I remember my first experience of doing any kind of work in a river – plopped somewhere in the Wylye, a tributary of the Avon, in a pair of waders that were undoubtedly too big for me, lost in the land and soundscape of the river. We were on the hunt for a mysterious plant (which, of course I now know is the super-invasive himmy b) but to the plant’s relief, I was a very distracted predator.
I was surrounded by crystal-clear water with dappled light reflections dancing on the bark of overhanging trees; soothed by the waving ranunculus that carpeted the riverbed and the gentle lazy trickling sound of the water as it strolls downstream; entertained by the many banded demoiselles flitting across the water from perch to perch.
I was in the river’s world now, wondering how I got here and even more so, how this could be someone’s job.
So how did I get here? How am I the latest member of the Wessex Rivers Trust’s project team? I started my river career by volunteering for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, more specifically their water team. I did not have the foggiest of what to expect and what the work entails, and I quickly discovered this line of work is very niche. However, it wasn’t long before I found myself knee (sometimes wader) deep into the work, removing invasive species, carrying out practical river restoration and pounding many, many posts into the riverbed…
I found this work rewarding, perhaps because unlike many other conservation efforts, results of river habitat improvements reveal themselves very quickly. I got involved anywhere I could, including with several other rivers trusts before I was lucky enough to join Wessex Rivers Trust as their Project Assistant.
I’ve been with the Trust for a few months now and at the time of writing this, we are deep into capital delivery works-- the culmination of a year’s planning, put into action. One would think this is the most stressful period of the year, and they’re probably right, but it’s equally just as fun. A massive bonus of being the assistant is I get involved in everything and everywhere. No day has been the same and I get to learn a lot, which I am very grateful for.
I have been involved in several projects so far, with highlights including working with volunteers on the stretches of river that are publicly accessible, which unfortunately is quite rare in our catchment area; witnessing a whole brand-spanking-new chalk stream being created; and marvelling at the scale of some of our projects, making significant changes and improvements on areas of the middle Test. It is quite impressive!
I’m excited to continue this work and grow within the Trust. Because while I may have painted a pretty picture in the opening of this blog post, as more and more of us are becoming keenly aware, our rivers are in danger and need us. It is crucial that we continue to protect and improve our rivers, and I feel proud this is what I do, particularly for our beautiful, globally rare chalk streams.