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Living Rivers - A Team Effort part 2

Posted: Wednesday 25th November 2015 by Living Rivers


The Trust's Living Rivers Officer, David, talks about the team effort needed to make the Living Rivers a success and we hear from some of the volunteers involved.

Working on catchment scale projects you quickly realise this is not a task one person can accomplish alone. This is no different for the Living Rivers Project and since beginning my role as project officer back in May I have been fortunate to meet and get to know a wide network of people who give up their time in dedication to conserving and improving their local rivers and ultimately making Living Rivers a success. With such a vast amount of work being delivered by volunteers throughout the Lea Catchment it seemed almost necessary to invite some of the people engaged with Living Rivers to talk about their rivers, the projects they have worked on and their experiences within the Living Rivers project.  

Read 'Living Rivers - A Team Effort part 1' here.

ARMI & River Dipping Events – Claudia Harflett

On two beautifully sunny evenings in August, HMWT members got the chance to put their wellies on, ‘scuffle and swoosh’ with a net, and peer in their white trays, patiently waiting for the mud-covered wiggly bedraggled ‘things’ to reveal themselves...

Lemsford Springs is an old-watercress farm, which is fed by pure springs from the chalk aquifer beneath. The River Lea also runs through, separated from the lagoons by a bank of crack willows Salix fragilis. The shallow, slow flowing waters flow over a cobbly, pebbly bottom in the north of the reserve, before slowing and widening into the larger South Lagoon, with a sand and silt bed. This makes it perfect for the freshwater shrimp Gammarus pulex, and you are guaranteed a good handful of shrimp in your net at any time of year, as the spring-water does not freeze over in the winter. So perfect in fact that the green sandpipers which flock to this 4ha reserve all year round, each consume an estimated 8000 shrimp per day! These 1-2 cm long curved crustaceans, swim on their sides, shredding algae and detritus from the stream bed, cleaning the water from decaying vegetation. So they are a vital part of the food-chain and maintaining the high water quality at Lemsford Springs. Other detritivores present in the lagoons, but not in such large numbers are ribbon worms, leeches, Chronomid (non-biting midge) larvae and the water-hog-louse Asellus aquaticus. The latter is related to terrestrial woodlice and has a similar lifestyle.

If you see an insect pitching slowly through the water, like a rocking-horse with six stripy legs, then you have probably found the nymph of the Serratella ignita Blue-Winged Olive mayfly. This is the most common of the UK’s mayflies - insects with 3 long tails, and several pairs of gills along the back of their abdomen. You can see the long tails on both the aquatic nymphs and the aerial adults. There are many different species of mayflies and only the True Mayflies (Ephemera spp.) emerge as adults for a brief period in May. Most mayflies prefer faster flowing waters than that found in the lagoons at Lemsford - the West Stream provides this along with vegetative cover Common Water Crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis, rather than the watercress found in the Lagoons. The varied stream bed of both the Lagoons and West Stream provide the perfect building bricks for the architects of the water - cased caddisflies larvae, which happen to be my favourites! Our pond dippers found it hard to spot them as they are masters of disguise! The cased caddisflies larvae build a protective case using the materials in the stream bed - carefully choosing them based on size, shape, weight and material. You can use these artistically made cases to help you identify them, at least to family level. Like spiders, caddisfly larvae produce ‘silk’ which they use to weave a sticky ‘starting tube’ before they attach the materials required to make their protective case. Some caddisfly larvae also spin their silk into nets which they use to catch their prey of algae, detritus and smaller invertebrates in. The West Stream with its faster flow provides suitable habitat for caseless caddisflies larvae. These can also be hard to spot as they are usually green or brown and cling to the vegetation with the two hooks on the end of their abdomen. They do not have a protective case but do have a tougher ‘skin’ (outer membrane) compared to the cased caddisflies. They have a more predatory or ambush style to feeding, aided by the faster water flow. So next time you are by the water’s edge, peer down and see if you can spot any of the hidden invertebrates that are so important to our waters’ and their more conspicuous wildlife.

Catchment Website and Social Media – Amy Barker

I am currently a biology student and I have been volunteering as part of the River Lea catchment plan since April of this year. My role involves maintaining and updating the catchment website and twitter accounts for both the Middle Lea and Beane rivers. As part of this, I keep regular contact with many different members of the catchment program, in order to gather information and news and then use this to produce online updates. This is helping to engage the public with the work taking place on their local rivers.

I had wanted to get involved with the wildlife trust for some time but being away at university made this difficult! The opportunity to volunteer from home through contributing to online content was therefore a great chance for me to get involved and contribute some of my time to the project! I’ve also had the opportunity to meet personally with different stakeholders and catchment partners and learn about their work. It has been great that new opportunities continue to arise for me as a volunteer.

As a student looking towards a career in environmental management, I have really benefited from volunteering. I am learning a lot about my local rivers, the challenges they face and the work being carried out to protect them, as well as the issues that arise when the interests of different river users come into conflict.

Without the dedicated work of volunteers, the improvements we are seeing constantly being made along our chalk rivers would not be possible on such a scale. We are always looking to welcome new volunteers to assist in the delivery of the Living Rivers Project as well as assisting local people and groups in delivering their own projects through our role as Catchment Hosts for the River Lea. If you have a project idea to improve your local river, why not attend your next local Catchment Partnership meeting which are advertised through the Lea Catchment Partnership website

Read 'Living Rivers - A Team Effort part 1' here.


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