A Personal View of Clean Rivers Trust. I.
It was in the late autumn of 1990 that a group of anglers concerned for the future of the water quality of the River Trent met at the Spring House pub on the edge of Newark in Nottinghamshire. I was invited to attend the later part of the meeting was concluded; I was at the time representing Friends of the Earth (FoE) in the region and receiving more than my fare share of media exposure.
I was asked by the body of the meeting if there was anything that could be achieved to remedy the decline in the rivers biological and riparian quality. This request had been anticipated and I had been informed by the FoE nationally that it was not an issue of the moment. The strong emotions expressed at the meeting and a public meeting held two months later at which the Trust was formed proved that the issue was of moment to many thousands of people across much of the midlands, the North East and West of England.
At the public meeting, held at Newark Town Hall the Ball Room was packed as were the side and anti rooms. The midweek meeting fare exceeded the numbers expected to attend with coach loads of interested people attending from Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Manchester and Merseyside. The attendance far exceeded the allowed numbers that should have been allowed to enter the building. The meeting was both awe inspiring and nerve racking. I will never forget it and the many hundreds of attendees. The media, both local and some national did us proud with both the coverage and allowed the new Trust or Campaign as it was then enough space to get our comments across. This led to some very rapid actions and responses from the various official bodies; Severn Trent Water, The National Rivers Authority, and others.
The need to spend extra money on sewage treatment at locations along the river was agreed and the required permissions were sort and granted from the office of water regulation, and planning authorities. The largest excess expenditure that has ever been agreed and put in place was accomplished over a two year time scale with dramatic consequences for the river and its quality. The river ceased to be a foaming sudsy stream with bank upon bank of white burghs. Instead the water was clear; some may say gin clear or too clear. The fish stocks returned to the volumes they had been though the species cadres had altered. The nature of fishing the river has altered and now some anglers would like more colour or warmth in winter flows (this from some of the power stations that have now closed). Small things that occurred; such as a juvenile dolphin travelling the near 60 kilometres of the tidal Trent and its return to the sea unhampered by the waters, or porpoises travelling to Cromwell Weir made this period memorable. The people though are the most memorable, people who raised funds, organised discos, ran raffles on the riverbanks, the Sheffield angling shop that raised hundreds of pounds that allowed the work to be done. Two people though that saw the organisation through its formative times were Brian and May Richmond, their support and faith in the organisation were with out compare.
I had said to those that asked for the Trust to be set up that I would give two years of my life to the clean-up of the River Trent; it will not be long till that becomes 22. In that time the organisation has grown and its expertise has diversified, but it’s still got its roots imbedded in the area where it all began by the River Trent. I am proud of what the organisation has achieved and am confident that the future challenges will continue to emerge both in the UK and in many other areas of the globe. The Trust is a capable organisation that has been founded on solid research and a broad knowledge base. The ability to respond to major and minor incidents and with the near all encompassing expertise will allow it to move forward.