White Cliffs Countryside Partnership’s (WCCP) greengang has put on more river labs with Affinity Water then you can shake a trout at. Together with Affinity, Barton and White Cliffs schools, the Dour is being put into the curriculum these two terms with the hope this will become a self-spawned permanent topic for following years. WCCP have 32 active volunteer river wardens who are reporting issues, counting wildlife and attending courses so that they may gain vital knowledge.
It is not long now until the River Centre, at Buckland Bridge, will be opening. With some bespoke instalments needed, a sign and some basic equipment it could be well be open in time for the summer holidays.
The litter clear-ups have been under way for a couple of months now – any volunteers amongst you? Tea, coffee, cakes and bananas plus good company always on offer – email me for info: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Barton Path railings will very soon be fully restored back to their Victorian beauty.
All this sounds great, but… being a keen Dourite, I have to sadly say that I have not seen one trout this year. I’ve reported this to the South East Rivers Trust. Could those of you who walk the river – any part of it – please let me know if you see ANY trout, could you then email me at email@example.com and let me know where you saw the fish, plus time of day and the date, so I can pass on any sightings.
The river clean-ups are having their annual winter vacation due to access restrictions- the dark winter months are trout spawning times. And for those who might be interested, here is a brief, but concise, spawning tutorial: Trout lay their eggs in nests in the river gravels, known as redds. The female (hen) builds the nest, usually between November and January when the water is cold and carrying lots of oxygen, because that is what the eggs need to hatch. She looks for gravel with a good flow of water passing through, so the gravels need to be loose and largely free from silt. She will dig a hole, turning on her side and flexing her body. This activity will attract the attention of males who will chase each other and attempt be in place just when she lays her eggs. The process of digging and chasing can last for hours or even days. Eventually the hen fish will release some of her eggs into the redd and the male (cock) fish will fertilise them. The hen then digs again to throw up gravel to cover the fertilised eggs. The eggs will hatch in 60 to 97 days. Generally, it is assumed that most eggs hatch in February.
The newly hatched trout are called alevins, and they live in the gravel, feeding off the remaining yolk that is attached to their body for 14 – 30 days. Once the yolk has been eaten, the alevin become fry, emerge from the gravel, move towards the light and start to feed on tiny insects in the water. Mortality rates at this highly vulnerable stage are very high. The fry are just a few centimetres long and consume a lot of energy, so they need to find food quickly, and plenty of it. They also become territorial – they want to be out of sight of other fry, so need habitat that has plenty of stones and plants to enable them to hide from the neighbours. And they are still very tiny, so they need shallow water (1 – 40cm) that isn’t too fast flowing. The transition from living off the yolk to independent feeding is a critical life stage, and the one at which the majority of mortality takes place.
£150,000for‘Our Finest Dour’ project.
Heritage Lottery Fund (95k), Dover District Council, the Environment Agency, Dover Town Council, Dover Big Local, Southern Water, and Affinity Water.
Works will include:
- Convert the disused Buckland toilet block into a permanent river centre to facilitate activities and provide information
- Deliver a programme of different training opportunities for volunteers
- Establish and train a core group of around 10-15 volunteer river rangers
- Carry out restoration work to improve habitats and clear invasive weeds
- Set up a ‘livestream’ showing the wildlife in the river
- Deliver a series of education workshops with local schools and colleges
- Host a series of engagement events including a River Dour Festival
- Establish an action plan to provide long term management alongside partners.
The HLF grant has been awarded to Dover District Council and the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership, who applied for the funding. The project will be delivered with a range of key partners, including the River Dour Partnership and South East Rivers Trust.
For more information, or if you’re interested in being a river ranger, or volunteering as part of the project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org