Community Action for the Bear Brook

Community Action for the Bear Brook (CABB) is an initiative which aims to unite the residents who live near the Bear Brook in Aylesbury in a concerted effort to improve this important tributary of the River Thame.

CABB aims to create a lasting positive impact on this vital ecosystem by fostering community engagement and environmental stewardship.

Project Overview

The CABB project is engaging residents Aylesbury in becoming champions for the Bear Brook, adopting responsible water practices, and volunteering through hands-on conservation.

We are working in partnership with the Coldharbour Parish Council to build up a network of passionate volunteers in the area. The project aims to benefit people and wildlife by getting people outside to connect with nature, make new friends and do something hands-on and positive for their local river.

Project Launch

This project was inspired by our previous efforts on the Bear Brook to control invasive Himalayan Balsam, where we realised the power of community involvement. To gauge interest in continuing and deepening this work, we conducted an online survey in Summer 2023 and found that Fairford Leys residents cherish the Bear Brook for its beauty and recreational opportunities. Alongside this appreciation, there was shared concern about its ecological health and a clear willingness to address these issues together.

“Out of 39 responses, 90% of participants highlighted that the Bear Brook provides them with the opportunity to spend quality time in nature.”

This overwhelming support has ignited the spark for the Community Action for the Bear Brook project. We are now calling on the support of people who live alongside the Bear Brook to join in as volunteer and take part in our conservation efforts.

Aims and Objectives

1. Raise Awareness and Build Community Engagement
  • Objective: Facilitate awareness and interest in the Bear Brook, creating a strong local network of volunteers passionate about its ecological health.
  • Output: We will host community events for people of all ages as engaging opportunities to learn about rivers and how to protect them.
  • Outcome: Increased community connection with nature and empowerment to take positive action.
2. Environmental Understanding and Action
  • Objective: Understand the ecological condition of the Bear Brook and prioritise actions for improvement.
  • Output: Community members will be trained in citizen science techniques allowing them to gather baseline data which they can analyse and turn into effective action plans.
  • Outcome: A vibrant and self-sustaining volunteer network actively contributing to Bear Brook's restoration and ongoing management.
3. Himalayan Balsam Control
  • Objective: Control invasive Himalayan Balsam to prevent its spread and improve the riparian area.
  • Output: Run a series of "balsam bashing" events and train the community in methods for effective ongoing invasive species control to ensure our efforts make a long-term impact.
  • Outcome: Community members will become confident in identifying and effectivly controling invasive Himalayan Balsam.

About the Bear Brook

Bear Brook is one of the most urban tributaries of the River Thame, winding through Aylesbury with a complex system of branches. The Wendover Brook, a chalk stream, joins Bear Brook near Aston Reach. Bear Brook and Wendover Brook run parallel to the Stoke Brook and converge west of Fairford Leys before Bear Brook joins the River Thame just below the Aylesbury sewage treatment works.

Unlike the majority of tributaries in the Thame catchment, Bear Brook does not receive effluent from sewage treatment facilities, as the nearby Aylesbury Sewage Treatment Works outlets into the River Thame instead. However, Bear Brook is affected by pollution from road runoff, misconnected sewer pipes, plastic waste, and agricultural runoff from land outside Aylesbury.

Despite these challenges, Bear Brook is a haven for wildlife, especially through Fairford Leys, where the brook's natural course and ecological features are preserved. Wildlife such as otters, kingfishers, damselflies, little egrets, and various fish have all been spotted along the brook.

The 2019 and 2022 Environment Agency data reveal that the Bear Brook exhibits a classification of 'Moderate' for ecological and biological quality elements. While fish quality is classfied as 'High,' other categories like invertebrates and phosphate levels were classified as 'Moderate'.

Accourding of the Environment Agency, challenges hindering the attainment of 'Good' status include point source pollution issues, physical modification due to urbanisation, and the presence of invasive non-native species like the North American Signal Crayfish and Himalayan Balsam.

Industry and urban sectors contribute to these challenges, necessitating a collaborative approach for the restoration and improvement of the Bear Brook's ecological health.

Many thanks to the John Lewis Partnership Foundation for funding this project.

How You Can Get Involved

Join the CABB Community:

• Sign up as a volunteer on our platform.

• Spread the word to fellow residents.

• Participate in volunteer citizen science training events.

• Join outdoor family events and "balsam bashing" activities.

Sign up to Volunteer

Upcoming Events:

Stay in the loop by registering on our volunteer system, Better Impact, to receive updates and sign up for events.

Check out our events pages for upcoming activities:

View our Events

If you have questions or want to know more, contact us at enquiries@riverthame.org

Join us in making Bear Brook a thriving natural haven, fostering community engagement, and creating lasting positive change for Fairford Leys.

This project has been made possible through generous funding from the John Spedan Lewis Foundation.

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