New strategy for ‘unfavourable’ River Till

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The Tweed Forum is working to develop a River Till Restoration Strategy, after the channel and its tributaries were classed as being in “unfavourable condition”.

The River Till and it’s main tributaries, the Bowmont-Glen, Breamish and Wooler Water, are of high conservation and ecological importance, with about 130km of these rivers designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and as a Special Area of Conservation.

But all is not well with the condition of these designated rivers. Using national criteria they are classed as being in “unfavourable condition” and in some areas the condition is “declining”.

The government has set targets for improving poor quality river SSSIs. And as part of a national programme jointly run by the Environment Agency and Natural England, the Tweed Forum is investigating what can be done to improve the Till SSSIs.

This will be set out in a Till River Restoration Strategy, and the Tweed Forum were hoping to chat to anyone with an interest in the river, and land associated with the river, at a drop-in event in Wooler yesterday.

John Hogger of the Tweed Forum explained: “The river and its tributaries are not in the right condition, the habitat isn’t right, so it needs some work to improve it.”

Developing the Till Restoration Strategy involves collecting all of the currently available information about the state of the channel and details of modifications that have been done over the years. In places where there is no usable information, new surveys are being carried out. Existing records of the main conservation species are also being collated.

The information will be used to identify locations where the channel habitat is not in good condition; for example, due to siltation, excessive erosion or engineered banks.

The Tweed Forum will be looking for the causes of unfavourable condition, not just the obvious effects. This will lead on to developing proposals for dealing with these causes. Some potential solutions may be relatively ‘quick fixes’ whereas others will take longer; the strategy will be looking up to 30 years forward.

The research work and subsequent strategy will be used to support bids for funding actions to improve the rivers.

The Tweed Forum says that success in developing the strategy - and then implementing agreed actions - will depend on the input and involvement of everyone with an interest, especially landowners, farmers and local communities.

“We’re very keen that the Till RRS will not be a remote or inaccessible ‘government strategy’,” Mr Hogger said.

“We held a drop-in event to try and explain what the strategy is all about so people can try and get their heads around it, and also to encourage them to get involved.

“That way they can understand why the river does what it does, carry out small actions themselves in line with the strategy, and take a bit of pride in it.”

He added: “Through the summer we have been gathering and analysing information about the catchment and the time has come to start the wider discussion.

“This will no doubt reveal more local knowledge about the rivers and, most importantly, it will help to shape the strategy using the ideas, initiatives and concerns that will come out of these discussions.”

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