Bedfordshire River Wardens
The River Warden Scheme started in the summer of 2017 with an induction and training workshop which saw 35 people sign up to the scheme across Bedfordshire.
The number of volunteers along the Bedford Ouse and tributaries Renhold, Bromham, and Elstow Brooks, has grown to 32 with three of those volunteers on the River Flit. This amounts to around 33km of river and 18.4% of the area covered by the Water for Wildlife Officer (Bedford Ouse and part of the Ivel Operational Catchments). There are a number of other river wardens and practical volunteers looked after by The Greensand Trust and Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC) that currently stands at approximately 20 volunteers.
The river wardens have been providing a steady flow of information about the rivers they monitor. They have so far predominantly provided useful information on invasive non-native species and some early water quality testing for nitrate and phosphate levels, the invasive non-native floating pennywort sightings are passed on to the Environment Agency who currently have a programme of floating pennywort removal on the Bedford Ouse.
With the weather conditions so far this year, river wardens have been monitoring river levels and identifying flood debris that may cause potential issues. Once the wardens settle into their roles they will then have options of taking on some more aspects that can enhance the river warden role such as fixed point photography and more regular water quality testing. As the scheme develops and more information is provided projects can be developed to protect, restore, or enhance features of the river to improve its ecology. Within those projects there will be opportunities for the river wardens to be involved in any practical conservation and restoration work.
Taking the scheme forward, the catchment partners who are currently involved will be looking to hold a one year celebration event for the volunteers in March to look back at the achievements of the scheme and see where we are going to take it forward. Ahead of this an annual newsletter will be produced and go out via the UBOCP website to the volunteers. Suitable projects using river warden’s data will also be identified as the scheme gains traction.