Raise your claw if you like fast flowing, well-oxygenated, clean rivers and becks (streams) rich in Calcium carbonate, with a good supply of tasty small plants, insects and organic detritus for your supper! Yes, Britain’s increasingly rare and endangered White-Clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) matches this description.
Heavily armoured like knights of old, these creatures patrol the limestone and sandstone rubble and gravel substrate of river beds in Cumbria’s Eden valley on a survival mission that has changed little since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Despite their ancient lineage and tough exoskeletons, their population numbers have been falling and their range shrinking, and some Cumbrian rivers comprise the last stronghold for these fascinating creatures according to The Eden Rivers Trust, a charitable foundation and company limited by guarantee established in 1996 to:
- “Conserve, protect and improve the River Eden, its tributaries and the flora and fauna in and adjacent to them.
- Increase public awareness of the importance of the River Eden and its catchment through education”
According to Eden River Trust’s Conservation Officer Joanne Backshall, Eden Rivers Trust staff have just completed a three year, £138,000 conservation project in partnership with The SITA Trust and volunteers of varied ages and walks of life. Working for the benefit of native crayfish and other wildlife and all who appreciate them, the SITA Trust project has improved two Cumbrian rivers, the Hoff and Helm Becks near Appleby-in-Westomorland as follows:
- established 8329 m of riverside fencing to protect the banks from farm animals;
- planted 5350 trees along rivers to stabilise river banks and provide food and refuge for wildlife;
- surveyed 214 sites for native crayfish, with the help of 77 volunteers;
- held 5 crayfish survey training days, attended by 61 volunteers;
The project has also spread and enhanced public awareness. They have:
- communicated the plight of native crayfish in Cumbria to at 40 events and given 56 talks to local groups;
- 2 Cumbria University undergraduates completed their conservation projects on crayfish and received a First Class mark for them.
Eden Rivers Trust is extremely grateful to all the volunteers for their time, effort and interest, as well as to all land owners who allowed surveys to take place on their land. Volunteers engaged in the project have have ranged from retired people interested in the river, to local anglers and staff from businesses such as Ullswater Steamer Company, Barclays Bank and the Outward Bound Trust to pupils from “QEGS” Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith and students from Cumbria University and other universities.
Joanne Backshall, Conservation Officer with Eden Rivers Trust, says,
“This amazing creature is threatened with extinction. Improving the rivers in the county for crayfish will benefit not only this endangered species but all the wildlife associated with rivers. Healthy, attractive rivers are also of benefit to people in providing clean water supplies and creating beautiful landscapes for locals and visitors to enjoy. We are grateful to SITA Trust for their financial support for this very valuable conservation project.”
The project has been funded by SITA Trust, an organization that distributes funds donated by the recycling and resource management company. The LCF distributes funds donated by the recycling and resource management company SITA UK, which supports vital environmental and social projects through the Landfill Communities Fund.
SITA Trust spokesman Jools Granville said,
“This has been an amazing project with some serious benefits and we are so proud to be a partner in it. We have been humbled by the hard work and dedication of Eden Rivers Trust and the many volunteers, landowners and members of the public who have come together to work towards a more sustainable future for this fantastic and seriously endangered species. Cumbria is such an important location for these crayfish and it’s vital that the good work already undertaken is built upon in the future. ”
The ERT Winter Newsletter tells us that this is what is going to happen, among other good things.
It announces a new £473,618 grant from DEfRA, that will help continue and extend work for these rare creatures and their lovely river habitats. The Eden Rivers Trust are working with a range of partners and with the help of volunteers on a variety of projects that meet the Trust’s aims and which also promise to help protect human habitat too by engaging with flood alleviation.
The new three year project will help by continuing to monitor crayfish populations, protecting river banks with 12 miles of riverside fencing, the planting of 6,000 trees and the assessments of 20 farms to implement and evaluate methods for reducing the impact of agricultural pollution. In five locations, the Trust will be anchoring felled bank side trees to create favourable havens for river life to hide and feed.
You can learn more about our native Crayfish from the ERT’s The White-Clawed Crayfish webpages. More of Linda Pitkin’s outstanding photographs of river creatures and their habitat can be viewed on her River Eden web gallery.
In partnerships with local farmers, The Newton Rigg Agricultural College and with funding from The National Lottery for the Cherish Eden project The Eden Rivers Trust’s work promises to be widely beneficial to other native riparian wildlife, and is likely to be appreciated by local communities and visitors, anglers and bird watchers and indeed by everyone who appreciates healthy river systems.
The winter edition of the Trust’s newsletter covers major areas of the ERT’s work including:
- Water Friendly Farming (ERT staff helping farmers with innovations and compliance)
- Miles of progress in battle against invaders (Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed are problem plant species)
- Adapting Land use for Flood Alleviation ( increasingly important work in the face of climate change)
- Eden Fisheries (Groundbreaking work on a riparian fisheries plan)
- Cherish Eden (Over £100,000 support in the first phase from National Heritage Lottery funding)
- Crayfish conservation
It also features an excellent sponsored cycling event in which volunteers cycled the length of The River Eden raising funds for Eden House Children’s hospice and awareness.
The Eden River Trust’s ongoing monitoring work is crucial because sadly there is another creature that could raise its claw to this article’s opening question, it is the native White-Claw’s nemesis, the American Signal Crayfish. Imported in the 1970’s for farming, this invasive species represents a serious threat to our native crayfish because it can out-compete our variety and worse still, it is an immune carrier of a virulent fungal disease, Crayfish Plague, that is particularly deadly to our native species!
Readers interested in The Eden Rivers Trust and its work, and potential volunteers and donors are invited to contact the Eden Rivers Trust, Dunmail Building, Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0AH
Tel: 01768 866788 | e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.edenriverstrust.org.uk
Registered Charity Number 1123588 Company limited by guarantee number 06460807
Registered in England and Wales