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Welcome to a new Living Rivers Officer

Posted: Wednesday 19th August 2015 by Living Rivers

Kings Weir Fishery - David JohnsonKings Weir Fishery - David Johnson

HMWT's new Living Rivers Officer, David Johnson, gives his views on moving to Hertfordshire, weighing giant pike and getting to grips with Himalayan balsam.

It has been some time since the last Living Rivers blog post and lots has happened in that time.Firstly Charlie Bell moved onto a new role with the Field Studies Council at the end of January and I – David Johnson – have taken up the role of Living Rivers Officer.

David Johnson on the Mimram - Robin Cole

Prior to taking up this new position in May, I spent two years as Living Waterways Officer for Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. As you can probably imagine by the similarities in the job titles, the roles do have much in common, though the Chalk Rivers of Hertfordshire certainly do bring some new challenges - most notably experiencing the alien concept of rivers without water!

So after a last trip up Blackhall Rocks to say farewell to my friends and the sea (of course Hertfordshire is a landlocked county) I relocated my life to St. Albans. Any trepidation I had on the big move was quickly put to rest in my second week when Kings Weir Fishery and the Environment Agency invited me along to their annual electrofishing survey. It was here we were treated to a massive 29.6 lb pike (bigger than most toddlers!) which if caught on the line would have broken the Lea record by a full 3.6 lb (did I mention I have a passion for fish yet?). Anyway the very same week I was invited along to the river Stort at Thorley Wash to help with HMWT’s water vole reintroduction, and with that my mind was made up – Hertfordshire is a great place to be!

Of course much of my first three months has been meeting partner organisations, getting to know the area and of course being shown around the chalk rivers and local reserves, watching kingfishers and dragonflies, looking for otters, sampling for river flies and trying my hand at a bit of bird ringing. But enough about me…

Catchment Hosting

This year Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) has been appointed Catchment Hosts for the Upper and Lower Lea Catchment Partnerships (the bits between Luton and the M25) as well as all the major tributaries; Mimram, Beane, Ash, Rib, Quin and Stort.

The Catchment Partnerships are made up of people and organisations who are working together for the benefit of our river environments. As catchment hosts, HMWT will co-ordinate and organise the members of the Catchment Partnerships in order to drive forward the Catchment Plans which of course can been viewed in full on the new website here. 

Meetings of the Catchment Partnerships have already begun, and I have recently hosted meetings for the Middle Lea and River Stort where lots of new exciting projects and ideas were shared.

Non-Native Invasive Species

Joining the Trust in late May meant I was already behind on the Himalayan balsam pulling season. I did manage to get a session in near Wheathampstead with assistance from Affinity Water volunteers just before the plants came to seed. Next season there will certainly be much more balsam pulling around the area, so if you would like to get involved watch this space for more information around April. 

Upcoming Projects

Now that I have been here a while, I am starting to get involved with some of the Living Rivers projects for this years. Over the coming months I will be looking at improving eel passage on the Lea as part of our new Slimy Wrigglers project. I will be figuring out how to get fish over weirs on the Ash to secure the coveted “good ecological condition” under Water Framework Directive criteria. Finally I will be looking to restore and improve areas of river habitat along the Mimram so we can achieve SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) status and finally secure protection for “The Jewel of Hertfordshire”. Of course this is all alongside the supporting of the Catchment Partnerships and helping out on their projects in any way that I can.

Read Living Rivers's latest blog entries.

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