River Tale Report

November 06, 2010

This year’s balsam pulling was carried out on 30th June & 22nd July. We were 5 volunteers on the first day & 4 on the second. As previously we started at Danes Mill & worked down to the confluence at Cadhay Bridge.

Considering that it was reported to be the driest year since the 1930’s, the river was in excellent shape. Plenty of water & an abundance of wildlife. However, the river weed was substantially less this year,  having previously made an impressive comeback since TVT fencing grants excluded stock from the water.  Brown algae on the other hand covered a considerable percentage of the pebble bed. This was probably a combination of increased sunlight, lack of scouring from fluctuating flows, &, regrettably, evidence of some granulated fertilizers being spread directly into the river.

Bankside vegetation was lush & fish life abundant throughout. Previous TVT scrub clearance plus additional work organised by Mervyn Newman is paying dividends. There were shoals of fry in the backwaters, shoals of fingerlings in many pools, & brown trout 4”-10” in abundance.

We saw a dipper, a brood of moorhens, a duck sitting on eggs, several golden ringed dragonflies, heard a kingfisher, & saw evidence of otters throughout.  There were encouraging signs of water vole activity from Tuck Mill downstream, though some stretches were noticeably busier than others.

(A vole was watched from the new Escot bridge   during the last week of June, apparently living in the footings).

4 mink rafts had been set with traps throughout May & most of June but no mink were caught. It is thought that possibly at least one mink passed through in the Spring but had not settled. The Himalayan Balsam seemed to be more abundant this year, although we still achieved the whole length in the 2 days. Perhaps it was more widely distributed but less dense. Rydon Farm who  independently pull their stretch reported more too, with over 80 plants in 500m. Interestingly although normally well into flower by now, only 5 or 6 flowers were seen at all along the whole river over the 2 days. Many were not yet even formed.

For the follow on day on July 22nd we again had 4 volunteers but still managed to complete from Tuck Mill to Cadhay bridge – approx.4 miles. Subsequent individual outings through the Clappertale stretch during August & early September removed over 200 plants, so there is no room for complacency.  Again, water voles were very evident throughout, as were otters, dippers, kingfishers & shoals of fish fry. There were no signs of mink, & the rafts showed no mink prints. 2 rafts showed clear otter tracks.

Many thanks to our willing volunteers: Reg Hawkins, Dave Miles, Mervyn Newman, Neil Loomes, James Rusbridge & Nick Hawkins.


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