River Rea clean-up by the Friends of Rea Valley Stirchley
Last month the volunteers from the Friends of Rea Valley Stirchley, Friends of Ten Acres, and SUS Life began work on clearing the river blockage in Ten Acres. The blockage of this section of the River Rea was created by a large amount of litter and fly tipping, that had been mindlessly dumped into the river by thoughtless individuals. The volunteers undertook the clean up job and did an incredible job to wade into the river and clear the blockage over a number of sessions. Read the Q& A below with Stephanie Bale from Friends of Rea Valley Stirchley & Friends of Ten Acres, where she shares some info about her Friends Group and the process that the volunteer group went through to clear this section of the river.
Can you please give a brief introduction to the Friends Ten Acres and any conservation volunteering projects you currently have on the go?
The Friends of Ten Acres formed in 2019 at the start of lockdown, and our very first project was to excavate the pathway through the woodlands in Ten Acres opening it back up to the public again. Its been quite a journey, and we are blessed to have an experienced and qualified woodland management lead with us to guide us through the finer points of conservation, balance, wildlife habitats and urban woodland care alongside public safety. This year we are working with the West Midlands Combined Authority to recover the Lost Orchard in Ten Acres – a grove of mature plum trees and their saplings that had been swallowed up by excessive bramble. As well as the Selly Oak NNS fund to provide general care for the site including litter picking the river. We are also continuing work in Top Meadow Garden – a native plant nursery for the River Rea working on restoring lost species of the area (using previous ecorecords), propagating rare and extinct species and providing an edible community garden.
Can you tell us a bit about the river clean up, what was the process your group went through, any difficulties you found or any more help that your volunteers needed that would have made the cleaning easier?
It was actually very difficult process to get started on the river clean up. There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through in terms of paperwork, risk assessments, equipment etc before you are allowed to go in the river. We were lucky to have a river specialist with our team who took charge of the safety and processes. Our volunteers were really keen to get in to the river so after a year of this back and forth we were finally able to get stuck in – and just in time! The blockage in the river was extensive and filled approximately 30 bin bags plus extras on the side such as car wheels, batteries, surf boards, balls. You name it we found it – all collected in one spot blocking the river. After the litter was cleared we got to work on reducing the wood blockage to stop it happening again.
Any support that you received that helped the process?
We could not have done this without Harry Gray, our river specialist, liasing with the BCC, our funders West Midlands Combined Authority who allowed us to purchase waders and tools and of course, our team of volunteers who came ready and willing to wade in to the icy water and battle with polystyrene.
How many volunteers were involved, how long did it take to clear? Any other info you would like to share about it?
All in all it took 3 sessions of 4 hours to clear the main blockage, although lots of work along the river still continues as debris gets washed up onto the banks regularly. We probably had about 6 volunteers on average at each session.
Any advice you can give other Friends Groups that might have similar issues with rubbish in ponds or rivers in their local parks / open spaces?
Keep persisting – the process is a bit disheartening but keep at it. Get in touch with a river specialist if you can as that will help you a great deal in terms of assessing health and safety and looking after the river in general. Rivers in particular are hard, because the rubbish washes down from up stream so its not a reflection of the immediate residents desire to keep it clean. But with regular visits it does make a massive difference. You can also report fallen tree blockages (which then also cause a litter build up) to the Environmental Agency.
If there is anything else you would like to mention about the Friends of Ten Acres, including any regular volunteering sessions or events/activities you would like to promote?
Well we are there every Wednesday and Friday until mid June 2023, 10am to 2pm 🙂
We also have a few River Health Analysis sessions this year with Harry Gray, testing the water for insect life and assessing it’s health therefore. The next one is on the 1st April from 11am – meeting up outside the woodland entrance on Cartland road.
Posted on 1st April 2023