This has been a momentous year for RTCT. Highlights include completing another major floodplain restoration project, hosting numerous in-person events & training sessions, and expanding our staff team to 5 full-time members. Continue reading for details on what we’ve done through the seasons.
We started the year off with the launch of the award-winning documentary film The Chalgrove Brook: Rescuing of a Chalk Stream created by Nicola Schafer in partnership with Watlington Environment Group.
We also hosted the first Thame & Chilterns Farmers Forum which brought together farmers and land managers representing four farmer clusters (Thame Valley, Lower Thame, Central Chilterns, and Christmas Common) covering over 20,000 ha across 75 farms.
The start of the year also marked the launching of our Chalk Stream Strategy which builds on our successful restoration of 400m of chalk stream on the Chalgrove Brook delivered by over 70 volunteers.
This summer saw the launch of our ground-breaking Bird Atlas 2016-2020. The project is the only one of its kind across a river catchment in the UK and was made possible by team of 63 volunteers carrying out bird surveys across 236 different survey areas and recording an impressive 153 species.
As the thermometer mercury climbed to hitherto unseen levels, we rallied armies of volunteers to tackle invasive non-native Himalayan balsam along the Bear Brook in Fairford Leys, Aylesbury.
We also ran another Riverfly Monitoring training session and trained up 10 new monitors to identify pollution-sensitive macroinvertebrates that help us understand the health of our rivers and streams.
We concluded the summer with another major floodplain restoration project at Manor Farm, Chearsley. The project, delivered in partnership with the Freshwater Habitats Trust, created 15 new seasonal and permanent ponds and a backwater channel connected to the River Thame. These new habitats will enhance biodiversity ranging from plants and invertebrates, to fish and birds.
September also featured our first Rivers Week, a weeklong series of community-run events concluding on World Rivers Day (25th September) to create awareness and appreciation of our rivers and streams by bringing together communities across the catchment.
The headline event for Rivers Week was the Thame Catchment Partnership Water Conference which brought together 65 stakeholders and passionate supporters of the River Thame who work both professionally and voluntarily to achieve our goal of a river catchment with healthy fresh waters and wildlife, valued and enjoyed by local people.
November saw the launch of our Water Quality Monitoring Network. A volunteer-delivered citizen-science programme where volunteers trained by RTCT to a standard protocol are monitoring 40 strategically selected sites across the catchment every month. Our Water quality programme will help build mode detailed evidence to enable us to address poor water quality across the catchment.
As part of our Engaging with Farmers project, we hosted a workshop on Water Resilience on Farms where we supported 16 farmers with advice on water quality monitoring, water management and accessing funding to make improvements.
To round off the year, we partnered with Chiltern Rangers to host conservation work parties on a tributary of the Kingsey Cuttle Brook, an important chalk stream. Work party volunteers got their hands dirty opening up a highly overshaded stretch of stream by selectively cutting back riparian vegetation to let in sunlight that will promote the growth of characteristic chalk stream plants.
Special thanks to our funders who have made our work possible:
Environment Agency, The Rothschild Foundation, Thames Water, D’Oyly Carte Trust, South Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire District Council, Garfield Weston Foundation, Earthwatch Europe, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Natural England, Doris Field Trust, Cobb Charity, HDH Willis Charitable Trust, People’s Postcode Lottery, Watlington Parish Council, Bucks Bird Club, Thames Valley Environmental Record Centre, Bucks & MK Environmental Record Centre, British Trust for Ornithology, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes NEP, Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, Buckinghamshire Council, Hurst Water Meadow Trust, Defra, and Pilio Group.
We would also like to thank all of the individual donors who have generously contributed to the Trust and the many volunteers who have donated their time over this last year.
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