Steve Lowe gave the Coquetdale branch of the Wildlife Trust a most interesting talk on River Work Challenges for Northumberland.
Steve has worked for 40 years on otter and river management, and explained that as rural areas are linked to urban areas by rivers, both contribute to the problems found in the water.
The water body categorises rivers and waterways according to how clean the water is along the whole stretch. There is one bad watercourse outside Morpeth, but otherwise Northumberland has a range of different water qualities.
The value of fishing on the River Tyne is £16million and supports 570 jobs so it is important to keep the water clean.
To improve rivers there is tree management, fencing to keep stock from trampling down the banks, flow deflectors and the use of spawning substrate as salmon often can’t spawn due to silt. Willow spiralling has been used up the Beamish to divert the silt through the living fence when the river floods. It has been successful, but is expensive.
Another increasingly large problem has been the introduction of signal crayfish to the UK as they are destroying our native white clawed crayfish due to a virus they harbour which only kills our native species, their large size and ability to eat everything. The ARC project is trying to reintroduce native crayfish.
Eels are rarely seen in our rivers, but European eels used to breed at sea then migrate up the rivers, before returning to spawn in the sea six to 20 years later.
Their numbers have probably declined due to overfishing and loss of habitat.
The Living Waterways project, from 2012-2015, focused on reducing flood risk and checking on pollution.
Otters are in 85 per cent of our watercourses, while water voles are nearly extinct. There is a project in Kielder to reintroduce them.
Steve thought that European beavers would be a helpful solution to change landscapes and slow water as they are small animals and build small dams.
The next meeting will be on Monday, at 7.30pm, when Phil Hanmer will give an illustrated talk on Newcastle To The Limpopo, followed by the AGM.