Six fish passes completed this year!

There are over 1000 barriers to fish migration in the Ribble catchment. Most of these are weirs, built at some time over the past three centuries, and now largely redundant. Artificial barriers to migration break up the river habitat, fragmenting it into segments. This severely disrupts the lifecycle of migratory fish such as salmon and eels, and reduces the quantity of habitat available to them. Barriers to migration are known to negatively affect fish populations and are one of the main reasons for failing to achieve ‘good ecological status’.

So far this year we have completed six fish passes, making us well ahead of our planned schedule!

Dean Brook weir before and afterDean Brook weir’s state of disrepair was contributing to erosion on the brook and limiting fish migration. The weirs purpose is unknown and feasibility studies showed that total removal could exacerbate erosion and increase flood risk. Therefore, a rock ramp was created to increase accessibility for migratory fish without removing the structure.

Hoghton Bottoms weir is one Houghton Bottoms weir before and after of many barriers on the River Darwen. This weir is important culturally as a well visited beauty spot, and historically having once provided water to local mills. In order to ensure that this weir retained its distinctive features a rock ramp fish pass was created up the left-hand side of the weir.

Old Laund weir before and after Old Laund Clough is a potentially valuable nursery stream. However, a 1.5m weir, thought to have been built for a local mill in the 1900s, was blocking fish migration. Removal wasn’t possible as the weir supports the upstream constructed channel, so a rock ramp was created, enabling fish migration and supporting the upstream channel.

Cow Hey weir lies on Cow Hey Brook, near Cow Hey weir before and after its confluence with Bashall Brook. The weir originally provided water for a nearby mill, although there is little remaining evidence of the mill other than the remains of the leat. As the weir is not in use it was possible to totally remove it and replace it with a rock ramp which will limit erosion, return the brook to a more natural state, and encourage natural river processes.

Lower Darwen weir before and after

Lower Darwen weir dates back to the mid-1800s when it supported the local mills. Due to the weir’s proximity to businesses and homes, and the potential for issues caused by altering the rivers flow, a bypass channel was constructed around the left-hand side of the weir to enable fish passage and protect the existing weir structure.

West Bradford Brook runs through West Bradford weir before and after West Bradford, with a weir located in a stone lined channel in the village centre. The weir is close to the main Ribble and the habitat above the weir is good potential spawning habitat. The weir is only 70cm high, but the lower step makes it impossible for fish to make the jump and so a rock ramp was created which will enable the fish to pass over the weir.

Holiday Family Fun

Burnley U3A and NCS taking part in a guided walk organised by Ribble Rivers Trust

Burnley U3A and NCS taking part in a guided walk organised by Ribble Rivers Trust

Engaging with families is an important part of our work. By talking to young people about the environment and conservation we can help to ensure that they grow up with an interest in the natural world and that they respect and protect their rivers.

This is why we have organised a range of family fun events during this years summer holidays, including a bat walk in Clitheroe on the 29th August, a family fun day at Avenham Park, Preston on the 29th August, and a family fun day at Witton Park, Blackburn on the 30th August.

Our annual photography competition is also running until the 9th September, the theme this year is river wildlife and there are prizes for the competition winners.

Our stand at one of our most recent events, the Clitheroe Food Festival

Our stand at one of our most recent events, the Clitheroe Food Festival

Staff from the Trust can also be found at many of the areas agricultural shows, where we are happy to answer any of your questions and have a good chat about rivers and the Ribble catchment. There are also fun activities for children, including our hugely popular badge maker! Show season is almost coming to an end but you can still find us at the Chipping Show on Saturday 25th August, the Hodder Show on Saturday 8th September, and the Hanson Cement Open Day on Saturday 29th September.

We also have our own Heritage Open Day planned at Edisford Park, Clitheroe on the 15th September. Here we will be showcasing our work and giving visitors the chance to learn more about the Ribble’s wildlife and heritage. There will also be demonstrations using our river table and a model sustainable home, micro-safaris with river invertebrates, the chance to try your hand at fishing, as well as arts and craft activities.

White clawed crayfish in West Bradford

A white clawed crayfish female carrying her eggs. Adam Wheeler/Ribble Rivers Trust

A white clawed crayfish female carrying her eggs. Adam Wheeler/Ribble Rivers Trust

West Bradford Brook weir is one of the many weirs in the catchment that have been identified as potentially preventing successful fish migration and subsequent spawning. As such planned work was due to be carried out on the weir in June, however during the pre-work fish rescue that was carried out white clawed crayfish were discovered in the brook.

These endangered species have not previously been known to live in the brook, and the crayfish found was a female carrying hundreds of eggs. White clawed crayfish are a relatively rare sight in the Ribble catchment, and the overall European population has declined by 50-80% in the last 10 years.

This is largely due to the invasive American signal crayfish which carries a disease known as crayfish plague, this doesn’t affect American signal crayfish, but is fatal to the native white clawed crayfish. American signal crayfish are also larger and more aggressive and can outcompete white clawed crayfish for food and habitat, and have even been known to predate the white clawed crayfish.

All crayfish in the area around the planned fish passage site will now be carefully caught and relocated to a suitable upstream habitat so that they are not harmed during work, which will recommence on Tuesday 28th August.

The stepped weir at West Bradford.

The stepped weir at West Bradford.

Why are we making a fish passage?

West Bradford Brook weir is located in the village of West Bradford, near Clitheroe. The stone stepped weir is clad in concrete and runs through a wall-lined channel. Although the weir is relatively small at approximately 0.7 meters high the lower step makes it almost impossible for fish to jump the upper step.

The brook upstream of the weir is a potentially valuable spawning habitat, and the weir itself is very close to the brooks confluence with the Ribble. By making the weir passable it is hoped migrating fish will be able to reach this promising spawning site.

Removal is out of the question at this due to the close proximity of the road, houses and gardens. A fish passage options appraisal has identified that an embedded rock ramp is the most suitable solution at this location, providing an efficient fish pass with no increase in flood or erosion risk.

To find out more about white clawed crayfish please visit the Buglife website.

Ribble Life Together Heritage Open Day

The Ribble Rivers Trust are hosting a Heritage Open Day event on the 15th September at Edisford Park, Clitheroe.

Every September over 5,000 events are held across England. These events are designed to help members of the public to learn more about the hidden history of their communities, find about their area’s heritage, and engage with the people who manage these important places.

Our Heritage Open Day is celebrating the natural river heritage of the Ribble and the wider catchment. The Ribble Rivers Trust event will include the chance to try your hand at fishing, river table demonstrations, micro-safaris with river invertebrates, arts and craft activities, and information displays about our work.

For more information about Heritage Open Days please visit the Heritage Open Days website.

Get outdoors this summer!

The Ribble Catchment is more than just a river network, it’s a wonderful area filled with contrasts. The Ribble starts its journey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, close to the legendary Ribblehead Viaduct, where it travels through the stunning rural farmland and green fields of the Dales.

The river then enters Lancashire between the villages of Nappa and Newsholme, where it continues to flow through largely agricultural land (and straight past the Ribble Rivers Trust’s Clitheroe office!), before meeting two of its main tributaries, the Hodder and the Calder.

The river then passes the Roman town of Ribchester and the brilliant Brockholes Nature Reserve, before entering its most urban stretch within the City of Preston. Finally, the Ribble meets its journeys end at the Ribble estuary and enters the Irish Sea.

With over 570 square miles of beautiful catchment there are opportunities for everyone to get outdoors and enjoy their local river.

 

There are many benefits to engaging with the outdoors; it provides a range of physical and mental health benefits, an opportunity to exercise, and a chance to explore your local area and learn more about nature. Plus, most activities are free and getting outdoors keeps the whole family busy!

As part of Ribble Life Together we’re developing a range of activities to help people get outdoors and engage with nature and heritage. These include our circular walks, a multitude of which will be produced, with the Ribble Estuary and Lytham, Calder and Brun, and Rivers and Bridges walks already completed and in print.

We’re also creating photo geocaches across the catchment. Geocaches involve hunting for hidden caches, which are labelled containers containing log books and, in many cases, greetings and information from fellow geocachers. Our geocaches are still in development (although they’ll be ready very soon!) and there are hundreds already in existence within the Ribble catchment, so you can start geocaching now by visiting the Geocaching Association of Great Britain’s (GAGB) website.

Another activity that the Trust, and many of their partners, take part in is public engagement at shows and events. You can often find us with our stand at agricultural shows across the catchment. Here we like to speak to the people that live, work, and enjoy the catchment, and to tell them more about our work, and how wonderful we think rivers are!

But our activities aren’t the only ways to get outdoors and enjoy your river. The possibilities are endless, with camping trips, treks in the Dales, bike rides around the Trough of Bowland, or a simply a day on the beach. There’s something for everyone, just don’t forget your picnic, and remember the countryside code!

For more information visit our Ribble Life Together partners websites: Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, Forest of Bowland AONB, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Water temperature monitoring- shaded vs unshaded rivers

Monitoring is an important part of the Ribble Rivers Trust’s work for a variety of reasons. It helps us further our understanding of river systems, develop our understanding of the problems facing rivers and potential solutions, and to monitor whether the work we have done is having a positive impact on our rivers.

One of the activities we’re undertaking as part of Ribble Life Together is to monitor water temperatures, specifically the differences in temperature between shaded and unshaded reaches.

This is important because although we know that the water in unshaded rivers is higher in temperature, we do not know the extent of the temperature difference. With climate change expected to lead to overall warmer air temperatures and warmer, drier summers it seems prudent to gather data which will help us to see how these changes might impact our rivers.

Additionally, many species, in particular salmon and trout, find it difficult to survive in warmer water. Sudden changes in temperature can lead to mass fish kills and change the fish’s behaviour, making them more vulnerable to predators or secondary threats such as pollution. This is because warmer air has a reduced oxygen carrying capacity.

The shaded section of Bashall brook chosen for monitoring

In order to investigate the differences in temperature we have selected  several sites within the catchment which have comparable shaded and non-shaded sections along similar stretches of river. Here we will use water temperature probes to measure water temperature and an additional probe to measure air temperature. One of the sites selected was Bashall Brook.

The upstream site is at the bottom of a predominantly tree lined section of Bashall Brook, here the trees protect the river from temperature rises. In comparison, the second site, which is 1km downstream, has no tree cover.

The unshaded section of Bashall brook chosen for monitoring

Our loggers collected data over the space of several weeks and the results, as expected, showed that the unshaded stretch of water reached far higher temperatures than the shaded section. Over the monitoring period the shaded stretch reached a maximum of 18°C, whereas the unshaded stretch reached 27°C, which was much more reflective of air temperatures and showed that the warming effect can occur over just 1km of unshaded river.

In the long term we hope that by planting riparian woodland we can help to keep the rivers cool and provide shade for rivers and fish, as well as providing shaded areas for livestock, birds, and mammals, and prevent these sudden spikes in water temperature.

Graph showing the results of the shaded water (blue), unshaded water, (black), and air (purple) temperature monitoring. This helps to show the link between air temperature and unshaded rivers, and how much warmer, and more reactive the unshaded rivers are compared with shaded rivers.

 

Himalayan Balsam and Non-Native Invasive Species

What is a non-native invasive species?

A native species is a plant, or animal, which has been present in Britain for a long period of time. One way of defining native species is by whether they were present in Britain before  the end of the last ice age, when the rising sea levels cut Britain off from mainland Europe. Anything after this point has been introduced, and is therefore a non-native species.

Not all non-native species are harmful. It is only the ones that have a negative effect on native British species, or on health, infrastructure, or the economy. These are classed as non-native invasive species.

What is Himalayan Balsam?

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is an example of a non-native invasive plant. The plant was first introduced to Britain from Kashmir in 1839 and was displayed and cultivated in Kew Gardens. By 1855, the plant that is naturally native to Himalayas was growing in Middlesex and  Hertfordshire.

The plant has now spread across most of Britain, including the Channel Islands. It is also prevalent across northern and eastern Europe. In England and Wales, it is listed under Schedule  9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and therefore cannot be planted, cultivated, or introduced into the wild.

What’s the problem?

In the UK Himalayan Balsam is most commonly found along riverbanks, streams and canals, around ponds and lakes, or in shaded, damp woodlands and meadows. Here the plants grow to heights of up to 2.5 meters from seed to plant, and once matured the seeds are spread with an explosion of the seed holding fruit capsule. This is called explosive dehiscence and each plant can release up to 800 seeds up to 7 meters away. These seeds often land in the water and are carried downstream where they become lodged in banksides and colonise the area. The seeds can also be passed on by humans, on shoes, fishing equipment, and canoes.

As Himalayan balsam spreads, grows, and matures so rapidly  it is very hard to control. Once the plant begins to grow it quickly outcompetes other plants for resources, especially sunlight. Additionally, the balsam produces high yields of nectar and has a long flowering season, and so attracts an abundance of pollinating insects, which may be reducing the pollination rates of other native plants. Himalayan balsam also has a very shallow root system which,  when the Himalayan balsam dies back for the winter, leaves river banks bare and at a greater risk of erosion.

How can we stop the spread?

In order to deal with the balsam control needs  to be taken before the plant flowers. The easiest way to get rid of Himalayan balsam is to pull the plants out of the ground (which is easy due to the very shallow roots) before snapping the plant at the base. They can then either be collected and disposed of or, if the balsam is being pulled on small scale, simply left to rot. Larger patches of balsam can also be strimmed.

Ribble Rivers Trust carry out balsam pulling sessions regularly throughout the spring and early summer. Using mapping and GIS software we can prioritise which areas should be tackled first. In order for our work to be effective in eradicating balsam we need to focus on upstream tributaries first, as if we start on the main river it will simply become colonised again by seeds from plants upstream.

You can volunteer with us and lend a hand with our balsam pulls. Visit our website to find out more.

For more information on Himalayan balsam and other non-native invasive species please visit the GB non-native species secretariat website and .

Riverfly monitoring and citizen science

Wildlife recording has been a popular past time in the UK for hundreds of years, with tens of thousands of people take part in citizen science projects every year.

Citizen science projects look at many different aspects of the natural environments, from the Woodland Trusts Big Bluebell Watch, RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch, and OPAL’s wide variety of natural environment surveys. This sort of research is very valuable to charities, as it provides us with information that can be used to detect trends and patterns in species populations. This can in turn tell us about other environmental factors such as pollution levels, climate change, and general habitat health or decline.

Citizen science, as the name suggests, is also a great way for members of the public to learn new skills and develop a greater understanding of the natural environment. Teaching people more about their environment helps them to get involved in conservation and increases understanding of the natural world, and how to help conserve it. Citizen science is also a great opportunity to spend some time in the great outdoors and to meet new people.

Upwing mayfly species can often be found clinging to the underside of rocks.

Upwing mayfly species can often be found clinging to the underside of rocks.

The Ribble Rivers Trust runs their own citizen science project, alongside the Riverfly Partnership. Every year we run two workshops a year to train new volunteers who then survey the rivers looking for the larvae of three key groups of riverflies- upwing mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies. These riverflies aren’t just fish and bird food, they are also sensitive to pollution, and so the more riverflies there are, the less pollution there is likely to be. As the riverflies don’t tend to move around, are present throughout the year, and spend a long time as larvae they are a great reflector of river health.

All our volunteers are fully trained and receive all the equipment they need to survey their local rivers.

All our volunteers are fully trained and receive all the equipment they need to survey their local rivers.

In order to count the abundance of riverflies a timed kick sample is taken from the river, the riverflies are then identifies and calculated and the ‘score’ for each species is calculated. The results are then sent to the Trust who use them to monitor river health and potential pollution levels. This data is also the first point of reference when looking at which sites we should monitor further or carry out habitat improvement work on.

The Ribble Rivers Trust currently have almost 40 regular monitors, but we are always looking for more help. If this sounds like something you would like to become involves in please visit the Ribble Rivers Trust website for more information or email us at admin@ribbletrust.com.

The Problem with Plastics

Litter is an eyesore and can make the most beautiful of nature reserves seem uncared for and neglected. However, it’s effect on the environment is far more problematic.

Litter is harmful to both wildlife and the environment and isn’t just a threat to those who live in and around rivers. Rivers transport a large proportion of the litter they contain out to the seas, where it poses a threat to marine wildlife.

In both rivers and seas invertebrates, fish, and birds are consuming this plastic, which is often mistaken for food. As plastics break down they become smaller and smaller, forming microbeads and microplastics, which are consumed by the organisms which form the basis of the food web. As the organisms themselves are consumed they enter the very food chain which we ourselves rely on for sustenance.

This isn’t the only issue facing wildlife. When certain types of plastic break down they release toxins which are polluting water and poisoning the organisms whic h have inadvertently consumed the plastics.

Furthermore wildlife, especially fish, birds and mammals, can easily become tangled or trapped in nets, bags, and empty containers. Recent research by Keep Britain Tidy has shown that as over 8% of littered bottles and almost 5% of littered cans contained the remains of small mammals such as shrews, voles, and mice.

Removing litter wherever we can will help reduce the waste in our oceans and rivers. That’s why the Ribble Life Together partners and the Ribble Rivers Trust have already carried out a number of clean ups this year with our volunteers, with Victoria Park (Nelson), Ball Grove Park (Trawden), Moor Park (Preston), Long Preston, Penwortham, Platts Lodge (Accrington), Preston Marina, Woodnook Water (Accrington) and the Hyndburn Brook Greenway all benefiting so far.

Please always take your litter home and recycle where possible!

For more information please visit the Keep Britain Tidy website