8th March 2021

Guess who visited the Colne Valley Regional Park recently…… The BBC Countryfile film crew!

We were very excited when the Colne Valley Regional Park was featuring on the programme, along with some of our Landscape Partnership Project too, which are supported by the Heritage Lottery.

The presenter Charlotte Smith and the fabulous film crew meet up with Chloe Crompton our River Manager and Lydia Murphy Wetlands Officer from Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust for two back to back days of filming with lots to cover and showcase too.

Below we explain more about the topics that will were featured. If you are interested in knowing more, follow the links for comprehensive background here on our website.

The River Rangers tackling the pesky and damaging floating pennywort

Charlotte joined Chloe from Groundwork South to hear all about our fantastic group of River Rangers with over 90 registered volunteers and what we have been tackling over the last few years- the pesky and damaging floating pennywort. Floating Pennywort is a non native invasive species which  was brought to Britain from South America in 1980s as a plant for tropical aquaria and garden ponds but escaped into the wild where it naturalised in 1990s. The species thrives on shallow margins of slow flowing river systems and water bodies across Colne Valley Regional Park and is a major threat to our waterways. It spreads rapidly and has a fast growth rate, up to 20cm per day in prime conditions, forming dense matts of entwined vegetation, which dominate watercourses, obstruct boats, prevent angling, and outcompete native species. To make matters worse the species is able to regrow from a small fragment,  and can flow downstream and create a whole new population hence why we need all hands on deck to eradicate this species from the Colne Valley.

Unfortunately due to current covid restrictions we were unable to host a volunteer session with the river rangers, so instead Charlotte got a taster first hand of the pennywort removal and what a good workout it is too!  This was a great opportunity to showcase how important partnership working is (especially for pennywort which ignores all borders). We were joined by; The Canal and Rivers Trust, canoeists from Shark Canoe Club and fisherman from Uxbridge Rovers. The Canal and Rivers Trust have an extensive pennywort removal programme starting with a weed cutting boat, an impressive bit of machinery, pulling massive matts of pennywort out of the canal and you can now see a clear easily navigable waterway. Charlotte joined the canoeists from Sharks Canoe Club  who work to complete sensitive removal of smaller fragments or in areas where the machinery can’t reach, while fisherman from Uxbridge Rovers tackled pennywort on the river. This is a big team effort and we need all hands on deck. If you would like to help out on any upcoming volunteer days (within covid restrictions) April and May volunteer sessions dates will be released soon our events page here.

If you would like to learn more about floating pennywort check out local information here  or the national GBNNSS website here.

Below images show Charlotte and Chloe removing floating pennywort 

Riverfly Surveys

Charlotte and Chloe also had fun splashing around in the River Misbourne, a beautiful chalk stream, to complete a riverfly survey another River Ranger activity to assess the water quality. Riverfly surveys are part for the national riverfly partnership where volunteers across the country monitor the water quality of the river by looking at the abundance of 8 target species such as cased caddis (see image below). These species are sensitive to pollution and are good indicators of water quality enabling early identification of any pollution events that occur in the river seen or unseen. If  the riverfly score drops below a level bespoke to each site, this then triggers an investigation by the Environment Agency, another great example of partnership working. Here in the Colne Valley Regional Park there are over 15 volunteer River Rangers monitoring 14 different sites but there are always more rivers to survey, if you want to get involved and help protect your local rivers check out our River Rangers project here  or contact Chloe via email: [email protected]

“River Rangers are real champions of our watercourses here in Colne Valley, it was fantastic to showcase their work with Countryfile and Charlotte getting hands on with the work too. We were pleased to be able to highlight the importance of partnership working to tackle non native invasive species working with key stakeholders such as the Canal and Rivers Trust, which is essential for the future of our waterways. Working together we can protect our rivers for everyone to enjoy”.

Cased caddis

Angling and Nature Conservation  and Preventing water voles from becoming extinct

The Countryfile crew had plenty to film when they visited Sabeys Pool, run by West Hampstead Angling Society, to document the work of the Angling and Nature Conservation project. West Hampstead Angling Society have been major and proactive participants in the project and are working hard to get the best out of their fishery for wildlife as well as the fish they manage.

The crew got live action shots of the club’s fishery manager, Anthony Johns, putting some finishing touches to two kingfisher boxes the club have installed to reinstate an old kingfisher nesting bank. Charlotte also chatted to Lydia Herts and Midlesex Wildlife Trust Colne Valley Rivers and Wetlands Officer, about why fisheries are up there alongside nature reserves as refuges for wildlife, and the benefits of working in partnership with the angling community.

Meanwhile, over on neighbouring Croxley Hall Fishery, one of only two stronghold sites for water voles in the Colne Valley, Charlotte joined Tony Booker, Chairman of the Colne Valley Fisheries Consultative, in checking camera trap stations he has set up to monitor the population there. It seems the water voles knew the crew were coming – tune in to see some cracking footage of these rare mammals!

It’s important to understand the lengths conservation organisations, the angling community and volunteers go to to ensure water voles still persist in the Colne Valley, and to that end Charlotte was also roped into checking a footprint monitoring raft for presence of the invasive American mink, which is a serious threat to the survival of water voles. Thankfully no signs of mink on the raft on the day, and the water voles were free to continue basking in the limelight in front of Tony’s camera traps.

“Anglers do an incredible amount to help wildlife and fisheries are fantastic places for nature, but all this so often takes place out of the public eye. Countryfile has been a wonderful opportunity to showcase these guys’ contribution and to celebrate anglers as custodians of our wetland landscapes.“

Lydia and Charlotte filming in the Colne Valley

Kingfisher bank digging 

Water voles in the Colne Valley