Welcome to our quarterly newsletter! We hope you enjoy reading it and if you have any suggestions for our Autumn newsletter then contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
A word from the CEO
Four months have passed quickly since I joined the Trust in April. So, what are my first impressions? This is an organisation with a clear purpose and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff and Trustees and I have really enjoyed being part of the team. Much has been achieved but there is still much to do!
I have spent time understanding the structure of the charity and meeting key landowners and partner organizations, particularly the Environment Agency and Thames Water. I have also enjoyed exploring the local geography, the villages and the river itself – including finding that my wellies leak!
Dig, dig, dig! Backwater and pond works
During July we enlarged a backwater and some ponds near Cuddesdon Mill at Views Farm.
The backwater was at the end of a ditch very small and not working efficiently as it was dry much of the time it was needed, and so we deepened, graded and more than doubled it in size.
We also doubled in size three online ponds in a ditch leading to the river. The ponds are bunded to retain water and sediment and reduce nutrient loads entering the river.
Backwaters are important off-river habitats for fish, plants and invertebrates and recreate habitats, such as cut off meanders etc, lost over time by man’s interventions with rivers.
The backwater was designed to have a deeper mouth tailing up to shallow water at the back end – important habitat for fish fry as the shallow, warmer water provides excellent conditions to grow in. We were thrilled to see a shoal of fish fry utilising the new habitat almost before we had finished building it! Build it and they will come as they say….
Thanks to the EA for the funding and landowner Robert Peers for paying for and installing the fencing around the backwater. Thanks also to contractor James Gillies for his expert excavator skills!
Balsam be gone!
This summer we have been out on numerous occasions with our wonderful volunteers clearing large swathes of Himalayan Balsam from the Bear Brook and Kingsey Cuttle Brook. The pull, snap, stomp technique quickly decimated banks of balsam and an incredible 4.5km were cleared of this pesky invasive non-native plant, freeing up space for native plants and curbing its spread through the catchment.
Throughout the season we were joined by a wonderful collection of people looking to help improve and protect their local streams. This included some of our fantastic regular volunteers, local residents, Scouts, the Environment Agency and staff from Optimis Consulting. In addition we partnered up with the Inland Waterways Association to run our first joint event, hopefully one of many to come. Flowers from this event had a special destination and were delivered to the Puddingstone Distillery to make a limited edition run of Himalayan balsam gin, profits of which go to support the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.
Bird Surveys (Bird Atlas project) – An update and big ‘Thank you’ from RTCT Trustee Nick Marriner
Amazingly, we have now completed 3 of the planned 4 years of fieldwork and we have managed to achieve 79% coverage of the whole catchment so far. When I first started planning the Atlas I didn’t envisage getting that kind of coverage – a great achievement on your part.
Of the 237 Tetrads in the catchment you have completed 187 (some 1 season still to complete), made 728 survey visits, submitted 21,932 records and recorded 146 species.
Water in a Dry Landscape is up and running
A team of volunteers is now being assembled and trained up ready to start surveying headwaters on the Chilterns scarp slope for the ‘Water in a Dry Landscape’ project (WDL).
WDL is one of several strands of activity which together make up the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Chalk, Cherries and Chairs landscape partnership. WDL will be a ground-breaking study of the springs and small water-courses scattered along the scarp slope. Lots of work has been done on the Chilterns chalk streams of the dip slope – such as the rivers Misbourne, Chess, Ver and Gade – but we know very little about the streams running west into the Thame catchment.
Riverfly monitoring – training event
In June 12 volunteers joined us to be trained in Riverfly monitoring.
Riverfly monitoring is a great way to keep an eye on the health of your local watercourse and can help identify pollution issues.
A good time was had by all and we now have 21 sites actively being surveyed across the Thame catchment every month!
If you are interested in becoming a trained Riverly monitor then contact Hannah@riverthame.org as we will be running another training event in October
Upcoming habitat project delivery
Eythrope Wetland Creation
This autumn diggers will be on site as planning permission is now agreed for the Eythrope wetland creation. Phase one of the two year excavation will begin in September and will start the process of converting species poor pasture into a diverse wetland mosaic.
This wetland will be the first of its kind in the catchment and will benefit a huge host of wetland plants and animals, from tiny dragonfly nymphs to wading curlew and foraging otters.
Watch this space as we bring you further updates on the excavation!
Fish passage & habitat project – Cuddington
Things are also gearing up for delivery of a fish passage and habitat project at Cuddington this Autumn.
Details and permissions are being finalised for the creation of a rock ramp and habitat work on private land at Cuddington to allow fish free movement around weirs at Cuddingon.
A rock ramp will be created that allows fish to swim up and downstream of the barrier. Fish need to move to breed, feed and for genetic diversity of populations.
Chalk Streams are in crisis – debated in parliament
It was good to see the issues facing our chalk streams being discussed in parliament back in July.
Chalk Streams are globally scarce habitats, 85% of the 260 chalk streams in the world are in the UK. The Chilterns Chalk Streams are currently in a very poor state, a combination of climate change and a high level of water abstraction has left us with exceptionally low river levels. Within the Chilterns AONB 60% of the chalk stream habitat is currently dry. As the Chilterns Chalk Stream Project say – Across the Chilterns we are suffering a drought, yet hardly anyone is talking about it.
The Thame has a number of chalk streams in the headwaters on the northern slopes of the Chiltern Hills and RTCT are partners in the ‘Water in a dry landscape’ sub-project of the ‘Chalk Cherries and Chairs’ HLF project that is looking at these streams.
A number of groups including out partners at the Chilterns Chalk Stream Project (CCSP) and various Rivers Trusts have written a dossier called ‘Chalk Streams in Crisis’
The dossier and issue was debated in parliament recently and here is the link to the Hansard report of the debate.