Reg. Charity No. 1091000

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Pollution Monitoring on the Wandle: Two Years Later

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two years since the Wandle Trust teamed up with the Environment Agency to clean up pollution on the River Wandle.

Our Pollution Monitoring Scheme has trained 50 local volunteers to attend and assess Category Three pollution incidents and report back valuable information to us and the Environment Agency.

Another great element to this scheme was regularly monitoring specific outfalls along the Wandle that have been a problem in the past. Volunteers adopted an outfall close to them and checked the site once a week for signs of pollution. This information was fed back to the Environment Agency allowing them to prioritise and investigate key issues.

The pilot scheme has been a huge success demonstrating the value of volunteers in monitoring pollution in an urban environment. Its innovative and collaborative approach earned the scheme the Rivers Trust Award for Science and Innovation in 2013 – a huge achievement for all those involved!

To celebrate this award and the success of the scheme, we invited our dedicated volunteers to Strawberry Lodge in Carshalton for some evening tea, coffee and cake.

Our Volunteers and their Award

The Environment Agency are very grateful to all the volunteers involved and have put together a short piece to summarise what was achieved thanks to their hard work. Click this link to download: Environment-Agency.pdf (138kb).

The scheme is also being rolled out on the Hogsmill and Beverley Brook. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please email us at volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org.

 

November 22, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: November 2014: Merton

The one with the trug ramp

This November we were on Plough Lane in Merton for our cleanup and despite a week of persistent rain, we were blessed with blue skies for the day of our event. Lucky us!

Forty two volunteers came out on Sunday morning to join us. Before our usual Health & Safety briefing, we all gathered to commemorate Remembrance Sunday with a two minute silence at 11 am.

This month’s cleanup was funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership as part of our River Guardians Project. River Guardians is all about pollution and how everyone can take small steps to help reduce pollution reaching the Wandle.

For November we focused on fly-tipping: who is responsible and who can we report it to. After our brief talk, we then moved onto the actual problem itself – rubbish in our river…

I was lucky enough to have some extra help supervising everyone this month with the well-trained Basher as my assistant.

Basher, My Assisstant

Under our supervision, everyone divided into two teams: waders and litter pickers. Our litter pickers marched off up and down the banks of the Wandle and quickly discovered a prime example of fly-tipping upstream of our site which was cleared thanks to a dedicated effort of students from American International University in London.

Fly-tipping

While our litter pickers were busy searching for fly tipping, our wading team were pulling out trug after trug of bottles, cans, wood and all sorts from the Wandle. We quickly found a bra, which I couldn’t help but model after last month’s inflatable bra, and a plastic frog which did not turn into a prince following a kiss – can’t say I wasn’t disappointed….

Modelling

About half way through the morning, our wading team pulled out a long piece of wood from the Wandle and our creative volunteers had an idea. This plank was used as a trug ramp – allowing us to easily pull full trugs up the banks to the wheelbarrows for unloading. We kept this loyal piece of wood till the end of the cleanup when we had to say goodbye and leave it on the enormous rubbish pile to await collection from Merton Council.

The Trug Slide

After a morning of heavy lifting and pulling, we were ready for our tea break. Sally had kindly made a delicious ginger cake traybake for our volunteers which went down a treat.

Delicious Cake

After lunch we got back straight back into it. Afternoon highlights included the signature Wandle Trust coconut modeled by Gideon….

Coconut

….a toy helicopter…

Helicopter

and a visit from Erica to see how we were all getting on!

Erica

So what did we find? 1 trolley, 1 satellite dish, 1 fake frog, 1 lawn mower, 1 car battery, 1 beheaded doll, 1 dolls head (not the same toy),  1 coconut, 1 toy helicopter, 1 toy steering wheel, 2 black bins, 2 bras, 2 traffic signs, 3 traffic cones, 4 tyres, 6 knitted jumpers, 20 bits of plastic piping, over 40 bags of rubbish, rolls and rolls of carpet and endless pieces of wood!

Huge thanks to: Gideon who helped me load and unload the van (and our star volunteers who helped us carry all the equipment back to the van at the end of the event); a special thanks to Andy who coordinated packing the van so we could take back a useful trolley we found, Sally for catering for 42 volunteers; Theo, Gideon, Andy and John for helping supervise the day (and Basher of course), and to the Waste Management Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the following day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Abi, Ali, Andi, Brianna, Brooke, Casey, Charles, David, Derek, Erica, Gearoid, Gideon, Gigi, Hannah, Hardy, Helen, Jamie, Jayem, Jeffrey, John L, John N, Ken, Lindsay, Louise, Lynn, Max, Meg, Molly, Neil A, Neil P, Nicoco, Per, Rob, Rose, Sally P, Sally Ann, Sashha, Theo, Toby, Wally and Wayne.

So what did I learn from my second cleanup? Grapples are a lot of fun.

THE Pile

November 22, 2014   No Comments

A little light goes a long way…

Our restoration projects along the Wandle are all progressing well, and it is time to introduce the next site on our list: the Ravensbury Park Back Channel.

The Ravensbury Park Back Channel is a remnant of the industrial milling era along the Wandle. Back channels, or “by-pass channels” were used as a mechanism to control the water passing through a mill allowing us to increase or decrease the flow depending on how much power was required. Although no longer used for this purpose, the back channel at Ravensbury Park has become part of the park’s landscape and could offer a valuable refuge for wildlife in the Wandle; in particular fish which could use the channel to by-pass the weir.

So what’s the problem?

  1. Channelisation

Like so many urban and rural rivers, the Ravensbury Park back channel has been engineered and modified to contain the river within a predetermined channel. This removes habitat and creates a stream with little variation.

 

Wooden banks and channelised nature of the stream

Wooden banks and channelised nature of the stream

 

  1. Un-natural banks

To protect the surrounding landscape from flooding, the natural sloping banks of this stream have been replaced with concrete and wood. This creates a ‘hard-edged’ bank and prevents important natural communities of marginal and aquatic plants from establishing here. A more gradually sloping vegetated bank provides habitat for many different species of riverine wildlife. Without this habitat there is a significant loss of biodiversity.

 

Concrete banks

A high concrete bank removes all interaction with the stream ecosystem.

 

  1. Little light

The Ravensbury Park back channel suffers from low light levels due to a dense tree canopy. This canopy limits the growth of aquatic plants both around the stream as well as within the stream.

A dense vegetative canopy prevents aquatic plant growth

A dense vegetative canopy prevents aquatic plant growth

Each of these issues on their own have negative consequences, but combined they significantly impact on the ecological structure and function of this little stream.

 

What can we do?

Over the next few months, the Wandle Trust will be taking steps to restore the Ravensbury Park back channel. This work is being funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, and is also part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

The main aim of the restoration works will be to create new habitats both in the stream and along the margins that will support fish, invertebrates and birds. More importantly, our works will provide a favourable environment for both aquatic and marginal plants which are a fundamental source of food and shelter for some organisms; vital for a thriving ecosystem.

We will be working further on our plans for this stream so keep your eyes peeled for new updates.

 

October 29, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: October 2014: Wandsworth

The one without the gas – almost!

This October I ran my first Wandle Trust cleanup – without Erica! Despite her efforts to prepare me, I still managed to forget a few key pieces of equipment – including the gas for the boiler. Luckily, we were close to our garage in Battersea so I nipped back, rescued the gas and got the cleanup started after our usual Health & Safety briefing.

So where were we this month? For October we found ourselves in the Borough of Wandsworth, working on the Wandle as it ran along the back of King George’s Park in Earlsfield.  We were delighted to welcome Colin and Adele Brown of local estate agents, Seymour Green, who were kindly supporting this event.

Seymour Green Wading

We divided into two teams – waders and litter pickers. Our waders all got kitted out and hopped in the river, working upstream along a 150m stretch of the Wandle. Very early on we got our first “intriguing” find – an inflatable bra!

Inflatable Bra

This month we were joined by 20 students from the American International University in London, some of which were brave enough to give wading a go. Their bravery was soon rewarded as our wading team hauled their first trolley out from the Wandle’s depths.

The First Trolley

Our litter picking team had to battle through a forest of brambles, nettles and branches to get to the countless cans, bottles and crisp packets discarded on the banks of the Wandle. Thanks to their dedicated efforts, we cleared the bank downstream of our waders as well. The park has never looked cleaner!

After a morning of hard work, we were grateful to stop for a cup of tea and piece of cake, kindly supplied by Sally and Jana. We had a chocolate tray bake and some delicious apple and blackberry cupcakes.

The Cakes

After lunch, our wading team thought they had hit the jackpot when an extremely heavy sealed suitcase was hauled out of the river. Discussions of pirate gold were thrown around (namely by myself) so we got a knife and opened our new find up only to find wood, not gold. We were only momentarily disappointed as we discovered an eel swimming inside the suitcase which we returned safely to the river, despite its protests!

The Suitcase

We also had some younger new arrivals join us after lunch who got stuck in straight away, helping haul the rubbish up from the river to the rubbish pile. There was great excitement as we pulled out another trolley from the Wandle and an entire car seat!

Second Trolley

Terry arrived early for us, so we could load the rubbish straight onto the lorry. Our volunteers pushed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of rubbish back through the undergrowth of the Wandle banks. Some were even lucky enough to have a ride on the lorry’s lift system!

So what did we find? 1 paddling pool, 1 suitcase, 1 umbrella, 1 car seat, 1 car dashboard, 1 phone, 1 broken credit card, 1 sofa lining, 2 bar stools, 2 coconuts, 2 buckets (one of which we kept), 3 massive pieces of carpet, 3 trolleys, countless pieces of metal and rubber piping, lots of wood, 9 tyres and countless sacks of cans, bottles and other trash. Terry reckons 2.5 tonnes!

Eel Tally: 3

Huge thanks to: Michael and Gideon who helped me load and unload the van (and our star volunteers who helped us carry all the equipment back to the van); Sally & Jana for catering for 67 volunteers; Theo, Michael, Gideon and John for helping supervise the day and to Joanna and Michael of Wandsworth Waste Management Team for organising collection of all the rubbish and to Terry who turned up with the lorry on the day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aalziel, Adele, Ahmed, Alex, Amber, Amelie, Anna, Barry, Ben, Carol, Chaauki, Charles, Chris. Christel, Colin, Daniel, Eduardo, Elijah, Elliot, Evie, Gabrielle, Gearoid, Gideon, Indigo, Invanela, Jan, Jane, Jason, Jennifer, Jenny, Jeremy, John B, John N, Julian, Juliet, Katia, Kyleeta, Leigh, Leonie, Madison, Mark, Martin, Michael H, Mike H, Nichole, Novu, Patrick, Per, Rebecca, Rob, Rose, Russel, Sally, Sana, Sarah, Sasha, Sharon, Simon, Steve, Tadge, Teni, Theo, Tim, Tristan, Viu and Wally.

 So what did I learn from my first cleanup? Well, I don’t think I will ever forget the gas or crow bars again! But more importantly, people along the Wandle have expensive tastes – champagne anyone?

Champagne Anyone?

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October 20, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: September 2014: Merton

The one with the long, long, long walk

This month’s cleanup saw us at Ravensbury Park in Merton working alongside the Friends of Ravensbury Park, students from the Challenge Network and students from the American International University in London. In total, we had a record 84 volunteers litter picking, wading and wheel-barrowing!

Volunteers in the River

To open our cleanup, Luke (one of our new members of staff) introduced everyone to the planned river restoration work at Ravensbury Park which is part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The plans include narrowing the channel from 20 to 10 metres across and returning the river to its natural meander form to enhance / increase habitat and encourage biodiversity. To show our volunteers the “vision”, Luke brought two artistic interpretations of how the park would look following the restoration (pictured below).

Ravensbury Park - The Vision

After the talk, everyone got stuck in and started cleaning the park. We had one team in waders in the river pulling out all sorts – including a World War II tin helmet! Working with such determination, our river Wombles cleared rubbish from a huge stretch of the Wandle, carefully searching every nook and cranny!

WWII Tin Helmet

We had another team patrolling the park with litter pickers and one final team tackling the notorious floating pennywort in the lake within Ravensbury Park. Floating pennywort is an aquatic invasive plant capable of smothering a water body if left unmanaged.  The plant forms huge dense rafts which block out sunlight from the water below, preventing plants and other wildlife from thriving.  Pennywort is famously difficult to manage, and despite having cleared all the pennywort from this area last year, the aquatic menace was back with a vengeance this year!

Floating Pennywort!

Volunteers quickly got stuck in, pushing rafts of pennywort across the lake to be chopped up and removed. Our volunteers entered the lake with clean clothes and clean faces but quickly emerged like mud-monsters from the deep. The hand washing basin had to be changed 15 times during the day!

Muddy Monster

With so many volunteers, for the first time the cake had to be rationed! This month we had a delicious (and very popular) lemon drizzle, a gingerbread with mini gingerbread men and a chocolate toffee bake.

Cake Rationing

So what did we find?

We found 7 tyres, 3 traffic cones, 2 mattresses, 1 lawn mower engine, part of a motorbike, 1 bicycle, 1 air conditioning unit, 1 WWII tin helmet, 1 wheelie bin, 3 children’s bikes, 3 scooters, 4 footballs, 1 coat and over 25 sacks full of drinking cans, bottles and other rubbish!

The Rubbish Pile

Scrapheap challenge anyone?

Huge thanks to: Michael who helped us load and unload the van; Sally, Ann and Carol for catering for 84 volunteers and Tony and Stan and the Merton Waste Management Team for organising the removal of the rubbish.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: A Belloni, Abigail, Aditya, Aheesan, Aimee, Akelya, Alex, Andrea, Annabel, Anne, Anthony, Bella, Bill, Camille, Carol, Charles, Chelsea, Conner, David H, David Ho, Dennis, Dhuvarahan, Diana, Dyana, Eleaia, Gideon, Gillian, Hannah, Helen, Henry, Holly, Ivan, Jackie C, Jackie F, Jagada, Jamie, Jane, Jez, Joe F, Joe P, John B, John D, John N, Jon, Karlon, Kaylin, Keith, Konsydntin, Lyn, Madison, Margaret, Mark, Maryam, Maurice, Megan L, Megan R, Michael, Mike, Nav, Nicole, Patrica, Per, Peter, Rob, Robert, Rose, Roseanne, Saffron, Sally, Sara, Selin, Shakera, Simon, Sofia, Stephen, Tadge, Tasmin, Theo, Victoria and Wayne.

Until next month!

 

September 22, 2014   No Comments

Carshalton Update: The water has dropped and the contractors are here!

Tim and our contractors have now started our restoration work at the Butterhill weir. Dropping the water levels has returned flow and energy to the river. This will allow us to narrow the river, recreate meanders and clean gravels to the river which reflects its natural state, had it not been historically modified for industry.

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Why are meanders important?

Many urban rivers, and even some rural, have been artificially straightened to make room for development, agriculture and infrastructure. By straightening the channel, the flow of the river becomes uniform and you lose  any  variation in the river bed.

For example, trout fry prefer calmer, shallower waters compared to grown fish who prefer deeper pools.  These different habitats are created naturally by energy of a river which results in meanders. Water passing through a river flows faster on the outside of a bend than it does on the inside. The faster flowing water scours out deeper pools, ideal for big fish, and the slower water deposits sediment creating shallower areas for fry.  The scouring flow then deposits gravel downstream in riffles, an ideal place for spawning fish to lay their eggs.

Wandle Trust Makeover
To reinstate the natural meander, Tim and our contractors from Aquamaintain marked out a new path for the river using stakes (see picture below). The new river edge has been taking shape, with silt from the river and faggot bundles forming the new narrowed bank line. Once finished, this bank will be covered in aquatic plants much like our Hackbridge site – a chance for you to get involved!

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September 16, 2014   No Comments

Another week, another project…

This has been an incredibly busy period of the Wandle Trust, and last week saw the start of another major restoration project to the River Wandle.

This new project is in Carshalton, focusing on a stretch of river at Butterhill Bridge which is currently impounded by a weir from a former mill. This has resulted in a large buildup of sediment on the river bottom – not an ideal habitat for any fish! On top of this, the weir itself is impassable to fish. Although a fish pass was installed a number of years ago, this has proved to be ineffective due to the length and angle at which it was installed preventing fish from successfully passing.

IMG_3246

But never fear, the Wandle Trust is here! Over the next few weeks we will be lowering the weir and re-shaping the river using the excess sediment to create a gentle and natural meander.  The first step towards this was dropping the current water levels by opening a sluice on the weir. Once the water level has dropped, we are calling in the contractors!

Watch this space…

September 16, 2014   No Comments

Hackbridge Restoration Update

This month has seen some drastic changes to the Hackbridge site. Over the last few weeks, contractors and the Wandle Trust team have been working hard to create new banks, backwaters and even an island – all in the name of river restoration!

But with all the building works taking place, the site has begun to look a bit bare. To solve this we got planting…

Hackbridge Planting Event

Last weekend (6th, 7th and 8th September) 60 volunteers from the local community joined the Wandle Trust team and added 6000 plants to the banks of the Wandle. The plants were a variety of species designed to create a natural vegetation structure along the bank. Close to the to water’s edge, volunteers planted aquatic species such as flag iris, purple loosestrife, various sedge species, hemp agrimony, ragged robin and a number of other species to give 18 in all.  In the drier more meadowlike conditions tall herb like wildflower plugs and seeds were planted contatining a mix of 23 native species.

Once these plants have grown, the Hackbridge site will look brilliant – a true wildlife haven in Greater London.

We’d like to thank all the volunteers who came over the weekend to help us – we couldn’t have done it without you!

Working Hard?

Next steps for the site include the installation of woody debris to further diversify the habitats. So keep your eyes peeled for our next update!

September 16, 2014   No Comments

Five kingfishers on Monday

We just wanted to quickly say thank you to Ed, a Wandle Wanderer, for this beautiful picture of a kingfisher enjoying our restoration work – he managed to see five along the Wandle on Monday!

One of five Kingfishers spotted on the Wandle

 

September 15, 2014   No Comments

Welcome to Polly, Luke and Olly! (and sorry to Norfolk’s rivers!)

In the past few weeks we have had three new members of staff join the Wandle Trust & SERT team.

Polly Bryant joins us from Norfolk County Council and will be running our volunteer events; Luke Mitchell, who has been undertaking research on the River Stiffkey in Norfolk, will be working on river restoration projects – you may well bump into him in Ravensbury Park; and Olly van Biervliet, previously at Norfolk Rivers Trust, will be picking up our water quality projects from Claire.

(Whilst we’re very sorry to see Erica move on – at least she’s moving to Norfolk!)

Within half an hour of arriving at the Trust, Polly, Luke and Olly were already getting stuck into our river restoration work at Hackbridge!

Luke, Polly and Olly get stuck in!

Luke, Polly and Olly get stuck in!

September 10, 2014   No Comments