Our Wandle Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) Project has reached an exciting stage – the launch of the new Wandle INNS Action Plan.
The Wandle INNS Project is part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, and has been running since April 2015 with our INNS Officer, Alan Martin, at the steering wheel.
Over the last two years, Alan has spent a lot of time out on the Wandle getting up close and personal with INNS such as Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed, Floating Pennywort and Giant Hogweed. These BIG FOUR have been the primary focus of the INNS Project as they are well-established on the Wandle and pose risks to wildlife and the local community.
From his time in the field, Alan has concluded the most effective control/management methods for these plants, and has written an updated INNS Action Plan for the Wandle. This plan is available to all, showcasing recommended control methods for INNS on the Wandle, INNS ID guidance, INNS biology and lots of other useful stuff.
The plan also includes a new online map of INNS records for the Wandle, collected by our trained River Rangers.
Our River Rangers have been trained to identify invasive plants and monitor the Wandle roughly 4 times a year. If you are interested in joining this team, the more the merrier, just email Polly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The data our River Rangers collect for us has been included in the INNS Action Plan to help us map out how INNS on the Wandle can be managed over the next 8 years.
The plan was presented to major landowners and stakeholders (including the local councils, National Trust and London Wildlife Trust) at an INNS Must Out Workshop in February this year. Here everyone signed up to help deliver the plan. A very positive outcome for INNS on the Wandle.
Here at the Wandle Trust, we have signed up to help kick start the action on the ground, working with our volunteer River Rangers and newly appointed Hit Squad. The next few blogs will show you all we have been up to and the difference the project is making to the Wandle.
Did you know that in times of dry weather, when groundwater levels drop, the top of the Wandle in Carshalton is kept flowing artificially?
We all need water to drink and wash, and in Carshalton, at the top of the Wandle, the water in our homes is provided by SES Water (who have recently changed their name from Sutton and East Surrey Water Company).
The water that comes out of our taps is the same water that springs out of the chalky geology of the North Downs as the source of the River Wandle. SES Water has a licence to abstract some of this water from the chalk aquifer and supply it to us for domestic use. But as part of this licence, they also have to ensure there is enough water in the River Wandle (because there are lots of species of insects, birds and fish in the river which need flowing water).
To do this when the aquifer is low and the springs are not flowing (usually in late summer), SES turns on an artificial recirculation system which pumps water from the Wandle just north of Goat Bridge up to Carshalton Ponds, where it replenishes the Carshalton arm of the river. Without this system, the Carshalton arm of the Wandle would be dry for much of the year.
As you may have noticed, Carshalton Ponds have been getting drier recently. We think this is because there are some cracks in the edges and bottom of the Ponds, which mean that when SES Water pump water into the Ponds, it seeps back into the ground before it can get out of the lower Pond and flow down the Wandle. This is causing SES Water to fail their licence requirements to keep the Wandle flowing, so at present they need to pump most of the water straight into the river below the cascade in Grove Park, with a small flow to the Ponds to top them up.
SES Water, the Environment Agency (EA) and Sutton Council are now working together to plan and deliver restorative works to the ponds and rectify the issue as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we can all do our bit by trying to save water. Look out for our exhibition coming up in Sutton Library (July 2017) where you can learn more about the past and present sources of the river, and simple actions we can all take to save water and help the Wandle.
Update: The Council were able to make repairs to the ponds and Sutton and East Surrey Water started pumping water back into the ponds on Sunday 9th April.
Alan Martin, our Invasive Non-Native Species Officer, has been very busy this last growing season. Working with our trained River Rangers to map all invasive plants on the Wandle, and with the newly trained Hit Squad to start controlling them, we are making great progress.
One species we’ve had some great success with is floating pennywort. This aquatic invasive plant can be found along the river from Carshalton to Wandworth. Alan has developed and implemented a combined manual and chemical approach to tackle this species from its source in Sutton, and work until it is out of the river in Wandsworth. While this is going swimmingly, he has also looked at two sites on the Wandle where pennywort has a stronghold: Watermeads and Ravensbury Park.
At Watermeads, the floating pennywort had infested a large backwater, a potentially key habitat for river wildlife with added aesthetic, recreational and ecological benefits. Working with the National Trust, Alan set to develop a management regime for this habitat to maintain it as an open water and keep pennywort at bay.
So how did we do it?
To reduce overall biomass, several hand pulling events were held with volunteers from the National Trust and Wandle Trust – you may recall the epic Battle of Watermeads? Rafts of pennywort were cut away and towed to the bank using long grapple lines. The pennywort was then wheelbarrowed to a site away from the river where it would be left undisturbed to rot away.
After reducing the initial biomass, herbicide was then used on the regrowth. With Environment Agency permission, Alan and Richard (from the National Trust) applied the first spray of herbicide in February this year.
With this combined approach, open water was achieved!
The secret to this work is that the work actually never stops. As long as there is a source of pennyworth on the Wandle, there is a risk the backwater could become re-infested. The local angling club at Watermeads and the National Trust volunteers have taken ownership of this site and continue to check for signs of pennywort, pulling out new plants. By keeping on top of it this way, it should never reach the scale it was back in 2015.
So what’s next?
Working with Merton Council and the Friends of Ravensbury Park, we are starting a similar management plan on the lake in Ravensbury Park which has been full of pennywort for years. Watch this space!
As part of our new education programme, Project Kingfisher, we are looking to recruit two freelance teachers on the River Wandle.
Project Kingfisher is designed to raise awareness about the River Wandle by engaging children and young people with the river and incorporating it into their lessons. It has been funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.
Last year Project Kingfisher engaged nearly 4000 students, visiting 23 schools in the Wandle catchment. We hope to exceed this in the next academic year and the freelance teachers will play a large role in this, enabling delivery of the project to more schools. More information on Project Kingfisher can be found on our website: www.wandletrust.org/education
To find out more about the available positions, download our Role Description below.
The River Wandle has its problems when it comes to invasive non-native species. Floating pennywort is well established, Himalayan balsam can be found up and down the river, and Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed are well spread too. Therefore when it comes to the control of these, progress can be slow.
But it is a different story for Parrot’s Feather!
Parrot’s Feather is an aquatic invasive plant native to central and south America.
Parrot’s Feather loves to grow in still or slow moving water bodies, and because of this it became a popular plant for gardens and aquariums. However, like so many of these introduced species, Parrot’s Feather escaped and has become established in the wild.
The plant can quickly grow to cover small waterbodies, displacing native species and blocking out sunlight to the water below. In slow moving waters, it can cause flooding by blocking up watercourses and drainage channels.
Luckily on the Wandle we only had one record of Parrot’s Feather, and that was in Manor Pond at Beddington Park. To ensure there was no further spread, we worked with Sutton Council to organise a volunteer day to remove the plant, every last stem!
Our five lucky volunteers, Ed, Dave, Wally and Phil, joined our INNS Officer Alan and Louise from the Living Wandle team to manually remove the plant.
While our volunteers worked, our Education Officer ran a number of activities for families passing by to raise awareness about invasive non-native species.
To start things off, Alan set up nets to catch any stray bits of Parrot’s Feather that might break away during the works. This helped ensure we wouldn’t spread the plant any further. Vegetation was cut back so we could be extra sure none was hiding anywhere.
Then it was time to grapple and fork it out. Back breaking work… or so I heard…
It took 3 hours but all the Parrot’s Feather was removed, and Sutton Council’s Parks Team came and collected the plant to be disposed of.
We’re delighted to announce that we are a category winner in the 2016 UK River Prize. The Carshalton arm of the Wandle has won the ‘Urban Project’ category and is one of four category winners who will now go forward as finalists for the overall river prize.
The overall UK River Prize will be announced at an awards dinner at the River Restoration Centre’s Annual Conference in Blackpool on the 26th April.
You can read the River Restoration Centre’s press release here (UK_River_Prize_Finalists) to see the other category winners and finalists who we’re up against. Each finalist will make a short video about their project which will be shown at the awards dinner.
The year has gone very fast indeed and before we knew it, the last cleanup of 2015 was upon us. For December we went to King Georges Park in Wandsworth. With the Event Tent decked with tinsel and my reindeer antlers on, I was joined by 30 volunteers on a chilly Sunday morning. After the usual Health & Safety briefing we got started, with half of us getting in the river and the other half working from the banks.
Within 10 minutes, a bicycle had been sighted, collected and placed on the start of the rubbish pile by Santa. An excellent start.
While on the banks we were discussing Christmas shopping, and how far behind we all were, with the idea that maybe the Wandle could be our solution? Although I imagine we’d be less than impressed if Santa’s sack really was filled with soggy gifts from the Wandle. Olaf flip flop anyone?
To distract us all from the cold, we became magpies, closely inspecting what we were pulling out of the Wandle, looking for some special Christmas finds. I discovered this old style Fanta can which no one else seemed quite as excited about..
We found the usual coconut…
As well as what we believe was a Nativity scene Mary, minus the head…
By 1pm, we were all ready for a cup of tea to warm up and to try some of Ann’s carrot cake which she kindly made for us all. Much to our delight, we were visited by a Christmas Angel during lunch – Erica Evans! As lots of our volunteers will remember, Erica organised our Wandle cleanups for many years and happened to be visiting London this weekend, so she thought she’d pay us a visit!
We didn’t stop for long with the chilly weather, and so back in the river we went. The waders continued upstream to the next bridge, clearing over 300m of river. Some afternoon finds included:
This metal chair, which I have been informed is a welding chair.
This brightly coloured figurine which I was told was a Shirdi Buba (learning lots at this cleanup)
And some large heavy shed roof sheets which had absorbed so much water they were a real challenge to get out so late in the day. Trust Derek to find something just as we were finishing up!
Last year 518 volunteers pulled out 8.5 tonnes of rubbish from the Wandle, donating 2012 hours of their time to the cause. Have we beaten this for 2015? Stayed tuned over the Christmas break to find out!
So what did we find? 1 frisbee, 1 motorbike dashboard, 1 Olaf flip flop, 1 railway sleeper, 1 70” record, 1 radio, 1 television, 1 vintage Fanta can, 1 sun lounger, 1 welding chair, 1 generic chair, 2 bicycles, 4 pillows, 5 tyres, 5 umbrellas, lots of wire and bags and bags of other junk.
Huge thanks to everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Ann for catering for our volunteers (cheese scones and carrot cake!), Wally for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.
Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Ann, Barry, Charles, Chris, Dave, David, Derek, Ed ,Guy, James, Jamie, Jane, John, Louise, Marina , Mike, Nick , Paul, Per, Phil, Sally, Simon, Theo, Tom, Victor, Wally, Xilano and Zoe.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? That no one reads the email blast! My request for Christmas attire was missed on everyone..
On top of this, we were joined by Mancinism Design who had made organic cotton bags and branded jumpers especially for the event. Mine was so comfy I wore it all day, and into the office on Monday!
So even before we had started, it was already a special cleanup.
To get the event started, I introduced the day’s plan which was to divide into two wading groups. One to head upstream in the hunt of motorbikes (a classic find at Trewint Street unfortunately) and one to head downstream for all sorts of other rubbish.
Everyone else would support from the bank and litter pick on the Wandle Trail.
So off we went.
Pretty quickly, the wading team were finding plenty of rubbish in the river. However the added challenge of Trewint Street is that the trugs of rubbish have to be hauled up the concrete wall – not logistically easy.
Our motorbike hunting team were off to a slow start, but just as we thought there weren’t any, we found two! The first came up relatively easy, being a small moped. But the second took 15 people on a rope to heave up. The students from Richmond International University all grabbed the ropes and dragged the bike all the way back to the rubbish pile – we were very glad they all came along!
Downstream of the bridge, our wading team were finding some large items which they then had to drag back up the river (against the flow) for us to haul up. They found a toddler’s cot..
And a motorbike which was too heavy to bring back so we hauled it out onto the bank to be collected during our next cleanup downstream at Ravensbury Terrace.
Meanwhile, cleanup guru Jane and Winston (Macinism Design) had found something lurking in the silt of the Wandle, but the identity of the mystery object remained unknown all morning as they struggled to move it on their own. Luckily after lunch we sent more helpers and the object was found to be an old fireplace.
Speaking of lunch – what a treat! Ben’s Canteen supplied us all with bacon rolls! These quickly disappeared among the hungry volunteers. And Bean & Hop sent us some other snacks to share around. So a big thank you to them!
After lunch, everyone was back in the river. One of the last finds was a carpet – not an easy things to pull out of the river, let alone drag back up the channel, haul over the concrete wall and then ferry it to the rubbish pile. But it made it!
So it was a hugely successful day! Thank you to all the volunteers who came along to our event, we hope to see you all at the next one on November 8th at Plough Lane!
So what did we find? 1 fireplace, 1 radiator, 1 BBQ, 1 toddler playpen, 1 Woody doll (who had seen better days), 1 mattress wire, 1 strimmer, 1 vacuum cleaner, 1 number plate, 1 CD player (old school), 1 bicycle tyre, 1 Avengers Assemble football, 1 generic football, 1 bench, 1 carpet, 2 trolleys, 2 motorbikes, 4 tyres, several random pieces of metal and 40 bags of other rubbish.
Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event and Rose for supervising the Event Tent; Wally, Theo & Chris for helping supervise everyone on the day, Mancinism Design for our jumpers and bags, South West London TV for coming along and Ben’s Canteen for the bacon sandwiches and the Waste Management Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.
Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Abigail, Adam, Andrew W, Ann W, Brandi, Breuno, Brigid, Charles WS, Chris E, Chris R, Claire, Colin, Colin M, Curtis, Daniel, Dave J, Dave P, David W, Derek, Ed, Faisal, Geroid, Giacometi, Giulla, Hannah, Henry, Ida, Jack, Jane P, Jason, Jess, Jessica, Joanna, John N, Jonathan, Kimberly, Linus M, Lois, Louise, Luca, Maggie, Michael, Michael R, Nick, Nikola, Noah, Oliver, Olivia, Paul R, Penny, Phil, Rachel, Rob, Rose, Rosemary, Russell, Sally, Sara M, Sarah, Shannon, Simon, Tate, Theo, Tom, Vic, Wafiya, Wally, Wayne, William, Winston and Zoe.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? There is nothing better than a bacon sandwich after a morning of Wandle work.
Check out South West London TV’s Video of the Cleanup here!
We’ve started work on the Trewint Street Fish Passage!
Fish passage on the River Wandle is impeded by over 30 in stream structures, the majority of which are weirs left from the milling era. These weirs and structures are a barrier to the movement of fish both up and downstream and also fragments and isolates habitats.
Trewint Street is one of the significant barriers to fish passage, with two weirs either side of a large concrete island. With funding from the Environment Agency, Thames Water and Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF), we have started our project to install baffles and a fish pass to the right hand side weir, allowing the movement of fish once more!
The pass will also benefit European Eel populations which have declined by over 98% in the last 15 years, with barriers to movement being a contributory factor.
So what are we doing?
On the right side channel, a series of baffles will be installed to the upper section of the concrete weir. These baffles are made from recycled plastic and fixed to the weirs in rows. They slow the flow down on the weir, deepening the water and allow fish to swim up the weir through notches cut into the baffles (Image, Fishtek).
In the lower part of the right hand channel, three notched barrages will be created to reduce the drop in water level between the channel and baffles. This will allow fish to easily swim up through the notches and through the baffles to new habitats beyond (Image, EA).
What will you see?
You will see a lot of building work on site over the next month as our contractors (Amenity Water Management (AWM) get started. You’ll also notice that the right hand channel is a lot drier than normal…
Amenity Water Management have created a sandbag dam to keep the channel dry allowing them to work on installing the structures. All will return to normal once work is complete.
We’ll keep you posted with updates as always, but for now Tim is just happy to have wet feet again!
The Battle of Watermeads was fought between the Wandle Trust and two invasive plants which had been successfully invading the River Wandle for many years: Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort.
Historians have pinpointed the start of this epic, ongoing war of attrition against the Wandle’s invasive non-native species as far back as June 2010 or earlier, and our latest campaign has certainly started with the recruitment of General Alan Martin.
Alan joined the Wandle Trust movement in April 2015 to help coordinate a river wide action plan against plants and other invaders, and Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort have quickly become two of his most formidable opponents.
On Friday 31st July, two armies faced each other in Watermeads Nature Reserve. The Wandle Trust General, Alan Martin, had recruited 29 dedicated and loyal volunteers to his cause. Together they faced a terrifying scene and were horrendously outnumbered by the ranks of balsam and pennywort established throughout the reserve. But this did not deter them.
The strategy: Divide and Conquer
The battle started at 11am. General Alan divided his ranks into two regiments, each to face one of the enemies alone. General Alan took charge of the floating pennywort regiment and took to the high seas of the Watermeads back water. Captain Joe bravely guided the vessel behind enemy lines to cut free rafts of pennywort, while the rest of the regiment waited on shore to haul in the catch with grapples and rakes.
Meanwhile on the western front, the Himalayan balsam regiment was beginning their attack. Alan had appointed Lieutenant Polly to lead the balsam front and with her ranks in tow they marched into the undergrowth. To begin with, they found small patches of the plant and made quick progress pulling these up and piling to compost. However as they ventured further into the reserve they came face to face with an overwhelmingly large forest. Numbers which far exceeded their own…
As the battle raged on, General Alan’s faithful sidekick, Pepper, kept watch on the troops and raised morale.
At 4pm, both armies called a truce and re-grouped ready to fight another day. The Wandle Trust Army had come out on top with no casualties save for a few nettle stings. For the invasive plants, it was a tough defeat. Pennywort and balsam casualties were everywhere.
All that was left was for the Wandle Trust Army to clean up and make sure they weren’t spreading the enemy further by their equipment. The answer? Power hose. A prospect all too exciting for Pepper.
This battle has been key to General Alan’s plan for the whole river – a campaign to eradicate invasive non-native species from the river to allow the return of native flora and fauna. A campaign which is part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.
You can join General Alan’s crusade and sign up as a River Ranger to hunt down and monitor other invasive plants along the river.
This event was supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.