Call of Nature campaign appeals for septic tank maintenance checks on World Toilet Day

Susannah Bleakley, Chief Executive at the Morecambe Bay Partnership highlighting that your toilet might be closer to rivers and seas than you think.

World Toilet Day is a UN initiative taking place on Sunday 19th November with the aim to improve global sanitation. Although the majority of the North West waste water is safely treated through the United Utilities network risks to local rivers and seas are still prevalent through privately maintained waste water treatment works.

The Call of Nature campaign has been designed to inform occupants of septic tanks, cesspits & package sewage treatment plants about the risks their tanks pose to animals and the environment if their facilities are poorly maintained.

Poorly maintained tanks are often incidental in nature with owners simply forgetting that the maintenance of their tanks is due. That’s why LOVEmyBEACH officers Hannah Barnes and Stephanie Wyatt are visiting areas around Haverigg, Millom and Seascale on Friday 17th November raising awareness about the campaign, reminding residents to check their tanks and suggesting World Toilet Day as a notable date for future checks.

Rosie Law, Project Officer from West Cumbria Rivers Trust added;

“We work a lot with farmers to ensure agricultural practices don’t impact water quality in the area but while we are out and about we often see a number of poorly maintained household septic tanks. It would be great if householders could do their bit to protect our rivers and seas by checking annually that their facilities are connected right and maintained properly.”

The information pack and website contains everything owners need to know about septic tank maintenance and also includes some top tips on efficiency such as only ever flushing the 3p’s; pee, poo and paper and avoiding any fats and food going down the kitchen sink. For those owners who are on top of their maintenance the website provides insight into new regulations that come into force in 2020.

Susannah Bleakley (pictured), Chief Executive at the Morecambe Bay Partnership added, “The Call of Nature campaign has led to some great improvements to the quality of our rivers and seas. This year’s bathing water results are evidence of this, with 100% of the locations passing standards for a second year in a row! We hope that septic tank owners can help to maintain, and improve, these standards by conducting a check this week.

Only leave paw prints and foot prints in the sand…

Hundreds of bags of dog poo have been found on the UK’s beaches according to the Marine Conservations Society’s 2016 research; with 792 bags recorded at 364 beaches by volunteers over the Great British Beach Clean weekend in September last year. However these numbers don’t show the full scale of the problem; beach clean volunteers do not record unbagged waste therefore the total amount of dog poo left by some owners on our beautiful beaches remains unknown.

Many people believe that leaving dog poo on the beach is OK because the tide washes it away, however this natural disposal technique isn’t the best thing for our beautiful beaches and seas. Bacteria present in dog poo is potentially harmful to beach users and can affect water quality.

That’s why organisations and campaigns from across the UK are uniting this week for #binit4beaches; a campaign focused on reducing pollution and litter at the beach and calling for dog owners to help with ongoing improvements.

Millions of people head to the UK’s beaches to relax, paddle and swim every year and we want water quality to be the best it can be. Last year 98.5% of the UK’s bathing waters met the tough minimum standards. By working together, we can continue to help protect and improve water quality. So, if you visit the beach with your dog please do your bit to help by bagging and binning your dog poo, making the beach safe for everyone to enjoy.

Fish Fridays

Throughout this summer’s electrofishing season, we’ve been giving people the chance to come along and help us with our surveys.

Like many of the activities that the Trust take part in electrofishing captures the attention of all our audiences, from fishermen to conservationists to students. Naturally the opportunity to take part in this exciting task receives high demand and so throughout the summer we’ve been running Fish Fridays (and Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays!).

The first of our eager volunteers was keen course angler and Ribble Trust volunteer Bill Auty from Rochdale. Heavy rains fell in the build up to Bill’s Fish Friday which made fishing a depletion survey challenging. This meant a change of tactic and we instead fished the semi quant sites on Easington Brook and, even though the water levels were dropping the conditions really tested Bill’s netting skills! Unfortunately, despite our best efforts the day had to be called short due to water levels and flows.

The following Friday we were joined by another hardy volunteer, Charles Alan Kenyon, a retired surveyor from Blackburn who is also a keen fisherman. After heading to the United Utilities area of the Bowland Estate we undertook a quantitative survey which yielded a great number of trout fry, following this we carried out a number of semi-quants which yielded several salmon fry- a clear sign of a healthy river! Despite weather being against us once again this was another productive day fishing.

With so many eager volunteers we took our next volunteer, Finn, out with us on the following Tuesday. As a marine biology Masters student Finn was keen to learn all about the science behind freshwater electrofishing. With Finn’s help a quantitative survey of Colne Water at Barrowford was undertaken; this site in particular involves a physically challenging day’s work along a considerably long stretch of river which requires all the (very heavy!) equipment to be carried to and from the site. However, Finn proved to be a great netter and helped us catch several trout fry, this proved that despite the area being urbanised and industrialised trout can still thrive in these improving waters!

Please #binit4beaches this summer

If you’re planning on visiting one of the UK’s hundreds of designated bathing water beaches this year you might be shocked to find a wet wipe buried in the sand next to your picnic spot.

It’s unlikely that these wipes have been left here as litter; millions of wipes are discarded or wrongly flushed down the toilet each year which means some of them reach our much loved, rivers, beaches and seas after sewers are overloaded by heavy rain or flooding.

Wet wipes are becoming essential to parents; helping clean up anything from dirty nappies to grubby faces, with the range of wipes in the market increasing in line with this demand. The Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach litter survey shows that the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches have echoed this trend, increasing by 700% over the last decade.

“But my wet wipe says flushable on it?”

Unfortunately, ‘flushable’ wipes may not break down quickly once they’ve been flushed. This can add to the risk of blockages, so remember to only flush the 3Ps – pee, paper and poo.

The #binit4beaches campaign is talking to families over the summer holidays about the importance of only flushing the 3P’s down the toilet; pee, poo and (toilet) paper and always putting wet wipes in the bin.

“Can I help?”

Instantly! Make this small change in your home and help reduce wet wipes reaching our much loved rivers and seas.

You can also help increase awareness about the effects on the environment when wet wipes are flushed down the toilet with your friends and family. Share this web page or use the #binit4beaches hashtag on social between the 14th and 20th August 2017.

GIS Mapping Student Placement

By Kat Rowland: GIS Intern

Slaidburn Youth Hostel

Slaidburn Youth Hostel

As a Geography student who loves rivers and GIS (and is doing her dissertation on both), the Rivers Trust was the perfect place for me to do a summer internship! Staying at the Slaidburn Youth Hostel, I worked in the Clitheroe office for three weeks. I immediately realised that the Trust does a lot more than simply monitor rivers; their work also covers surveying fish populations, eradicating invasive species, planting woodlands and hedgerows, educating in schools, working with farmers, reducing pollutants, inspecting flood damage, assessing habitats, removing weirs, creating fish passes, tagging salmon, and generally conserving the catchment. 

GIS – Geographic Information Systems – incorporates geographical features with tabular data, enabling geographers to map, identify and analyse patterns and problems. I have used ArcMap software at university in practicals, but have never used it in the ‘real-world’, so working at the Trust helped me to bridge the gap between theory and application. GIS enables you to manipu-lake spatial data and extract information – my first task was to use data on different risks to watercourses (warming from excess exposure to sunlight, sediment and faecal matter washing in from overland flow, flooding) to assess where it would be most beneficial to plant riparian woodlands. I used new and different GIS tools, so had to mullet all over, but eventually created multiple informative maps, and wrote a report on my findings. The difficulty of the tasks in no way eroded my enthusiasm, so I then learnt how to create interactive maps using ArcGIS Online (http://ribbletrust.org.uk/go-fishing/beats/), and how to use data from OS Open Data and the Environment Agency to update the Rivers Trust records. 

In my weeks in the office, I’d been herring a lot about electro-fishing, so I was thrilled that I got the oppor-tuna-ty to go into the field and help (or get in the way of, oops) the Fish Monitoring Officer with surveying a stretch of river in Ribchester. Notfishstanding the pouring rain, it was great! I measured river width and length, monitored temperature, pH and conductivity and noted bank structure and vegetation. Then – after donning super attractive hip-high waders – we put up nets to demarcate a stretch of river, and went electro-fishing!  We used direct current electricity to attract fish, net them, and then would measure them and return them. It required quite a lot of a-gill-ity to keep the net behind the anode and cathode used to stun the fish, especially where there were overhanging trees, but we caught eels, trout, salmonids, bullheads, minnows, and stoneloach.

A boring office internship with a dull financial firm would have been way too main-stream for me, so I’m really happy to have had the chance to be fin-volved with an organisation that has such an important impact on the environment. It has been extremely benefishial to my GIS education and understanding of how conservation groups work, and I would highly recommend the Rivers Trust as an exciting and impactful plaice to work!

Apologies for the r-eel-ly bad puns. If you can think of better ones, let minnow 😉

Himalayan Balsam Bash

On Saturday 22nd July, nine fantastic volunteers braved the pouring rain to help Ribble Rivers Trust in their annual battle with the Himalayan balsam growing along Wigglesworth Beck.

The ‘Balsam Bash’, as it’s known, involved pulling up the Himalayan balsam, to prevent it from setting seed and spreading further along the beck and throughout the Ribble catchment. Clearing a site like this reduces the amount that will grow at the same site in future years. It’s also really satisfying and you can really see how much you’ve done at the end of a session!

Himalayan balsam is an invasive plant species that outcompetes native plants for nutrients, space, light and pollinators (e.g. bees), and therefore reduces native biodiversity. It also has shallow roots and, as it dies back over winter, leaves river banks with little winter vegetation. Both factors increase the risk of river bank erosion, which can allow harmful amounts of soil to enter our rivers. Too much soil in rivers prevents sunlight reaching river plants and reduces the amount of oxygen available for fish and river invertebrates. Himalayan balsam therefore damages the health of rivers and the species that depend on them.

Ribble Rivers Trust, along with brilliant volunteers, have been removing balsam at Wigglesworth Beck for the past few years. The difference is noticeable, with less balsam now growing than there was a few years ago. The volunteers did a fantastic job on Saturday (as the photos show), and their efforts were a great help in controlling the balsam at this site!

The Balsam Bash was organised as a Cache In Trash Out (CITO) event – an initiative developed by Geocachers – in which they carry out a range of environmental improvements, in order to give something back to the environment. This can include litter picks, tree planting days, or even a spot of gardening. This Balsam Bash event was also open to any non-Geocachers who wished to do their bit as well and John Siddall, one of our most dedicated volunteers, came along to help and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Geocacher Sam said afterwards:

‘After a couple of hours, we had felled a good amount of the invasive plant, and a real difference could be seen. Hopefully this might knock it back for a while and give the indigenous plants a chance to take root. This one was hard work, but worthwhile. Thanks for hosting and thanks for the biscuits.’

A MASSIVE thank you to all the volunteers who helped to bash the balsam growing along Wigglesworth Beck!

We hope to see you again at future CITO and volunteer events.

Ribble Life Together – The Launch

The Ribble Life Together project is officially underway!

Last week’s project launch event at Brockholes Nature Reserve was a huge success! The event celebrated securing £1.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund with a fun-filled, activity packed day which was supported by catchment partners and staff.

We’ve been developing the Ribble Life Together project for the past two years in collaboration with our catchment partners. The £3.2 million project will now be delivered until 2020 thanks to funding from our partners and other sources. 

The launch welcomed many guests, including representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, United Utilities, Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission, Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Dales National Park, and local community groups.

Also in attendance were the Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company, the project’s artistic partners, with a display featuring a range of their wonderful puppets and sensory art works. Esther Ferry Kerrington, Executive Director at Horse and Bamboo, was kind enough to speak at the event, delivering an insight into the world of Horse and Bamboo and the importance art can have in raising awareness of issues that affect our natural heritage.

Photos: Chris Bull for Creative Concern

The teachers and students from Sir Tom Finney Community High School, Preston, also attended the event. Ribble Trust works in partnership with schools to educate and engage young people and the students demonstrated their knowledge of all things river to the other attendees!  Find out more about our programme for schools here: http://ribblelifetogether.org/learn/river-in-the-classroom

In the afternoon, speakers included Lorraine Ritchen-Stones, one of the Ribble Trust’s volunteers. Lorraine delivered a presentation which told the story of her journey into a conservation career, which was kick started thanks to her volunteering at the Ribble Trust!

Throughout the day a range of interesting, innovative and fun activities were on show in the reception area. These ranged from Virtual Reality Rivers which immerse users in the world of rivers using specialist software, headsets, and headphones, to the river simulator which provides a visual insight into the geomorphology of rivers.

Other activities included guided nature walks, riverfly displays, trout tanks, short film screenings, capturing sound bites, and woodlands, wetlands and fish pass displays.

A huge thank you to all the guests and speakers at the launch event, Brockholes Nature Reserve who hosted us, all the project funders, and everyone who has helped us on the Ribble Life Together journey so far!

Ribble Life Together - partners and funders

2017 Summer Shows and Events

The Long Preston May Day kick started this year’s show season with family friendly fun in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales village! The Ribble Rivers Trust were attending the show for a second year in order to showcase the work we have been carrying out in the area and around the catchment.  

Shows are a great way for us to spread the word about the work we do. The shows we attend are varied in theme and location, from agricultural shows in the scenic Yorkshire Dales to ocean celebration days on the bright and lively Blackpool Promanade!

This means that when we attend these shows we can meet and speak to people from all walks of life and we can make sure that the information we have is relevant to their communities, heritage, and local environment. Our stands are often a little different from the other attendees with interactive displays such as our river table, kids educational (and fun!) activities and competitions, and when the weather permits, live invertebrates.

In 2016 we attended just over a dozen shows but thanks to our funders we’ll be attending more shows than ever this year with nineteen already booked! Our team have also improved and developed our displays to include a range of new information boards, demonstrations, and activities which are designed to appeal and educate everyone from school children to anglers to farmers.

However, there’s more to the Ribble Rivers Trust’s summer than just shows! Throughout the summer months our staff team up with other organisations to arrange special one off clean ups, invertebrate sampling days, family fun days, and guided walks which are designed to educate people about the local environment, the many species that live here, and how we can improve the catchment to help them.

So, whether it’s at one the many brilliant shows we are attending or at one of our volunteer events we look forward to meeting you in person!

You can find us at the below shows. Please stop by and have a chat, our staff love what we do and want to share our work, knowledge, and experience with others!

Sunday 6th May 2017
Long Preston May Day
Saturday 20th May 2017
Art in the Garden
Sunday 21st May 2017
Art in the Garden
Sunday 28th May 2017
Thompson Park Fun Day
Monday 29th May 2017
Great Harwood Agricultural Society Show
Thursday 8th June 2017
World Ocean Day, Blackpool
Sunday 11th June 2017
PAAS Ribchester
Sunday 11th June 2017
Myerscough College Open Day
Saturday 1st July 2017
Barrowford Life
Sunday 2nd July 2017
Brun Valley Forest Park Fun Day
Saturday 8th July 2017
Goosnargh and Longridge Agricultural Show
Wednesday 2nd August 2017
Invertebrate Family Fun Open Event, Peel Park
Saturday 12th August 2017
Clitheroe Food Festival
Friday 11th August 2017
The Royal Lancashire Show
Saturday 12th August 2017
The Royal Lancashire Show
Sunday 13th August 2017
The Royal Lancashire Show
Sunday 13th August 2017
The Trawden Show
Sunday 20th August 2017
Thompson Park Fun Day
Saturday 26th August 2017
Chipping Agricultural Show
Saturday 9th September 2017
The Hodder Valley Show
Sunday 10th September 2017
Towneley Heritage and Woodland Festival

Rivers in the Classroom (and as classrooms!)

Sat with a year 6 group watching sand martins return to the river’s eroded bank, swooping around picking freshly hatched riverflies from the air. One girl leans to her friend to say “I could watch these all day. I’m going to come down here at the weekend.” At that moment, a huge grin spread across my face! That’s what our education programme is all about – reconnecting, and in some cases for the first time connecting, the next generation with their local rivers. It is only through forging and nurturing deep connections with their local river that they and their rivers will get the mutual benefits that each can offer to the other.

This year, the Ribble Trust’s ‘Rivers in the Classroom’ programme has directly engaged with over 500 children from 17 schools across the catchment. We hope that these experiences have helped the children to build a closeness to the wildlife of their rivers and feel the joy they can get from this. Through the programme, we have also provided opportunities for them to see, first-hand, how river systems function naturally alongside problems that threaten this balance. This helps them to form a deeper understanding of how we humans are part of this system and the consequent effects of the actions we choose. We hope that this, combined with seeing how easy it is to get to their local river and enjoy it safely in future, will set them up to appreciate and conserve this important part of our ecosystem well into the future. 

The effects also ripple out much further, with many of these children sharing their own ‘Rivers in the Classroom’ experiences in sessions for other children in their school. Some have even linked to other schools and nurseries for this. We have also developed new, hands-on, resources and expanded the suite of activities that we offer to school groups. The experience for the children that we’ve worked with this year has, once again, been greatly enhanced by a team of fantastic volunteers. So, we’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to all those involved!

Tidal Ribble

Venturing into a new area… 11 of the 12 schools that we have been working closely with for the first time this year are in the Lower Ribble sub-catchment. One of the main problems facing this area is faecal matter, which comes from a multitude of sources. By connecting children with their river and its wildlife, enabling them to discover the local challenges facing their river and what they can do at home to help, our aim here has been to inspire children to become champions for their river and take actions at home that will lead to healthier river systems and consequently cleaner bathing waters.

We have also given all the children that we’ve worked directly with in this area the opportunity to enter our ‘Mission: River Protect’ competition by spreading the word to friends and family at home about what amazing things they have chosen to do to show their river some love. We can’t wait to see what they get up to!

After visits to their local brook, two of the schools have also decided to tackle another very visual problem facing their river: litter. As well as making it a better habitat for wildlife, they are hoping that this will help other local people to enjoy and take care of their rivers. It is amazing what a difference they have made to their local stretches of river and the impacts will be felt much further downstream too. When I’ve joined students from Sir Tom Finney Community High on their clean-ups by Eaves Brook, they’ve said how much they enjoyed the excuse to spend time near their brook and we are delighted that they are going to continue these regular clean-up river visits. After giving their local patch a little further down Eaves Brook a spring clean, children from Holme Slack Primary in Preston also brought their parents along to see the brown trout, that they had reared in their classroom, being released.

Another highlight was St Matthew’s Primary being joined for their fish release by children from Ashbridge Day Nursery, who they had written stories about their trout for, including ‘How the Brown Trout got its Spots’. We loved reading these and the letters and poems from other schools in the office too!

It has also been fantastic to have the support of the Preston Park Rangers for many of these schools’ visits to the river, making areas accessible to the groups and sharing the wealth of their local knowledge.

Active Rivers

“It will create shade, and when the trees drop leaves the invertebrates can eat.” explained George, from year 4. “It will protect habitats.” added his classmate, Charlie. These are just some of the many benefits that the new woodlands, created this winter with the help of local school children, will give to the river. The Fisheries Improvement Project, made it possible for children from an urban school in Burnley to link up with a rural school on their river visits to improve the river and adjacent habitats while discovering how they can enjoy them in the future.

50 children and their teachers from three schools planted over 500 trees on the banks of Cow Hey Brook near Bashall Eaves. The children discovered the many benefits that their trees will bring to the stream and the wildlife it supports. Cow Hey feeds into Bashall Brook where the children also got hooked on angling with many proudly making their very first catch and enjoying the opportunity to see the river’s hidden wildlife up close. All our junior tree planters were also given a map of how to find their woodland on the Public Right of Way and are excited to bring their families to see how their trees flourish.

The activities mentioned in this post have been made possible thanks to funds from the Heritage Lottery, United Utilities, Greggs Foundation and Environment Agency.

If you are from a school interested in finding out more about our education programme, please get in touch with emily@ribbletrust.com.

Work Experience 2017

By Lydia Ferris, Clitheroe Royal Grammar School.  

I don’t really know what caused me to contact Ribble Rivers Trust for work experience but I am so glad that I did! This week has been very informative and has helped me build my knowledge of what exactly the RRT do and has shown me just how much work they have to do to help and sustain our rivers. I underwent varied tasks as the week progressed which have developed my overall knowledge, communication skills, confidence and what you have to do whilst working.

My first day started with meeting Paul. He showed me where the main office was and took me inside, where I then met Emily. After having a general discussion with Emily about my work experience, she introduced me to most of the staff members at the office. Then I was set the task of covering egg cartons to make them look like treasure chests for a school activity, I got the hang of it pretty quickly and just stuck to it for the morning since I was pretty nervous.

At lunch, I was invited out on a walk with Ellie and Emily which was really nice. The weather was quite sunny so the walk was very pleasant.

I then went to a site with John, to take photographs for a record to show that the trees were planted and everything was in order. It was really good to look at the work of trees that had been planted two years ago, but then we had to cross a muddy field to get to the first area in which one of the earlier photographs was taken. That was the muddiest I have been in a long time, but I couldn’t help laughing at myself, I think I fell around 4 times and almost lost a wellie at one point but it was still a great day.

The second day was very different to the first, we started out with a monthly meeting that lasted for two hours but it gave me a good insight into what everyone is doing and what projects may be happening during 2017. It was in this meeting where I met Jack, the trust’s director. After this, I continued with the work I started Monday morning until lunch.

After lunch I went out with Emily to Sir Tom Finney High School to check their trout tank and to join a few of the staff and students on a clean-up. It was nice to see kids helping their local environment and to witness how determined they were to clean up the park we were in.

The next day I went tree planting for the day’s entirety. We took down some equipment that we sorted out the previous day and waited for some college students before we could start. We managed to plant all the trees by half 2. I really enjoyed it but I was aching in the evening.

The fourth day, I went out with Neil to check the trout tanks in 5 primary schools in Preston for the trout in the classroom project. They were all doing well and were healthy and Neil told me that they are going to be released in about 2 weeks.

When we got back to the office I was finishing off the task I started on my first day but then Ellie introduced me to GIS so I could map a route out for the 4 primary schools in Longridge to take to the trout release site. This was interesting to do because I have never mapped anything before.

On my final day, I went out with Emily to the 4 Longridge schools to check their trout (all are healthy!) and hand them all their copies of the maps I produced the day before. We then walked around the route that Emily planned to take them when releasing the trout and I helped her spot things that she could point out during the river walk. The bird life there was incredible. We heard a woodpecker and saw many other birds and we even helped a fisherman catch a barbel (we didn’t really, we just watched.) When we got back to the office, Emily got out a microscope for me and showed me all the invertebrates that the trout will feed on when they get released. I looked at them all through the microscope (I would not like to have them in my diet.) 

I have really enjoyed my time here and it has been a wonderful experience. All the staff have made me feel so welcome, I would love to stay and not go back to school. This experience has really developed me as a person and it was very helpful in advice for my career options. I will definitely volunteer when and where I can because this week has been one of the best moments of my life!

This opportunity was made possible thanks to funding from the Greggs Foundation.