In at the sharp end!

Moragh Stirling

My induction into the Wessex Rivers Trust delivery team was a day of hawthorn relocation and repurposing (upcycling?) into a healthy berm to protect a badly eroding bank. Job satisfaction doesn’t come better than that! I was glad of the weekend to pick all the thorns out though!

I am delighted to be joining the welcoming team at Wessex Rivers Trust, helping deliver projects in the Watercress and Winterbourne Project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. I am really looking forward to learning and understanding a new area, with all of its characters, beautiful landscapes and challenges. So many of the rivers in my previous patch were heavily modified and urbanised - dredged and incised into the clay landscape. One of our Loddon Rivers Week community projects was building and planting up floating islands for a highly eutrophic pond in Reading. You can see the relief when it really did float.

The beautiful chalk rivers I am now privileged to work in look amazing, but they have their own challenges. Being part of a team helping to highlight those challenges and finding ways to address them is exciting. Getting people more involved and understanding how all our actions can make a difference is an added bonus.

I grew up on a hill farm and always loved working on the land and with livestock. It is so important to recognise how much work many farmers do to nurture the landscape, and to share the different approaches that can benefit both people and their environment while still providing a living and great produce. Many of the principles of catchment management are clear and common sense, but like many things, not obvious until they’re pointed out.

In past lives I have been lucky enough to work on coral reefs and as an oceanographer. Way back in 1987, I remember helping to rescue a fur seal pup on the South Atlantic island of South Georgia with a bread knife. It had become entangled in old fishing rope and was being watched over carefully by a full-grown adult male. Health and Safety were different back then!

I spent some time in the world of commerce, supplying water quality monitoring equipment to industry - from Scottish Water, dairies and paper mills, as well as to the Environment Agency. But after a few years I was really missing working outdoors and retrained, gaining a MSc from Cranfield University, studying how large woody material affects flood risk as part of a restoration project on the River Loddon. I was inspired by learning about how rivers are influenced by activities throughout the catchment and so studied for a PhD at Reading University, investigating how streams respond to differing land management approaches in the headwaters of the River Nadder.

I love the way light plays on water and mountains, for me at its best on the west coast of Scotland, whether walking my spaniels along rivers or sliding down the side of a snowy mountain on a snowboard.

Working here at Wessex Rivers Trust seems like a dream job, combining my love of the natural world, learning new skills, and enthusiasm for sharing that pleasure with other people.