Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards 2018
Denise Ashton from the Wild Trout Trust reports back on the winners of the Conservation Awards for 2018.
Around 100 people gathered in the ballroom of the Savile Club in London recently to celebrate the tremendous contributions of individuals and groups to improving river habitat. It is always an uplifting experience to see the dedication, determination and expertise that is demonstrated in the projects competing for the annual Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards.
The awards are judged by Dr Paul Gaskell and Shaun Leonard of the Wild Trout Trust and Martin Jaynes of the River Restoration Centre.
WTT Paul Gaskell said: ‘It was a privilege to be introduced to these works – and thank you for the inspiration that the efforts and results create in our community of river-protectors and helpers.’
The winners of this year’s awards are:
WINNER, Contribution to Wild Trout Conservation Award: The River Lark Catchment Partnership for the Bell Meadow Project, Suffolk.
Suffolk is not known for its wild trout population, but they are present in the Lark. The River Lark Catchment Partnership have done a superb job at both a catchment and a reach scale to ensure that the trout and the food webs that support them thrive in the River Lark.
WINNER, Medium-Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme: The Bristol Avon Rivers Trust for the Wellow and Cam Initiative, Somerset.
This initiative was launched in response to a major pollution incident, described as ‘a tsunami of slurry’. It combines technical monitoring with citizen science and ‘early warning’ beacon initiatives, barrier assessment, removal/alteration of six weirs, interactive river sessions for public engagement, ‘yellow fish’ surface drainage protection involving 250 people, formal identification of challenges and opportunities, creation of a dedicated friends-of group, clear future management and much, much. A worthy winner in a highly competitive field.
WINNER, Large-Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme: West Cumbria Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency for the Ennerdale Mill Dam Project, Cumbria.
This ambitious project re-connects the river with Ennerdale Water, delivering benefits for wild fish and freshwater mussels as well as tackling invasive Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed. The project overcame significant challenges to remove the mill dam rather than take the easier option of building a fish pass. Removing the impoundment has facilitated both upstream and downstream fish movement and restored a natural sediment transport regime to the river.
Westcountry Rivers Trust FishPass App.
As an innovative way to support, monitor and adapt the programme of habitat works carried out on the Westcountry Passport streams, the development and initial launch of this app is already achieving valuable ‘wins’ for conservation. Citizen science and engagement are embedded within the day-to-day use of this platform and the strategic (ongoing) development and method selection provide an interesting perspective and possible inspiration for how in-channel restoration schemes can be designed. Wild fish populations are at the core of the angling amenity, which drives the many initiatives of the Westcountry Rivers Trust.
As with all years of the WTT Conservation Awards (and listed alphabetically for fairness) it is crucial to recognise and be inspired by each and every one of the shortlisted projects in 2018:
Brancepeth Beck: Environment Agency
A serious contender for a prize this year, tackling connectivity on the River Wear catchment. This project included (among many things) volunteer inputs to the design and installation of structures that now aid fish passage in the face of multiple significant barriers to migration.
Chisenbury Tank Crossing ‘A’ Project
Part of the strategic restoration of the River Avon, this project redresses the extensive modification (and associated incision) of the channel to reinstate more diverse and ecologically valuable geomorphology. Putting the river into a new course and reconnecting it with its floodplain has created multiple beneficial effects.
Killandean Blue/Green Network: “Riverlife”/Forth Rivers Trust
Combining in-channel works and riparian environmental/social space improvements, the Forth Rivers Trust are doing a fantastic job in re-connecting the public with their local watercourse. That society needs to care for the river corridors running through communities is in no doubt. This project is a timely reminder that river corridors also provide huge welfare benefits to people who spend time in them.
Lower Misbourne Enhancement Project: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
A kilometre of canopy management and creation of more varied in-channel (and riparian) habitat using the arising materials targeted threatened water vole populations and aimed to improve conditions for wild trout and a host of other river-corridor wildlife. Volunteers and multiple in-kind contributions from a range of partnering organisations brought this project to life.
Watercourses Project (Chalgrove Brook): Watlington Environmental Group
The Chalgrove Brook is believed to be the only Thame tributary that now retains a population of wild trout. One long-time, local resident within the travelling community was moved to tears by the recollection of the previous state of the stream’s abundant wild fish.
Bernard Venables Award
The WTT present the Bernard Venables Award to recognise those who, voluntarily, have given a lifetime of service to wild trout conservation and to WTT and whose vital work, perhaps unusual, sometimes outstanding, often goes unrecognised.
The 2018 winner is Phil Bailey, a keen river conservationist, angler, fishing guide and fly-tyer. Phil was the inaugural President of the Australian Trout Foundation and has fished and guided across many countries an is now settled in Yorkshire. Here, he works tirelessly across the county for wild trout conservation, including shoulder-to-shoulder with WTT’s Research & Conservation Officer, Jonny Grey, on the Wharfe, Ure, Aire and Ribble.
Phil is an ambassador for wild trout (and WTT), an event organiser, Riverfly monitor, tree planter, weed planter, woody debris installer and invasive species annihilator! His friends, in their proposition, noted of Phil that “ His continued energy, enthusiasm, commitment and sheer hard work to benefit wild trout and grayling populations know no bounds, in what is now his eighth decade. In short, improvement of conditions for fish, and being out on (and in) the river, is his main passions in life”.
Perfect attributes for a Bernard Enables winner. Phil will receive a Sage fly rod of his choice in recognition of his contribution to wild trout conservation.