Neil Swift Joins the Project Team

Neil Swift

In our team meeting yesterday I was asked how my first three weeks at the Wessex Rivers Trust had been. Given that I thought, incorrectly, I was only part way through my second week we can deduce that time is indeed flying and therefore I’m definitely having fun. Everyone has been extremely welcoming, and it feels like a great time to have joined the organisation with lots of exciting projects either underway or on the horizon.

My love of water and fish stretches back to childhood. Whether it was wading around in streams catching minnows and bullheads with a net or fishing for sprats using my FisherPrice toy rod on family holidays, most of my earliest memories revolve around fish. Since then fishing and spending time next to the water has always been a large a part of my life, although, I didn’t always see it as being a part of my working life. In fact, I initially started out my career in the advertising industry. It did not take too long to find out that this was not for me though and a few years later I was back in education at Sparsholt College studying Aquaculture and Fishery Management.

On leaving Sparsholt I had decided that I was going to go wherever work took me, although I was not quite expecting this to be just a couple of miles down the road to Mottisfont Abbey. There, I have spent the last seven years working as River Keeper for the National Trust, looking after about three miles of the river Test as well as a stretch of the Dun. I was responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the fishery, alongside planning and carrying out projects to improve the habitat. Most importantly my experience at Mottisfont helped me better understand the challenges, and fine balance, involved in doing my absolute best to help the river thrive whilst also managing it for recreational fishing.

Having spent my time as a River Keeper getting to know one patch of river intimately it has been great to get out and visit a variety of different stretches in my first few weeks with the Wessex Rivers Trust. As well as getting to grips with things in the office I have been back on the Test, walking the banks with owners and River Keepers talking about opportunities for habitat improvement works on the stretches under their guardianship. With pressures on the chalk streams greater than ever its extremely encouraging to find so much enthusiasm for protecting and enhancing these rare ecosystems. It points to an exciting future for the rivers, their inhabitants and all of us who enjoy spending time in, on and around them.