We have recently received our scorecard for the River Sid catchment from the Westcountry Rivers’ Trust.
The scorecard indicates the health of our blue corridors in the Sid Valley. It enables us to identify potential improvements and compare our catchment with others in East Devon and beyond.
We have a group of volunteers who monitor monthly at 13 Sites across the valley.
This includes a site in Glen Goyle which has dropped off of this year’s map but the WRT say it will reappear next year! The little stream flowing through Glen Goyle, called Bickwell Brook, discharges directly on to the beach opposite the Belmont Hotel.During monitoring, we record physical characteristics such as river depth and width, nature of river bottom, river level and rate of flow, barriers to fish passage, pollution outlets, signs of pollution e.g. litter or white, perfumed foam caused by detergent as opposed to natural foam which is created when leaves rot in the river.Wildlife seen e.g otters, wagtails, kingfishers, dippers, heron and fish plus the presence ofinvasive species such as Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam give an Ecology Score.Our water quality tests measure temperature, which affects the amount of oxygen in the water which in turn affects the welfare of fresh water species; chemicals dissolved in the water [Dissolved Solids],visible particles in the water [Suspended Solids]and Phosphate levels.More about these tests is explained on the Scorecard.
If we notice any particular problems .e.g particularly bad run off from fields or eroded river banks, then single spot surveys are carried out. We reported a pollution incident to the Environment Agency in 2022 which arose from the new bridge building works at Fortescue. As a result, river bottom protection mats and straw bales to trap the sediment were deployed.
For 2021 the Sid has a middling score, C+, which is slightly lower than in 2020. This is shown in the centre of the circular badge top left. The five aspects of river health round the edge [Dissolved solids, Suspended Solids, Ecology, Phosphates and Pollution determine this overall score.
We have B [good] for Pollution.[POL] However, many harmful things are difficult to measure such as microplastics, pesticides and chemicals from road runoff.
The Ecology [ECO] score, C [fair], doesn’t reflect the wealth of wildlife by most of our water courses because although there might be a resident kingfisher It may not be spotted when monitoring and the score is lowered by the presence of the invasive plants mentioned earlier. However, we are very grateful to The Sidmouth Balsam Bashers, a band of resolute volunteers who root out this plant as it out competes native species then dies back in the winter to leave the river banks exposed to erosion and soil loss.
Our data indicates that soil loss is a problem. After extreme rain the river turns a dramatic red reflecting the loss of the land on which we depend for food. There may be ways to ease this loss by river bank improvements and slowing the rate of run off. We expect more violent storms and need to build resilience into our river system.
Thanks to the Westcountry Rivers Trust who collate all our data to produce this summary score sheet.