George Mackintosh becomes River Restoration Centre River Champion

OUR RIVERS FINALLY HAVE A CHAMPION THEY DESERVE WITH AN AWARD WINNING VOLUNTEER
George Mackintosh has spent years helping to repair the river Avon to support wildlife and make the river a better outdoor place for all to visit.

SCOTLAND, APRIL 25th, 2018 – Rivers in the Forth finally have a champion they deserve with an award-winning volunteer called George Macintosh from the Slamannan Angling Protective Association. George has successfully been announced as a UK River Champion because of his hard work and effort in helping the river Avon near Slamannan, Falkirk. George has spent years volunteering with the River Forth Fisheries Trust and local landowners to carry out four phases of river restoration, bringing in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of funding to carry out these works. In addition to the restoration work, George has supported the Trust deliver its learning programme “Fish in The Classroom” to around 25 schools over the past 5 years helping in the region of 750 kids learn about rivers, trout and why they are so important for everyone and the environment.

George is currently working alongside the Trust to develop further works in the Upper Avon, which will improve the river through the RiverLife: Almond & Avon project. Through this project, the Trust, and George, at Slamannan Angling & protective Association (SAPA) will be working with landowners to help stop bank erosion, improve in stream habitat and boost river edge habitat for wildlife. There will be plenty of opportunity for George, members of SAPA and other volunteers to get involved with during the RiverLife project, which is happening with funding from Heritage Lottery Fund. George is a key driver for these works and without his enthusiasm and ambition in championing the river Avon a lot of this work would not be been completed.

The UK River Champion award is a prestigious accolade which seeks to recognises and celebrates the outstanding efforts of individuals contributing to improving rivers for wildlife and people outside of their day-to-day roles. The UK River Champion award is managed by the River Restoration Centre, a UK organisation providing advice and information on river restoration and catchment management.

George Macintosh, River Champion said: – “I am thrilled to have been nominated by friends at the River Forth Fisheries Trust for the River Champion awards and even more thrilled to have been chosen as a river champion by the River Restoration Centre. The river Avon near Falkirk is my local river which I have fished since I was a boy and helping it in any way I can provides me great joy and satisfaction that I can provide for it just as it has provided for me over the years.”
Alison Baker, Trust Manager at River Forth Fisheries Trust said: – “It was a great pleasure to nominate George for the River Champions award. Volunteers like George are the true heroes of our rivers in the Forth area. The Trust has had the pleasure of working with George for a number of years and at every step of the way we have enjoyed his enthusiasm for action on the ground. George has helped the Trust on several projects throughout the Forth, not just on the River Avon and his support is greatly appreciated. This is just one of many reasons we felt the need to show our appreciation of his hard work and effort by nominating him for the River Champion award.”

Martin Janes, Managing Director at the River Restoration Centre: – “The River Restoration Centre commends the many years of effort that George has put into improving the River Avon. A local Slamannan fisherman, his drive to recognise problems, engage the local community and find out what should be done has successfully found funding and delivered four projects along the river. He is fully deserving of a ‘River Champion’ award and we hope his excellent work continues into the future and inspires the younger generations with whom he is working in the local schools.”

The RiverLife project is in its second year and will run until July 2020, we have 2+ years ahead of action packed volunteer days, community lead action for our rivers, education days with Fish in the Class, and seeing the benefits to our river systems. You can follow the projects development and get involved at www. river-life.org.uk, follow us on twitter at @myRiverLife and on facebook through the River Forth Fisheries Trust’s page.

About RiverLife: Almond & Avon Project
Is an ambitious programme of works undertaking a range of catchment wide improvements along the rivers Almond and Avon. By engaging with communities and restoring the natural heritage of the Almond and Avon, the project will reconnect wildlife and communities with their local rivers.

 

River Restoration Centre UK River Champion Shortlist – George Macintosh

Ecstatic to announce that George Macintosh from the Slamannan Angling Protective Association (SAPA) has been short listed for the River Restoration Centre’s UK River Champion award. George has put in a tremendous amount of his own time helping the river Avon near Slamannan for the benefit of river wildlife and has personally driven a number of phases of river restoration through the angling club, pulling in £100’s of thousands of pounds worth of funding to support his local river. He also plays a large role in the Trust’s fish in the classroom project helping us deliver the learning programme to several schools in the Avon catchment by helping the Trust manage the project within schools local to the river Avon.

He is a true inspiration to all, especially everyone at the Trust and is highly deserving of the River Champion’s award. George will be attending the River Restoration Centre’s Annual UK Conference next Tuesday alongside Alison and Jonathan and an additional club member to find out if he has won. We will keep everyone posted on the outcome Tuesday evening but would like to congratulate George in his success of being shortlisted so far.

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Stroneslaney Tree Planting

Due to the Beast from the East the Trust had to postpone the tree planting events at the beginning of March. We have rescheduled for the 1t9th, 20th and 21st March between 10am and 3pm on each day. If you would like to get involved then please contact Amy for more details on a.fergusson@fishforth.co.uk or call the office on 0131 445 1527.
 
For more details on the project please see below.
 
The Trust has been successful with a funding application to the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Natural Heritage Grant Scheme for our new Stroneslaney farm riparian tree planting project.
 
The project will plant 500 trees in small enclosures along the river Balvaig near Balquhidder to help boost riparian tree planting in the catchment. As this field is used to hold livestock, enhanced fencing enclosures to provide the trees protection will be created by using fence posts and wire mesh. Small triangle pods will be created holding between 4 and 5 trees along with individual enclosures for individual trees.
 
The Trust is looking for help creating these small enclosures and planting the trees and has planned three volunteer events for people to get involved.
 
If you would like to get involved with this project please contact Amy for more information a.fergusson@fishforth.co.uk or call the office on 0131 445 1527

****FAIR A FAR FISH PASS OPENING CEREMONY POSTPONED****

****FAIR A FAR FISH PASS OPENING CEREMONY POSTPONED****

Sadly the #beastfromtheeast has led to us postponing the opening ceremony for fair a far fish pass which was due to take place on Saturday 3rd March. With the amount of snow which has fallen in the past 48 hours and the potential for more tomorrow and on Saturday we feel it would be best to postpone this event. We will update everyone on the new date once it has been arranged.

Can i ask everyone seeing this to share it far and wide and if you have mentioned it to anyone, can you please let them know it has been postponed.

Thanks,

Forth Fisheries & Partners

Rare Migratory Fish of the Firth of Forth

By Jo Girvan

Here at the RFFT, we are very focussed on monitoring and conserving migratory fish species such as Atlantic salmon, sea trout and sea and river lamprey. These species feed at sea, taking advantage of abundant resources and then move up into rivers to spawn at different times of the year – a migratory structure known as anadromy. But there are also a few less well known species that spend much of their time in the Firth of Forth, and move into rivers at spawning time.

Photo from Galloway Fisheries Trust

The sparling (or smelt) for example once formed an important fishery in the Firth of Forth. These fish are a relative of trout and salmon, and share the characteristic adipose fin between the dorsal and tail fins. They live in estuarine and coastal areas, but when it is time to spawn, they move into the mouths of rivers en masse and spawn in one huge event near the tidal limits in the river. In a document from the 19th century, Parnell describes how every available surface on the banks of the River Forth at Stirling would be plastered with their eggs. Until the 1950s, between 10 and 15 tonnes of sparling were fished from the Firth of Forth each year, but unfortunately, the population underwent a crash in the 1960s and has become quite rare. This decline was likely caused by water pollution and enrichment combined with overfishing and habitat destruction. Longannet may well have caused massive mortality by entraining sparling on its screens. Now it has been decommissioned, we may see a resurgence in this estuarine species.

Twaite and allis shad (known as the bony horseman and the alewife respectively) are also present in the Firth of Forth. They are a relative of the herring, and like sparling, they move into freshwater to spawn. They are known from the Solway Firth over on the west coast as well, but it is not known whereabouts in Scotland their breeding sites are. There has not been a commercial fishery for shad in the Forth, although the alewife apparently makes good eating, and so less is known about the welfare of these species over the last century. They are considered to be rare nowadays and are protected under the Habitats Directive and the Berne Convention. The twaite shad pictured was caught last summer off Newhaven pier, much to the surprise of the angler who was going for mackeral. 

Until around 200 years ago, the European sea sturgeon was often found in large British rivers such as the Ouse and Thames. It was also common in Scottish rivers and estuaries including the Firth of Forth, often found as a by-catch in salmon nets. Sturgeon are very long lived and can grow to 3m in length. They are very distinctive due to their bony appearance. They spawn in large rivers, however, it has never been confirmed that sturgeon ever actually spawned in British waters, or if they have simply been vagrants travelling from European rivers. They are critically endangered today, and the nearest known spawning population is in the Gironde River in Southwest France where a conservation and artificial breeding project is under way.

Redd Monitoring Update

Over the last few years, Trust staff have carried out redd monitoring within the Forth, Teith and Allan Water to identify how many redds are being produced by salmon in each catchment.  Most of this work has been carried out by Trust staff with a number of key monitoring sites to collect baseline data to help monitor salmon within each catchment and this year we engaged with a range of volunteers to support this monitoring work. During November and December 2017 the Trust and volunteers managed to survey 32km of river mainly in the Teith and Allan Water catchments monitoring redd numbers, up from 22km in 2016. It is most likely that we could of surveyed more this year but this was hampered by high water levels. A massive thanks goes out to all of the volunteers who supported this work with a special thanks to Martin McKenna and Tom McKenzie from the Allan Water Angling Improvement Association for covering a considerable stretch of the Allan Water.

At the moment, we are still processing all of the data but we can already say that it looks like there has been no significant drop in redd numbers compared to previous years. Initial findings have shown that more fish reached the top of the catchment than in 2016 which is thought to be due to the high water levels in late summer and autumn. This year redds were well spread out with more redds recorded in the upper catchment than in previous years and slightly less in the main stem but it should be noted that number of redds across the catchment remained consistent with previous years.

This year the Trust used some new technology to monitor redds in the form of a drone. A drone is a great way to monitor environmental aspects where a birds eye view can provide a better vantage point. The drone was deployed to collect aerial photos of survey sites and this data was then added to our mapping software where we could accurately map out the location and size of redds. It is planned that we will do this in future years to build up a picture of spawning locations within the monitored catchments so that in theory maps of redds can be created to indicate regions of nursery areas and monitor each year the number of spawners returning to these sites. This information can then be combined with electrofishing data and fry densities to continue monitoring salmon populations.

As well as the drone, the Trust launched its new and improved redd reporting application allowing members of the public to report redd sightings to us to help continue to build a picture of where salmon are spawning.

If you would like to get involved during the 2018 redd survey season please email us on trust@fishforth.co.uk and we will add you to our volunteer list. You can also keep an eye out on opportunities as they will be posted on our social media outlets.

Callander Landscape Partnership

By Jonathan Louis

Callander Landscape Partnership

The Callander Landscape Partnership is a diverse project which has been developed over the past few years by community members and organisation in the Callander area to improve and restore Callanders natural and built heritage. The Partnership is made up of 15 partners who include Callander Community Council. Callander Community Development Trust, Calanders Countryside, Callander Heritage and District Society, Callander Ramblers, Callander Youth Project, Drumardoch Estate, Facilitating Access Breaking Barriers (FABB), Forestry Commission Scotland, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Mclaren Leisure Centre, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Stirling Council and the River Forth Fisheries Trust.

Each partner is leading on a different aspect of  the project with the Trust leading on the delivery of river based learning and projects to improve the natural heritage of callanders rivers. This exciting partnership will see three main projects being delivered on the ground to help rivers and the wildlife that use them. The three projects are; Leny Burn Riparian Improvement Project, Garbh Uisige Brash Bank Protection and the Aquatic Learning and Conservation Centre.

Leny Burn Riparian Improvement Project

A project looking to improve the last remaining unfenced section of the Leny burn. The Leny burn is an important spawning tributary and working with the landowner, the burn will be fully fenced with an increase of riparian trees along the length of the burn. As browsing of vegetation is important, a grazing regime will be devised and livestock will be allowed into the edge of the burn to help manage vegetation.

Garbh Uisge Brash Bank Protection

The Garbh Uisge Brash Bank Protection will look to work the the Little Leny Wet Meadow project to help slow down the erosion on a section of the Garbh Uisge. A bend in the river is starting to erode and if left the natural processes of the river will eat into important wet meadow habitat. The Trust will lead on the installation of environmentally friendly bank protection using brash and willow to help stabalise the bank. Trees will also be planted along the top of the bank to increase root structures within the ground and increase riparian woodland. This work will support wildlife, especially fish by providing cover in-stream and protect wet meadow habitat.

Aquatic Learning and Conservation Centre

To conserve aquatic wildlife and promote the knowledge and awareness of the different species within rivers and lochs, it is proposed to create an Aquatic Learning and Conservation Centre on the outskirts of Callander. The centre will be created as a place to engage people with different wildlife in rivers but also as a place to help conserve species such as freshwater pearl mussels and arctic char. Initially though the centre will help produce fish eggs for the Trusts fish in the classroom project. it is important that the trust uses fish eggs suited to the rivers in the Forth as currently the supply of eggs comes from a hatchery in England. By having a facility to produce eggs from fish within the Forth it means that the genetic strains in the rivers can be preserved and not diluted by fish from other parts of the country. The centre will also be opened at times to groups to visit and learn about the work being undertaken and will be an important engagement tool to teach people about rivers.

On top of the three main projects the trust will deliver a range of engagement activities such as;

  • Fish in the classroom
  • Introduction to angling
  • Inns training/ID workshop
  • Scale collection/reading workshop
  • Angling instructor training
  • Redd survey training

At the moment the partnership are currently waiting to hear back from the Heritage Lottery Fund to see if they are willing to fund the project. We should hopefully hear back in March on whether the project has secured funding to proceed to the delivery stage.

Strathard INNS Project

By Amy Fergusson

Through funding granted from the Strathard Initiative, River Forth Fisheries Trust was asked to undertake American Skunk Cabbage treatment and engagement with the community in the Strathard area. This project has included practical work, workshops and other engagement activities over Winter and will continue in to Spring to try and bring this problem to light in the community.

Skunk cabbage is an invasive non-native species (INNS) that can be found in the riparian zone and in boggy stretches of land close to a waterbody. This species can establish itself along a waterbody and will choke the watercourse and outcompete native species for resources. This can lead to a lack of biodiversity in the area and the continued domination of the skunk cabbage as it spreads.

River Forth Fisheries Trust undertaken the practical work in September through spraying, digging and manual removal techniques of the Skunk Cabbage with the help of volunteers from the community. These volunteer days were very successful in showing the impacts of Invasive Non-Native Species on the environment and the manual removal of the plant was tough work but very rewarding!

Along with the practical work we have engaged with the community through events such as the Aberfoyle Santa Day. This was a fun stall day for the members of the community right before Christmas. It was also a chance for RFFT to spread the word about INNS while providing fun activities for the kids to have a go at. The office fish enjoyed their day out and the kids enjoyed trying to identify all the bugs that were brought along! Workshops with the Aberfoyle brownie group are also planned for spring and we hope that they enjoy the activity.

This project has been very rewarding in seeing the communities’ interpretation of INNS and the Skunk Cabbage in the area. We hope that the project has allowed the members of the public to understand the problem more and how it is dealt with.

Over the next month we will be working with the community to develop a strategy for dealing with INNS in the Strathard area. We will also be engaging with the local brownie troop to provide further engagement with the younger generations of the community.

Fish in the Classroom 2018

By Amy Fergusson

We have successfully undertaken the first stage of our Fish in the Classroom project once again for 2018. This year we have carried out the project in 11 schools in Stirling, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, West Lothian, City of Edinburgh, East Lothian and Fife council areas. During the project, River Forth Fisheries Trust delivers a special lesson to the classes which teaches them all about rivers and the fish species, this then helps them to look after the fish eggs that they are responsible for. We then deliver the trout for them to look after!

 

The trout have settled in to their tanks and are growing happily in the care of the school children until they are ready to be released in March. In the meantime, the pupils get to complete the special project workbooks recording water temperature and the fish’s growth! The release day will provide an exciting look at what the trout will be feeding on as they get ready to commence to rest of their life in the wild and we look forward to some exciting field trips with all the schools involved as we head out to nearby rivers and streams. We hope all the schools are enjoying looking after the trout and arelooking forward to the release day as much as we are.

 

This year our schools were funded by lots of different funders. We would like to thank EDF Burnhead Moss Community Fund (Slamannan & Limerigg), Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, Murieston Environmental Group, Friends of the River Tyne, RiverLife: Almond & Avon, British Science Week, East Lothian Angling Association, Devon Angling Association, and especially the individual schools, for providing the funds which allowthis project to take place.

Allan Water Floodplain Agroforestry

By Lawrence Belleni

The Allan Water Improvement Project (AWIP) worked with Nether Cambushinnie Farm to develop and submit its first Agroforestry application to SRDP’s Forestry Grant Scheme this winter. The scheme, if successful, will see 4 ha of sessile oak (Quercus patraea) and silver birch (Betula pendula) planted on the Allan Water floodplain in a manner that will benefit both agriculture and the environment. Although Agroforestry is common globally from America to Africa, planned agroforestry whereby the trees have been planted for that purpose is not common in Scotland or the UK. Infact, during the time of application this was the only Agroforestry application in Scotland applying to the SRDP’s Forestry Grant Scheme.

Agroforestry is a combination of silviculture and agriculture that allows a crop of trees to be grown on the same field that is being grazed by livestock (silvopastoral) and/or is used for arable crops (silvoarable). The system increases the productivity of the land to the farmer by the addition of an extra tree crop. This agricultural strategy to grow upwards by using trees as well as at ground level is often described in agroforestry circles as farming in 3D. This method of farming can provide shelter for livestock, reduce topsoil loss through wind or run off, an earlier and later bite of grass for livestock (reducing feed costs), improve drainage of standing water via roots and an additional income of timber from the land.

The farmer at Nether Cambushinnie saw the advantage of farming in 3D and how he could fit this in with his current crop cycle which involves 5 years of sheep grazing followed by two year of arable oat crops. The AWIP saw this as an opportunity to achieve floodplain woodland at this location and the benefits that come from it. Floodplain woodland here would provide organic inputs and cover for riverfly life, which in turn benefits salmon and trout in the river. In addition, the rigosity added to the floodplain by planting rows of trees will also contribute to attenuating downstream flood risk by slowing flood water travelling over the floodplain and increasing water depth and storage. The biodiversity of fauna and flora that would utilise the trees would also benefit the wider river ecology of the area.  

To achieve this, we had to work with the farmer to design an agroforestry system that was right for them and maintained current grazing and crop cycles on the land. We came up with a design that ensured there was space between rows of trees that allowed sheep grazing and convenient oat crop harvesting. Native tree species silver birch and sessile oak were selected due to their attributes being very suitable for the site and will be individually protected from roe deer and sheep by using posts and wire mesh. The sessile oak is a high value timber species that is shade tolerant and slow growing, whilst the silver birch has a lower timber value, lighter canopy and is faster growing. The species accompany one another well as the birch will act as a nurse tree by growing faster than the oaks which encourages them to have a straight stem required for valuable timber. As the lighter canopy birch grows, the shade tolerant oaks should not suffer stress before the birches are harvested, which will then provide room for the oaks to continue growing. This is the theory anyway, as far as we know, it has never been tried before. Thankfully, agroforestry experts provided us with reassuring and supportive words after looking at the design.

This is an exciting project that combines the benefits of floodplain woodland by rivers with agricultural good practice and increased productivity for the farmer. Hopefully, if our application is successful, we can achieve more 3D farming in the Forth district rivers going forward, which has the potential to benefit all.

Sessile Oak plantation from a previous scheme at Nether Cambushinnie