The initiative is led by the Environment Agency in partnership with the Wild Trout Trust, Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Loddon Valley Residents Association, Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative and the Wildlife Trust.
The week kicked off last Monday, 16 March, with electro-fishing at Whitewater Mill, Bassett’s Mead, Potbridge and North Warnborough where trout, perch, chub, minnow and bullhead were caught.
Electrofishing uses electricity to stun fish so they can be easily caught, it is a common scientific survey method used to sample fish populations and collect valuable data. The process does not harm the fish, which return to their natural state in as little as two minutes after being stunned.
The week progressed with volunteers from the local community, conservation and flood groups working together over two days, to improve the river’s habitats and enhancing the Loddon’s natural processes using low cost and simple techniques; demonstrated by Environment Agency fisheries officers and the Wild Trout Trust.
Karen Twine, Fisheries Officer for the Environment Agency said:
Our volunteers really got stuck in by making fagotts, cleaning gravels, adding new gravels, introducing and securing woody debris in the Blackwater. These techniques will help fish and invertebrate communities, offering refuge from high flows and predators as well as improve spawning and nursery habitat.
Brash faggots – which consist of bundles of branches or coppice - were made up and staked in to support the re-profiled river bank. This technique will help to increase the capacity of the channel, without compromising the natural processes occurring within the river. It will also enhance riparian habitat for other wildlife including birds, butterflies, dragonflies and bees.
On Friday, a workshop was set up by the Loddon Valley Residents Association and Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative, which gave the local communities, land owners and Councils the chance to visualise (with the help of an EmRiver model, which simulates river processes) how flood risk can be managed using natural processes such as floodplain connectivity, flood water storage and retention, which can also help to regulate erosion and deposition.
Karen Twine added:
It’s been fantastic to see so many volunteers and interest groups coming together to improve this much loved river. It is essential to get the message across that managing flood risk can be achieved without compromising our beautiful rivers. The Loddon catchment is environmentally rich and an important resource for wildlife which needs protecting and enhancing for future generations.
Notes to Editor
Photographs available upon request