Water voles thriving in the Trossachs

Water voles are recolonising restored wetlands in the Trossachs thanks to an ambitious re-introduction project. Over 1,000 animals were released into 1,700ha of restored wetland habitat on the National Forest Estate and are now thriving throughout the Trossachs. In November last year, this project was shortlisted for The Nature of Scotland Awards which gives recognition to conservation projects for their excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in Scottish nature.

This is a great partnership project which includes the Trust along with Loch Lomond & Trossachs National park and the Forestry Commission. 

Click the picture below to read the full press release 

Kirkton Weir Fish Pass Officially Opened

The RiverLife: Almond & Avon project has now achieved its first full year to provide river improvements for healthier wildlife, and wider benefits for the communities living and working alongside the two rivers.  The completion of a fish pass at the Kirkton weir in Livingston is the first of six weirs to be improved to allow native fish to swim over what has long been a barrier to them.  This will help fish such as Atlantic salmon, sea and brown trout, eels and lampreys to more easily migrate between spawning and feeding areas in different parts of the river. By opening up new habitat for fish RiverLife is doing its bit to create a flourishing and sustainable fish population in the Almond. A wide variety of other animals will also benefit including insects, heron, otters and kingfishers.

Kikrton weir is owned by West Lothian Council and was built to provide water to the corn mill in Livingston Village (now the Almond Valley Heritage Centre).  The works would not have been possible without the support of the Centre and also the staff at Memsstar who allow access across their land.

These works have been undertaken alongside enhancements to one of the Almond’s main tributaries, the Killandean Burn where the RiverLife staff have trained and then worked alongside community volunteers to create more natural river habitats, upgraded paths and  steps, a new bench for visitors and riverside tree planting.  RiverLife has also run a successful small grants scheme where funds were provided to Firefly Arts to enable children and young people to produce, direct and star in a film about the river called “River Where. Further information about the film can be found here:  http://www.fishforth.co.uk/rfft/files/2017/12/River-Where-Final-Report.pdf

Over the next three years RiverLife will continue to tackle the next four fish barriers, ultimately opening up the full length of the river to our important native fish for the first time in generations. Action will also start within the Avon catchment to improve the local river and involve local individuals and groups to develop better access and information about the water environment and its connection to the local communities.

RiverLife: Almond & Avon is a partnership project between the River Forth Fisheries Trust, West Lothian Council & City of Edinburgh Council, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, SEPA Water Environment Fund, The Scottish Government, West Lothian & City of Edinburgh Councils. 

Commenting on the project, Alison Baker, Trust Manager for the River Forth Fisheries Trust said: ‘The RiverLIfe: Almond & Avon project is working with local communities to improve the physical habitat of the rivers for wildlife and for their benefit and enjoyment.  The installation of the fish pass at Kirkton Weir demonstrates this process with local community groups, businesses and organisations working together to improve the natural environment.  The Trust looks forward continuing to deliver improvement with local partners over the life of the project.’

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:  “Partnership projects like this are immensely important for our environment and communities, and it is exciting to see this significant step forward in restoring fish access to the River Almond. I look forward to the further developments planned for 2018, and to seeing the River Almond once again host significant populations of migratory fish, as well as the wider benefits for wildlife and local communities.”

Councillor Tom Conn, West Lothian’s Executive councillor for the environment, said: “I am delighted that the Kirkton Weir is once again passable to migrating fish species. This represents a step change in the fortunes for the River Almond, once one of the most polluted in Scotland, but one which has been improving incrementally over the last twenty years or so through long-term, multi-partner commitment.”

Francis Hayes of SEPA’s Water Environment Fund said: ‘Completion of this state of the art fish pass is the first step in a long term project to improve fish migration, wildlife habitats and community engagement along the River Almond. While we still have a long way to go, Kirkton Weir is positive proof of what can be achieved in local rivers by good partnership working and we look forward to the project’s next exciting phase.’

RiverLife: Almond & Avon is a partnership project between the River Forth Fisheries Trust, West Lothian Council & City of Edinburgh Council, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, SEPA Water Environment Fund, The Scottish Government, West Lothian & City of Edinburgh Councils.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It’s that time of year again when we wish all of our followers and supporters a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year when it arrives.

Its been a great year for rivers in the Forth with many projects to support wildlife and communities being carried out. We couldn’t have done everything without the support of our fantastic volunteers. A massive thank you to everyone who has helped on a trust project or activity during 2017. Here is to another successful year and keep an eye out for more exciting opportunities on our facebook page in 2018. 

The office will be closed from the 21st December until the 3rd January.


Fair a Far Fish Pass Works Progress Update

With the calm settled weather of recent weeks the contractors have been progressing with the Fair a Far fish pass project which is part of RiverLife: Almond & Avon. The second flight of the pass and middle wall was poured during the start of December providing a wedge type structure of concrete on site. All outward facing walls will be clad with stone to fit in with the weir, mill buildings and natural rock structures within the surrounding. This cladding has been started on the lower flight on the fish pass and has been secured to the concrete walls using brackets and wall ties to provide it strength when the river is in flood.

The second week of December marked a momentous occasion for the project as all of the major structural concrete pours for the fish pass have now been completed. The second week in December seen the project continue with the concrete floor poured in the second and final flight of the fish pass. This was delayed by a day due to the exceptionally cold weather the area seen but thankfully due to the site being near the sea, temperatures rose enough to continue pouring the concrete. Thankfully the delay was only a day and work was able to progress throughout the week completing this fantastic milestone. The project will now focus on the cladding, the cut water, the eel and lamprey pass along with the baffles which will be installed on the bed of the fish pass to provide flow diversity for the fish to swim up.

The following pictures highlight progress on site with this project.

As Christmas is fast approaching, the site will be closing down on Friday 22nd December and reopen after the 3rd January when the project will be completed. All equipment and machinery will be moved to the site compound for safety reasons.

Fair a Far fish pass is part of RiverLife: Almond & Avon , a partnership project between the River Forth Fisheries Trust, West Lothian Council and The City of Edinburgh Council .

RiverLife: Almond & Avon is funded by: Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland West Lothian Council The Scottish Government and The City of Edinburgh Council

Spotting Redds in the Allan Water Catchment

By Lawrence Belleni

I paid a visit to the headwaters of the Allan Water system yesterday and decided to take a peak at a small upland tributary I’d heard salmon used for spawning. It was great to discover that the rumours were true!

I came to a small pool in the tributary immediately below the hills of Highland Perthshire that had two salmon (possibly three) throwing wakes and ripples around as they harassed and chased one another. It was a stunning and beautiful sight in such a small upland tributary. I also saw three redds over a short section of watercourse closeby to the salmon. One of which (see photos), looked rather small for what I thought the size of a salmon redd should be. Possibly this is a trout redd or maybe it is a salmon redd and they just make do with what is available in this tributary. I’ll need to consult the Trust biologists further on that one!

I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is these salmon choose to overcome all the obstacles to make it to this upland stream to spawn, instead of spawning at suitable locations downstream. It really highlights how these animals are capable of utilising full river systems, as long as the access and habitat opportunities are there. It also provides an inspiring vision of how all our upland tributaries should be.

Fair a Far Weir Fish Pass Works Progress on the River Almond

Works are progressing at Fair a Far weir on the river Almond. During the week commencing 13th November, the contractors installed shuttering to create the first of two curved walls which make up the fish pass, the second was poured week commencing the 20th November in two stages.

The concrete fish pass walls are now well above the temporary road and progress can be viewed from the path adjacent. During the week commencing 20th November, a test panel of the masonry cladding was built in the site compound . This will be used on the outside of the pass to make it more in keeping with the rest of the weir. The weir is made out of large blocks of stone and the fish pass cladding will mimic this to blend in with the structure.

Fair a Far fish pass is part of RiverLife: Almond & Avon , a partnership project between the River Forth Fisheries Trust, West Lothian Counciland The City of Edinburgh Council.

RiverLife: Almond & Avon is funded by: Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland West Lothian CouncilThe Scottish Government and The City of Edinburgh Council

River Leven to be Deculverted at Glenrothes

The River Leven to be deculverted at Glenrothes.

The Trust attended a pre-planning application consultation today held by Advance Construction who are the new owners of the Tullis Russell paper mill site in Glenrothes. The plans are still being developed but we were pleased to see that the river will be re-opened and the area linked to existing open spaces in Glenrothes including Riverside Park.

It was good to discuss the options available with the developers who were very receptive to looking at full re-naturalisation including removal of the weir, reservoirs and lades.

There will be many opinions on the site and full restoration may not be possible given site constraints, flood risk etc however the best way to engage is to have early discussions so that they at least know what the potential could be.

In that discussion there was some great chat about new cafes and restaurants near the river and the benefits of a wide range of wildlife that would enhance the experience. They were not aware that there is salmon, eels or trout in the river and were interested in the opportunities enhancing the river could bring.

Part of the Trusts work is talking with others to bring about change and today was a good example of how we can hope to influence decisions to improve our rivers.

If you live or work in the area and want to see their plans, the developer will be at Rothes Halls in Glenrothes between 1pm to 8pm tomorrow December 8th.

New Redd Reporting App Launched for 2017

The Trust has launched a new redd reporting app for people to report their redd sightings to us to help understand spawning habits in the Forth. 

If you are out and about along any rivers in the Forth and spot a redd (migratory fish nest) then we would love to know its location. You can let us know by using the below form. 

If you have any questions please contact the trust on trust@fishforth.co.uk or call 0131 445 1527 .



Monitoring RiverLifes biology

By Jo Girvan

This season, on top of surveying rivers in the District such as the Teith, Forth and Allan we also monitored fish populations in the Rivers Almond and Avon in support of RiverLife: Almond & Avon. This monitoring formed part of the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund as many projects which restore or improve the water environment are not monitored due to lack of funds. The Heritage Lottery Fund has allowed the Trust to create monitoring plans for each project to research how these improvements are benefiting the water environment.  

 In order to produce a robust dataset for both catchments,  45 sites were fully quantitative surveyed i.e. using stop nets and fishing the areas several times to get an accurate number of fish within a given area. This was more time consuming than usual and thanks to the regular downpours experienced all summer, we were very worried that we wouldn’t be able to complete our planned surveys. In the end we managed to finish everything with the able assistance of our electrofishing stalwart, George from Slamannan Angling Protective Association, plus two new volunteers – Kevin and Ian. Kevin & Ian both attended the RiverLife electrofishing training course at the start of the season and shaped into very competent field surveyors. They were also extremely patient with the numerous last minute cancellations the weather inflict ed on us, which was most helpful! Their time is greatly appreciated and a massive thank you goes out to all the groups and volunteers who helped with electrofishing over the summer.

Now, on to the results. As usual, only a few salmon juveniles were found in the River Almond, around the regular area downstream of Mid Calder weir. It is expected that once the RiverLife project eases fish passage at Mid Calder weir (scheduled for 2019) along with the other ones in the catchment we will find some salmon further upstream. Some sites in the Almond gave cause for concern when it seemed that trout had all but disappeared only to be replaced by bullhead, but there were a few surprises when sites previously dominated by bullhead yielded a lot of trout. Perhaps the populations are in a constant state of flux in this regard. Hopefully the coming years of monitoring will shed some light on this.

Salmon spawning on the Avon seemed to have been most successful in parts of the main stem, with some upstream tributaries giving disappointing results. We will have to keep an eye on this as the RiverLife project progresses. A series of instream improvements in the upper Avon are due to commence in 2018, and this may help production at the top of the catchment. The Avon is one of only a few rivers in the Forth District where salmon are known to spawn right the way to the top of the system (the Allan Water and Teith being the others).

On top of monitoring fish populations, other biological monitoring will take place thanks to the Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Monitoring invertebrates will also take place across both catchments to record changes to invertebrate communities. This work was carried out at the end of the summer and results are still being processed. On top of staff collecting samples, the Trust also has a citizen science project which is providing training to volunteers to monitor riverfly which will also help collect information which can be used as a high level indicator for change, either from pollution events, changing water quality or from works undertaken by the project.

If you would like to get involved with monitoring for invertebrates or fish in the rivers Almond or Avon please get in touch with Lorna l.oldershaw@fishforth.co.uk