Monday, 19 October 2009

Any Willing Volunteers?

Volunteering for ERT is a great way to 'give something back' to your local environment. Each year we are on the look out for 'willing' volunteers to assist with a diverse range of conservation activities. These range from elctrofishing and crayfish surveying to water crowfoot planting and himalayan balsam control. Not only are doing something good but it's also a great day out in our wonderful catchment.

But don't take my word for it, here's what two ERT volunteers have got to say about their experiences.

John Rothwell, Burgh-by-Sands

“Having started aiding the Eden Rivers Trust as merely an attempt to complete the service aspect of my Duke of Edinburgh’s award it came as almost a surprise that I begun to enjoy my weekly commitment of crayfish surveying, filling the otherwise empty void of my summer holidays. The best site we surveyed contained about 40 crayfish under 50 rocks. Unfortunately however there was one week where I couldn’t make any of the crayfish surveying dates and so I tried my hand at electro fishing and to my surprise we caught approximately 60 trout and 40 salmon fry. Overall I found that Volunteering for the Eden Rivers Trust is a fun, useful and interesting way for anyone fill any spare days.”

David Peggs, Gamblesby

"You are standing calf-deep in a tributary of the Eden, peering through a foot of clear water at the riverbed. There's a warm sun on your back and you are in the company of a Trust Biologist and other volunteers, somewhere in the glorious countryside of the river’s extensive catchment. The object of your scrutiny is the elusive white-clawed crayfish – a suitably retiring native, now threatened by its more demonstrative American cousin, the signal crayfish.

On another day, your attention will be focused on trout and salmon fry, temporarily stunned by the electrode-wielding Fisheries Biologist – an opportunity to observe the pristine, individual beauty of these infant fish at close range.

There will be some friendly banter. There will certainly be a chance to learn more about the river and its inhabitants, and at the end of a stimulating day in the fresh air, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed something towards the protection of your local environment. A degree of smugness is allowed.

It costs nothing other than your time. You can choose when and where you wish to go. And if neither fish nor crayfish appeal to your sensibilities, there are other Trust activities from water-plant management to the control of alien bank side vegetation (Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam) – which might appeal to gardeners!

Trust volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and range from the spring chickens to the geriatric (like me). You will not feel out of place. No skill, or specialist knowledge, is required and all equipment is provided, and since days on the river are only scheduled from June to October, you are unlikely to freeze to death.

I have been involved in a number of excursions over the last two summers – all of them a pleasure – and I look forward to more of the same next year.

There’s just one possible inaccuracy in this otherwise honest account: given the nature of the English summer, that warm sun on you back which I mentioned cannot be guaranteed!”

The picture heading-up this blog is of a recent volunteer crayfish training day - there must be a whitty caption out there?