Re-connecting the Polgooth Stream – in detail

The Polgooth stream is the largest tributary of the St Austell River, known locally as the White River, and rises near Trewoon, a small village to the west of St Austell. Like many of the streams and rivers that rise in the St Austell and mid-Cornwall area, it has been heavily affected by historic tin streaming and more recent mining activity such china clay extraction. This has resulted in many of the streams in the area undergoing significant change and facing multiple pressures, including impacts from mine waste and morphological changes to accommodate roads and drainage works. Consequently, the Polgooth stream has been classified as a heavily modified water body. The Polgooth has more recently been heavily affected by china clay driers, located at the headwaters of the stream. The effluent from the driers had historically striped the water of its available oxygen which resulted in conditions that were not suitable for salmonid species. However, these driers were decommissioned around five years ago and since then, the water quality has greatly improved. Recent Environment Agency fisheries survey data suggested that salmonids were absent from the river. Westcountry Rivers Trust also undertook further fisheries surveys in 2013 but found no salmonids … Continue reading

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Brook Stream: Morphology for Mitigation

This culvert on Brook Stream, a small tributary of the River Yealm, was identified in partnership with the Environment Agency as a low cost, quick-win, site for improvement work under the South Hams River Improvement Project (SHRImP). Due to the morphology of the stream immediately downstream from the culvert, there was a significant drop-off at the exit of the culvert resulting in a very shallow flow of water through the culvert itself. Both of these features made the culvert an awkward barrier to migrating eel and trout. Matt Healey, project officer on SHRImP, said, “After assessing the site, we decided that we could fix the problem fairly easily by carrying out some morphological work immediately downstream of the culvert; a much cheaper option than removing the culvert and reinstating the vehicle crossing. “As luck would have it, there is a disused quarry nearby, so we were able to make use of this very local stone to create two small check weirs, raising the level of the riverbed at the outflow of the culvert and increasing the depth of water flowing through it.” The work has improved the morphology of the stream and opened it up to migrating fish, which should … Continue reading

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Update from the Taw River Improvement Project (TRIP)

This Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF) project started in 2012 and was the largest of our 5 successful bids, with an overall budget of £1.86 million.  The overall objective of the project is to tackle failures in water quality in order to meet the standards required by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The Taw catchment covers a large area and a variety of habitats from moorland to coastal dunes. Uniquely amongst our CRF projects, a partnership approach was employed to bring together a breadth of knowledge and experience in order to maximise coverage throughout the catchment and offer a wide range of specialist advice. Alongside our more formal project partners, we are also working with a number of local groups including the River Taw Fisheries Association and the Tarka Country Trust. The predominant reasons for failure on the Taw are high levels of phosphate and low populations of fish. The TRIP partnership is working to mitigate and remedy this through a range of intervention measures and changes in land management: Here at the Westcountry Rivers Trust, we have been providing farm advice supported by a small capital grant scheme to protect watercourses. WRT is delivering a large amount of fisheries … Continue reading

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A Fishy Tale from the Classroom

This week, pupils at Culmstock Primary School in Devon welcomed some unusually fishy companions to their classroom and did their bit to help conserve one of the South West’s most iconic species of fish, the Atlantic salmon. The pupils took delivery of more than 100 tiny salmon fry as part of a project called ‘Salmon in the Classroom’. The event is one of many taking place all over the world this week as part of World Fish Migration Day, which takes place this Saturday 24th May. The fry had been reared in a local hatchery, where fertilised eggs are hatched into alevins and cared for as they develop into fry. A group of children from the school then released the fry back into their local river, the Culm. The released fry will help boost the wild salmon population in the river, as part of conservation efforts to prevent further decline of Atlantic salmon populations in the UK. John Hickey, Senior Catchment Officer on the Axe and Exe, said, “While visiting the release site, the children also had some close encounters with the bugs and beasties that live in the river. A sample was taken to identify which aquatic invertebrates were … Continue reading

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JOB OPPORTUNITY: Principal/Senior Ecologist

Competitive salary up to £40,000 depending on experience plus 6% pension. Tamar Ecology (TE) is a specialist consultancy offering ecological and environmental services throughout the South West and forms part of Westcountry Rivers Ltd (WR Ltd), the commercial trading subsidiary of Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT). WRT is the largest of the Rivers Trusts and a leading exponent of the integrated management of land, water and natural resources, thereby promoting landscape scale conservation and sustainable development. All profits generated by Tamar Ecology are covenanted to WRT to support the charity in its environmental work. Tamar Ecology has an established, varied and growing client base, including renewable energy companies, housing developers, architects, utility companies and private landowners. Due to continued expansion of the commercial arm we are now looking for a highly motivated and experienced principal level ecologist and business winner to provide a focus and continue to drive forward Tamar Ecology. This senior level role requires demonstrable experience in business development and building relationships with existing and new clients. As a small niche consultancy the ability to oversee and technically contribute to the delivery of diverse range of projects from high level regulation and environmental impact assessments to large and small … Continue reading

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Ministerial Visit

On Monday this week, WRT was very pleased to have the opportunity to host a meeting with Dan Rogerson MP (Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and representatives from DEFRA, the Environment Agency, the Rivers Trust and South West Water. Jonathan Bailey, Chief Executive of the Trust, said, “The Catchment Based Approach provides a great opportunity to bringing together local people’s enthusiasm, good leadership and both public and private sector funding to make real improvements to our local environment. We can reduce flood risk, improve water quality and improve people’s health and well-being by adopting a catchment wide approach. The visit by Dan Rogerson was a great opportunity for us to showcase some of the environmental and social benefits an integrated catchment approach can have.” Laurence Couldrick, Head of Catchment Management here at the Trust, and Dylan Bright from South West Water did a combined presentation that demonstrated how Upstream Thinking and the Catchment Based Approach combine to provide multiple ecosystem benefits. Brett Grosvenor from the Environment Agency introduced flood risk management into the overall picture and Arlin Rickard from the Rivers Trust brought the whole event together by welcoming the coalition Government’s announcement of another £2,200,000 of national … Continue reading

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First steps in effort to return trout to the Polgooth Stream

The South Cornwall River Improvement Project has now reached the end of its second year and the team has a number of exciting restoration projects underway. The Polgooth Stream, one of the largest tributaries of the St. Austell River (River Vinnick), was identified for delivery of a package of works to make habitat improvements for fish, particularly brown trout. Environment Agency and WRT surveys carried out over the past few years have been unsuccessful in finding any fish in the stream and the aim of this work package is to open up access to the stream, restoring connectivity between the main river and potential salmonid spawning grounds upstream. The Polgooth Stream springs in the hills near Trewoon, near St. Austell, and flows for approximately 4km through agricultural land and the village of Polgooth before entering the main river at London Apprentice.  The stream has been impacted by the regions industrial past since as early as the 16th century, when Polgooth was considered the richest tin and copper mining area in Cornwall and possibly the world. China Clay extraction has also played its part in shaping the stream and, as a result, the stream has lost many of its natural features … Continue reading

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Fighting an Alien Invasion

As part of the South Hams River Improvement Project (SHRImP), the Trust has funding available to carry out coppicing works along river banks in the South Hams to improve the light regime to match requirements for fish across their in-stream habitats. Typically, these coppicing sites are within farm land and include native tree species. However, one site we identified, below the Avon dam and within Dartmoor National Park, provided a unique setting and opportunity to fulfil our target to manage the light regime whilst also removing the invasive species rhododendron. This non-native shrub had spread to cover a ~0.6ha area of moorland. Both Natural England and Dartmoor National Park were in full support of clearance.   Project Officer, Karensa Lawrie, said, “Being a non-native species that grows in dense stands, rhododendron out-competes many of our native species and provides very poor habitat for native invertebrates and other wildlife. The rhododendron at this site had also suffered from previous outbreaks of the plant disease Phytophera and the clearance work provides the added benefit of reducing future disease risk.” The SHRImP project was able to fund clearance of the Western bank alongside the access road to the dam, which is also a popular public … Continue reading

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EVENT: Soil Management – Grassland and Arable Farms

        DATE: Thursday 27th March 2014 TIME: 10:30 am to 1:30 pm VENUE: The Waie Inn, Zeal Monachorum, Crediton, EX17 6DF An increase in the intensity with which we farm the land, combined with larger machinery sizes and weights and heavier rainfall, can cause damage to soils to the extent that crop yields are likely to be reduced. For this event, the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) and the Taw River Improvement Project (TRIP) have joined forces to invite guest speakers Tim Chamen (ex-National Institute of Agricultural Engineering) and Tim Martyn (ex-IGER – North Wyke) to talk on compaction, tyre choice, cultivation, harvesting and grazing options. Representatives from Michelin Tyres, Ray Hambly Agriccultural Engineering, Simtech Drills, Masons Kings and Opico will also be present. Tea, coffee and and lunch will be provided, paid for with compliments from CFE. Booking is Essential:       01823 355427    

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Assessing storm damage to an eel pass

This week, staff from WRT carried out a rescue mission to retrieve a RAM pump for an eel pass which had become damaged and displaced in the recent high flows. The RAM pump had been installed in association with an eel pass on a weir sluice gate. The pump provides a consistent sweetening flow of water down the pass to ensure effective use of the pass by eels. WRT have been working to improve eel migration over weirs and barriers in the West Country. Eel passes come in a variety of forms and are unique to the barrier they are required to overcome.     This is a photo of Adrian, one of the most experienced members of our fisheries team, who also doubles up as safety guy and all round handyman; the perfect person to safely carry out in-river works in these sorts of flow conditions!  Adrian is kitted out in a dry suit, life jacket and wading stick to safely tackle the deep, fast water. We made sure we didn’t lose him down the river by tethering him to the bank by means of a safety rope.                 Once in the … Continue reading

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