River quality under the microscope


Over the summer, numerous residents of Burgh have mentioned to Jeremy Hickling and I that the River Bure just doesn’t seem as clear or as “clean” as it used to be. Also that the wildlife associated with it seemed diminished.

These concerns real or perceived required investigating, so Jeremy and I set about meeting with some of the relevant agencies and linked organisations to find out more.

First up was the Environment Agency who stated that the weed cutting on the Bure was very late this year. The hot weather had caused problems with low oxygen levels, which affected the fish, and also delayed the weed cutting schedule from Burgh Mill to Aylsham Mill. The delay may have caused the river to appear more “cloudy” than normal. However, the weed cutting is now complete and the river remains cloudy.

We raised the issue of effluent discharge into the Bure from the Aylsham Sewage Treatment Plant. The Environment Agency said that they have water sampling points at Ingworth Bridge and Horstead Mill. Routine samples taken from these sites have, according to the Environment Agency, given consistently good results for the last two years. We requested that samples be taken from Burgh as we were immediately downstream of the plant.

Samples were taken in August from Cradle Bridge by Rachel Storr a team leader from the Environment Agency. The samples were tested for things you would expect from an organic pollution, sewage or livestock. These included biological oxygen demand, ammonia and phosphate. All of the results were extremely good.

The levels of solids in the water were also tested to ascertain if this was the cause of the “cloudiness”. The test produced a low result. These results classify our stretch of the Bure as “good” under the Water Framework directive. At our request the Environment Agency is looking over the results of the effluent samples that leave the Aylsham Sewage Treatment Plant to be discharged into the Bure. They will notify us in due course of their findings.

We also met with RiverCare, a project which is delivered by Keep Britain Tidy, a national environmental charity, whose partner is Anglian Water. The aim of RiverCare is to bring about positive change to the aquatic environment through direct action by volunteers.

In August we met with Andrew Walters, Programme Manager for the RiverCare project and explained the Burgh residents’ concerns. He offered a couple of useful suggestions, the possibility of a visit to the Aylsham Sewage Treatment Plant (Anglian Water managed) and to facilitate the training of a Burgh resident to undertake invertebrate sampling from our stretch of the Bure.

Bob Brewer has enthusiastically agreed to be our trained invertebrate sampler. Invertebrate sampling is used as an indicator for river quality/health. Bob is due to attend a training course with the RiverFly Partnership shortly. This partnership is a dynamic network of organisations that represents, conservationists, entomologists, anglers, scientists and water course managers, whose aim is to protect the water quality of our rivers.

Another linked organisation that Jeremy and I met with this summer was the RiverLands initiative, Upper Bure Valley Partnership. A programme of works between the National Trust (Blickling) and the Environment Agency whose aim is to bring together local communities for healthy rivers, streams, wetlands and ponds so that native wildlife can flourish and where people can enjoy their natural heritage.

The Upper Bure Valley Partnership catchment area covers from the source of the Bure (Melton Constable) and the source of Scarrow Beck (West Beckham) to the Bure as it passes under the A140. Emily Long, Project Manager for the Partnership said that although we were “”officially” outside of the catchment area she welcomed Burgh into the Partnership. This means that we will be included in the Partnership newsletters and residents invited to attend relevant workshops and talks.


River and coastal maintenance programmes for river maintenance schedules.
The Riverfly Partnership
Broadland Catchment Partnership and a link to the newsletter.Information

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