Alex Cripps – Catchment Partnership Officer
It’s been a year since the River Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership was established and we have a lot to be pleased about!
The new initiative – the River Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership – has brought together the Yorkshire Esk Rivers Trust (YERT) and the North York Moors National Park Authority to pool knowledge and resources to improve and safeguard the catchment’s valuable ecosystems. Our Partnership has the support of DEFRA which, in 2013, rolled out the Catchment Based Approach idea across the UK promoting the need to work together to protect and improve our river catchments, with particular focus on sharing the knowledge, skills and expertise of local people.
I was appointed the Catchment Partnership Officer to help deliver our three year Action Plan which sets out a range of projects including river habitat improvements, fisheries monitoring and wider community engagement initiatives.
The main watercourse of Esk and Coastal Streams management catchment is the 28 mile River Esk which flows through some of the area’s most outstanding scenery. Its catchment is almost wholly within the North York Moors National Park – heather moorland, valleys of farmland, ancient woodlands and stone built villages – it reaches the North Sea at Whitby, just outside the National Park boundary. The river hosts a variety of wildlife which rely on it to survive including Freshwater pearl mussel, Water vole, Atlantic salmon, Sea trout/Brown trout (same species), Sand martin, Dippers, Kingfisher and Otters (which are found now in increasing numbers).
Over the last year we have secured funding to deliver particular projects in the Catchment – the People’s Postcode Lottery is funding the delivery of our Discovering the Esk project (look out for a future blog post) and the Environment Agency’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund is funding our Glaisdale Beck Restoration Project. Glaisdale Beck is a tributary of the River Esk and suffers from a number of issues affecting water quality, which inevitably in-turn affect the aquatic life found within the beck. Our restoration project is addressing these issues, such as:
Fine sediment – this causes huge problems for spawning fish including Atlantic salmon and sea trout, as a layer of fine sediment over spawning gravels (where fish eggs are deposited within the gravel) starves eggs or young fish (alevins) of oxygen. It also affects species such as the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel.
Nutrients and organic matter, and bacterial loading – from dirty water run-off from farms and livestock having access to the watercourse.
Pollution incidents – we have established a team of local people to act as Riverfly Monitoring Volunteers to assess water quality on a monthly basis by monitoring aquatic invertebrates that are very sensitive to water quality. There are 30 sites being monitored across the catchment, including sites in Glaisdale, so if the number and diversity of aquatic invertebrates drop the Volunteers can alert YERT of any apparent pollution or other trigger incidents so the source can be tackled quickly and the effects limited.
Habitat deterioration both in-channel and along the riparian corridor – working with local farmers capital works will be undertaken over the next few months which will help to improve the water quality and riparian habitats of Glaisdale Beck:
- 2,481 metres of fencing adjacent to Glaisdale Beck will prevent livestock accessing the beck and stop stock excrement entering the river, and also stop the bank sides becoming broken up and bare of vegetation because of stock. The newly formed buffer strips within the fencing will allow riparian vegetation to develop and trees to become established, stabilising the banks and catching sediments and nutrients that may run off neighbouring fields.
- 5 drinking bays and 2 cattle pasture pumps will be installed because we’re fencing off the access to Glaisdale Beck so we obviously need to install new water supplies for stock.
- 2 crossing points will be strengthened where there are pinch points in the landscape which livestock pass through on a regular basis. Crossing points can become poached (muddy and eroded) and loose sediments are then easily washed into any nearby watercourse. Crossing points benefit from the laying of hard surfaces such as concrete sleepers to lessen the poaching.
- 60 trees will be planted to bolster the age structure of riparian trees in the dale and help stabilise the banks with their impressive root systems.
As usual, teams of National Park Volunteers have already been hard at work in the catchment doing management tasks that make such a difference such as removing derelict fences, repairing existing fence lines and installing new ones. Over the next couple of months they will be carrying out other tasks such as tree planting too. As always, thanks to all of them for their hard work!