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Love Your River Chelt

Posted: Thursday 6th June 2013 by Community

Dave KilbeyDave Kilbey

Had it not flooded so dramatically in 1979 and 2007, people might be forgiven for overlooking the fact that there’s a river in Cheltenham. A number of derelict corn mills in the west of the town are testament to the fact that it once was a more central feature, and even ran through the town centre before being hidden away underground like a shameful embarrassment. But there are still areas where you can see and enjoy the River Chelt, and it is still potentially one of the town’s most important natural assets.

The Chelt, which rises in springs upstream of Dowdeswell reservoir and joins the Severn at Wainlodes Hill before flowing into the Atlantic, is still home to a plethora of river invertebrates, which feed the brown trout (that you can see easily in the river throughout the town), which in turn are fed on by kingfishers and otters, both of which regularly use your river. But there’s a problem. You knew there would be, didn’t you?

The Chelt, according to Environment Agency testing procedures, is ‘failing’ ecologically. The reason for this ‘failure’ is that in areas of the town it is being polluted – sometimes by rubbish and run-off from roads, but most often by simple plumbing ‘misconnections’. Misconnections are where people’s dirty water – from toilets, baths, dishwashers and washing machines – is accidentally being channelled directly into the river instead of to the foul water sewers (which end up in water treatment plants).

To see whether your house is causing one of these problems, you can check that your pipes are not entering rainwater gutters or storm drains, which should only take rainwater (and not, incidentally, oil or soapy water from washing your car etc). The easiest way to do this is to follow the steps on the Connect Right website and put your mind at rest!

This year, with funding from Cheltenham Borough Council and the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust are launching our Love Your River Chelt project, which aims to raise awareness, not just of pollution and misconnections, but also of the wonderful complexity and wealth of wildlife that still persists in and around the river.

We will work with community groups and schools and lead river walks, surveys and events on the River Chelt. So please learn to love your river, either independently or by joining us! On the 16th and 17th July, we’ll be surveying stretches of the river and will teach people how to find signs of otters and invasive plants, and how to identify the myriad different creatures to be found in the water (and how they can act as indicators of a river’s health). You will be amazed by what we’ll find.

To register your interest for these (free) days, or for more information on the river and how you can help it, please contact Will Masefield on will.masefield@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk or Jo Worthy-Jones on jo.worthy-jones@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk
 

Find out more about this project and discover hints and tips on how you can help.

Read Community's latest blog entries.

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