The River Sid Catchment Group.

The river Sid flows through the heart of the Sid Valley. From its source overlooking Sidbury, through confluences with its tributaries, diversions into human made channels, over weirs and under bridges. It is a silver thread stitching valley sides together, seaming deep goyles through thick and vibrant woodland, before meandering through a patchwork of agricultural and urban landscapes.

It meets the sea at Sidmouth, often flowing through a steep shingle bank brought in by the tide. It is rich in wildlife, with species such as dippers, kingfishers, otters and bats calling it home or relying on it for sustenance and habitat. But sadly, all isn’t quite as it seems. According to the 2024 State of our Rivers Report by the Rivers Trust- “No single stretch of river in England or Northern Ireland is in good overall health”. Although this sad reality is true of the Sid in some ways, the river’s ecological health is actually classed as ‘moderate’ by the Environment Agency- so not as bad as some, but with definite room for improvement. 

There have been several initiatives over the years which have contributed to maintaining the river’s health. From a group of fish fanatics who would physically catch and transport migratory fish from beneath school weir (the large weir at the lower end of the Byes) to above it so they could continue on to spawn, to the very current and active group- Friends of the Byes who put their hearts and souls into creating beautiful habitat and recreation areas in the Byes. We have been spoilt by committed volunteers who have been, and are working towards the same goal of improving the Sid. You only have to spend some time in the community orchard in the Byes or take a walk along the newly regenerated riverside walk to see that many people in the Sid Valley care about their river. But is this enough to conserve what we have left and restore what we have lost?

To continue the good work, local volunteers have come together to create a new group- the River Sid Catchment Group. As well as conserving and protecting the river itself, the ‘catchment’ element will work towards slowing the overall flow of water from the land to the sea and takes a wider view of the valley’s landscapes and biodiversity, including soil health and water quality. Although the working group is small, they will be shouting out for help from volunteers very soon! From monitoring the tiny invertebrates which live on the riverbed, to helping remove invasive species, there will be more opportunities as the project progresses for volunteers to help achieve a healthier river catchment. As well as citizen science projects and awareness raising, the group have been working hard to pull together organisations on a larger scale to address some of the more complex conversations around the Sid, hoping to promote real change for the good of the Sid, its wildlife, landscapes, and the humans who know and love it. 

You can find the River Sid Catchment Group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61556217088813) and during the June Biodiversity Festival where they will be consulting with the community on a draft catchment plan, reaching out for local knowledge and volunteers. 

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