Registered Charity Number: 1037414

Corona Lockdown.

May 3rd, 2020 in featured by emily

Clean Rivers Trust has been affected as have most research organisations with funding cuts and the ban on all but essential travel curtailing our work in the field. This later hardship has been the hardest blow as the weather since the travel ban and social distancing was introduced has been dry and for the most part warm, perfect field work weather, and uncharacteristic for April. The funding or rather the lack of is more usual being a small organisation used to such variable conditions. We are fortunate in that some of our volunteers in field research are active in other roles and not reliant on us. There is still some monitoring of one project, the largest field experiment the Trust has ever carried out, located near Belper in Derbyshire. This looks at the remediation of acid tars disposed of in the 1970s in old clay pits. I receive a weekly report by text or phone and a photographic record of the development of the willows being grown on the site. Such reports are eagerly anticipated and only possible as those carrying out the inspections live close by the site and incorporate into their farming schedule.

Then (2018)

Now (2020)

The lockdown in Birmingham has not been too grim, the garden and workshop have allowed for research and development of ideas. A large number of bird boxes have been built to suite a variety of avian tastes, wrens, tits and a jackdaw/pigeon/kestrel box. The designs are based on a variety of novel ideas demonstrated by the staff at Severn Trent’s Crankley Point sewage treatment works in the 1990s. These included terraces, multi-story and open fronted accommodation. Birds have already shown interest.

Entomological observations increased substantially due to the weather being such that time has been spent outdoors when possible away from the office. A wide variety of bees, wasps, flies and other beasts have been abundant throughout the last month. Hopefully they may have pollenated the apricot and quince along with the cherry. Time will tell. Mammals have also shown themselves; grey squirrel are the first on the bird table being driven off after the avian attack from the crows which arrive next. The fox is a regular night-time visitor, two sorts of bat have been noted at dusk, identified as Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s. Rats visit, the urban wilderness is not without its cleaners, feed of bits from the bird table and need to be discouraged as at times they attack or shoo birds off the grass. Wood and field mice are seen alongside the shrews that live close by the steps onto the lawn.

The avian life is remarkable only 20 minutes’ walk from New Street Railway Station; tits, great, long tailed, willow, blue, dunnocks, house sparrows, chaffinches, nuthatch, wren, jay, magpie, jackdaw and crow. Blackbird, thrush, nightingale, tawny owl, sparrow hawk, woodpigeon and collar dove all regular visitors. We have developed a woodpigeon squab lodger, which is now just going into its third night. Appears happy though a swine to feed with fake crop milk (ground birdseed and water). It is practising its flying, flapping wings and moving from desk to table and exploring the house.

A cattle trough in the garden acts as a trial bed and nursery for a variety of wetland plants, giant mare’s tale, juncus, reed, flag iris, sphagnum moss and papyrus (growing outdoors in the UK is a demonstration of climate variance).  The vegetation litter on the surface of the trough has been popular this year for nest building with all the surface cleaned right off by blackbirds. The jackdaws have destroyed ropes for nesting material and tits have similarly with hanging baskets.

The garden is already seeing nightly snail and slug hunts taking place and green and black fly are removed by hand in large numbers during the day.

It has been hard to focus on fundraising over the last few weeks as one can say little of concrete plans for field research: there are plans galore but when and looking for funding on unknown time scales is near impossible. There are other tar pits in Derbyshire, Cheshire and others in the West Midlands, flood issues in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, minewater pollution remediation from Cornwall and Kent to Fife in Scotland and Anglesey in Wales, tailings in Devon and near Manchester. Contaminated land in Derbyshire, Lancashire, France and Italy.  Dam issues in Derbyshire along side energy availability from waste waters and flooded coal and metal mines, educational programs that need rewriting to fit in the issues of pandemic concern alongside environmental considerations. This will eventually sort itself out once there is a route to normality, what ever that might be in the medium term.


We have been advising a new charity in India which is trying to remove pollution from a developing slum and upgrade a city’s sewage system, advised on two other issues in the Middle East. In Bangladesh we are helping the creation of a national Ecological Society with a group of academics from several Bangladeshi universities. We have further been contacted by many UK organisations seeking advice or partnership in projects across the UK which we are busy researching.  Such contacts are always exciting and lead us to new challenges.

Author: emily

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