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Trout in the Town Blog
18/04/2017 - 12:39
Although this is the start of what is planned to be a wider project that tackles multiple issues throughout the full length of this heavily-modified river, the first set of works are shaping up really pleasingly.
|Click Picture to Launch on YouTube|
It was particularly impressive due to a last minute loss of the previous project manager due to a career move. In the video you can see how Alec worked with the WTT to power through the first, steep part of the learning-curve on in-river structural improvements to a heavily-modified river.
The main challenges stemmed from the historic realignment of the channel (and general lack of in-stream structure/debris necessary to create vital habitat for different lifecycle stages of fish and other aquatic life). Coupled with the relatively low gradient and fine particulate material/potential associated diffuse-pollution inputs from upstream, this had made the channel very uniform (boring) and also lacking in diverse substrate (bed material).
While the future parts of this project will explore ways of improving land-use (and other measures) to reduce the particulate material runoff, the creation of alternating scour and deposition in this section should significantly increase the complexity (and hence value) of the habitat here. There is also, now a massive amount of extra cover from predation - which will help to keep populations of predators and prey in a more resilient balance.
The increased complexity (and scour/deposition processes) were complemented by the "seeding" of gravel upstream of some of the new "roughness-generating" structures in the channel. Spate flows redistributing that gravel should mimic the creation of spawning conditions that have been historically cut-off by changes to land-use (open-cast mining has inverted top and sub-soil horizons in the upper catchment!).
Natural gravel inputs have also been constrained by the channel being straightened and locked in place. Normally, the gradual movement of a channel across a floodplain would cut into gravel "lenses" in the banks and continually replenish supplies to species that need gravel to breed.
You can see Alec describing this first phase of works in the embedded version of the video here:
25/11/2016 - 15:21
Catching and Releasing the first Fly-Caught wild trout from a stream that was dug out of a city-centre pipe was probably the highlight of 2016 for me!
Buried in a brick tunnel under England's industrial developments of the 1800s, a section of the Porter Brook in Sheffield was brought back to the surface by a bold project co-ordinated by Sheffield City Council and involving the Wild Trout Trust, The Environment Agency and many more partners.
You can now witness the actual process of freeing the Brook from its pipe - and the creation of functioning trout-stream habitat in this short video.
Yet, the above video does not show the completed park that was a huge part of the entire project - and it does not show the planted vegetation beginning to develop in the summer of 2016. And, it does not show any fly fishing or video of a trout capture...
But the film, below, that was made by the excellent Huckleberry Films as part of the Canal & Rivers Trust "Living Waterways" awards (in which this project won the "Contribution to the Built Environment Award")...Well that DOES show those things too:
Hopefully, with visits from town planning staff from as far away as Bristol, this type of project will become more widespread in our towns and cities in coming years...
14/10/2016 - 15:05
Well, the results are in and the fish above were all captured (carefully measured and then returned unharmed to the Lyme Brook)...
All of them were caught clustered around the installed logs and planted flag iris that were introduced throughout the second phase of habitat creation works completed on through the partnership between WTT, Groundwork West Midlands, the EA and The Friends of Lyme Valley Parkway.
The short video below shows the channel transformation - and they ways that the re-shaped river channel is maintained by harnessing the flow of water so that it works with the introduced materials and planted vegetation.
You can also see footage of the very first fish population survey carried out after the habitat works in this section of the brook (and although we didn't see any trout this time, we will continue to work on bridging the gaps between the main River Trent and the potential spawning habitat that has been created in this tributary stream.
19/09/2016 - 09:22
I'm delighted to say that the Porter Brook Deculverting project was selected as the 2016 Winner in the Canal & Rivers Trust for "Contribution to the Built Environment". This was a multi-partner partnership project (with key involvement of Sheffield City Council, the Environment Agency and more) that I was fortunate to have the opportunity to design the in-channel habitat features to provide the best functional benefits for trout and the wider aquatic foodweb.
As well as my previous blog posts on the subject, the awards scheme made short videos (less than 2-minutes) long that captured key elements of each project entry. You can see the film for the winning Porter Brook project below. Please enjoy and share (and also check out the other project videos on YouTube from this year's awards).
22/08/2016 - 17:41
|The many willing volunteers who cleared a big stand of Himalayan balsam and many sacks of rubbish in Scisset|
I had the privilege of contributing to a great event that was set up by Phil Slater (Friends of River Dearne) and hosted by both Don Catchment Rivers Trust and The Wild Trout Trust.
It was also (importantly) supported by the local branch of Tesco - whose car park and store front the River Dearne runs past in the little West Yorkshire village of Scissett - and also by the Environment Agency.
The concept was simple - invite local volunteers to join together and remove the invasive, non-native Himalayan balsam, clear-up litter and also learn some simple river-habitat protection and improvement techniques.
This last part is why I was on site - to run a mini "habitat workshop" to explain the appropriate balance between light and shade; as well as the huge importance of "cover" habitat or refuge for different stages of a wild trout's life-cycle. When take together, removing the competitive dominance of the invasive plants (which not only benefit native plants - but also the bugs and other wildlife that depend on those native plants) and creating a more varied habitat can have a great benefit to the species of river corridors.
|Diligent litter removal!|
I would argue that this is especially valuable when those river corridors are surrounded by the tarmac and buildings of urban areas - but could the volunteers be found and convinced to attend?
Well, it is a great compliment to the local village communities that well over 20 volunteers gave up their free time on a week day to come down, learn and get stuck in. Many hands really did make light work.
I had many interesting chats with attendees and I got to demonstrate some simple habitat-creation techniques that had multiple benefits for fish, birds and invertebrates alike.
|Himalayan Balsam: Before...|
|Simple laying technique to create diversity in tree canopy as well as producing cover habitat in the stream margins|
|Cover habitat on the far bank - beneficial to fish, invertebrates and birds.|
|Urban and River Corridor environments - side-by-side.|
Big thanks to Phil and all of the Friends of The Dearne, NE-region Environment Agency, Tescos Scissett and everyone at Don Catchment Rivers Trust Denby Dale Parish Council, Upper Dearne Valley Navigators, Scissett Litter Pickers, Ten Villages Conservation Group and Made in Clayton West for a great event all round (and a wonderful result).
18/08/2016 - 15:51
As near as I can work out from the archaeology report, this section of river - recently brought back to the surface in dramatic fashion by Sheffield City Council, the EA and the WTT partnership - was buried in a low brick tunnel somewhere around 1853 to 1868. The northern half of the site was certainly buried underground BEFORE the time the 1853 map was produced....and the rest of the brick tunnel was placed over the top of the stream before the map of 1868...
Of course, it is not easy to tell what the water quality was like in that section even BEFORE the stream was buried...and whether there were trout surviving in the stream when it was sealed underground...
What is damned sure is that you couldn't wave a fly fishing rod around in that underground tunnel once they'd built it!
This was still the case until the completion of the massive project to remove the brickwork and create an attractive "pocket park" in the city centre. You might have seen from This Previous Blog Post that SPRITE have already been finding some wonderful invertebrate life here.
So, unless some other optimistic urban fly-rod explorer tried their hand between the completion of the project and when I was fortunate to revisit the site and show it to the judges of the Canal & Rivers Trust's "Living Waterways" competition, I think the little chap below COULD be the first wild trout landed on a fly for at least 160 years from this section of stream.
Now, that is not a very big fish, but everyone (especially me) was absolutely delighted to see it, briefly, up close before releasing back to its new home. On a personal level, because my other great passion in life is Japanese fly fishing, I am also tickled pink to make the capture with the tenkara methods that have been used in Japanese mountain streams throughout history.
The photos were taken on a visit that took place back in June, and I was back on site yesterday to join in with some of the interviews that were being recorded as part of the Living Waterways awards. I'm keeping everything crossed that this excellent partnership project will win through against some stiff rival projects - and it is fantastic to learn that it has been shortlisted as a finalist...
So watch this space and - either way - the re-connection of a little urban stream to the surrounding community and the creation of new habitat for riverside and aquatic wildlife is a great result already.
Big thanks to Simon Ogden for letting me use his photos to prove this isn't just a tall story!