Urban river restoration: River Anton, Andover

Woody debris channel narrowing 1 - Aquamaintain

Fresh from helping to deliver several projects on the middle and upper Wandle, river restoration consultancy Aquamaintain recently moved its focus to another urban chalkstream – this time the little River Anton in Andover.

In the words of Test Valley Borough Council’s River Anton Enhancement Strategy, these headwaters of the globally-famous River Test have lost much of their natural sparkle.

To them as knows, it’s still a surprisingly great little trout and grayling stream. But to the experienced urban river restorationist, all-too-familiar signs of habitat degradation include dredged channels, concrete and corrugated iron revetments, fish-blocking weirs forming straight, silty impoundments, and over-widened dog-swimming areas with muddy banks leaching silt into the river’s gravels.

Over the course of several weeks in March this year, in partnership with Test Valley Borough Council, Aquamaintain’s wet work focused on 600 metres of channel between Sainsbury Close and Redbridge Drive which was suffering from the effects of dredging and other historic modifications. Most of these enhancements involved channel narrowing and bank stabilisation with large woody debris sourced by tree work on adjacent, over-shaded banks. For the benefit of local fly-fishers dog-walkers a brace of log-faced access points were also constructed.

Check out the photos below from Aquamaintain’s Facebook page, and stay tuned for plenty more news from the Anton and our other urban rivers…

Chestnut posts arriving at Watermills Park - Aquamaintain

Channel narrowing 2 at Watermills Park - Aquamaintain

Pleached trees on Anton - Aquamaintain

Brushwood mattresses on Anton - Aquamaintain

Mobile HQ - Aquamaintain

New dog access at Watermills Park - Aquamaintain

(Photos: Aquamaintain)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 20 April

Colne trout - Paul Shorrock

(Photo: Paul Shorrock)

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Pic of the day: Easter Monday

Easter Monday

Arc-welder sun in sheet-steel sky.

Daffodil banks, LDOs tumbling downwind.

And somewhere, under slag-heaps and shopping trolleys… the hope that a fish will rise…

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Film night: Saving huchen from hydropower

Protecting the River Mur‘s rare population of huchen (Europe’s very own relict taimen or landlocked salmon) from the threat of hydropower in the heart of Graz, Austria’s second biggest city?

Our only question is this… Why wouldn’t you?

As you’d expect, the Fish Where You Live idea of local people valuing and protecting their urban river is one that’s very close to our hearts here at Urbantrout, so you can be sure it’s a subject we’d like to revisit in the near future.

In the meantime, tonight’s full 40 minutes of filmic goodness, plus this link to Hatch Magazine, this one at Forelle und Aesche, and finally Rettet die Mur’s campaigning site itself, will tell you much more…

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The Wild Trout Trust charity auction 2015: Which city stream will you fish this year?

Wandle trout Aug 2014

It’s on! This year’s legendary Wild Trout Trust charity fundraising auction is now fully live over on the big auction site. And as you’d expect, we’ve been trawling through the lots to spot the juiciest urban fly-fishing opportunities…

Lots 56 and 57: Doubling up your chances to win a week’s permit for 2 rods on the Town Waters of the River Ness in Inverness, presented by the Inverness Angling Club. This beat runs right through the Scottish Highland capital, and is best fished for salmon with a fly.

Lot 91: Presented by Ffynnon Taff Angling Club, 1 day for 1 rod on the legendary post-industrial River Taff guided by Nicholas Steedman. Hit this one right, and you may find huge trout and grayling rising freely to exceptional hatches…

Lot 212: Wander up the Wandle for the day with this website’s founder and editor Theo Pike, getting the latest news on this inner-city chalkstream’s rollercoaster recovery – and a chance of hooking a trophy trout somewhere in south London! (In case you’re wondering, yes, that really is a Wandle trout at the top of this post…)

Lot 233: Guided by former WTT officer Ben Tyser, 1 day for 1 rod on the River Allen in Wimborne Minster (as featured in Trout in Dirty Places and Hugh Miles’ film Liquid Gold: A Celebration of Chalk Streams)

Lot 249: Presented by Slaithwaite and District Angling Club, an unmissable opportunity to explore the River Colne near Huddersfield with local guide Mick Pogson

Lot 251: Shrouded in secrecy (most likely for a very good reason), 1 day for 1 rod somewhere on west Yorkshire’s urban trout and grayling rivers with local expert Dave Hudson. Even we’ve got absolutely no idea where Dave will take the lucky winner… but we do know it’s the very essence of Urbantrout’s Fish Where You Live philosophy…

As usual the Wild Trout Trust is aiming to raise more than £50,000 of core funding that’s not restricted to any particular project.

These funds can be used for a range of purposes including basic project delivery tools such as chainsaws and waders, match funding for other sources of funds like charitable trusts, and even bursaries for local groups who may need just a bit of kick-start funding for their own projects. (Who knows, it might even be your very own urban river that benefits!) 

Bids can be placed online between now and the evening of Thursday 12 March: you can also send sealed postal bids which will be logged online on your behalf.

So bid early, bid often… and we’ll see you out there on one of our urban rivers!

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Afon Cae Person, Llanwrst: Conwy Council’s masterclass in trashing an urban stream

1 - Wrecked Afon Person - Pierino Algieri

So what happens when the very modern curse of got to spend your project funding by the end of this financial year collides with the last, semi-fossilised remnants of the 1960s-era if it moves, concrete it over approach to flood risk management?

This, apparently.

At the end of 2013, according to the BBC, the Welsh government granted Conwy Council more than £600,000 towards a flood defence project on a small but vital spawning tributary of the River Conwy in Llanwrst (total project value: a staggering £711,000) on condition that the money was spent by April 2014.

To make the most of this very short funding window (and with local authorities like Conwy Council now the ‘consenting authorities’ for non-main channel river works across Wales) Natural Resources Wales apparently decided to take a ‘pragmatic view’ of an ‘exceptional case’, offering repeated advice and even providing fish rescues for hundreds of juvenile trout, salmon and eels, but ultimately failing to exercise their obligation to improve and protect the natural environment.

While most of the rest of the world is carefully restoring its hardened urban rivers, Conwy Council gave us all a masterclass in going the other way…

… diverting the stream’s flow down a temporary plastic pipe, right in the middle of trout and salmon spawning season …

… spending at least 4 months dredging out around 240m of bankside trees and vegetation, as well as most of the gravels …

… pouring in concrete footings … 

… and finally covering it all in the kind of cast concrete slabs you’d expect to see lining a motorway’s central reservation.

Former local NRW fisheries officer Pierino Algieri tells us that the Afon Cae Person (also known as the Afon Cae’r Groes, but so small that it’s officially un-named) has no significant history of flooding, apart from one brief blockage of a culvert near its confluence with the Conwy, which had previously been replaced without further incident.

Worse still, according to this open letter from the S&TA, several sea trout redds were identified in gravels which were then removed, in blatant breach of all possible environmental legislation.

Thanks to a rising firestorm of media coverage, NRW and Conwy Council have now agreed to remediation measures, and urban river restoration guru Paul Gaskell is booked to undertake a survey in a couple of weeks’ time, at the invitation of the local angling club. (Rocks, resin and gravel may suggest some kind of answer, for fish passage at least… and there’s a school further upstream which could provide educational opportunities for the next generation… but Paul reminds us that even the best Wild Trout Trust-endorsed restoration work can only ever mimic what was lost to the dredgers in the first place).

In times of austerity when even hardcore Somerset dredging fans are now starting to talk about whole-catchment water management, the fate of the Afon Cae Person is a small but spectacular reminder that nothing up to and including the European Water Framework Directive and its ‘no deterioration’ clause can always save us from holdout remnants of the ‘gotta concrete it all’ brigade.

Yet despite all this, we’d still like to believe there’s a ray of hope at the end of this long, barren, semi-impassable culvert.

20, 10, maybe 5 years ago, the casual destruction of a tiny urban stream wouldn’t even have got into the local news. Today, it’s triggering questions in the Welsh Assembly and headlines on the BBC – a working measure of how far our public cultural and environmental consciousness has come in just a couple of decades.

So, Natural Resources Wales and Conwy Council, get mending… and maybe ask the Welsh government to reconsider your funding parameters too? The eyes of the global river restoration movement are watching.

2 - Former Afon Person - Pierino Algieri

3 - Upper section before destruction - Pierino Algieri

4 - Upper section with temp pipe - Pierino Algieri

5 - Footings for culvert - Pierino Algieri

6 - Upper section plus unaltered top section - Pierino Algieri

Work in progress - Pierino Algieri

7 - Final destruction - Pierino Algieri

(All photos: Pierino Algieri)

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Winter warmers: Urban river cleanups around the UK

River Don cleanup Jan 2015 - River Stewardship Company

When it comes to cleaning up litter and heavy rubbish on the banks of urban rivers, the very coldest months are often the best time to do it.

Most of the summer vegetation (native or otherwise!) has died back in the frost, so you can actually see what’s been collecting in the brambles, nettles and knotweed throughout the previous year.

And even if some of your volunteers have already made tracks for sun or reliable mountain snow…

… many more of them are probably itching for an excuse to get out of the house and do something truly warming and worthwhile on a winter’s afternoon.

Photos often tell their own tale – and in this case they do, from Glasgow to south London via Carlisle, Sheffield and Sleaford. But we’ve picked up some all time classic reports on social media too…

From the River Slea Cleanup Group:

Once again thank you to all that attended the latest clean up. It was a good one. Some different things have been removed today. A battery charger, ironing board and folding chair. Approximately 35kg of rubbish removed from river and bank. Well done everyone!

From the Eden Rivers Trust:

A few of the fantastic volunteers helped clean up the banks of the River Caldew in Carlisle this morning… A bike, a chainsaw, a pressure washer, a shopping trolley, an electronic drum kit and two car seats made up just a small part of the haul.

From SPRITE:

Freezing cowld. Thankless graft. And I fell in. Bloody rubbish.

From the Wandle Trust:

1 stove, 1 motorbike, 1 garden fence, 1 Thomas the tank engine toy, 1 hanging basket, 1 computer, 1 tyre, 2 suitcases, 2 washing machines, 7 bikes, rolls of carpet, 60 bags of rubbish and endless fencing panels… What did I learn? No matter how steep the bank, hauling a washing machine up a vertical concrete cliff is always possible.

River Wandle cleanup Dec 2014 - Wandle Trust

River Slea cleanup Jan 2014 - River Slea Cleanup Group

River Caldew Carlisle cleanup Jan 2015 - Eden Rivers Trust

Sheffield cleanup Feb 2015 - SPRITE

River Kelvin cleanup Jan 2015 - FORK

If you’ve been cleaning up your local city river, send us a photo and a quick report, and we’ll try to include it in a future blog post!

(Photo 1: River Stewardship Company; photo 2: Wandle Trust; photo 3: River Slea Cleanup Group; photo 4: Eden Rivers Trust; photo 5: SPRITE; photo 6: Friends of the River Kelvin)

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Save £4.00 with FREE SHIPPING on all Urbantrout fly-fishing beanies, hoodies, caps, t-shirts and stickers!

Urbantrout beanie hats 3

By popular request, we’ve decided to extend our FREE UK SHIPPING offer on all Urbantrout fly-fishing gear until further notice.

That’s like a full-on £4.00 discount every time you pick from our exclusive range of urban steelheader beanie hats, hardcore-yet-cosy hoodies, authentic US Marines’ camo pattern fishing caps, premium printed t-shirts and funky branded window stickers.

Better still, 10% of profits from all sales of Urbantrout eco-branded fly-fishing merchandise will go directly to fund urban river restoration projects… maybe on a river near you!

Simply click here to visit the Urbantrout shop and grab your FREE UK SHIPPING discount today. (If you’re based outside the UK, drop us a line before placing your order, and we’ll talk about the best shipping option).

Fish where you live, rock your urban fly-fishing… and wear Urbantrout gear to show your support for the urban river restoration movement!

Urbantrout grayling 3

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Film night: Sea trout in Rotterdam

 

“If you’re going to fish in the middle of an industrial wasteland, this looks like a good place to do it” quips Phil Monahan in his intro to this video on the Orvis Fly-Fishing Film Festival a few weeks ago.

To be fair, most of the action is focused on bass, bait blitzes, ranks of cranes and massive Maersk container ships. But the water is clear, the ecosystem looks abundantly healthy, and hang on… that’s got to be a sea trout?

Well, we reckon it is.

Which is surely more than enough to justify a little extra airtime on this continuity blog for Trout in Dirty Places

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The Urbantrout Diaries: Year of mending urban rivers

IMG_4981

After a few months’ break, our Urbantrout Diaries series returned to Flyfishing.co.uk just before Christmas…

… with a blockbuster mini-series reviewing all the great urban river restoration projects that took place across the UK in 2014:

Part 1: Weir removal, fish passage and remeandering on the Wandle

Part 2: Community engagement, WFD compliance and Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards for the Medlock, Calder and Brun

Part 3: Lower-cost (but no less effective) volunteer-led works on the Cale, Slea, Holme and Don

Please click on over to Flyfishing.co.uk to read and wonder at all these groundbreaking initiatives (and visit the websites of the projects too, if you get a chance – you’ll find most of them listed in the blogroll on the right hand side of this page).

(Photo: John Sutton / Wild Trout Trust)

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