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Mike Blackmore's 'Mad March'
Mike is the WTT Conservation Officer for the South and West.
At this time of year, there is often a hectic dash to get money spent before the end of the financial year and get trees pollarded/coppiced/hinged before the start of the bird nesting season. March 2016 was no exception and my very understanding wife allowed me to work through three weekend days and a bank holiday to fit it all in.
On the River Biss just outside Trowbridge, some delicate chainsawing and back-wrenching rope-pulling was undertaken to demonstrate different ways of managing fallen trees without removing them from the river. The largest of these was tackled by Land Rover and winch but the rest was done on volunteer power alone.
A short skip across the border from Wiltshire to Somerset and eight days were spent in the river officially known as the Somerset Frome (to distinguish it from the Dorset Frome, Bristol Frome or the Gloucestershire Frome) but known locally as the Frome Frome after the town Frome through which the Frome flows (At this point it is important to note that if the eight times you just heard Frome in your head, it rhymed with 'home', you’re saying it wrong! Now read it again and this time rhyme it with 'broom'. These things matter in the Westcountry!)
This project involved using live willow to protect eroding banks, hinging trees for marginal cover and transforming a straightened, silty backwater into a sinuous and flowing fish nursery.
The sixteen volunteers that gave up their time to help out, and the ever helpful Council Rangers worked extremely hard and should be rightly proud of themselves. The project has kick-started further improvements and provided a platform for further fund raising by the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust.
Both projects were funded by rod license money from the Environment Agency team at Bridgewater and a special mention should go to Technical Fisheries Officer Matt Pang who helped out in between nights spent patrolling for eel poachers and doing shifts in the family chip shop. This after not long becoming a father – who needs sleep?!
Photos: Somerset Frome project phase 1 . The project included a green erosion repairs, junk removal, juvenile fish/marginal plant habitat enhancement and a bit of river restoration.
Before and after shots of how the brushwood berms filled up with silt after just ONE day’s high flows. Exactly what we want to allow plants to establish.