire catchment, from the trickling headwaters of the upper catchment to the wide, gushing channels that meander their way into the sea, and includes all the land surfaces that contribute water (as well as sediment and pollution) to the river channel as rainfall washes across them. For this project, I am producing a series of map books. Maps are a really useful tool for showing where land management practices may be lowering waterquality in the river and for highlighting how we can ensure this doesn’t happen. It’s exciting to know that the maps I make are playing their role in protecting Westcountry rivers.
What parts of my job have I particularly enjoyed so far?
I’ve really enjoyed the work I have been doing for ‘Upstream Thinking,’ but equally I love being able to produce maps and carry out modelling for several of the Westcountry Rivers Trust’s other projects. Maps are needed throughout the work that the Trust carries out so it’s been a great way to work with people from across the different teams and learn more about the various aspects of river management. I have also recently taken over the Facebook page and the Westcountry Rivers Trust blog. It’s a brilliant opportunity to share what we do with everyone across the Westcountry, especially knowing how important our rivers are for those of us who live in the area.
What gave me my interest in rivers?
I grew up in a small hamlet below the Quantock Hills in Somerset so most of my childhood was spent wandering through fields, climbing trees and paddling in rivers. Some of my best memories have been tied to walks and picnics alongside riverbanks – there’s something very special about the sound of running water, the glimpse of a kingfisher, the sight of these winding channels carving through the landscape… At school I loved learning about how our rivers were formed in Geography lessons and through a number of fieldtrips spent trailing along the Exe catchment in our wellies, so studying Physical Geography at university was an obvious choice. During my degree I became particularly interested in river ecology, spending a week identifying macroinvertebrates in Switzerland to see how they change along the length of the river and also carrying out a combination of diatom (a form of algae) sampling and identification and fine sediment pollution modelling in the Exe catchment. It’s fascinating to learn more about the rivers that are all around us and which are so important to us and our environment,
especially if this can lead to their restoration.
What is it like working for the Trust?
A day’s work at the Trust is never boring. There’s always a wave of people coming in and out of the office as they return from workshops, farm visits, meetings, conventions, habitat surveys, monitoring, ‘wet weather walkover’ surveys and all sorts of events across the region and the country. The office is full of people who are really passionate and enthusiastic about their work and are always keen to try innovative ways to restore rivers, so it’s a fantastic environment to be working in. It’s a great feeling to know that the work we do is making a huge difference to the river environment. I’m looking forward to seeing what exciting projects the New Year will bring!