Living Rivers

The post below is taken from articles that appeared in Thundridge Parish Magazine and PS News in early 2019

For some time now, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust have been championing a project known as “Living Rivers”. Working with riverside landowners, groups and individuals, they coordinate restoration projects and provide management advice to help bring into good condition Hertfordshire’s globally rare chalk rivers and their wetland habitats. Alongside this, The Trust “host” a number of Catchment Partnerships; these are action groups of local people and organisations who have a stake or interest in the plight of our rivers. The emphasis is on collaboration and partnership working, with a ‘host’ organisation taking on the role of bringing the group together, acting as the single point of contact and driving progress forward. Some of the projects instigated by these groups have been aired on national television, through programmes such as Countryfile. Notably the very successful project on the River Mimram at Tewin and the major river improvement project being planned for the old river Lea from Wormley through to Fishers Green which was shown on TV in November 2017.

Water Vole (Tim Hill, HMWT)

For some rivers, like the Ash and Lea, the Catchment Partnerships set up in 2012 were a first attempt to bring people together to improve them in this way. Whereas other rivers, like the Beane and Mimram, already had long established river groups and are represented on the Catchment Partnerships. These groups are beginning to see their efforts starting produce results, thanks to local volunteers joining and making their voices heard and where necessary mucking in with projects to improve the their river environments. Of particular note is that Affinity Water has been reducing abstraction levels from the chalk aquifers of the Beane and Mimram, partly in response to the local river group’s activities, and are continuing to look for ways to reduce them over time. This leaves more water in the ground to find its way into the rivers and improve the quality of the whole river environment. Several projects are also underway on various parts of the River Lea, the most recent being major in stream restoration of the Old River downstream of Star Street in Ware. These project have been targeted to benefit specific wildlife species such as Water Voles, Brown Trout and Barbel with the knowledge that these are key habitat indicators, which is to say if these species are present in healthy numbers the overall river environment is probably not in bad shape.

Returning to our local river, our aim is to form a similar catchment partnership group, The Friends of The River Rib, with the broad objective of exploring options to improve the overall quality of the Rib for the benefit of all the flora and fauna that live in the river valley.

The Friends of The River Rib is currently building a website and blog for interested parties to keep up to date with what’s happening locally along the river.  Initial activities will involve mapping the river to indicate the type of restoration and improvement works required, in stream invertebrate sampling to test the current levels of insect life in the river, and contacting landowners and parish councils to obtain their support for our objectives. The Wildlife Trust will of course be assisting the group wherever possible. However what we need most is local people to champion their river and to promote and protect its habitats for people and wildlife.

If you’re a landowner, member of a local group / organisation, or individual interested in finding out more about how you might get involved in protecting and improving your local river, we’d love to hear from you!

For more information visit our (work in progress) website at https://friendsoftherib.wordpress.com. Alternatively,  contact Mark Wilkinson or Phil Buckingham on FriendsoftheRiverRib@gmail.com or Sarah Perry, Living Rivers Officer on sarah.perry@hmwt.org

Information about wider Catchment Partnership activities across Hertfordshire’s Rivers is held on the Rive Lea Catchment website http://www.riverleacatchment.org.uk/

Standon Mill Stream

The photos below were taken 12 January, on the locations shown in red on the map above.

Standon Mill Stream looking North. Deep mill pond in distance
Standon Mill Stream looking south from back gardens
Probable Giant Hogweed – left bank, above Standon
A new willow plantation on the right bank of the Rib, behind Puckeridge schools and surgery
Panorama from high ground north of Standon, looking west towards Puckeridge and north towards Braughing (click to enlarge)