Our work to restore and protect the Westcountry’s rivers and their habitats continued apace during our 25th anniversary year. In 2019, more than 1,054 children engaged in water-related projects; we worked with 278 farms, offering support and advice; improved 90km of river habitat to improve biodiversity and water quality; and helped schools and residential groups build urban rain gardens. But that is just a very small idea of what we achieved in 2019 for our rivers and those who depend on them. See the bigger picture in our 2019 annual review.
Our restoration and conservation work across the region continues to go from strength to strength. In 2018, more than 800 school children took part in out education workshops; 315 volunteers supported our work; we collaborated with more than 380 farms; and assisted 12 communities at risk of flooding. But that’s just a snippet of what we did. We also looked forward to celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2019, and took a look back at everything our team has achieved in that time. Find out more inside this issue about how we are continuing to achieve positive river-related outcomes to benefit all.
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