Why ‘beasties’ like crayfish and otters are thriving on the Bain

John Boulton (right) and another volunteer at one of the sampling points which they use to test water quality along the River Bain
John Boulton (right) and another volunteer at one of the sampling points which they use to test water quality along the River Bain

Forget the woods....if you go down to the River Bain today, you might be in for a big surprise. You might even spot an otter or a crayfish.

Most people probably walk alongside the river without a thought...unless there is a threat of flooding.

It is almost certain few people have ever wondered what is in the river - fish, invertebrates, and other “beasties”?

And, how many people are aware that the river is constantly monitored along its entire length for water quality - and the health of its occupants?

That is where enthusiasts like John Boulton and his colleagues come in.

When it comes to the Bain, they know more than most and are responsible for checking the river - beasties and all!

John explained: “During these monitoring sessions, we find and log all kinds of creatures, such as kingfishers, water voles and otters.

“We also log the aquatic life that we sample, including the colourful but non-native signal crayfish

“The health of any watercourse is extremely important from several points of view.

“Ask yourself - would you rather look at a sparkling river, with animals, waterfowl, and a good head of fish, or a slowly drifting river of slime, and foam, poisonous to anyone careless enough to touch the water?”

John stressed that only by constant monitoring is it possible to ensure river and water quality is maintained.

He added: “Get the basics right and everything will fall into place. Get clean water, diverse habitat, good flow and the rest will follow.”

John highlighted the important of the river’s food chain. Invertebrates like the mayfly and other up-winged flies, the olives, damsel flies and dragonflies are all food sources for larger animals,like the crayfish.

It’s not just the Bain which is monitored.

Over the last couple of years, groups of volunteers have been regularly taking samples at many points right across the Lincolnshire Wolds from what are known as the “Chalk-streams”.

Volunteers check for - and count - groups of invertebrates, mainly water-born insect larvae that are good indicators of pollution.

John added: “We are looking to see if anything is wrong with the river, for example heavy metal poisoning, agricultural chemicals, run-off from industry,”

A lack of oxygen is an indicator of organic poisoning via things like sewage, silage, and animal slurry.

Training for all volunteers takes place under the expert tuition of the Riverfly Monitoring Initiative, - a nationwide educational group whose objective is to spread the word both nationally and locally.

It consists of nearly a hundred partnership groups - from the Environment Agency to entomologists, water engineers down to local sampling and monitoring groups.

John added: “Every year we have a get together of the volunteer monitoring groups from across the Lincolnshire Wolds where guest speakers, and tutors meet to look at the big picture from the area .

“We discuss any problems, identification issues, water management issues with the group as a whole.

“The EU recognise the importance of the chalk-streams as being of economic benefit to the area and have laid down guidelines for the health of the river systems.

“Eight five per cent of the world’s chalk-streams are in south-east and south-central England and in England, only 25% of those rivers are considered to be of good ecological status.

“The objective of the current work is to set standards by which it will be possible in the future to measure the health of our rivers objectively and quantitatively.”

The programme involves many people and volunteers are always required to help out.

The work being carried out currently is monitored by the Environment Agency (Eastern Region) and locally managed by the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project (LCSP) based at Navigation Warehouse, Riverhead Road, Louth.

And, it appears the hard working is paying off with otters just one of the beneficiaries.

*Further information is available at http://www.lincswolds.org.uk/chalk-streams/the-lincolnshire-chalkstreams-project.

Leaflets explaining the work are also available from a number of locations.