Buckingham’s River Great Ouse is on the way to Recovery Thanks to Regular Monitoring

The river Great Ouse running through Buckingham’s town centre is showing very promising signs of recovery, thanks to regular river invertebrate (riverfly) monitoring, now taking place by local River Wardens!

The River Warden group (initially formed in late 2019), in response to the devastating pollution incident in 2018 with the support from Buckingham Town Council and the Environment Agency, have now been trained to take monthly samples of the river. The training occurred on 18th July 2021, by an accredited Riverfly Training Instructor:

“It was brilliant to deliver a Riverfly Partnership Workshop in Chandos Park on Sunday and to be able to support the hugely valuable River warden scheme following your devastating pollution incident, the interest in the river and awareness of the park visitors was really inspiring.” - Ian Hawkins, East Anglian Riverfly Hub Coordinator

This training as part of the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) which is hosted by the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA), allows these newly trained Riverfly Monitors to score the health of the river, based on the presence and abundance of specific riverfly target groups. This ultimately aims to improve existing river monitoring in the local area and help detect and deter future pollution incidents.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Riverfly monitoring training session, after studying the theory it was lovely to put it into practice.  The session involved taking samples from the river, identifying and separating the indicator species and finally counting them before returning them to the river." – Ruth Newell (River Warden)

 Riverflies consist of caddisflies, stoneflies and mayflies which live most of their lives as larvae on the bed of rivers, emerging as short-lived adult flies. Acting as a biological indicators of river health, and being very sensitive or even intolerant of pollution, these invertebrates respond very quickly to pollution. Through this regular monitoring, trigger levels can be set, so that if they were to fall below the set threshold for this site, it would raise the alert of poor water quality.

During the training workshops, six of the eight indicator target groups were found in good numbers, demonstrating very promising river health and recovery. These included excellent numbers of olives (Baetidae), which are a family of small fast-swimming mayfly larvae, often called ‘agile darters’, along with abundant Gammarus (freshwater shrimp). There were decent numbers of larger burrowing mayflies (Ephemeridae) which are powerful 3-tailed swimmers that burrow into silt, good numbers of cased caddisfly larvae (Tricoptera), which make tube-like cases from stones, grains and plant material, along with the occasional caseless caddis.

Of greatest interest though were the several blue winged olives found (Ephemerellidae), which are particularly sensitive to pollution, demonstrating that the river health is surprisingly good. A stone loach fish was also recorded which was a species not re-stocked by the Environment Agency since the pollution event.

“This is certainly very encouraging news indeed, that given the chance, the river system can be quite resilient and is able to bounce back to its former health following such a catastrophic pollution incident just three years prior. Presence of all these invertebrates will not only provide food for fish, mammals, birds, and bats, but will also reassure the residents of Buckingham that their local river is healthy and safe.” - River Warden Coordinator, Ruth Coxon from The Conservation Volunteers (TCV).

The Buckingham & Gawcott Charitable Trust have made this training possible, by funding the riverfly training workshops and equipment needed for continued monitoring.

A public presentation of the cheque was made by Trust Chairman Councillor Robin Stuchbury during the morning training session on Sunday 18th July at Chandos Park, which turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year so far.

“It was great to see such interest from the public also enjoying the space at Chandos park with many passers-by, including young children, often showing an interest in the group’s activities, and asking what we were doing. Most were aware of the pollution incident 3 years ago and were pleased to hear that the river was recovering well.” - River Warden Coordinator, Ruth Coxon

Now trained up, the River Warden Group will be able to conduct monthly riverfly monitoring and input the results as publicly accessible data to the Riverfly Partnership’s online database. Monitoring efforts here will hopefully deter future acts of pollution and keep the river clean, healthy and thriving with wildlife for years to come.

“Riverfly sampling is an incredibly important tool in monitoring the river for water quality and in these days when the Environment Agency are under financial pressure with reduced ability to monitor water quality as they would have in the past. It is local volunteers who are needed to fill that space. If anyone is interested in joining I am sure that Ruth Coxon would welcome them and hopefully a number of further sampling sites can be created and monitored along the river to demonstrate the remarkable resilience and recovery of the river and to keep watch and report quickly any future incident of pollution.” Ian Hawkins, East Anglian Riverfly Hub Coordinator.

The River Warden group look forward to seeing how the health of the river improves. For more information about The Conservation Volunteers and the wide range of projects occurring nationally, please visit: https://www.tcv.org.uk.

Wellbeing Wednesday: Mental Wellbeing During A Pandemic

Taking care of your mind as well as your body is really important if Coronavirus means you are still spending a lot of time at home. You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel this way. The tips and advice here come from the Department of Public Health and Mind, and are things you can do to help you keep on top of your mental wellbeing.

Stay connected with others

Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family. This could be through a simple phone call, video call or even a text message. Try to set aside some time in your day or week to check in with others because they might need just as much support as you do.

Talk about your worries

Remember that it is okay to share your concerns with others you trust. If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead.

  • Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58
  • Call Samaritans on 0330 094 5717 or text 116 123.
  • Call Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393
  • Text SHOUT on 85258 to reach crisis volunteers 24/7. Texts are free.

Look after your body

Our physical health can also impact how we feel. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, stay hydrated and exercise regularly. Going for a walk, run or bike ride is a great way to lift your mood and clear your head. Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. But it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good, slower-paced activities such as walking can be just as beneficial. Need some inspiration? Take a look at some of our blog posts outlining activities that can help you to stay active during this time.

Keep your mind active

Make an effort to focus on your favourite hobby. However, if you don’t have one, picking something new to learn at home might also help to stop feeling anxious or worried. This is because continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and higher levels of wellbeing. So, why not learn something new today? You could read, write, play games, do crosswords, complete Sudoku puzzles or even start to draw or paint. Whatever it is, find something that works for you.

Get as much sunlight, fresh air and nature as you can

Bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress, and make you feel more relaxed. There are plenty of lovely open parks and greenspaces within Buckingham that you can utilise on your daily outings; don’t miss out on beautiful free experiences in your local area!

Winter Wellness Spotter Sheet

Heading outdoors for some fresh air?

To help brighten up your daily bit of exercise and to recognise Children’s Mental Health Week this year, which runs from February 1st to February 7th, Buckingham Town Council has put together a Winter Wellness Spotter Sheet for young children. Download and print the spotter sheet and see if you can spot some or all of these seasonal nature signs on your walk today. Please take part responsibly and follow government guidelines on social distancing. For more fun, we've added some extra activity sheets to be completed at home.Winter Spotter Sheet

Getting outdoors has taken on added importance in recent weeks and most people would agree that a walk in the fresh air is a sure way of clearing the head. The weather may be rubbish but encouraging our children to get back to basics and have fun playing outdoors can make a huge difference to their overall mental health and wellbeing. Even in winter, nature is still alive and there are lots of green spaces to see and explore within our lovely town. The spotter sheet can easily be completed around Bourton Park and Chandos Park and we hope it will make your daily walk even more enjoyable.

For more information about Buckingham walks and maps, visit our Walks and Maps page. Here you can download pdf copies of local walks and maps to help you explore beautiful Buckingham. If you cannot get out and about due to self-isolating, you should check out the Buckingham Community Heritage app Buxplore. Remote access has currently been enabled so you can choose your route and take a visual tour around the streets and parks of Buckingham, completing activities, questions, and mysteries from home.

We would love to see some photos of you out and about completing the Winter Wellness Spotter Sheet! Please send your photos to us via private message on Facebook, or tag us on your post using #WinterWellness #SpotterSheet @BuckinghamTC and don't forget to tell us what you thought to be entered into a prize draw to win a reusable water bottle. We will do our best to share as many of your photos as possible. Happy hunting!