It’s National Hedgehog Awareness Week!

Why are we promoting National Hedgehog Awareness Week?

We’ve lost a third of our urban hedgehogs and over half in rural areas so it’s important we can do whatever we can to slow the rate at which we’re loosing them.

Also when you picture the river you may not imagine a hedgehog there but when you start thinking about the river as a catchment of an area where water flows off the land into it, it encompasses everywhere including all the animals that live within it (and I’m sure a few hedgehogs have taken a drink from the river at some point).

Here’s a video from Catchment Officer Matt showing you what you can do to give hedgehogs a helping hand in your garden/allotment.

The adventures of Paxton the rescue hedgehog!

Next, we have an interview Matt did with Christine and Ava – two of our catchment volunteers that join us on days when we’re Moss Valley.

Hi Christine and Ava, I found out recently that you’ve got a rescued hedgehog living in your back garden and since it’s national hedgehog awareness week I wanted to ask you a few questions about it…

Why do hedgehogs need rescuing?
Hedgehog numbers are seriously in decline and there are various reasons why we may be able to help them along. They are often found injured by dog or rat attacks, they can be injured by a strimmer or they can get caught in garden netting and then starve. They can be underweight in the Autumn if they are from a second litter. If they are found wandering in the daytime it means something is wrong.
Where did you adopt your hedgehog from?
We adopted the Hedgehog from a friend who had been asked to look after it. On the 18/10/2019 it was found wandering around  in the middle of the day by a South Yorkshire Police Officer, so the Hedgehog was taken into custody!  My friend lives next door to the police officer and as the Officer knew she loves wildlife, they asked her to look after it. She rang the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) who put her in touch with people locally who look after Hedgehogs, but they didn’t  have  room so asked her to look after it.

In November it  only weighed 750g and needs to be at least 800g to be released, so she decided to over winter it. in December It went into hibernation and came out  in early spring at 800g. She kept it until it had made it back up to 900g, then asked us to give it a “soft release” as we live in the country and have safe water supplies at our ponds. The hedgehog came with it’s house and run and feeding stations. After a couple of days we opened the doors to the cage to allow it to explore our garden and the fields beyond. We have tried to keep track of it with a camera trap but we are not sure if it has been out of it’s run or if it’s still curled up in the house. We’ll keep on putting food down for it at the feeding stations and hopefully it will explore further and further afield and be less dependent on our food.

How do you look after the hedgehog?
Baby Paxton
Baby Paxton!
The British Hedgehog Preservation Societygave loads of advice. The first thing was to to weigh it. It was found to be under weight in October, at only 200g. So she was advised to keep it and feed it up. They gave her a Hedgehog house and a run and gave advise on feeding stations. She fed it on dried “Hedgehog Food” which you can buy at pet shops and wet cat food from pouches and plenty of water. She supplied it with hay which it used for lining it’s nest.
Have you given it a name? Is it a boy or a girl?
The local people from the BHPS, gave it the name of “Paxton” and thought it is a male.
What’s your favourite hedgehog fact you know?
That baby Hedgehogs are called “Hoglets”.

For more information on hedgehogs and what you can do to help this declining species go to –https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/

 

A Salmon’s tale: The Upper Don

Join us for the next part of the Salmon’s Tale! In this blogging series by DCRT trustee Chris Firth, follow Salmo the salmon smolt as he travels from the River Don’s headwaters to the low, meandering reaches of the river. Learn which fish species inhabit the three different reaches of the Don and pick up some of Chris’s expert identification tips along the way…

For several weeks Salmo the salmon smolt had been experiencing new, and rather strange feelings. He noticed his shape was changing and his scales were becoming a brighter and brighter silver, but most of all he had this compelling urge to leave the area of river in which he had existed for the last two years. The urge was growing stronger and eventually could not be resisted. He began to descend down the river.

The water helped him to drop down, further and futher, swimming backwards most the way. As he decended he noticed that the environment was slowly beginning to change. The river was widening and deeper pools began to appear in which he noticed much larger brown trout. Some of the fish were very aggressive and chased him away. In one of the pools he noticed strange fish which he had never encountered before. They were silvery in appearance but as they turned a flash of green or purple was obvious, particularly on their dorsal fins which were long and seemed to wave in the current. There were more than 30 fish in the shoal and they were intent on taking small flies from the surface. Can you guess this species? Scroll to the bottom for identification!

After two days he noticed that the flow had slowed down and as he looked around noticed several small silver fish which were identical to himself. They were all facing what appeared to be a wall across the river over which just a trickle of water was spilling. For several hours he and the other smolts remained confused and reluctant to try to go over the wall but eventually they found a small notch in the structure where the water was slightly deeper. Over he went dropping several feet into a pool below.

Over the next several days he was to encounter more than a dozen of these structures and his reluctance to descend them diminished. The river was getting much wider now and the pools much deeper. On one occasion whilst he and his fellow smolts rested before descending, he saw through the water surface a large grey bird which lunged forward grabbing the smolt alongside him. The captured fish shook in an attempt to free itself but to no avail. It disappeared down the throat of the bird. Salmo dived towards the sanctuary of the deepest part of the pool as quickly as he could.

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Over the next few days the descent involved several changes in the conditions. Several smaller streams merged with the main river and each brought with it changes in the taste and smell of the water. The pools got much deeper and the channel wider. The silvery fish with the large dorsal fins appeared in greater abundance as did the number of brown trout. Weeds rooted to the bottom became more common providing  cover from the increasing number of large trout and large grey birds that sought to consume him. He had reached the outskirts of Sheffield and despite what he had endured could not imagine the experiences that still awaited him downstream.

The species that salmo met on the first phase of his downstream journey were Grayling, sometimes called ‘ The Lady of the Stream’. This very attractive fish lives for up to 6 years and can weigh up to 1.5 kls. Grayling were the first fish species to be introduced to the Don as water quality improved on the upper river. The fish came from the River Hull at Driffield and were introduced to the river at Hazelhead in in 1983.

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A Salmon’s Tale: The Beginning

In this blogging series by Chris Firth, follow the life of a salmon smolt as it travels from the River Don’s headwaters to the low, meandering reaches of the river. Learn which fish species inhabit the three different reaches of the Don and pick up some of Chris’s expert identification tips along the way…

Crystal clear water tumbles, sparkling over a rocky riverbed under the warmth of the sinking sun. The upper reaches of rivers are generally unaffected by pollution, litter and development, offering us the opportunity to enjoy and experience a natural river environment. What could be more pleasant and relaxing than sitting on the banks of the river on a balmy summers evening watching fish rising, taking flies from the surface. This area of river could justifiably be described as its jewel in the crown.

Many centuries ago this headwaters, in the months of November and December, would have been a hive of activity. Hundreds of salmon, fresh from the sea, would have battled each other for a prime section of gravel in which to deposit their eggs.

Today this part of the Don is the preserve of the brown trout, a smaller but no less interesting cousin of the salmon. Apart from those occasions when we see the trout rise to the surface to take a fly, the life of these fish is largely hidden to us. What a shock we would get if we were able to submerge and witness the underwater commotion that is constantly taking place. This really is a hierarchical environment with fish constantly battling to protect their piece of feeding space. It may appear to us that there are only one or two fish when in reality there could be twenty or thirty in just five or six metres of river bed.

Brown trout lay their eggs at the same time of year as salmon and, for the first year and a half, the juveniles of both are difficult to identify from one another. At between 18 months and 2 years the young salmon begin to change significantly. The fish begin to assume a much more streamlined physique, their colour begins to change and they assume the same silver colouration of their parents. At this stage they are known as Smolts and are preparing themselves to journey down the river and out to sea.

salmon trout parr

The demise of the Don’s salmon population more than 200 years ago was brought about by the development of industry, in particular the construction of weirs, which obstructed the upstream passage of the fish. Over the last ten years amazing progress has been made in providing facilities to allow salmon to once again fulfil their desire to reproduce in the Don. Fish can now reach Sheffield and plans are in place to open up the river right up to those crystal clear sparking waters at the head of the river.

Between there and the sea the Don goes through many  habitat changes from tumbling rocky fast flowing conditions to deep sluggish sections where the river resembles a long slowly moving pond rather than a river. Within these varied conditions a fascinating range of fish species exist. Over the next few weeks we will follow the experiences of a smolt on his downstream journey to the sea. Lets call him Salmo. Salmo will face many threats as he descends the river, from giant predatory fish to conditions where he struggles to breathe. Will our smolt make it to the sea and become a magnificent silver fish, capable of swimming against the fastest of flows? Will he return to those sparkling upstream reaches to mate, ensuring that new generations of salmon are there for people to wonder at?

Make sure to follow the smolt’s journey next week in part 2 of the Salmon’s Tale series, written by DCRT Trustee, Chris Firth.

Barry’s Permeable Paving

We’ve been exploring things we can do in our gardens to help reduce flood risk in our weekly newsletter feature “NFM in the Garden”. Our volunteer, Barry Caldwell, has been in touch with a fantastic example from his garden using permeable, rather than standard paving, that allows rainwater to soak into the ground instead of rushing over the surface into struggling drains or directly into the river:

With both of our children living at home and now driving, we have had to face the inevitable decision to enlarge the parking area in our garden but we wanted a green solution that would allow us to slow the flow and do our bit for Sustainable Urban Drainage (SuDS) and wildlife! Inspired by a visit to the RSPB visitor centre at Spurn Head on the East Coast last summer, where the parking area was a permeable paving system and gabion boxes were used as a retaining wall, my wife and I decided to recreate a smaller version at home.

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The recycled plastic EcoGrid is placed on aggregate & soil

We used a good quality product recycled from plastic and a quality grass and small leafed clover mix, that if left to grow a little in the summer, would attract bees.

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The EcoGrid is filled with the soil & seed mix

Using a permeable paving system also meets planning regulations as permission is required when the area to be paved is more than five square metres! Dealing with runoff at source rather than allowing it to runoff quickly into the River Rother is a little contribution to reducing peak flows and therefore, flood risk. The gabion boxes were filled with some old concrete we had stored and we have ivy growing along them to hopefully attract lots of bugs.

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Gabion boxes filled with concrete

We are pleased with our hard work and it’s good to know that we are not increasing flood risk in places further north, such as Fishlake, so badly hit last Autumn.

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The finished product!

Further guidance on a range of ways to make your paving permeable is available from the RHS here.

Dan’s letter during lockdown

We were delighted this week to receive a letter from Dan – one of our regular volunteers on the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project in Chesterfield. He was more than happy to share this with everyone via our blog so here it is, enjoy!

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If you’d like to respond to Dan’s letter address it to Dan via our postal address and we’ll forward it on. Alternatively, if you’re feeling inspired to write about your experiences during lockdown please send them us using the address below –

Don Catchment Rivers Trust
Churchill Business Centre
Churchill Road (off Wheatley Hall Road)
Doncaster
DN2 4LP

7-steps to a river-friendly home

Hello, Matt here! Whilst we’re spending more time around our homes, I’ve come up with a few ways you can make your house that bit more river-friendly. Even if your house is not near a watercourse, you might be more connected than you think…

If you haven’t read our blog on 7 ways to a river friendly bathroom click here.

Check your water connections

If you’re going to do anything, do this one first!

If your house was built after the 1920s or if you’ve had a bathroom or kitchen extension the plumbing could be installed incorrectly and your waste water or ‘grey water’ could be going directly into a local watercourse instead of the treatment works.

Here’s a really useful guide to checking this – connectright.org.uk/misconnections

I actually spotted some of this on a walk along the Meersbrook in Sheffield last week which I reported to the Environment Agency. Can you see how the water is a milky, grey-blue colour? This is most likely coming from household waste water.

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Showing grey-water in the the Meersbrook, Sheffield

If you see any pollution incidents it’s important to report them. I wrote a blog about this a little while back – doncatchment.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/what-to-do-if-you-see-an-environmental-incident-along-a-waterway/

 

Be responsible for what goes down the sink

It’s important to remember that what you put down the sink or toilet could potentially end up in the river during storm events.  Dispose of cooking fats or oils in the bin by mopping up a frying pan with kitchen paper or bottling up larger quantities of oil and binning them. They may be composted in small quantities. Even if you emulsify fats with washing liquids they can still solidify in sewers, combine with other things that shouldn’t be there like wet wipes, and cause blockages – yorkshirewater.com/help-and-advice/blockages/

Scrape any leftover food in the bin or compost before you wash up and put any unused milk there too. Cow’s milk, if it gets into our waterways can have a more detrimental effect than sewage! This is because milk has a high biological oxygen demand – meaning it takes lots of oxygen out of water in order to break it down. This can often lead to water becoming depleted in oxygen and there isn’t enough for aquatic wildlife such as fish or invertebrates to breath.

You might have left house hold chemicals such as paints, white-spirit washing or motor oils, pesticides or fertilisers. These shouldn’t go down the sink, always refer to the product information before disposing these in the bin.

 

Use water smartly

WWF have found that up to a quarter of all rivers are at risk of running dry, and what’s a river without water?

Using less water allows more to be released into our rivers, especially during drought conditions. Whilst using less water during flooding conditions, using less when water is abundant can also help to not overload the sewer systems and then ultimately overflowing into our rivers.

And if you’re on a water meter you’ll save money as well!

I really like these tips the Eden Project have suggested for saving water

Sign up to receive water saving kits and tips from Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent Water

 

Responsible car washing and keep it free of leaks

If soaps get in to a watercourse they reduce the ability of oxygen to dissolve into water for aquatic wildlife to breathe. Washing your car on the road will means the soapy suds will be going directly into your local water course via the surface water drains. Try washing it on a surface that will soak up the washings such as gravel or grass. If you don’t have access to these take it to a car wash where the washings will be disposed of correctly (many of them are on old petrol stations which have a sump under them).

Keeping your car free of leaks will stop any unwanted chemicals washing off into the surface water drains too. Here’s some more tips for make your car more eco-friendly.

Here’s one I spotted last year, the surface water drain will be going directly into a watercourse.

Use eco-friendly cleaning products around the house

There are many eco-friendly cleaning products out on the market that if they do get in to the environment are less harsh. Also using these means less chemicals and energy are used at sewage treatment works to strip them out compared to conventional cleaners.

Here’s a few recommendations for cleaners:

countryliving.com/uk/homes-interiors/interiors/g30453765/eco-friendly-cleaning-products/

friendsoftheearth.uk/natural-resources/homemade-cleaning-products-5-fantastic-recipes

 

Dispose of litter in a bin or try to reduce single use

Here at DCRT we pick a lot of litter out of the river. Even if you responsibly dispose or recycle waste materials they still unwittingly can get into the environment. Here are some of the best things you can do to reduce, reuse and refuselessplastic.org.uk/9-tips-living-less-plastic/

 

Follow our ‘NFM in the garden’ feature in our newsletter

Debbie Coldwell, our Natural Flood Management Officer, will be giving us a few ideas of what we all can do in our gardens to help reduce flood risk.

Sign up to our newsletter here

Beginner’s guide to bird watching from home

Here’s Matt Duffy’s (our Catchment Officer’s) guide to how to start bird watching whilst you may find yourself around the home more than you usually would.

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Matt out bird watching along the Rivelin Valley, Sheffield

I started bird watching about 10 years ago when I was at university. I didn’t really have an interest in birds at all before this time but then I just started to take notice of those I was seeing as I walked through the park to university and wanted to know more about them.  I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert and I’m still learning but here’s my guide to how to start or develop your bird watching skills.

Before we go out bird watching there’s a few things to consider before you do so…

Laws and etiquette

Do your best not to disturb a bird whilst you’re birdwatching. They may appear agitated by your presence particularly if you’re near their nest (nesting season is March – end of July). They’ll often make short, sharp ‘alarm’ calls and make small jumping movements as well as flitting their wing – if they do, move away and this will hopefully allow them to relax them and continue with their natural behaviour.

Also, whilst it is amazing to see a nest, damaging or disturbing one whilst it is in use or being built is against the law as is taking any eggs. If you’re interested in looking at nests you may find an old one in a hedge or tree outside of nesting season which you can have a look at.

 

Equipment

You don’t need anything to start bird watching, just your eyes and ears and attention – I only bought my first pair of binoculars a few years ago. If you would like to make it an easier and more enjoyable experience, the RSPB have a guide how to choose binoculars here – https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/birdwatching/choosing-bird-watching-equipment/how-to-choose-binoculars/

Learning to identifying birds by sight

My first tip would be to go outside and see what you find – be it during a walk, sitting in your garden or even just opening up the window. Try to identify what you’re seeing and keep practicing. If you haven’t got any birds in your garden, think about attracting them by using feeders or by making your garden wildlife-friendly (https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/)

Bird books

When I first started taking notice – apart from their more obvious size and colour differences – all birds looked the same to me and I found it difficult to distinguish between them. I remember noticing a bird in the park for the first time and wondering what it was. I kept it in my mind’s eye until I got home and looked it up in a bird book. To my despair I found that there were several birds that looked very similar such as a Song

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Mistle Thrush Copyright: gailhampshire

Thrush, Fieldfare and Redwing! The books guided me through the specific plumage or markings, a range of habitats you might find a particular bird, the time of year and its characteristics which helped me narrow it down to that it was most likely a Mistle Thrush.

Any bird book will give you an overview birds but I can recommend this book for helping you step-by-step to identify what you’re looking at – https://www.bto.org/our-science/publications/bto-books-and-guides/collins-bto-guide-british-birds

 The internet

Now that you can carry the internet where ever you go it’s easier than ever to identify bird whilst out and about. Most people have high quality camera phones too, try to get a good photo of the bird you were looking at you can stick it on one of the many wildlife identification websites available (I use- ispotnature.org/) where there will be lots of knowledgeable people willing to help you identify what you were looking at. Facebook groups can be very helpful too, here’s one I’m – www.facebook.com/groups/yorkshirebirders

The RSPB has a great interactive bird identifier that you can click through to help identify what you’ve seen which is handy if you don’t have a book- https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/identify-a-bird/

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has lots of great videos on their YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/BTOvideo) for helping you identify different birds within a

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A Jackdaw – a part of the corvid family. Photo Credit: Edward Koczy

family. For example here’s one about the Corvid (Crow) familywww.youtube.com/watch?v=qi1p0yh4X3I

Other people

Is there a secret birder in your house? Is there someone that would like to learn with you? It’s great if you’ve got someone to ask or if someone else in interested in learning along with you, it can be a really bonding experience.

Learning to identify birds by sound

Like us, birds make a whole range of sounds depending what they are trying to convey. This could be a contact call which is basically the bird saying ‘hello’, an alarm call if something is disturbing it such as a person or predator, or it could be its song, used to attract a mate as well as defend a territory. Technically, songbirds are those that are part of the thrush, warbler and finch families. Their song is something they practice and get better at over time. Whereas a call is something they are innately hard-wired with from birth and doesn’t change over time.

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Watch the video here

Learning bird sounds is something I found very difficult to begin with. I was amazed that you could even identify a bird merely by its song! I’ve very slowly learned a few bird songs but as with most wildlife identification I’m still learning and finding out what I thought was one bird turns out to be another similar sounding one.

If you’re interested in learning how to identify a bird by sound, you can start with the birds you see in your garden or whilst you’re out walking. If you hear a call, stop and try and spot where it’s coming from. Watch and listen for a while and let the sound sink in while you hold the picture of the bird in your mind.

I’ve found that if I listened to them online, think about how they sounded and then got someone to test me, I slowly learned how each song should sound. There is often tell-tale or key-identifying features within the song that makes it characteristic to that bird and learning those can make it much easier to begin with.

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A chaffinch. Photo Credit: Edward Koczy

For example, click this link to listen to a clip of the chaffinch’s song. A chaffinch is said to have an ‘a-tishoo!’ sound at the end of its call as if it’s sneezing. Can you hear it?

Take a walk with me, listening to the bird via this video I created

Here’s some links bird sound clips:

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/04/identify-bird-song/

https://www.british-birdsongs.uk/alphabetical/

https://www.xeno-canto.org/ – A comprehensive list of bird sounds from around the world

Just keep practicing and you’ll get there!

Happy birding!

Here’s a two little quizzes of common birds you might see in and around towns and cities to see which birds you know already

https://forms.gle/vGArD7Lb7HpiWxG76

https://www.sporcle.com/games/Rackie/twit_twoo_click_who

Beginner’s guide to… Garden camera traps

In this blog we hear from Community Engagement Officer, Sally Hyslop, on investigating the wildlife in your garden.

Barn owls, foxes and otter pups are just a few of the incredible beasties we’ve captured on our riverside wildlife cameras over the past year. We’ve been amazed at the results, able to capture footage of animals hunting, foraging and even playing on the riverside.

But trail cameras aren’t limited to wild, remote places, and if you have a private garden* you have the potential to capture some incredible footage while you’re at home. In this blog we’re going to show you how to set them up to investigate the hidden wildlife in your garden.

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Watch the video here

Buying your camera

Wildlife cameras vary in price, with some costing a few hundred pounds. If you want to invest in a very good camera we recommend buying from Nature Spy, but you can get a cheaper one for around £50, with even supermarkets occasionally retailing them. They’ve come down a lot in price so even these cheaper ones capture great footage and sound, at day and night.

As well as the camera, you will need to purchase a memory card (we use a 32GB SD card) and lots of AA batteries. The camera we use takes eight – however this could keep it going for a few months. If your garden isn’t very secure you can consider using a small bike lock to keep it in place.

Set up

Think about what animals you are trying to capture – most British wildlife such as foxes, badgers and hedgehogs will forage fairly low to the ground, so positioning your camera about a metre off the ground should work well for most gardens. Think about where in your garden might best attract these visitors, such as a pond, hedgerow, scrubby area or secluded patch.

Find a tree or post you can easily wrap the camera strap around and secure your camera well with the strap, incase some curious squirrels investigate it. For best results, angle the camera slightly towards the ground – you can wedge a stick behind the camera to do this. It’s worth spending a little time getting this right, and doing some practise shots.

One thing you want to avoid is the camera capturing ‘false’ triggers which waste your battery, fill your memory card and make processing your footage a real pain. The camera’s sensors trigger recording when they pick up movement and a change in temperature. This means they can be mistakenly triggered, for example by a branch that has been warmed up by the sun and blown into view. The camera has quite a wide range of vision so make sure the whole area around it is clear from branches and vegetation – this may mean a little pruning. If you want to capture good quality images, make sure to position your camera towards the north or south to avoid dazzling sun rises and sunsets.

We’d love to hear about your wildlife camera projects, so if you have been inspired and capture any photos or footage you’d like to share, please get in touch!

*These tips are for setting up a camera in a private garden, rather than public parks or footpaths, for which you’d need landowner permission and signage.

7 steps to a river-friendly bathroom

Wet wipe woe!

After one of the wettest winters on record our rivers are not looking their best. Tangled in trees that line the riverbanks are hundreds of wet wipes, which could only have come from one place… the toilet.

Our sewage treatment works are only designed to hold a limited capacity of water. During events of high rainfall, the sewers often get overloaded and this could lead to them flooding into our streets and homes. To prevent this from happening the sewage treatment works are designed to release some of this excess water into the river system… and within that sewage is thousands of wipes and other sanitary products. What’s worse is these products actually block up sewers, increasing flooding risk even more!

Removing the wipes takes time, energy and money (adding to everyone’s water bills). As well as being unsightly they pose a real risk to nature, creating tangled webs of plastic in the trees. As they slowly break down, the wipes release small plastic fibres into the water which enter the food chain.

You can pledge to #Stopflushingwipes today.

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Want a river-friendly bathroom? Follow these seven steps:

  • Remember the 3 P’s – only pee, poo and paper are legally allowed to be flushed down the toilet.
  • Dispose of sanitary products in a bin or use a reusable menstrual cup. More and more women are switching to reusable products which are better for the environment, your health and your wallet!
  • Cotton buds – look out for brands with paper sticks and make sure they go in the bin!
  • For removing make-up, try flannels and fabric make-up pads which can be popped in the washbox and reused.
  • What goes down the drain can ultimately end up in the river. Eco-friendly cleaning sprays are on the market. On a budget? Try a spray made up of distilled vinegar and a splash of water.
  • Reduce single-use plastics and prevent them entering the river altogether. Use liquid hand soap? Either get your plastic bottle refilled at a zero-waste shop or go for a traditional bar of soap. Plastic toothbrushes are estimated to take 400 years to degrade, so try a bamboo brush instead.
  • Think about your water use. In the UK we use on average, 141 litres of water per person per day. Dirty water ends up in the sewers, risking overflow – so shower more, bath less and check your cistern has a water saving device.

… Enjoy your bathroom knowing that you are on nature’s side!

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Don Catchment Rivers Trust wins the UK’s first Prix Charles Ritz

The Prix Charles Ritz has been awarded in France for many years, and has now been extended to the UK for the first time in 2019.

Anglers have a long and noble history of initiating and supporting environmental efforts on streams, rivers, ponds and lakes, in most countries of the world. But with so few of our rivers currently considered ‘healthy’ according to European legalisation, the actions of individuals and communities in caring for their local waterways have never been more important.

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Now, as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it is becoming more essential than ever to celebrate our successes, as well as continuing to learn and collaborate internationally.

For many years, the prestigious Prix Charles Ritz has been awarded in France, to highlight projects which focus on improving wild fish populations in harmony with their natural environment, and reward those who enhance their local river habitat.

In 2019, the International Fario Club made the decision to extend the Prix Charles Ritz to the UK for the first time, as a special biennial award…

“… to build a bridge between the parallel fates of our rivers and wildlife, and a link with the various public involved in water preservation, including water and rivers statutory bodies, local communities, farmers, foresters, scientists, and consumers… on both sides of the Channel.”

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International Fario Club director Laurent Sainsot secured the assistance of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK and assembled a judging panel of experienced river restorationists to assess the entrants, under the watchful eye of president Albert Roux OBE:

  • Tony Bird, vice president of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK
  • Janina Gray, head scientist at Salmon & Trout Conservation UK
  • Johanna Halford, great grand-daughter of Frederic
  • Roger Harrison, a former trustee of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK, engaged in protecting the River Itchen
  • Theo Pike, chairman of the South East Rivers Trust, and Trout in the Town officer at the Wild Trout Trust
  • Charles Rangeley-Wilson, founder and vice president of the Wild Trout Trust
  • Richard Sankey, chairman of Fisheries Management Scotland & Kyle of Sutherland District Fisheries Board

A very wide range of 11 dossiers was received from communities, angling clubs and rivers trusts all over England and Wales, and the judges were eventually able to narrow these impressive entries down to three finalists:

  • Don Catchment Rivers Trust’s Living Heritage of the River Don project
  • Wilton Fly Fishing Club’s Stoford and South Newton Improvement project
  • Wye & Usk Foundation’s Gravelling the Elan System project

Different members of the judging panel visited each of these finalists, and eventually made the decision to award the UK’s first Prix Charles Ritz award to the Don Catchment Rivers Trust.

All agreed that the Living Heritage of the Don project reflected the innovative nature of contemporary urban river restoration, with its blend of technical excellence, partnership working, community engagement, long-term monitoring, and above all fish passage improvement – so that salmon are now reappearing in the post-industrial heart of Sheffield after an absence of 200 years.

The project has received a £2500 donation from the Fario Club supported by Peter Ahluwalia – Bellinvest Global Equity Fund together with a sculpture of a kingfisher, the river watcher, cast by reknowed bird sculptor Paul Harvey.

AR Lenoble champagnes & the Grange vineyards in Hampshire kindly presented the winners with bottles of their estates. Those two houses have a special dedication to rivers: Anne Malassagne /AR Lenoble vineyard has been awarded High Environmental Value, whereas the Barings, the Grange estate owners are active conservationists of the Itchen valley.

Albert Roux also proposed a “ Gavroche Angler “ personal award to the Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society for their efforts to protect and promote fishing on Hampstead Ponds, including tuition sessions for local schoolchildren.

The Prix Charles Ritz was presented at the Athenaeum Club in London on 29th January 2020, followed by dinner at the Travellers Club. During the evening, the Don Catchment Rivers Trust gave a presentation on their Living Heritage of the Don project, and a raffle was also held, with many highly desirable prizes generously contributed by members and friends of the International Fario Club.

Edward Shaw, DCRT director says : It was a real treat and honour to spend an evening with the Fario Club to celebrate our winning of the Prix Charles Ritz. We received a warm welcome from the members, and it was good to chat salmon and rivers with such knowledgeable people. The venues were the icing on the cake. The Athenaeum and Travellers Clubs were full of the trappings of exploration, enquiry, privilege and attainment, and it really felt we were somewhere special. It was a night we won’t forget, and we are most thankful for the generosity of the Fario Club for hosting us.

The International Fario Club warmly congratulates to the Don Catchment Rivers Trust for winning the UK’s first Prix Charles Ritz for their exceptional community-focused urban river restoration project.