L-R Matthew Wright, Feargal Sharkey and Richard Aylard

Over 100 guests attended a Wild Trout Trust evening at the Savile Club in London to present the 2017 Conservation Awards for the best river habitat conservation projects. The evening was introduced by WTT Director, Shaun Leonard, with the awards presented by Richard Aylard of Thames Water, generous sponsors of the Awards.

The Conservation Awards recognise and encourage excellence in the management and conservation of wild trout habitat, celebrating the efforts, skills and ingenuity of projects carried out both by professionals and by grass roots voluntary organisations.

The evening also recognised the Wild Trout Hero 2017, someone who has made a significant difference to the future of the UK’s favourite fish – the wild brown trout.

The 2017 winners are:

Botany Bay Conservancy Restoration Project, Botany Bay Community Interest Group, winner of the Contribution to Wild Trout Conservation Award.

The winner is a small, passionate community group, based at Duncton in West Sussex. This group has carried out a wide range of work on a tributary of the Western Rother, including weir removal, habitat improvements, land-management changes and community engagement events. They have created spawning areas to allow wild trout to use new stream and lake habitat and integrated the ‘in stream’ work into conservation and public engagement across the whole site. A brilliant example to all.

 

Bringing Back the Bulbourne, Environment Agency in partnership with the Box Moor Trust, winner of the Medium-Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme Award.

The River Bulbourne near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire was a poor example of a chalk stream – silty, straight and over wide. The works, including re-meandering the channel and fencing the banks, were carried out with an excellent consultation process and use of volunteers.  An exemplar of partnership work with the Box Moor Trust, engagement of volunteers, decisive habitat interventions and great impact for quite a modest spend. This was compounded by excellent consultation with graziers and other Commons stakeholders – as well as post-project guided walks and many more creative solutions and approaches over and above the excellent habitat works themselves.

 

Swindale Beck and Haweswater Estate Restoration Scheme, Environment Agency and RSPB, winner of the Large-Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme Award.

Swindale Beck is a tributary of the River Lowther in a remote valley near Shap in Cumbria. This is a very impressive project. Examined from every angle, the work carried out in restoring this remote, straightened section of Cumbrian river was excellent. Local engagement of stakeholders through pre-project meetings and volunteer works during delivery was very good (especially given the remote location). The impact on the broader catchment, suitability of the techniques used and creative leveraging of funding to achieve greater benefits to the wider society and general conservation as well as salmonid fish populations all scored very highly too. Wider benefits included reducing water treatment energy requirements while improving connectivity and more natural flow-regimes. The project is also acting to inspire others through the extensive communications efforts, including high quality video production.

 

Mill River Nature Reserve, Shingay-cum-Wendy Wildlife Committee with the South Cambridgeshire  Conservation Consultants Partnership – Judges’ Commendation.

The project at the Mill River Nature Reserve near Royston in South Cambridgeshire demonstrated the depth and variety of creative solutions and commitment to creating and sustaining the strong partnership structure. This project was recognised in particular for its benefits to wider conservation.

 

Wild Trout Hero Vaughan Lewis and wife Julie

 

Vaughan Lewis, Wild Trout Hero Award

The Wild Trout Trust nominates an annual Wild Trout Hero, to recognise a professional whose work has furthered the cause of wild trout conservation and management in Britain and Ireland. This year’s Hero has already been crowned a River Champion 2017, awarded by the River Restoration Centre in May, but he is long overdue public recognition by WTT. He’s been working for wild trout on both sides of the Irish Sea long before WTT’s inception, offering advice, lobbying at all levels and practically restoring rivers, the focus of his business, Windrush AEC. But, additionally, he works tirelessly and voluntarily for WTT and in his local patch in the Cotswolds to protect and improve rivers and their wildlife, including their trout. WTT’s 2017 Wild Trout Hero is Vaughan Lewis.

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