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Posted: Monday 22nd September 2014 by Living Rivers

Where has the summer gone? I’m aware this is my first blog in a long time, so I thought I’d review the summer and give some brief highlights of what the Living Rivers Project has been up to over the last few months.

Catchment Partnerships

We’re now well underway with our work establishing catchment partnerships on our ‘new’ rivers, as well as the ongoing work resulting from the established partnerships on the Beane, Mimram and Stort. Over the summer workshops for the Ash, Upper Lea, Middle Lea, Rib and Quin have led to various projects being suggested, and some one-to-one visits with landowners.  

Upper River Lea


I’ve also done a bit of exploring of the Lower Lea, between Hoddesdon and the M25, which was a new area to me. Do you live near this section of the lower Lea? If so I’d love to hear from you!


I’m currently working on copy for the new catchment websites for each of these rivers, which will all be launched under an umbrella ‘Lea Catchment’ website later this year. The existing website for the Beane/Mimram and Stort will be subsumed under the umbrella website too, so all the Upper Lea tributary pages, as well as pages for the Lea itself, will be found in one place.


Left: a site visit to the lovely Upper Lea - a management plan will be produced for the landowner.

Policy work

In July I joined a central Wildlife Trust delegation to Defra, to discuss how our integrated catchment partnership work can help deliver multiple benefits – flood prevention, biodiversity, water quality etc. Hopefully the meeting helped to ensure Defra fully appreciate the role that various Wildlife Trusts, including HMWT, are playing in WFD delivery throughout the county as they make decisions about how they will allocate WFD funding from 2016 onwards…


Pond dipping for grown-upsI've done various events over the summer, including the ‘Park Fest’ at Pishiobury on the River Stort, a family river dipping drop in day at Wheathampstead, and a ‘river dipping for grown-ups’ (always popular!) at Lemsford Springs in the lovely old watercress beds (photo right). There were also two River Ver Days, organized by Waterwise as part of a wider project aiming to highlight the link between people’s water supply and their local river. 

What continues to strike me is what a great way river dipping is to get people enthused about their local river. In particular, the dipping day at Wheathampstead, where I was assisted by volunteer Patrick McNeill, was incredibly popular – we were asked by several families if we would be there every weekend throughout the summer – if only we had the energy (and time)!

Riverfly Hub

The big news is that the Herts & Chilterns Riverfly Hub is now up and running! 

First of all, a bit of background. The Angler’s Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) was launched by the Riverfly Partnership in 2007 to enable anglers and other interested groups to actively monitor and protect their local rivers. It helps rivers to be monitored more widely and at greater frequency than is possible by the Environment Agency alone.

Riverfly courseThe ARMI involves pairs of volunteers taking 3-minute kick samples from the river bed each month, and recording the presence and abundance of eight pollution-sensitive invertebrate groups. The focus of the sampling is on ‘riverflies’ - mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. If invertebrate numbers drop below expected levels the Environment Agency are informed and will take action to investigate the suspected pollution incident. Over time, the data held by each river group will also allow for long-term changes to be identified, and the regular presence of volunteers on the river will discourage potential polluters.

ARMI is already used widely in the UK as a 'neighbourhood watch' for rivers, practiced by anglers, environmentalists and community groups. It has proven effective in identifying pollution incidents and ensuring action is taken. In several cases this has led to prosecution of polluters by the statutory authorities and has prevented similar future incidents

So, I’ve been working with the Chilterns Chalk Stream Project to set up the Herts & Chilterns Riverfly Hub. This hub will coordinate Riverfly Monitoring in Hertfordshire and provide training for volunteers. Four people have already been trained as ARMI instructors and are delivering a rolling programme of workshops to train local people in the ARMI method.

We’re being supported by grants from Affinity Water and Natural England via the Lea Catchment Nature Improvement Area. For more information, or to register your interest in becoming a Riverfly monitor, please contact the hub’s coordinators Allen Beechey (Chilterns) or myself if you’re in Hertfordshire.

Ongoing work

There are also various projects bubbling away, including two river restoration projects on the Upper Mimram and an ongoing project on the Ash. I also hope the ‘Guide to England’s Chalk Rivers’, which I’m producing with the Field Studies Council as part of their series of fold-out laminated charts, will be ready to launch before Christmas.

'Science of Chalk Rivers' evening

Science of Chalk Rivers talkLast week was the 'Science of Chalk Rivers' evening which I’d organized and which Affinity kindly hosted. Four speakers from various background and universities gave a seminar on an aspect of their research which relates to chalk rivers. The aim is to help the flow of information from academic research to on-the-ground river restoration.  It’s a bit of a pet project of mine, and I’m happy to say it was a full house with 100 people attending. They heard talks on aquatic plants in chalk rivers, the effect of reducing abstraction, the geology or chalk and how the efficacy of river restoration is assessed (or not!). The talks were filmed and will be available on line soon, so I’ll do a summary of the evening to accompany that in my next blog.


Above:  Dr Kevin Wood speaking about the importance of aquatic plants in chalk rivers

River Beane film

The long-awaited film about the River Beane will premiere at Hertford Theatre on 9th October, to be followed by a Q&A session with a panel including myself. Tickets are £5 and are available here.

In other news...


Outside of work, I’ve also had my first two fly fishing lessons thanks to Tewin Fly Fishing club on the beautiful river Mimram. My casting definitely needs work but despite that I think my tally is now 13 grayling, so I’m not complaining. It really is giving me an extra insight into ‘reading’ the river, and seeing it from an angler’s perspective is quite enlightening!

Tweet tweet

Did you know that several of these rivers now have Twitter feeds?

As well as my own: @Charlie_Wellies

So get tweeting!

Thanks for reading!



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