The Wear Rivers Trust is hoping to secure further funding for projects with local farmers after its most successful year to date.
During 2014, farmers in the Wear catchment area benefitted for the first time from Environment Agency grants to help retain soil and nutrients on their land while also benefitting the health of the river. The scheme was well received and the organisation is now keen press ahead with additional work that has been identified.
Established six years ago through an amalgamation of the Weardale Environmental Trust and River Wear Environment Trust, the Wear Rivers Trust aims to improve the environment across the River Wear catchment.
Its recent partnership work with farmers in the area is just one of many successes to be highlighted in chairman Gary Johnson’s most recent annual report, which details a host of environmental and educational improvements accomplished during 2014.
Throughout the year, for example, three pipe bridges were removed from the River Deerness, meaning fish can once again access the upper catchment to spawn. This helps increase fish numbers and food sources for other species such as kingfishers and otters.
A large rise in the number of young trout was likewise recorded in the Cong Burn, where previous fish passage improvements were carried out.
On the education side, the Trust worked with more than 700 children through its Riverfly and Mayfly in the Classroom projects, and was recognised by the Clyde River Foundation in Scotland and the Wild Trout Trust for it continued accomplishments.
During the year, it also set up a community angling scheme on the river in partnership with local angling clubs, the Angling Trust and the Wild Trout Trust, encouraging young people to take up angling and develop an interest in the health of the river.
Mr Johnson said: “2014 has been the most productive year for the Trust, in which we have carried out a record number of environmental improvements and developed important partnerships with other stakeholders to expand the reach of the work we do.
“This year, the Wear Catchment Partnership has successfully identified specific issues throughout the whole catchment and developed projects to address them.
“The Catchment Partnership was established under DEFRA’s catchment-based approach and hosted by WRT.
“It provides opportunities for stakeholders such as Northumbrian Water, Durham County Council, The Environment Agency, Groundwork North East, Durham Wildlife Trust and Durham University, to name a few, to coordinate projects for the benefit of the river.”
In the year ahead, the trust is hoping to:
develop more contacts with landowners to address diffuse water pollution from agriculture;
carry out restoration, education and community work within the River Gaunless catchment;
develop fish passage solutions throughout the Old Durham and Brancepeth Beck;
deliver practical habitat improvements throughout the whole river with angling clubs and volunteers; and
see improvements in fish populations in all project delivery areas
Mr Johnson added: “We can look back on 2014 as a year of achievement.
“We have increased trustee numbers from six to eight, broadening our knowledge base, have increased our ability to support our staff and have spread WRT’s message further.
“I would also like to thank all our staff and volunteers for their efforts over the last year and hope that we can continue moving forward at the same pace next year.”