Residents give trust’s river initiative a helping hand

Some of the volunteers who helped to clear up areas next to the River Pont on Saturday.
Some of the volunteers who helped to clear up areas next to the River Pont on Saturday.
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Volunteers from across Ponteland got stuck in to help improve areas next to their local river.

The Rivers Pont and Blyth are the focus of a new Northumberland Rivers Trust (NRT) project and this weekend saw the first of many community engagement events for the River Pont.

Starting in the centre of Ponteland and working their way upstream through the park and downstream through farmland, the volunteers collected litter from the banks and put them into bags.

They pulled out Himalayan balsam, a problem weed, and improved the habitats for aquatic life by placing and securing some small bundles of hawthorn into the river banks.

Among those who helped out were members of the Friends of Ponteland Park. In addition, the Ponteland branch of Waitrose donated the bin bags that were used to collect the litter.

Ella Vogel, NRT project officer, said: “We’re grateful to everyone who helped us to begin improvements on this stretch of the River Pont. Those who came along were very happy to help and they all pulled their weight.

“The hawthorn bundles will offer a type of habitat diversity that is essential to reduce predation on small fish and provide breeding platforms for aquatic invertebrates, thus maintaining a healthy river ecosystem.

“As well as residents, we’re working to engage with local farmers about the importance of the ecosystem and good water quality in these two rivers.”

The NRT works with others to improve and protect rivers and streams in Northumberland. A project to reduce rural diffuse pollution has been completed and among the on-going initiatives is a scheme for the River Wansbeck.

The organisation also engages with schools through Trout in the Classroom. Pupils help these fish develop when they hatch and they are released into the river just before the summer break. Visit www.northumberlandrivers for more details.