I have previously worked as a Senior Warden for the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, as Reserve Warden for the RSPB; as Assistant Warden for the Wildlife Trusts and as a nature reserve and forest ranger. What all my previous roles had in common was that they were all within the confines of a nature reserve, where primary objectives were to preserve, enhance or restore habitats for the benefit of UK wildlife.
Working on a nature reserve is a really special privilege and I was lucky enough to have many magical experiences. I won’t bore you with all my nostalgic memories; however having 80,000 waders flying over my head into a sunset is definitely one I’ll never forget!
There is no doubt that the UK is home to some truly amazing wildlife and has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. I feel very passionately that everyone and anyone can gain an appreciation for this and learn to love where they live.
This year Keep Britain Tidy, the organisation that encourages us all to ‘love where we live’, celebrated its 60th birthday. I’m a great supporter of this campaign. I have been lucky enough to work in some of the most beautiful parts of Britain – however, even in some of the remotest areas, there has always been one common evil: litter. And litter harms wildlife, it’s as simple as that.
So, when I was offered the role of Rivercare Project Officer by Keep Britain Tidy I just could not resist the opportunity. I’m here to support volunteer groups who adopt a local waterway, and then work together to maintain and enhance their local environment. So what was it that inspired me to take on a new challenge? In one word: volunteers. I really believe that it takes a very special person to dedicate time out of their (usually already hectic) life to volunteer. In my previous roles I have had the pleasure of working with some incredible volunteer groups who pick litter, repair fences, survey wildlife, construct hides, pull up invasive plants, layer hedges, and build boardwalks – to name but a few! Their passion is really inspirational. More often than not they’ll work in all types of weather conditions and endure all sorts of hardships and I think these people are modern day heroes.
Rivercare and Beachcare groups are an inspiration. Since starting the role I have visited groups on fragile coastal dune systems, chalk bed rivers and urban green spaces; and I have been lucky enough to see an array of magical wildlife including great crested newts, little terns, ospreys, water voles, marble white butterflies and sea holly.
On Wednesday 23 July I attended the Rivercare Group Network Meeting at Rutland Water. Over 15 Rivercare groups, Anglian Water, the Environment Agency, The Rivers Trust and Keep Britain Tidy were at Rutland on a gorgeous summer’s day. Barry Bendall, Director of the South & East, from the Rivers Trust gave an informative introduction to catchment management, highlighting the agricultural and industrial threats to our waterways. Martin Bowes from Anglian Water also discussed the importance of catchment management, talking about the Water Framework Directive, the Drinking Water Directive and the importance of improving the quality of the local rivers.
The Environment Agency Catchments Officers, along with Rivercare and Anglian Water staff, talked with each group about their riverways and the issues involved in catchment management. All of the Rivercare groups had an excellent understanding of their area and how they can play a vital role within catchment management.
After a well-deserved coffee break each Rivercare Group reported on news, issues and events from their area. This was really enlightening as it emphasised how varied and diverse each Rivercare group is and what an important role they play in protecting their local environment. Botelph Green restored a pond for great crested newts after winning a long battle against the alien Crassula helmsii. The Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook were observing highly active water voles and working with their local Sainsburys to improve local wildlife. Great Yarmouth Beachcare have kept the North Denes site of special scientific interest area immaculate, showing off the true beauty of coastal dune systems. Abington have raised funds and developed a new shoal and are preparing to undertake this habitat restoration project in August. Thorpe Gate have led a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to educate people on the local wildlife. Sleaford have battled the urban menace of the ‘litter lout’ to create a pristine stretch of river teaming with trout. Cuckoo’s Hollow won a 2014 ‘Best Green Belt’ in Peterborough and Grantham Rivercare won the Lincolnshire Environmental Community Award, judged by a panel chaired by Professor David Bellamy.
These are just a few examples of what Rivercare groups are achieving within Eastern England and I hope through my blog I can share the inspirational work that these passionate and dedicated volunteers do for our environment. Loving nature and loving where you live can make a difference – so, if you’re interested in joining your local Rivercare or Beachcare Group or have any concerns about a waterway near you, then please contact me at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org