Tag Archives: Fish

Spawning trout!

Great news to start 2012!  Trout have recently been seen spawning in the restored Carshalton arm of the river near Butter Hill.  The newly notched weir has allowed fish to migrate upstream and utilise the gravels that were introduced as part of our river restoration works in the summer and autumn.

A trout creating a redd (trout egg nest) by flapping its tail to clean away silt, dig a hole in the gravel, and cover the eggs with more dislodged stones:

Trout eggs require good flows with well oxygenated, cool water for successful maturation and hatching.  The combination of the improved access for fish to the new gravels and faster flows from the narrowing and flow deflectors have created ideal habitats for the spawning fish with some fine redds being formed.

As you can see from the photo below, one redd was cut in the faster flow provided at the end of the wooden flow deflector (location of  this deflector and other features were suggested by our good friend Paul Gaskell at the Wild Trout Trust – cheers Paul!) The redd can be seen as a cleaner patch of gravel which contrasts with the siltier gravel around it:

The redd will allow eggs to hatch (in approx. 2 months) and emerging tiny fish (alevins) to shelter in the gaps between the pebbles below the surface of the gravel bed.

It is important that the redds are not disturbed until they hatch in a couple of months.

Many thanks to all who have contributed to the restoration work over the past year: our many enthusiastic volunteers alone have given over 500 hours of hard work to the project. Big thanks too to the Wild Trout Trust for their advice and support throughout. We can already see that the fish are appreciating it!

Update: this exciting news has now been picked up by Total Flyfisher, and Angling Times is also running a Wandle story: click the links to read more.  

Meanwhile, Sutton Guardian’s version implies that the pollution incident in 2007 damaged the river as far upstream as Carshalton: this isn’t correct, since the spill entered the river near Goat Bridge, but it’s certainly true to say that Thames Water’s settlement helped us to fund this work as part of the Living Wandle project, which is vitally important to make the whole Wandle catchment healthier and more resilient for the future.  And, as a result, we certainly hope that the winter of 2011-12 will be the river’s most successful trout spawning season for more than 80 years!

Rubble, gravel and wagtails

October 29 & 30

After  a few weeks’ break we were itching do some more restoration work and so a nice mild October weekend saw our volunteers back in the river downstream of Butter Hill Weir.

People were soon hard at work digging out rubble and raking back the substrate:

A mid channel island soon began to take shape:

A deeper channel was created linking the weir pool and the fish pass flows, creating more attractant flow for the fish pass.  The deeper water will also benefit fish which that are resting before ascending the pass.

Seven tonnes of flint gravels were then introduced over the two days to provide a more natural chalk stream habitat.  The gravel will become home to bug life and may even be used by fish for spawning sites.  The improved flow should also help keep the gravels free of silt along the fish pass wall.

A group of volunteers filled buckets with gravel…

… while others carried them to the river and over the fence…

… to be carefully lowered into the river and then spread on the river bed:

An audience soon gathered and a number of them were inspired to help shovelling too!

Break times were always welcome, cheese scones …hmmm!

Jo and her delicious cakes (the way to a volunteer’s heart is always through their stomach!)

After finishing the work we all stood and admired the work and saw a  grey wagtail fly in and bob along the new gravel bar.  Wagtails have nested at this site previously and the new gravel bar will be ideal habitat for them.  We plan to introduce  a bird box designed for wagtails at this site in the near future.

The finished work.  Over time the gravel colour will tone down, water plants will grow in the river and the gravel bar will be vegetated with aquatic plants to provide more habitat diversity.

Many thanks to all our volunteers: Abi, Alan, Anne E, Ann W, Chris, Emma, Erica, Georgina, Helen, Jez, Jo, John N, John P, Paul, Rob and Toby.

This event was supported by the WATER project selected within the scope of the INTERREG IVA France (Channel) – England cross-border European cooperation programme, co-financed by the ERDF.

Trout in the Classroom: Ten years old and still going strong!

At 10.30am on Wednesday 30 March, pupils from six of our participating Trout in the Classroom schools gathered at Hackbridge to release their carefully and diligently nurtured trout fry into the River Wandle. 

All those present were also there to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the inception of this project in 2001 – a decade of learning about the importance of a healthy river and the life-cycle of the wild brown trout:

At the beginning of the morning the children gathered on the green and peered into each others’ buckets to compare their baby trout and swap fish rearing tips:

In fact this has turned out to be the best year ever for survival rates with all the schools having over fifty fish fry at the release stage and some considerably more!  Notwithstanding the usual challenges of equipment malfunctions and blocked filters.

Many local councillors attended the event and the introductory speech was given by our guest of honour Mr Sean Brennan, the Leader of Sutton Council:

Sutton Council have big plans for the regeneration of the whole of the Hackbridge area as part of the Hackbridge Masterplan, and the Wandle Trust has been working closely with Peter O’Connell and other Council officers to make sure river restoration is also part of this project.

After the speeches it was time for each school to release their trout. The students donned their waders and life jackets and were helped into the water by Wandle Trust volunteers:

The whole crowd counted down and then cheered as the pupils tilted their buckets and the young fish finally swam free:

I was particularly aware of how excitedly the children spoke about how it felt to wade in the water.  For most of them it was the first time they had ever done experienced anything like this. Like my own memories of a school trip to a waterway I’m sure many of them will remember this for a lifetime!

In a rather untimely manner OFSTED chose to visit Benedict School on this very morning which meant the school couldn’t take part in the first release event. Benedict were very happy though to have their own tailor made release, including a nature walk along the Wandle, the following week on Thursday 7 April. 

Articles about our Trout in the Classroom trout releases appeared in several local papers. Please click here to read one of these.

This year the volunteers who helped were: Andrew, Jez, Jim, John, Peter, Sally, Sally-Anne, Susan and Theo. I would also like to extend my thanks to all the volunteers who have supported our schools over the last ten years. Without them this project wouldn’t be possible.

Upper Wandle wild trout habitat works: we’re green for go

Superb news just in from our good friend Paul Gaskell over at the Wild Trout Trust

“… after many months (years!) of assessment, planning, design, negotiation and hard work; permission has just been granted for my design of habitat restoration and enhancement works to go ahead on the upper Carshalton arm of the Wandle.”

As a partnership project between the Wandle Trust, Wandle Piscators, Wild Trout Trust and Environment Agency, this initiative has been carefully designed to make the most of the habitat in the upper river between Grove Park and Butter Hill – and get a sustainably breeding population of wild trout established in the Wandle’s headwaters.

Now we’ve been granted the necessary EA permissions, the really exciting stuff can start – with a Wild Trout Trust Practical Visit during the winter to teach our volunteers the latest hands-on river restoration techniques. (Sure, we know one or two already, but there’s always more to learn!)

So keep an eye on our Calendar page for dates and details – and come and join us if you can!

Avenue Primary School: helping the Wandle’s wild brown trout

When it comes to environmental education, Avenue Primary School in Sutton is right at the top of the class.

85 per cent of its pupils walk to school, teachers run projects to encourage cycling (and recycling) – and there’s even a kids’ squad of Eco reps who make sure no energy is wasted.  

Best of all, our regular community cleanup volunteer Abi Johns leads the school’s participation in our annual Trout in the Classroom programmeso it was no surprise that Avenue Primary won ‘Green Primary School of the Year’ at this year’s Sutton Green Guardian Awards!

Here’s what Angus, Ben and Dan from Abi’s class wrote about their Trout in the Classroom release day this year:

On Thursday 18 March, some of the Eco reps and the winners of the trout competition went to the River Wandle. When we got there the year 6 Eco reps had to put on waterproof waders and a life jacket. We finally got to go into the river with the trout.

The water pressure squeezed our legs when we got in. It felt really strange like the water actually going into the waders. Before we put the trout into the river we had picture taken of us holding the trout.

Finally we got to lower the box into the water. The trout were free! Once we had got out and taken the equipment off we went back to school. It was great knowing that we had helped the River Wandle’s wild brown trout.  

You can also click here to watch Abi’s film of Avenue Primary’s trout release

A big gold star for Miss Johns from all of us at the Wandle Trust!

Trout in the Classroom release days 2010

As in previous years our 2010 schools’ trout release days on the Wandle turned out to be exciting and eventful.  

On Thursday 8 March at 10.30am in the morning we gathered at a new venue for our trout releases – a stretch of the river in front of Sainsbury’s and M&S on Merton High Street. It was great to create such a stir amongst local people going about their usual business.

In the afternoon it was off to the Hackbridge in Sutton, a few hundred yards downstream from where earlier generations of Trout in the Classroom have just begun to breed successfully.

We were lucky to be blessed with lovely early spring weather throughout the day.

The following Thursday 25 March we had a full day on the Wandle at the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park.

In the morning it was predominantly Wandsworth schools releasing their fish, and we were delighted to have the Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth as our guest of honour. Councillor Jane Cooper was a terrific sport – even getting into the river to help whilst still wearing her mayoral chain to pose for photos.

Honeywell School as usual made the most of the opportunity to show real theatricality. 

What must the residents of Morden town have thought as the pupils and teachers paraded from the tube station in their fancy dress, sporting banners and carrying their precious bucket of trout fry?

This year in addition to the usual class work the project included a Carbon Balancing competition. Participants were invited to work out and then instigate ways in which Trout in the Classroom could reduce the amount of carbon fuels it uses. 

Winners of the competition were Linden Lodge from Wimbledon who ran a water saving week which highlighted the importance of saving water at home and at school. The prize of £250 was very generously donated by Wandle Trust supporter Roger Stevens.

The Croydon schools arrived at Morden Hall Park after lunch.  No one was put off by the intermittent rain which fell throughout the day.

Many of our project partners, friends and volunteers attended throughout these two weeks, as well as representatives from our sponsors including Thames Water and Penta Consulting. We extend our thanks to them and all our supporters. 

As we gathered at the end of the day we all agreed that it was great to see our local children and young people making a difference to the environment as part of Trout in the Classroom and the Living Wandle project!

A trout to echo round the world…

With this year’s Trout in the Classroom schools releases just days away, breaking news from our sister fishing club’s award-winning Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative: trout are breeding successfully in the Wandle, and for the very first time one of their tiny fry has been photographed at Hackbridge.

As the Wandle Piscators’ news piece says:

It’s a brilliant vindication of the Wandle Trust’s and Wandle Piscators’ strategy to work with the Environment Agency, the Wild Trout Trust and many other partners to improve adult and juvenile habitat for all fish species on this stretch of the Wandle – and a massive boost for our ongoing mission to improve water quality, clean gravels, and open up fish passage throughout the river.

Read the full story here…

… and keep an eye out for even more opportunities in coming months to get involved in our work with the Environment Agency and the Wild Trout Trust on the upper Wandle: reducing weirs, installing large woody debris, all sorts of hands-on, wet-wellied habitat-creating fun!

Wild trout seen spawning in Wandle headwaters

For perhaps the first time in 100 years, wild trout have been sighted spawning in the Wandle’s headwaters, well above the point where the pollution entered the river on 17 September 2007.

It’s an amazing vindication of the success of our annual Trout in the Classroom programme, and a great pointer to the Wandle’s potential as a sustainable mixed-species urban chalkstream.

Here’s the full story from the Daily Telegraph, written by our good friend (and Wandle fishing fanatic) Charles Rangeley-Wilson.

Restocking the Wandle

Following September’s pollution incident, the ecological impact survey conducted by aquatic consultants APEM has now confirmed that there would be enough food in the river to support a very limited restocking of juvenile fish by the Environment Agency: nothing like the biomass that was lost in the pollution incident, but a welcome boost for the river’s stocks.

Here’s the text of the Environment Agency’s press release to accompany this initial restocking:

Restocking the Wandle

Environment Agency fisheries officers will release nearly 5,000 juvenile fish into the River Wandle in early December, in an attempt to rejuvenate the river devastated by a pollution incident earlier this year.

The release marks the first stage in what will be a long term restoration process. The batches of one to two year-old chub, dace, roach and barbel have been specially reared and trained for life in the wild at the Environment Agency’s Calverton Fish Farm in Nottinghamshire and will be released in three areas along the river.

In September 2007, a chemical spill killed tens of thousands of fish of varying ages, sizes and species along a five km stretch of the River Wandle between Beddington and Merton. The incident generated an enormous amount of public concern and the Environment Agency has been working closely with local anglers, the Anglers Conservation Association, the National Trust, the Wandle Trust, Thames Water Utilities Ltd and independent surveyors to determine the impact of the spill and decide on the most effective way to rehabilitate the river.

Post-pollution survey work by independent contractor (APEM) and the Environment Agency has shown that some species of fish were completely wiped out in the upper reaches of the river, closest to the pollutant’s origin. However, at the very bottom of the affected five km stretch, some fish survived.

Theo Pike of the Wandle Trust said:

“The recent surveys have confirmed the serious impact of the pollution, but they have also demonstrated that there is adequate food and shelter for this limited initial restocking. This is important because we need to give nature a helping hand to restore fish stocks as there are many barriers to the free movement of fish up and down the river, meaning natural recolonisation would be very slow.”

Tom Cousins, one of the fisheries officers assisting with the release of the new fish, said:

“Although it is important that the river is restocked so that we can spur on recovery and improve the river we need to remember that the size, quality and number of fish lost in the pollution incident means that it is impossible to physically buy or collect equivalent fish from elsewhere. It will take several years before these fish will be of a size to be of interest to recreational fishermen, and many years before they approach the size of those fish lost in the pollution incident.

“Analysis of scales taken from some of the fish carcasses that were collected in the aftermath of the pollution incident, show that the fish in the Wandle were above average in size when compared with that expected in similar rivers in the South of England. This is because the river was considered a highly productive river system, containing plenty of food for the fish.”

Despite these first steps towards nursing the river back to health, team leader for the Environment Agency Mike Denbigh commented:

“The Environment Agency plays a dual role in this situation. Although we are happy that restocking has begun, our investigation into this unfortunate incident is progressing well and we are preparing a case file for our legal department. With incidents of this severity it is the Environment Agency’s policy to fully investigate the incident and, where possible, to gather evidence for submission. Our Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Guidance indicates that, where the evidence exists, the normal response to such an incident is to prosecute where the likely offender is identified. Carrying out a robust investigation and undertaking legal action is not a quick process.”

Notes to Editors

The opportunity to photograph the restocking of the Wandle and interview Environment Agency officers will take place on Thursday 6 December at 2.30pm, Ravensbury Park, Morden. There is no parking available on site. Please make your way to the footbridge over the Wandle via Ravensbury Lane or Wandle Rd next to Ravensbury Park.

This restocking is only possible due to the Environment Agency maintaining a coarse fish production facility for the entire UK, based in Calverton, Nottinghamshire. This is the largest fish farm of its type in Europe and millions of fish have been reared there. They are bred from only health certified broodstock and are specially conditioned in fast flowing water tanks to enable the young fish the best chance of survival in a river system upon release. This fish farm is paid for and operated using rod licence income from recreational anglers, such as those who fish along the River Wandle.

The Environment Agency will continue to monitor, via APEM and its own work, the fish populations in the Wandle, and use this data to inform its decisions on what levels of future restocking will be required.

Wandle devastated by second pollution disaster

Following August’s serious pollution incident, the Wandle was hit by an even greater catastrophe on Monday 17 September, when a large quantity of sodium hypochlorite cleaning solution was released from Beddington sewage treatment works into the Mill Green area of the river.

Local Environment Agency officers were on the scene within minutes, but at least 2000 further fish were instantly killed over a 5km reach, and longer-term impact on water weeds and invertebrate life in the river has been much more severe. 

Thames Water has pledged to work with all local groups to repair the damage, and has issued the following statement:

River Wandle pollution

Thames Water has pledged to carry out a thorough clean-up of the river Wandle after chemicals leaked from a sewage treatment works.

A significant number of fish are believed to have perished after cleaning solvents entered the river during work being carried out to improve the water quality in the Wandle in South West London.

Director of Wastewater Services, Bob Collington apologised on behalf of Thames Water and said it would do as much as possible to bring the river back to full health.

“We want to apologise to everyone in the community who enjoys the Wandle.  

We are dismayed this has happened, particularly after all the investment we have made in recent years in bringing the river back to health and turning it into a haven for wildlife, as well as the work we have carried out in preventing incidents such as this one.

A thorough investigation is being conducted and we are taking immediate steps to ensure this sort of event cannot happen again.

Our top priority now is to work closely with the Environment Agency on cleaning up the affected areas of the river, and we will do everything we can to restore the river’s ecosystem, including replacing lost fish and affected habitats.”

In the next few weeks the Wandle Trust, the Wandle Piscators, the Environment Agency, and the Anglers’ Conservation Association will be consulting closely with Thames Water, putting all the necessary safeguards in place to ensure that our unceasing work on the Wandle can never be compromised in this way again. 

Our monthly community cleanups and annual Trout in the Classroom programme will continue, and we remain more committed than ever to restoring the Wandle to full health and biodiversity as the very best sustainable urban showcase chalkstream in the world. new top level domains .