I have had a very exciting last two weeks at the Wandle Trust having spent more time outside in the river than in the office – lucky me!
On Friday we had our second Rivers & Wetlands Community Day with 15 volunteers joining us out in the sunshine. Tim had stored up a very long to do list since our previous Rivers & Wetlands Community Day in October last year where we added 2000 plants to the restored section of the Wandle at Butter Hill in Carshalton.
Firstly we had to add 500 native marginal plants to the newly restored section on Mill Lane. As always, we ordered a variety of different species so we could create a natural marginal community on the banks of the Wandle. Species included ragged robin, water mint, sedges and purple loosestrife.
Meanwhile, some of our volunteers tackled the invasive non-native Canadian goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)which had established on the banks of the Wandle. Canadian goldenrod produces dense stands which out-compete native species, reducing habitat diversity. We caught it early in the season when it was just coming through as small purple tinted shrubs. You can see how dense the root system is in the image below.
There had been a fair bit of fly-tipping since October that we were keen to tackle, so a team of us ran a mini cleanup while the planting was going on. Some highlights included a bed frame, a motorbike at Hackbridge and a car seat. In total, 40 bags were collected which is almost the number we get on a regular cleanup!
Next on the agenda was raking and seed sowing; coppicing and pinning in some Large Woody Material which had fallen into the river.
Altogether it was a busy day and we couldn’t have got it all done without our volunteers.
So thank you all for coming: Aaron, Andy, Charles, Dave J, Dave W, Derek, Geoff, James, John, Lorna, Mike, Steve, Sue and Wally.
May 1, 2015 No Comments
We’d like to give a warm welcome to our latest recruit Alan, our new Invasive Non-Native Species Officer!
We’ve stolen Alan from Scotland where he was working on Argyll’s three National Nature Reserves for Scottish Natural Heritage. Before this Alan was in Cape Town, South Africa, controlling invasive species in the metropolitan area so he has a wealth of experience.
Alan is running an invasive species project on the River Wandle as part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership. The project aims to map invasive species along the Wandle corridor and set up management plans and volunteer teams to work towards eradication.
Alan will be tackling a wide variety of invasive non-native species including some well-known faces such as Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed.
To get started, Alan has been taking a refresher in Pesticide Application along with Polly our Volunteer Officer. Here is our invasive species ghost busting team…
So who you gonna call?
Alan and Polly!
Photo Credit: Himalayan balsam, GBNNSS
April 28, 2015 No Comments
Two weeks ago, we spent three days back at our Ravensbury Park Back Channel project to finish off the works.
Day 1 was spent preparing a site for 2000 plants which were due to arrive the following day. Our loyal volunteers arrived expecting an easy day of planting and instead we surprised them with spades, shovels and a huge pile of soil! We needed to create a gentler slope on the bank and to do that involved some serious work. But with visions of tea and cake we soon got stuck in and the bank started to take shape.
Meanwhile, we also had a team putting up bird boxes in the area. These bird boxes have been designed with grey wagtails in mind, a bird which you can often see skipping along the back channel.
The day ended with a pilot test of our bat boxes. We have brought five bat boxes to put up in the area. They are odd looking things with flat wood and small crevices between for the bats to roost in – almost like a bat multistory car park! With wire and a ladder, Luke and the volunteers tried to install the first one to perfect the technique ready for the next day.
Day 2 soon came round with slightly improved weather and all 2000 plants had arrived! We ordered a variety of species – some were to be planted in the water, and others would be added to the banks such as lesser pond sedge and reed canary grass. All together these would make a great marginal community of native plants.
We had 2 sites to plant up so we divided the trays into piles of different species – one pile for each site. Our 9 volunteers then headed off to site number 1 armed with dibbers, waders and gloves.
By lunchtime, the site was finished and everyone was ready for tea, coffee and cake.
After lunch we moved onto site 2 and decided to focus on the plants that needed water so they were in before we had to leave for the day. So it was wader time again…
On our third and final day we were joined by 5 volunteers to do the last bits of the project. First we all focused on the final 1000 plants – and even I had the chance to get involved!
Louise from the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership team couldn’t resist coming for a visit and doing some planting as well.
The pile slowly got smaller and after a quick lunch break we had all 2000 plants happily installed in their new homes.
The next job was raking and seeding the bare ground with wildflower and grass mix. It was a great 3 days out in the field and a big thank you to all the volunteers who came to help!
A big thanks to Lawrence who helped run the event with Luke and myself.
Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Barbara, Charles, Dave, Jason, John, Lawrence, Maureen, Mike, Neil, Nick, Rob, Tim and Wally.
Next week – Wimbledon Common and the Beverley Brook!
April 14, 2015 No Comments
The one with 200 car tyres
So March saw us return to Poulter Park in Sutton for a spring clean. Our event was supported by the Big Green Fund, with 48 volunteers attending to litter pick, wade and plant trees in the park. It was a busy busy day!
With so many jobs to do we divided into 3 teams: waders and their support, litter pickers and tree planters. Peter Wilkinson (BGF Project) led the tree planters armed with spades (which I have learnt are different from shovels) and over 200 tree saplings to the chosen sites marked out with paint.
Meanwhile litter pickers were dispatched and waders hopped in the Wandle with team leader Theo. Pretty soon our wading team discovered a shocking number of tyres in the Wandle. It started with 5 being pulled out, which was crazy enough. But every time I came back to check on everyone there were more and more. The total at lunch was close to 60!
As well as tyres we found other car parts including 2 car seats, a dashboard and licence plate. Which gave us an idea….
The litter pickers had their work cut out with bottles, cans and crisp packets carpeting the undergrowth in the park. By the time we stopped for lunch the rubbish pile was already one of the biggest yet and the park was looking much cleaner already. Sally made us a delicious Easter cake with mini eggs on top and Jana brought a homemade ginger cake and cupcakes; all of which we were very grateful for. And one of our volunteers was prepared with a Chinese takeout for their lunch!
After lunch we got right back to it. The tree planters finished off their third area having planted a total of 210 saplings. They then joined to help shift all the tyres we were finding. We never got an exact count but it was over 200! We all had different tactics to get the tyres to the rubbish pile. Some used wheel barrows, some carried two like body builders and some rolled them all the way there.
Although the tyres were the star of the day, we made several other discoveries including a set of 3 silver trophies!
By 3 o’ clock we were exhausted and ready for home so we packed up the van and left the huge rubbish pile and 200 tyres for Sutton Council to collect in the morning – many thanks to them for organising this for us.
So what did we find? 1 net, 1 table leg, 1 coffee machine with instructions, 1 boat oar, 1 diving shoe, 1 pram, 1 gas meter, 1 car dashboard, 1 watering can, 1 bucket, 1 tool kit minus the tools, 1 traffic cone, 2 stuffed animal toys, 3 trophies, 4 car seats, several bits of scaffolding, lots of random metal and piping, fencing, 50 bags of other rubbish and a record breaking 200 tyres!
Huge thanks to Michael who met me in the morning to load up the van; Sally and Jana for catering for our volunteers; Theo and John for helping supervise everyone on the day and the Waste Management Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.
Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Abi, Alan, Alex, Barry, Bruno, Charles, Chris, Claire, Dave, David, Derek, Elliott, Gearoid, Helen, Ian, Jamie, Jan, Jana, Janet, Jason, Joe, John B, John L, John N, Ken, Lauren, Lloyd, Mark, Michael B, Michael H, Nicola, Per, Rob, Rose, Sally, Stewart, Theo, Tom, Tony and Victor.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? That you never know what surprises the Wandle will have in store for you.
Eel tally: 1
April 13, 2015 2 Comments
We are recruiting a brand new position at the Wandle Trust!
This part-time Education Officer role will deliver our Living Wandle Landscape Partnership Scheme Education project. The role will involve developing education packs about the River Wandle and a ‘Wandle in the Classroom’ programme to enable school children to help rear river plants and animals and release them into the Wandle.
Further details are available here: EducationOfficer_JobDescriptionFeb2015.
To apply, please send email a CV (2 pages max) and a covering letter (2 pages max) focusing on your relevant experience, knowledge and skills, before 5pm on Monday 6th April.
March 6, 2015 No Comments
The one when no one would leave!
The second Sunday of the month comes around quickly! For February we went back to Plough Lane in Wimbledon to tackle a stretch further down the Wandle Trail.
Almost 50 volunteers joined us at 11am, some regular faces but also some new such as students from the American International University in London and a team from the Pink Group – a local PR company who chose the Wandle Trust as their charity for this year. A big thanks to them for picking us and coming to help!
Before going any further, I have to send a special thank you to Wally who got the key to the gate at Plough Lane allowing me to reverse the van – very slowly – down to the site for an easy unload! Thanks Wally!
After the Health and Safety briefing we got started. A team of waders got in the river and started upstream. Meanwhile out litter pickers dispersed along the Wandle Trail discovering a couple of fly tipping sites on the way with two trolleys!
Our wading team were also finding plenty of sodden items, filling trug after trug. Supporting the wading team were a number of strong volunteers manning the grapples and ropes.
The rubbish pile grew quickly before lunch – some highlights were a 30ft fireman’s hose…
… a sodden carpet buried in the silt…
.. and a ladybird toy for me…
We stopped for lunch with some delicious leek soup and bread made by Sally. After warming up we got back to it.
The wading team found themselves a challenge in the afternoon: a trolley buried deep in the mud tangled in a lot of wire fencing. Teaming up, the grapples were set and everyone grabbed on to pull. With a lot of pulling and poking with crow bars the first batch of wire was freed:
Followed by the second…
And finally a very very old trolley! This one I didn’t try and ride in…
Not long after this another challenge was discovered – a buried carpet. Once again the troops were summoned and everyone grabbed the rope to heave and ho. By this time it was gone three but no one was leaving until they had got the carpet out!
Thankfully it came out and we all packed up to head home. Just as the van was leaving, Merton Council appeared to remove the rubbish – a great day’s catch!
So what did we find? 1 bed base, 1 fan, 1 30ft fireman’s hose, 1 paddling pool, 1 lawn mower, 1 car barrier, 1 scooter, 1 vacuum, 1 vacuum head, 1 smiley face, 1 garden trellis, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 bike, 1 rake, 1 mop, 1 plastic Christmas tree, 3 traffic cones, 3 trolleys, 4 footballs, 5 rolls of carpet, plastic roofing, piping, loads of wire fencing, polystyrene and countless bags of random, muddy rubbish.
Huge thanks to John who met me in the morning to load up the van; Sally for catering for our 48 volunteers; Theo and John for helping supervise everyone on the day; Wally for getting us the key to the gate, and the Waste Management Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish on the day.
And I also want to thank my Auntie Sarah for knitting me the warmest hat in the world – I was cosy on a cold February morning!
Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Abigail, Aimme, AJ, Anthony, Brian, Caragl, Charles J, Charles WS, Chris, David. Derek, Felix, Francesca, Graham, Helen, Ida, Jamie, John L, John N, Josef, Justin, Kai, Kaitlynn, Kay, Ken, Kyenna, Marcel, Marianna, Mattia, Mike, Neil, Nikolaus, Patricia, Patrick, Per, Rose, Sally, Sarah, Spencer, Stella, Tatiana, Theo, Tim, Verity, Victoria MP, Victoria P, Wally and Wayne.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? When Wandle volunteers find a challenge, it is hard to get them out of the river!
February 13, 2015 No Comments
What is River Rehab?
River Rehab is your chance to make a real difference to the River Wandle. Have you ever attended our Restoration Events and wondered why we have chosen that site? Or why we need that lump of wood to be in this exact position?
Well River Rehab is your chance to learn why!
We need a team of local volunteers to design and deliver their own river restoration project.
What does it involve?
You will receive training from Wandle Trust staff and other expert organisations, giving you the skills and knowledge to transform a section of the Wandle. You will work with the rest of the River Rehab team to choose a site, design a project and coordinate its delivery on the ground.
There will be workshops, training events, meetings and field work.
How do I sign up?
To get involved and sign up to the River Rehab Team, confirm your attendance to our Introductory Workshop on Friday 20th February at Strawberry Lodge (Carshalton). The workshop will run throughout the day starting at 11am – once you confirm your place we will send you an agenda of the day’s activities.
Please note there are a limited number of spaces available for this workshop.
If you can’t make this event but wish to be part of the team, let us know by email and we will make sure you get the information you need!
Phone: 0845 092 0110
This project is funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a Heritage Lottery Fund Project.
February 12, 2015 No Comments
You have the chance to have your say in how the Wandle is managed in the future.
The Environment Agency has published draft River Basin Management Plans for every river in the UK and they want to hear your opinion!
To help you get involved and add your voice, WWF have created an easy way to make your opinions heard.
Got a couple of minutes? Answers these quick 5 questions.
Share this with your friends and family – #SAVEOURWATERS
February 9, 2015 No Comments
By Lawrence Hemmings, our River Restoration Volunteer
After a great deal of planning by Luke the habitat improvement works on the Ravensbury Park Back Channel have begun with the help of our contractors – Ru and Jack of AquaMaintain. The digger and dumper have arrived as have the hazel faggot bundles posts, not forgetting the loathsome pile driver (a 20 kg hammering tool essential for river habitat work). And without further ado splash! Work could commence.
In order to create a more biodiverse, naturally functioning river, complete with runs, glides, pools and riffles, the Ravensbury Channel needs a little encouragement. By securing the faggot bundles in an irregular zig-zag on both sides of the river, the variation in flow will scour out deeper pools, form riffles, and, with any luck, some gravels will appear – perfect spawning grounds for amorous fish!
So Luke, Jack and I splashed into the river with our trusty pile driver at the ready. We pinioned hazel faggot bundles in place by hammering in stakes on both sides, and a new bank line quickly started to appear.
Meanwhile our adept digger driver Ru set about clearing the brush from the park-side bank of the river where we have removed the toeboarding, sheet piling and other bank reinforcements. In no time at all Ru had begun re-grading the steep-sided river banks, which will allow us to connect the river to its natural soil bank. The bank can then be planted with typical marginal plants, such as sedges and reeds, creating a continuum from aquatic to terrestrial habitat. We will also be digging a small back water, where the slack flows will allow fish fry to seek refuge away from the perils of the fast lane – the new turbulent Back Channel.
Stay tuned for more updates!
January 29, 2015 1 Comment
Last Friday morning Luke and I went to Ravensbury Park to meet MP Siobhain McDonagh as well as Area and Environment Managers from the Environment Agency, London Borough of Merton Councillors and over 20 local residents. Local residents have been suffering from clouds of midges emerging from the river through the Park and have understandably had enough! So we all met to discuss what could be done about it.
The midges are chironomids which spend the first part of their lives in the river itself. They then pupate and emerge as flying adults, surviving for only a few days to mate and lay eggs at the river’s surface. The problem is that there are so many midges emerging in Ravensbury Park that local residents can’t even open their windows, and it makes a walk through the Park quite unpleasant (and a cycle though the park pretty much impossible without swallowing a few along the way!)
These clouds of midges are an indication that the river ecosystem is out of kilter: the conditions are such that the midge population is not being kept in check as it naturally should, so it has boomed in the last 5 years (notably since the pollution incident in 2007 according to local residents).
Midges are ubiquitous creatures which inhabit most freshwater environments, but they particularly like still or slow moving water. During our meeting we observed that there are likely to be a number of contributory factors to the booming midge population, which all combine in a ‘perfect storm’ in Ravensbury Park (and possibly in Morden Hall Park too):
- The slow sluggish nature of the water caused by weirs which impound the river, slowing flow and causing silt to drop out. Midge larvae thrive in these silty low-oxygen environments where other river life finds it hard to survive.
- Ironically the Park’s many beautiful trees are likely to add to the problem, because the midges eat leaves which fall in and line the riverbed, breaking down to create more of these silty low-oxygen conditions. This is a reason why tree management around rivers is important (as well as allowing more light to reach the riverbed so that a diversity of plants can survive).
- Another factor is likely to be a decline of predators such as other aquatic invertebrates (including damselflies which local residents said used to be much more abundant in the park) as well as fish, birds and bats. It’s possible that the many pollution incidents that the Wandle has suffered has contributed to the decline in fish, and the fish also tend to get washed downstream in high flows and can’t return upstream due to the number of weirs.
- Finally, the water quality of the Wandle is very nutrient rich, as much of the flow is sustained from the effluent from Beddington Sewage Treatment Works. Beddington is operating within its licensed limits but the water quality downstream changes and this may contribute towards conditions that favour midge larvae in the Ravensbury Park area.
So what can we do about it? Well, the problem needs to be tackled holistically, addressing all of the issues – and we all have a role to play in this.
Currently, Luke is working in Ravensbury Park to help improve flow and habitat in the Back Channel. This involves thinning out some trees to increase light reaching the river, creating a low-flow channel to enhance the river’s resilience to drought conditions, enhancing the diversity of river habitats and increasing the velocity and turbulence of the water (making it more like a river and less like a pond). Later this year, the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership Scheme is also planning to start similar work on the main channel through the Park.
All these improvements will help to reduce the conditions in which the aquatic midge larvae thrive in and restore the habitat for animals which would predate on them.
By continuing such river restoration – re-naturalising the Wandle and making it resilient to pressures like climate change – we will chip away at the problem, reducing the number of midges and hopefully encouraging many more attractive species to return to the Park.
January 25, 2015 No Comments