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Blog: Whoosh Explore Canoe Club host Environment Invitation Care Day

Written by Andy Gee, a Clear Access, Clear Waters Champion from Whoosh Explore Canoe Club

Whoosh Explore Canoe Club held their second 'Environment Invitation Care Day' of the year on 22nd September 2020, involving one days paddling on the River Stort for eight club members and ten guests. The purpose of the day was to take guests from several organisations for a paddle and showcase the work undertaken to remove Floating Pennywort from the river, as well as promote a catchment wide project for the riddance of fellow invasive specie, Himalayan Balsam.

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Throughout numerous paddle cleanups organised by the club, most of the litter, plastic and general junk had been removed from the patch on the River Stort where the club are based. So, instead of their usual clean ups, the club turned their expertise to the monitoring and then removal of invasive non-native species. During their INNS clean-up, the club removed all the Floating Pennywort mats from the River Stort Navigation, Mill & Weir Streams, leaving it clear for all to paddle and enjoy.

Guests to the Invitation Day came from the Canal & River Trust (C&RT), the Environment Agency (EA), Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) and Herts District Council (HDC). They were also joined by all members of the River Stort Catchment Partnership (RSCP) and British Canoeing’s (BC) Access and Environment Officer Chantelle Grundy. Chloe Colman from the Colne Valley Catchment Partnership (CVCP) also attended. 

The ethos for 'Project FPW' was to treat all river users with respect and make friends along the journey. Their first step was to agree the Project with C&RT who helped with maps of disposal sites for the FPW. The local Tednambury Farm also gave them permission to dispose of FPW on the corner of their field to compost down. Another examples of successful partnering. The CVCP invited Andy, the event manager to their INNS seminar in April 20 and the club have since been using their interactive mapping system to record locations of Himalayan Balsam. 

The paddle on the River Stort was from Twyford Lock 2 to just below Tednambury Lock 4 into Hallingbury mill stream, just over four miles in total. Due to Coronavirus restrictions the group had to split into three teams of six, all canoeing, except two in kayaks. 

Lunch was taken at Tednambury Lock & by using both sides of the lock and using triangulation, the three teams of six were able to keep well apart whilst a talk was given on behalf of Whoosh Explore explaining the successful partnership approach to the removal of invasive non-native species on the River Stort.

The takeaways...

So, how did Whoosh Explore Canoe Club do it? How did they remove all the floating pennywort from their patch of river and track Himalayan Balsam too?

The Stort System

  • Map/Survey (All of the River, Mill & Weir Streams, Drains & Ditches)
  • Use a recommended Interactive Map
  • Action Plan
  • Start at the ‘Top of the River’
  • Partner with C&RT & EA & get their workboats to take out the huge FPW mats
  • Use Boom/Fishing Nets -  to stop the fragments of leaves & stems going down stream
  • Canoes to remove the rest (our canoeists doubled up removing FPW from the boats)
  • Use boom/fishing nets -  to stop the fragments of leaves & stems going down stream
  • Pennywort Patrol - in kayak’s - forensic check - at least fortnightly 

Himalayan Balsam

Whoosh Explore in the 2020 Season started on a Project to Rid the River Stort of HB. Efforts have concentrated on the ‘Pounds’ from Spellbrook to Sawbridgeworth, using the interactive map to record HB occurrences in much of the Stort Valley. The sheer enormity of the HB mapped in the area has meant they are now advocating a catchment wide Project.

Clear Access Clear Waters

BC’s CACW quest was explained to guests at the event, most of whom were very surprised that only 4% of waterways could be paddled uncontested. Prior to our ‘Invitation Day’ the Club have been in discussions with the EA exploring the possibility of access points on some of our weirs to save portage of the locks on the downstream paddle.

What a superb day to help promote not just river cleanups from a litter picking perspective, but the work we can do together to support the removal of invasive non-native species too. Good work Whoosh Explore Canoe Club!

Have your club been taking part in activities to promote litter or INNS cleanups? Get in touch and let us know!