a busy year for the project volunteers

We are a year and a half in to the River Teign Restoration Project now, and despite a slower start than we’d have liked due to the pandemic, we are seeing some real improvements to the river now. There has been a lot going on, much of which can be seen on our website, Instagram or newsletters.

We knew at the start that this was an ambitious project, and we also knew we wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of volunteers giving their time and energy to the conservation of the Teign. We are so grateful for all the ongoing work that our volunteers put in, we really couldn’t do it without you.

Here is a bit of a review of the volunteer work that has been taking place so far, and with lots more to come (see Volunteer Opportunities for more info).

Riverfly

In April 2022 we held a Riverfly training day for 14 new volunteers, who had all expressed an interest in carrying out aquatic invertebrate surveys on the Teign. Riverfly is a national scheme and highly regarded as a useful way of monitoring river health. The data give us important long term trends in invert life (and therefore the health of the river) and also tells us if something has gone seriously wrong. We store the records locally, but also send them to the Riverfly Partnership for their national dataset, so the data the volunteers provide is really useful.

We were very lucky to have the trainer Fred Leach volunteer his time, and the Teign Riverfly Co-ordinator also give up his Saturday to come along – many thanks to you both. The new volunteers join the existing Riverfly volunteers that were already trained and surveying, so thanks to them too for their ongoing input. We are very proud of our Riverfly project, and look forward to running another training event next April for anyone else who would like to take part.

River Watchers

We have a rapidly growing number of River Watchers in the Teign – people who are the eyes and ears of the river. We have people who regularly walk a stretch with their dog who report anything untoward (or positive!), a number of keen walkers who do the same. We have concerned locals who report foul smells or streams running full of sediment, anglers who call in all sorts of things like blockers and piscivorous birds. All of this is incredibly important to us: not only can we only be in one place at a time and so would miss much of this, but also this information is stored by us and used. It provides us with information, evidence, records and data, all of which can strengthen our cause and help us to really find out what the issues are on the Teign. There is no minimum input, no formal requirements, and we will always welcome observations and recordings.

Blocker team

By blockers we mean dams formed by fallen tree limbs and small branches, leaves, silt and sometimes litter that can form a barrier across the main river but more often in the smaller tributaries. The effect of these barriers can prevent the downstream migration of juvenile salmon and trout, prevent the upstream migration of returning adults, and form localised areas of slow moving water that allow increased and unnaturally high rates of predation. There is a small group of 5 volunteers who help us to clear these blockers with the use of bowsaws, ropes, breaker bars, secateurs and shovels and pure muscle power. So far this this year blockers have been removed on several tributaries on the upper Teign and the main river Bovey. One stream was completely blocked in at least 5 different locations, it took 3½ days to clear and opened up 1 km of stream with some good spawning gravels.

Volunteer Richard and project officer Geoff taking a well earned break after shifting a huge barrier on the Bovey.

Chudleigh Wild

We are very fortunate to be working alongside some very dedicated volunteers through Chudleigh Wild. These volunteers are long term local residents and also highly experienced surveyors, so we absolutely jumped at the chance to work with them. Chudleigh Wild have made the Kate Brook their focus for this year, so are looking at all things watery. We have set up 4 new Riverfly sites here so we get an idea of the health of the Kate Brook, and we are planning to carry out a river habitat survey in August. This will map out important features of the brook, such as key habitats, gravel condition and suitability for spawning, land use, any point sources of pollution, physical barriers etc. Chudleigh Wild members will also be surveying for wildlife too, including dragonflies and otters. The Kate Brook is a tributary we don’t have much information on, so we are looking forward to building on this. We’re also grateful to the members who either let us know about issues (eg the ongoing housing developments in Chudleigh have seen ever increasing levels of run-off into streams), or when things are particularly bad report them directly to the Environment Agency. Our sincere thanks to you all.

Spawning observations

Volunteers assisted with redd counting surveys between November ‘21 and mid January ‘22. A redd is the “nest” where salmon , sea trout and brown trout lay their eggs. The rivers Bovey and Teign and some tributaries were surveyed. Identifying redds is very interesting but not easy and takes some learning and experience, and the conditions have to be good. It’s a very important part of our work and the reward comes when salmon are observed making their redds and pairing up for egg laying. By counting redds we can see where spawning has been successful, where the habitat is good and where it is poor and is in need of restoration work. This past spawning season salmon were seen far up the Teign and this may be as a result of habitat improvement works. Salmon were observed spawning around Chagford and redds noted on the Teign as far downstream as Steps Bridge. Results were poor on the Bovey with only two locations having confirmed salmon redds. The Teign produced 53 confirmed redds with the main spawning activity in and around the Chagford area. There’s lots more information about spawning and redds on the News & Blog page of our website. We would really welcome more volunteers who could take on a current or historical spawning location, keeping an eye open for spawning salmon and their redds. Locations are from the heights of Dartmoor down to Newton Abbot.

Data retrievers

We have a number of temperature data recorders placed in the Teign and Bovey. From time to time volunteers assist project officers when retrieving temperature records. Recordings are retrieved to a mobile phone app. We are fortunate to have two technical geek volunteers who then take the data and record it in an easily understandable graph.

A recent data retrieval showed a clear correlation between the start of salmon spawning activity and a sharp drop in water temperature after a frost. Spawning continued for 4 days and then ceased as water temperatures rose. Spawning recommenced at the next drop in temperature. This important knowledge will help volunteers and project officers to focus the timing of spawning observations.

The hot weather in July has prompted another round of temperature data retrieval with maintenance planned for late September. Volunteers will continue to play an important part in this activity.

Habitat Workshop and introduction to Fly Fishing, volunteer effort

On Sunday 10th July 6 volunteers anglers assisted with the 1st of this years Habitat and Fishing events. With 8 participants the event was well attended. After introductions and a short presentation about the project and fishing in general, the day started with one of the novice anglers, also a Riverfly volunteer, assisting with a kick sampling survey of invertebrates. Interestingly a number of small bullheads (fish) were collected along with the usual assortment of juvenile bugs. After identifying and learning something about the bugs the novices were introduced to the various pieces of fly fishing equipment and artificial flies that are commonly used.

There then followed a masterclass in the basics of fly casting. Each participant then paired up with a volunteer for casting practice. Participants then went fishing with their paired volunteer for an hour or so. Conditions were difficult with hot weather and low water, no fish were caught but several were risen (risen = angling jargon for nearly caught).

Thanks again to the volunteers, Lewis and Flora of the Dartmoor Shepherd for the use of their fields and reach of the river, the Angling Trust for the equipment and the Environment Agency for the rod licence waiver. We plan to hold a further such event in September and any local angler is encouraged to assist us.

The title photo of this blog shows volunteer and ace angler Harry Chance demonstrating a cast to novice Tom Cottingham.

If you’d like to find out more, or have some suggestions for further volunteering opportunities, we’ll always be pleased to hear from you.

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