Plymouth River Keepers

Actions we take now to care for our water will
define our future

Take action for water, nature and for where you live as a Plymouth River Keeper.

Whether you want to find out how to help your local environment or are already a committed environmentalist, you are invited to join us as a Plymouth River Keeper

Celebrate the water near where you live by designing and implementing activities to help your local water environments.

Keep the streams at the bottom of your gardens and ends of your roads flourishing – for wildlife, for you, for others, and for always.

As a Plymouth River Keeper you can share what you already do, and decide on what you could do (with some help) to improve your local waterways while encouraging more people to become water-aware. 

We are initially working in North West Plymouth.

Our first step in collaborating with you is to discover your thoughts and ideas about your connection to water in the areas of Ernesettle, Tamerton Foliot, Southway, Whitleigh, Widewell, Honicknowle, Derriford West and Crownhill, and Manadon and Widey.

Please take part in our survey/s to share your experiences and to tell us what you would like to see where you live.

Scroll down to watch the recording of our first online ‘River Dip’ event too.

“Ernesettle is particularly beautiful because of the views and its uniqueness as a wildlife habitat. There is so much potential to be able to improve and
do more.”

Ray Morton

Ernesettle Creek & Budshead Wood Friends Group

“It’s a great idea, but how can I help?”

You could…

  • Take part in litter picks, implement water saving tips, or take part in activities to improve your local streams.Through collaboration, we can create healthy outdoor spaces for people and enable wildlife to prosper in improved natural areas – these things may even help us to feel happier too.

In the spirit of collaboration, the Bioregional Learning Centre partnered with us as part of our initial community engagement with local people. From research and meeting people in the community, they have created a Story of Place about the area, which can be seen in the recording of our first virtual ‘River Dip’ below.


Connecting with people…

We believe the people who live in our initial project areas will have plenty of ideas on how to make local improvements, and how to involve others in their community.

That’s why, over the coming months, we will be creating opportunities for you to take part, with our first steps being to listen to your experiences and discover what you would most like to see happen to enhance the outdoors where
you live.

Don’t forget to take part in our surveys to tell us more.

Your story…

Perhaps you have a historic saga to share, a spooky tale of times gone by, a memory of school holidays spent near the water, a snippet about wildlife you’ve spotted, or a nugget of news about nature in your neighbourhood.

We’d love to chat to you – simply email us at [email protected] to tell us more.

We’ll be looking at creating podcasts and films too as the project progresses – if you’d like to take part, just let us know.

Connecting with place…

The initial focus for Plymouth River Keepers is the restoration and improvement of three specific streams, one of which
doesn’t seem to have a name – unless you can tell us? Or maybe we can work together to name it…

You can see some of the problems that need to be addressed in various locations in the photo gallery below.

River clean-ups and citizen science water monitoring are some of the ways Plymouth River Keepers could prevent pollution incidents and problems like these.    

Throughout the project, we aim to implement positive habitat improvements works such as removing invasive non-native plant species, coppicing trees, strengthening riverbanks and removing barriers to fish passage.

As a Plymouth River Keeper, you will be making decisions to prioritise future actions such as these, and there may even be opportunities for you to get involved with some of the practical aspects.

You’ll be part of deciding what we can achieve, together. 

We are looking forward meeting you
(even if virtually for now) as you help shape
Plymouth River Keepers.

We hope one day this will be part of a movement of
River Keepers throughout the UK.

Our map above shows you the areas where
Plymouth River Keepers will begin.
If you live here, it will be good to have you involved.  

We aim to update about potential future events in the area soon, but, while we adapt to changing guidelines in relation to COVID-19, we are focussing on using digital engagement such as sharing information via this web page, our social media, community groups, press, and in local newsletters.

We don’t want anyone left out though, so if you know of other ways we can connect with local people who perhaps do not access the internet, we’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, we’d love to see your pictures of places by water that are special to you to share in the gallery below, just email us a photograph at [email protected] to
be included.

Westcountry Citizen Science – find out how it will play a part in Plymouth Rivers Keepers

Westcountry Rivers Trust Citizen Science Investigations (CSI) has been running for four years.

Its CSI River Keepers monitor their local waterways, keeping a look out for changes in water quality, pollution issues, problem plants and the well-being of wildlife.

Not only does their input help improve the health of the region’s rivers, streams, lakes and ponds but they become part of growing team of essential citizen scientists.

We are looking for people in Plymouth to take part – if you would like to learn more about the wildlife, flora and water quality of your local waterway, visit:

Or email us at [email protected] to register your interest.

Plymouth River Keepers aims are:

  • To prevent pollution incidents and improve water quality
  • To protect the streams for wildlife and current and future generations
  • To ensure the places streams flow are ones people can enjoy, now and in future
  • To embed water environment caretakers in communities
  • To build a local love for water across the UK

We have been saddened to learn about two further fish kills in the Tamerton Stream in the past few months. The EA is now investigating, and we will share fuller details as they become available. It is vital local communities come together to keep an eye out for nature on their doorsteps, whether as individuals, organisations or businesses and PRK offers the opportunity for everyone to support local wildlife and outdoor spaces.

News Update - Sept 2020

Monitoring data we collect relating to plastic will be shared with our sister project, Preventing Plastic Pollution.

Preventing Plastic Pollution

Plymouth River Keepers - background story

The Tamerton Stream near Plymouth has suffered several pollution incidents over the years. 

In August 2016, a pollution incident caused by the build-up of commercial-use wet wipes created a blockage in the sewerage pipe. When this happens, untreated sewage is released into the nearest waterway.

This pollution incident had a substantial impact on the stream, unfortunately killing more than 80 brown trout. 

As a result of this incident, an Enforcement Undertaking (EU) was agreed by the Environment Agency with South West Water (SWW) to the value of £350,000.

To help improve the area, SWW used this EU to enable Westcountry Rivers Trust to conduct work to improve the urban watercourses in the Plymouth area, particularly the Tamerton stream,* which has led to the creation of the Plymouth River Keepers (PRK) project.

WRT has often worked with communities to achieve positive results for people and nature and recognises community involvement is vital to the success of PRK.

To assist with community engagement, WRT is collaborating with the Bioregional Learning Centre (BLC). Their expertise lies in building community resilience through Story of Place and multi-stakeholder online conversations or gatherings.

WRT and BLC have previously developed the idea of River Keepers for South Devon, making PRK a natural extension of that work.

This three-year project (2019-2022) aims to show the benefits (health, wellbeing, environmental) that individuals, groups and businesses can gain from connecting water, people and place in this location.

WRT aims to undertake the following actions, which are designed to increase the recovery in fish populations and restore, and improve the resilience of, local streams via engagement with people from the local community:

Baseline data collection (to inform which further surveys are required and potential works to be undertaken):

  •  Baseline ecological surveys by WRT Evidence and Engagement Officers.
  •  Water quality sampling by WRT Evidence and Engagement Officers.
  •  Fish surveys (including electrofishing) by WRT River and Fisheries Officers.


Potential works:

  • Litter/ debris removal – to be run as community engagement activities, led by WRT/other.
  • Removal of invasive non-native plant species – to be run as community engagement activities, led by WRT/other. 
  • Areas of bankside erosion to be improved by allowing access to the river via hardstanding, to increase the connection to the water.
  • Targeted coppicing to reduce shading in appropriate areas and improve the productivity of the watercourse.
  • Investigations of barriers to fish passage to determine the severity of each barrier and to assess the potential for their removal.


Citizen Science:

  • Westcountry CSI (Citizen Science Investigations) – monitoring the river for a variety of reasons such as problem plants to pollution.
  • Riverfly surveys – recording freshwater invertebrates to assess the water quality.



  • WRT will promote BLC’s engagement opportunities, while overseeing public communications for the project.


* The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing laws that protect the environment. An EU is a voluntary offer of funds from the responsible party to remedy the effects of an incident such as the pollution incident on the Tamerton Stream. In addition to the EU, South West Water has since cleansed the main sewer line that runs through the woods and this should help reduce the likelihood of any further pollution incidents.

Bioregional Learning Centre

Visit to find out more