Cambridge’s ground water level exceptionally low

The blue dashed line shows the lowest recorded level at this site

The Environment Agency’s July situation report for the East Anglia shows that Cambridge’s ground water level is already exceptionally low: the lowest ever recorded, and that it’s getting lower.   It was only the unusually wet winter of 17/18 that has saved our water situation from being even worse.

Cambridge and Breckland have the lowest groundwater levels in East Anglia

All the Environment Agency’s monthly water situation reports can be seen here

The Environment Agency has asked us to point out that, as stated in their reports, “All data are provisional and may be subject to revision. The views expressed in this document are not necessarily those of the Environment Agency. Its officers, servants or agents accept no liability for any loss or damage arising from the interpretation or use of the information, or reliance upon views contained herein.”

Cambridge Water’s drought plan and advice on how you can help can be seen here

Balsam Bashing working party

Mike’s team of Cambridge Balsam Bashers set to work on clearing the invasive weed Himalayan Balsam from a long stretch of the nettle infested lower reaches of Bourn Brook and the Mill Race (just above Granchester)

The aim is to stop infestation around Cambridge, and ultimately (ie in future years) to work back up Bourn Brook and meet up with the eradication efforts been coordinated by the Wildlife Trust and others upstream on Bourn BrookIt was noticeable that there were very few plants on the South bank, thanks to vigilance by the anglers  over the last few years.

Part of the lower end of Bourn Brook were also only lightly infested, because they had been cleared earlier by canoe. Canoe work can be very effective earlier in the year, before the waterweed gets too thick.


Lower Cam pennywort working party. 29 June 2019

On the hottest day of the year so far, Cam Valley Forum and Cambridge Canoe Club held a joint working party to help Cam Conservators clear the invasive weed floating pennywort from the lower Cam, between Baits Bite Lock and Clayhithe.  (This is a continuation of our pennywort eradication project, which seems to have successfully eradicated it from the Cam above Cambridge)

We had 15 people: 3 working from the bank and 12 from canoes.

We were working together with Tom from Cam Conservators who was using their new “Conver” weed lifter boat.  The combination is very effective: the Conver deals with the bulk, but we’re very effective in picking up the little bits the Conver misses or drops.

There’s still more to do, especially between Horningsea and Clayhithe, but we’ve made a good dent in it.  Hopefully ultimately, (with the help of boat owners too) we’ll be able to eradicate pennywort as far down as Clayhithe

We finished with a very pleasant picnic in the shade on John Harrison’s meadow in Horningsea.

Fen Ditton Ditch clearance

The reservoir of the invasive weed, Floating Pennywort in the ditch between Fen Ditton ditch and the Cam has been in our sights for about a year. It is particularly important because now that the upper river is clear of Floating Pennywort, Cambridge Conservators are undertaking a major pennywort clearance project in the main river downstream of Cambridge. This ditch is now the main upstream reservoir.

Dealing with it has been a joint effort, led by Mike Foley.

Part of the problem was that a fallen tree was blocking access from the river, but ownership was unclear. It was clearly going to take a while to resolve, so Cambridge City Council lent us a boom to help contain the pennywort in the ditch until we could sort out what to do….

It took many many months, but finally, thanks to persistant hard work by Mike, much pouring over maps and many discussions with the Parish Council, various potential land owners and their agents,  Jesus College kindly agreed to “take responsibility” for dealing with the tree.

South Cambs District Council accelerated the permit for the treeworks as much as possible, but the nesting season had started before we got the OK to proceed. However, once Mike had done a Bird Survey to show that all was clear, Bidwells came in and removed the tree.The following day a team of 13 from Cambridge based technology company Sentec joined Mike to clear the pennywort.

They made good use of a set of nets and rakes given to us by the Environment Agency earlier this year.

The ditch is now basically clear of pennywort, although we will be continuing regular followup sessions from the bank and water to remove remaining strands as they emerge as the weather warms up.

If anyone who lives in the Fen Ditton area would like to help, do let us know.

Woodland potential in the Cam Valley

Environment Agency map showing woodland potential. Dark blue means “very high potential”

The Environment Agency has published a very interesting (but rather clunky) online map of the potential for tree planting.

This shows that they rate much of the land in the Cam Valley as “very high potential” for woodland planting.

Planting lots more trees could be a very attractive way of improving water quality. A Forestry commission expert pointed out to us that even relatively small bands of trees (5-8m wide) can be very important in protecting rivers from contamination by the excess phosphates, nitrates and sprays that would otherwise wash into the river from intensively farmed agricultural land.

In areas with public access he recommends planting willows (not Crack Willow!)  Black poplar, Alder, Downey Birch, and lower shrubs, for example Gelder Rose.

The Environment Agency map is available online here . It covers the whole country, and lets you zoom in to see the potential in each tiny little river tributary, which is great. Unfortunately its a bit clunky to use and only works if you’re using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser.

The image of the map above shows of the overview for the Cam Catchment. I have added the names of the key towns to make it easier to understand.

The Environment Agency’s user guide for the map is here

River course fishing close season consultation

The Environment Agency is consulting on the future of the statutory river coarse fishing close season in England, which currently runs from 15 March to 15 June.

This is your chance to give the Environment Agency your opinion or submit evidence to support the case to retain, change or remove this close season. They would like to hear from as many people as possible.

They want to better understand the risks and benefits associated with any change and the potential impacts on fish stocks, angling and other wildlife.

The consultation is open now and the closing date for responses is 11 March.

Have your say by 11 March 2019 here

Swan Island

Swan Island cut 18 Nov 2018

On a lovely autumn morning, 8 of us cleared the Floating Pennywort from Swan Island cut. A plank on a ladder made a useful bridge.

After a couple of  hours work, it was satisfyingly clear of pennywort.

We organised this working party at short notice, because we discovered this hidden reservoir last weekend…   If not dealt with, it would soon break up in the frosts and spread fragments to re- infest the rest of the river.

Swan Island cut, 11 Nov 2018

CVF on BBC Countryfile 18th Nov 2018

Our fight against Floating Pennywort has come to the attention of BBC Countryfile. On 25th October they filmed us at Kingfishers Bridge nature reserve showing their presenter (Sean Fletcher) how we tackle Floating Pennywort

The film Director, Jo, has came up with  an entertaining and informative story line, shown on BBC 1 5:30pm on Sunday 18th November.  It’s available on iplayer  until mid december 2018 here. Our bit starts 15minutes in.

The same episode  features Kingfishers Bridge’s Water buffalo, Donald  and Dumbo, who’re also getting stuck in helping protect Kingfishers Bridge from the Pennywort ….  We think Donald might be the true star of the show!

The Waterlight Project: a lovely website about the River Mel

Photo (C) Yvonne Chamberlain

This website  is a project of our friends in the River Mel Restoration Group.

Waterlight was inspired by a chalk stream in Cambridgeshire. It began as a collaboration between poet and writer Clare Crossman and filmmaker James Murray-White, and the project team has now grown to include local expert Bruce Huett

Do have a look at their lovely website, and do contact them to share your stories of the River Mel

Proposed gravel quarry and waste dump between Hauxton and Haslingfield

NW corner of proposed gravel quarry and waste site (c) Mike Foley

Astonishingly, there’s a proposal to extract 1 million m3 of gravel from the delightful meadows of Rectory Farm between Haslingfield and Hauxton, then turn the resulting hole into a waste dump.  The proposed site is only a few meters from the river.

This is a bad idea on so many grounds:

  • The process will inevitably contaminate the river Cam,
  • There will be 100-140 of lorry movements a day coming in and out of the site onto the busy A10, carrying gravel and waste to and fro.
  • Dust, noise and smell will afflict Haslingfield, Harston and Hauxton.
  • It will adversely affect biodiversity and wildlife on this important and beautiful spot
  • It will destroy a popular public bridleway that’s also a proposed greenway route.

We will be joining Hauxton Parish council in vigorously opposing it

Whilst there is as yet no public consultation (that will take place in Spring 2019), anyone concerned can send objections to before 31 October 2018.

You can download the applicant’s description of the project here

Hauxton waste site-min

You can see Hauxton Parish Council’s comments here, the first of which is dated 17/9/18