Preston teens are cleaning up a local patch for school fish

If you go down to Eaves Brook today… you may be mistaken for thinking that the Wombles have moved into town. It’s all thanks to an army of eco-friendly staff and students from a Preston high school. They have been diligently doing litter picks in areas around their local brook. You might wonder what motivates these green youngsters to do such a fantastic thing. The answer lies at the bottom of a fish tank in their school.

Thanks to funding from United Utilities’ Tidal Ribble project, over 400 children from Sir Tom Finney Community High (STFCH) and another nine primary schools in the Preston and Longridge areas are rearing brown trout in their schools for the first time. The project aims to improve bathing waters along the Fylde coast by delivering physical improvements, and educational activities to help improve the water quality by highlighting the importance of things such as “Only the 3P’s (pee, poo and toilet paper) down the loo,” ensuring homes don’t cross connect sewage pipes with surface water pipes, and septic tanks are properly maintained.

This is all part of an education programme run by local charity the Ribble Rivers Trust called ‘Rivers in the Classroom’. The charity is working across the Ribble Catchment to improve our rivers for people and wildlife. The education programme is aimed at enabling local children to access their local rivers safely and to better understand how to enjoy and look after them.

Ribble Rivers Trust’s Emily Bateman commented “Through this project, we hope that the young people will connect with their local rivers. These first-hand experiences and the deeper understanding that they are developing of how our daily lives, our rivers and our coastline are interconnected should stand them in good stead to look after these valuable habitats for the future.”

STFCH, which is a generic special needs school, are rearing wild brown trout in their school. The school was opened in 2008 by the football hero himself. No doubt, he would have been proud to see the fantastic things these students are doing for their local spot. They adopted their unusual guests in January as eggs. The eggs have all hatched now and the students are watching their development unfold through a magnified video projected onto the wall.

Once the fish start to swim around, the students will be feeding them and getting them ready to be released into their local river later in March. First though, they are improving the quality of the habitat that will soon be their trout’s new home. The work that the young people are doing will all help to reduce the amount of litter ending up in the brook and travelling downstream to the sea. They hope that their efforts will make the area nicer for others to enjoy and set a good example for more people to look after their river too.

Linda Prescott, a teacher from STFCH who organised the clean ups, added “Our students have found the Rivers in the Classroom project a very valuable experience. All our young people have been involved in either caring for the fish or clearing up the brook and their enthusiasm has been fantastic.” Another teacher at the school, Mitch Newsham, arranged a visit from Year Six children from the neighbouring primary school, Moor Nook, to share news of their trout’s development. Assistant Head, Isobel Woods, has also planned an exciting scheme of work for the pupils around their trout’s development.

They have discovered that brown trout and many other creatures need clean water to survive and thrive. Through this and other linked activities, they have delved deeper into how all our actions at home can make our local rivers, seas and beaches healthier.

All the schools involved will also have the chance to enter the Ribble Rivers Trust’s ‘Mission: River Protect’ competition by spreading the message of how we can help look after our waterways even further. Whether it’s putting litter in the bin, flushing only the 3P’s or conscientiously cleaning up after our pooches, we can all do something to help improve the health of our rivers.

For more information about the work of the Ribble Rivers Trust to improve our local rivers, please contact us on 01200 444452 or visit www.ribbletrust.org.uk

The Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT) is a local environmental charity established in 1997 to protect and restore the rivers, streams and watercourses within the Ribble catchment and to raise public awareness of the value of our local rivers and streams. The Ribble catchment is the area of land that is drained by the River Ribble and its major tributaries; the Hodder, Calder and Darwen. It covers a varied landscape, from the rural hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the source of the River Ribble, to major urban areas of Lancashire including Blackburn, Burnley and Preston. For more information visit https://ribbletrust.org.uk