Checking the health of rivers and streams

Members of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team surveying a technically difficult section of the River Coquet.
Members of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team surveying a technically difficult section of the River Coquet.

A search for a water plant was launched this summer to help check the health of rivers and streams in Northumberland National Park.

The extensive survey, which is helping to support a vision for the natural environment, saw a team of 17 volunteers, supported by the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT), inspecting bodies of water across the park for the plants.

Paul Freeman, deputy team leader at Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, with some water crowfoots.

Paul Freeman, deputy team leader at Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, with some water crowfoots.

Water crowfoots are aquatic plants related to buttercups that are native to the UK and are recognisable by their small, seasonal white flowers.

They thrive best in unpolluted, moving water courses, such as streams and rivers, and their presence has long been used as a natural indicator of clean water.

Abi Mansley, programmes officer at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “The water crowfoot survey is one of the activities we have carried out as part of our drive to enhance nature within the National Park.

“In addition to looking for water crowfoot, other things we plan to monitor include the range of the mountain bumblebee and black grouse, the number of high-quality hay meadow sites and waxcap grassland sites (special grasslands that support an array of colourful fungi).

“The River Coquet has long been renowned as a great place to see water crowfoot, alongside rivers and streams in the Tweed catchment in the north of the National Park, but the data we had was out of date and needed checking for accuracy.

“The aim of this initial survey is to collect new, more precise and up-to-date data and to set a benchmark from which we can measure future changes.”

Two more technically difficult sections of the Coquet, downstream from Thrum Mill and between Shilmoor and Linnbriggs, were surveyed by a water-trained team from NNPMRT.

Deputy team leader Paul Freeman said: “It’s very important for the team to work collaboratively and maintain good relationships with external organisations and agencies as it not only helps to raise awareness of what we do, but it is also a great opportunity for us to gain additional experience and enhance our training in areas that we might not ordinarily venture into.”