Trout in the Town Blog

11/09/2017 - 21:20
You may have seen the first three phases of works on the middle reaches of the Lyme Brook (shown in previous blogs Here and Here) from project works that began in 2015...

Well although the first surveys after that work found some nice coarse fish populations - there was no cold hard evidence that any trout had found the newly-improved habitat...Until now!
EA Midlands Survey Teams reportedly found "More than one...but less than five" wild trout like this one on Sept. 7th 2017
I received a phone call today from Matt Lawrence who is the EA's Catchment Host for the Trent Valley Catchment Partnership (with key partners Groundwork West Midlands and the Wild Trout Trust who conceived and delivered the habitat works). Matt told me that he'd had some exciting preliminary reports from a EA Midlands fisheries surveys team. Their survey on 7th September had caught several wild trout as part of their sample on the habitat works site.

These are the first modern records of trout in the brook and is also the exciting news that we have been waiting for on these first phases of work to create spawning, juvenile and adult trout habitat in a straightened channel in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Whether any fish can yet reach the most recent phase of works on the Lyme Brook a couple of miles upstream (documented on this most recent blog Here)...it remains to be seen. There are certainly some challenging obstacles for fish between these two areas.

Watch this space for more specific details as they are passed on...

Paul

30/08/2017 - 22:18
Take a bow Groundwork West Midlands (particularly Richard, Francesca & Chris) - myself and Tim Jacklin from team Wild Trout Trust really enjoyed working with you and the great volunteers from the National Citizens Service.

Together we turned what was one of possibly the straightest of any straightened sections of brook into a section with quite a lot more variety. This is what the section looked like in winter:

Though, in high summer, almost none of the water was actually visible when the 360 digger arrived on site ahead of the volunteers (I wanted a day to sculpt the basic shape of the brook before Tim, Francesca, Chris and the volunteers came on site for days 2 and 3).

So, once we found the wet bit of the river, operator David and me could start to collaborate in remodelling the stream. I'm always in awe of how much control these folks have with a machine and bucket - and we soon got into a great working and communication routine. It is fantastic to see the physical changes to the river taking shape before your eyes - and always amazing that what I can visualise mentally is possible for a talented driver to create in reality.

Re-casting the material won from creating the bend allows a shallow bench/small floodplain to be recreated within the incised channel.

Using the existing root-masses on the opposite bank to each bench that we created let us steer the river left and right...

Having created a new cross-sectional profile and plan-form at the end of the first day - that paved the way for the team of specialists and volunteers to consolidate and improve the basic skeleton of the wiggling brook.


Having consolidated the bank toe along the deeper (scour pool) habitat on the outside of each bend with brash (which also produced instant cover habitat) - we could then create a framework to stabilise the shallow benches. This was done by installing a larger log towards the centre of each bench which would retain material on its upstream side. Then radial "laths" of long, straight and smaller diameter stems were staked over the top of a thin layer of brash.

As well as stabilising the redistributed material, this allowed us to plant native plant species (principally flag iris and sedge) in amongst this matrix. Over time, as well as providing valuable floral diversity, the root masses of those plants will also act to further stabilise the new path and profile of the brook.
Plug plants ready for planting in the newly-created brash-matrix framework (background)

Well done all - thank you for your hard work across all aspects of the project, and thanks for going along with my design ideas too. Watch this space for updates on how these works bed in over time (and any additional work we can do on the site when the opportunity arises).

If you like this project, share this post so it can inspire other folks too.

Paul








18/08/2017 - 13:29

You probably know the basic story now (e.g. This Yorkshire Post article), but whether you do or you don't, it is worth reflecting that this whole project was given the go-ahead because it tackled a number of critical problems.

A big one was the flood risk posed by blockages in the original culvert - but Sheffield CC went beyond that and created an "amphitheatre" shaped park that actually created even more flood-water storage than an open channel would. They didn't stop there though, and with the help of multiple partners (including us at the Wild Trout Trust, the Environment Agency and also community volunteers from SPRITE as well as local offices such as the prestigious Jaywing advertising agency), a valuable urban green-space was created. This video explains all that (and also has a lush clip of a rising trout that made my day when I filmed it):

Here's the really exciting thing for me though, as well as the aesthetic amenity value of the formal planting in the park's landscape, there was also a genuine will to have meaningful ecological benefits too. This is possibly one of the Pocket Park's greatest successes - the blending of formal/aesthetic planting schemes in the terraces of the park with wild, native flora in and around the river channel.


So here I wanted to give a massive "high 5" to Sam Thorn, Jan Stratford and Simon Ogden at Sheffield City Council. They could have taken an easier path and settled for something that was pretty (but superficial). Instead they were bold enough to push forward with the very specialist conservation and biodiversity improvements advice provided by the Wild Trout Trust.

Of course the handsome chunk of funding from the EA was critical, thanks to Jerome Masters (those funds were fed into an intimidatingly complex series of other funding streams that included Interreg North Sea Region, SCC Breathing Spaces/South Yorks. Forest SEEDS project etc. etc.).

Also, thanks to Salix RW Ltd. for the donation of additional (FOC) pre-established, native flora coir pallets and rolls to the Sheffield Trout in the Town group - SPRITE.

If you want to check out the video in full-screen (rather than as embedded above), just click on the picture below and you can jump to view it on Youtube:
 

Porter Brook Deculverting Video picture



26/07/2017 - 20:41
I was recently able to use the Trout in the Town project to provide two days of training in habitat work for the Friends of Bilbrook (find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Bilbrookfriends/ ).


We used some very simple techniques of woody material introduction and stabilisation to help create submerged "cover" habitat for fish (and hopefully the native crayfish that have been recorded in the brook). Some simple tweaks to those techniques also helped to promote more diverse depth over the cross-section of the brook at selected points.

At the same time as creating localised bedscour - the installed material also encourage patches of sediment deposition. The combination of those actions produce a pattern of separation between areas of fine silt and coarser bed material in a patchwork fashion. In this way, a greater variety of micro-habitats are created and this creates many more opportunities for aquatic species. At the same time, it also creates the variety needed for different critical life-cycle stages within individual species such as trout.

Because the materials for the woody material introduction and stabilisation were won by selecting a small number of trees in the river corridor, this also contributed to creating a more varied dappled light and shade regime. In turn this will promote greater opportunities for more varied understory vegetation to develop.

Those opportunities for understory species have only been provided by the excellent works of the Friends of Bilbrook to gain control over the invasive Himalayan Balsam - a big high 5 for that work is well deserved.

Also - huge thanks to Richard Schneider at Groundwork West Midlands who has done masses of work to arrange permissions, co-ordinate volunteers and contractors as well as getting materials and kit on site.

Great effort all round - and thank you for having me :)

Paul
28/04/2017 - 08:53
Ant Graham from SPRITE

You've done a big, ambitious partnership project to deculvert a section of urban stream, but now the civil engineering contractors have gone to their next job. The site is left to mature...what next? Very seldom does this kind of project have any budget for ongoing ecological monitoring (which is a frequent and justified criticism of habitat improvement works - the lack of ecological effect data).

The same can be said for general "husbandry" of the site - whether it be litter or invasive plant control; or even fairly substantial running repairs...

Step in SPRITE (Sheffield Partnership for Rivers in Town Environments) whose site you can check out on http://www.sheffieldsprite.com, the Sheffield Trout in the Town group and a supporting donation of pre-established planted coir products from Salix River and Wetland Ltd. (with their site here: https://www.salixrw.com)

You can see SPRITE talking about their aquatic invertebrate monitoring and see their repair and site care works in action in the embedded video below:


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
Alec and the rest of the YWT team have made impressive progress to organise and deliver the program of works that we designed on just around 1 km of the River Went, on a project supported by the Environment Agency.
 
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:
 
 
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