You may remember that back in January we asked for help in undertaking a survey of dippers on the Worth and it's tributaries (We're looking for dipper spotters 19/1/23). A big thanks to those who contributed to the project, your input was valuable. The nesting season is now over so we can review the results. Here are the details from John Tickner who organised the data and also took this lovely photograph of a dipper and fledglings.
Dipper observations, Spring 2023
Along the River Worth itself, between Ponden and the confluence in Keighley with North Beck, 6 definite nest sites were identified where adults were seen feeding young. Nothing was reported to suggest there were any more pairs, except possibly in among the industrial buildings at Ingrow where observation is not so easy. Individual birds were occasionally reported downstream of the North Beck confluence towards the River Aire, but no nesting identified.
Individual birds were reported on Bridgehouse Beck between Ebor Lane and the River Worth confluence, but observations implied that these were birds from either of 2 nearby territories on the Worth itself.
Above Haworth on Bridgehouse Beck, Dunkirk Beck and Leeming Beck, no actual nest sites were confirmed, but 4 likely territories were identified, and in at least one of these breeding was successful as fledglings were seen.
On North Beck, individual birds were reported at 2 separate locations, around Goose Eye and both sides of Castle Mill, but again no actual nest sites were identified nor breeding confirmed.
Thank you to those of you who have taken the trouble to send us your reports. We hope to have another go next year, learning from our experiences this year, and ideally with a few more folks joining in. We were struggling for a while to make any sense of a lot of isolated sightings, then in the space of a few days in mid May it became much easier to locate nests as both parents were frantically to and fro trying to satisfy the voracious appetites of their young in the nest. It appeared that breeding was remarkably synchronised along the river.
Dippers are renowned for liking nest sites under bridges, but not all our nests by any means were under bridges, it seems that the old stone walls built all those years ago to contain the river provide an almost unlimited array of possible holes for nesting. The grey wagtails think so too!
River Worth Friends AGM, Tuesday 2nd May 7.00pm at The Marquis of Granby, Riddlesden.
At River Worth Friends we are very excited about our AGM (not really but you have to say that sort of thing!), it will be our first ever annual general meeting.
River Worth Friends was formed about four years ago to work to both improve the river as a habitat for wildlife and also to show the local community what an asset the river could be to them. Of course covid and the ensuing lockdowns stopped face to face meetings so we have never got round to having a proper live business meeting. With the exciting new developments on the river we thought it was time to correct that.
The River Worth Restoration Project with the Aire Rivers Trust and Keighley Big Local, involves a lot of volunteer work to enhance access along the river and to improve wildlife habitat in the river. A network of water monitors has also been set up to keep a check on the water quality in the river. We also have plans for events to celebrate the river later in the year.
We have a great team of volunteers who come out to help with our weekly litter picks and river clearances but there is a lot of organising that goes on behind the scenes, the AGM will help to highlight some of this back room activity and hopefully encourage people to become involved.
It should be an interesting evening and also a way to find out more about the workings of the RWF.
Although our rivers are in trouble there are things we can do ourselves to help them.
The river Worth and it’s tributaries certainly fit into the picture of widespread river pollution outlined in the Paul Whitehouse programs. A look at the River Trust Poo Map, which details all the combined sewage outflows (CSO’s) in the country, shows that the Worth catchment has its fair share of CSO's and that they are regularly discharging raw sewage into the river. If you zoom the map to around Ingrow and click on the largest spots you will see that the South Street Keighley CSO (Permit no.WRA8110) discharged 83 times for a total of 1390 hours, Ingrow Lane CSO (Permit no. 3054 ) discharged 57 times for a total of 917 hours. You can also see that there are not full records for Ingrow Lane as there were technical problems, so the discharges may have been longer. In all there were 23 CSO’s discharging for 4,563 hours into the Worth catchment.
So the river has pollution problems. Some may say “Well it’s always been like that what’s new, it’ll never change”. We would say that shows limited ambition, the river has improved immensely since the days of heavy industrial pollution, with some TLC it could develop further to be a green ribbon running through our communities.
Even if you are not part of the Monitoring Hub you can still look out for pollution and other river issues. If you see anything you think looks wrong go to our Report an Incident page to find out how to report it. Failing that you can always join one of our weekly litter picks, contact us to find out when they are
We hope that by a combination of local volunteer activity combined with pressure on our government to do the right thing nationally we will be able to improve conditions on the Worth and all our rivers.
Paul was quite hard hitting but did he miss a target?
Paul Whitehouse certainly didn’t pull any punches in his programs on river pollution in which he appears to lay the blame at the feet of the water companies, with a supporting role for farmers. However, in a way why would we be believe otherwise? The water companies are run by investment companies who are more interested in profit than in the quality of the water in our rivers. Yorkshire Water, for instance, is owned by the Kelda Group which is in turn owned by:
So we can’t expect the water companies to have the health of our rivers at heart. The only way to make them do the right thing is by regulation.
There are two bodies that regulate the water companies:
One of the EA’s main regulatory duties is looking after our rivers. Unfortunately the Government has cut its funding by 56% since 2010 (Independent 29/8/22). Little surprise that the EA finds it increasingly difficult to monitor the quality of our rivers. We understand that in recent years the number of EA staff tasked with investigating pollution incidents on the Aire have dropped from ten to two which, inevitably, means less effective monitoring. That is two inspectors to cover the whole Aire catchment from Malham down to Goole!
So it’s possible Paul Whitehouse missed an opportunity to point the finger at another culprit rather than just the Water Companies – the Government.
But all is not lost, and in our next blog we will suggest ways in which we can do things locally to make a difference.
Can you help us count the dippers on the river worth?
We adopted the dipper on our logo as it is a frequent sight along the river. This little black/brown bird with a white throat can be seen flitting from rock to rock and occasionally diving underwater to search for insect nymphs on the bottom. However we are concerned that there may not be as many dippers on the Worth as there should be.
Dipper territory is usually about a 1 kilometre stretch of river for a single pair, we believe the density on the Worth may be much less than this. So this year we plan to survey the number of breeding pairs on the Worth catchment, that is, Bridgehouse Beck, North Beck, and the Worth itself. We would appreciate your help.
The best way to assess dipper numbers is to look for nesting sites in the spring. Dippers favourite nesting place is in holes in man made structures such as bridges, walls, weirs and culverts. Nest sites can be traditional, there is a site which is said to have been nested in continuously for over 120 years. Their nesting time is from early March to the end of May.
You don't need to be a full blown twitcher to help, just reporting seeing a dipper when you are by the river will help. We are asking for people to report all sightings of dippers, and the activity of the bird at the time, which may be a simple fly-past, gathering nesting material, feeding, and maybe taking that food back to a nest for the young, the surest confirmation that breeding is taking place. In making these observations, please never get too close to disturb the birds. If you are familiar with What3words location finder a what3words location would be a great help but if you are not into the tech. then a straight forward description of the location is good.
At the end of the breeding season we will collate the observations to form a map of dipper presence on the Worth. Depending on the results of the survey, next year we may install dipper nest boxes under suitable bridges along the river.
If you would like to help with the survey please email us on email@example.com
River Worth Friends are looking for volunteer pollution hunters.
River Worth Friends are constantly on the lookout for pollution entering the river and often report incidents to the Environment Agency. However this is just done on a rough and ready basis, so we have decided to take a more active approach to pollution spotting.
To combat this we are setting up a network of volunteers to check the water quality, look for illegally discharging CSO’s and report incidents to the EA. Water quality can be checked by
So we are looking for volunteers. If you are interested we will be having a meeting to explain the scheme at The Bronte Hotel, Lees Lane, Haworth, BD22 8RA, on Thursday 26th January (see flyer below for more details). No experience or special knowledge is required to be a monitor as full training will be given. Joining the monitoring network is a good way to get out by and even in the river and to find out more about the its ecology. Plus you are helping to improve it for the people and wildlife.
Looking forward to seeing you at the Bronte on the 26th.
River Worth Friends team up with Keighley Big Local and Aire Rivers Trust for major project to improve the River Worth from Keighley up to Haworth.
Most people know River Worth Friends for litter picking and pulling rubbish out of the river but we have always been keen to do more than that, especially in two main areas:
We have secured generous funding from Keighley Big Local, Keighley Towns Fund and the Environment Agency. We have plenty of ideas for how we would like to make the river a better place; improving the river habitat, resurfacing the footpaths, way marking and providing information about its heritage and natural history are just a few. But we really want the project to come from the people who live and work alongside the river, that’s why we have organised a number of events for you to say how together we can make the river better.
This restoration project could transform how we relate to the Worth and it's tributaries, come along to one of these events if you want to have a say about how this will be. It would be great to meet you and hear your views.
There seems to be a real groundswell of opinion regarding sewage pollution in our rivers and it appears that our politicians are starting to take notice. To push harder on this Surfers Against Sewage and Plastic Free Leeds are demonstrating at Rodley in Leedson 22nd October.
The more people there the stronger the message
The strength of public opinion forced the government into an embarrassing last minute climb down on sewage discharges in the Environment Bill of 2021 (Times 26/10/21), they were forced to introduce additional measures to make water companies limit the amount of sewage reaching our rivers and beaches. However many of these measures are long term and the funding for Environment Agency enforcement remains very limited following considerable cuts in funding in recent years.
Recently a number of Environment Agency employees have expressed their concerns over the agency limiting their options to investigate pollution incidents. The repeated funding cuts mean the number of investigators has been reduced over the years, now the agency has a policy of only investigating level three incidents and just recording more minor events. (Guardian 20/1/22).
More good news on the pollution penalty front was the recent statement from the Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena that he will raise the penalty for discharging sewage into rivers from a paltry £250,000 to a refreshingly punitive £250 million. The aim being to make the water companies sit up and take notice and really clean up their acts. (Daily Telegraph 30/9/22)
So it seems that public pressure is bringing some improvement in our rivers and on our beaches. But they are a slippery bunch these politicians and polluters! We need to keep the pressure on both to make sure they follow through with their promises, especially the water companies. A good turnout at the Rodley demonstration will send a firm message to Yorkshire Water. River Worth Friends will be there, we hope others who care about our rivers will also be able to come and make their voice heard.
Last week RWF volunteers and Aire Rivers Trust staff electro-fished at five locations on the river, they were led by Prof. Jon Grey of the Wild Trout Trust. This was a repeat of the session held last year which we talked about in a previous blog. Electro-fishing involves passing an electric current through the water to very briefly stun the fish which are netted, measured and then released unharmed. We do this to check the population and to get an understanding of how the various weirs on the river affect the distribution.
Most of the time we were electro-fishing there was a hatch of mayfly coming off the water, with fish rising to them. One of our volunteers had a rod with him so decided to try for one, watched by the rest of us (always a bit disconcerting), he landed a fine 33cm brown trout. He tended to lose interest in the electro-fishing after that and we didn't see so much of him!
We also watched a family of ducklings jump off Malcolm's weir, also no one fell in.
River Worth Friends were very concerned that the fire at Dalton Mill may have led to pollution of the river. You will remember that there were about six tenders pumping water from the river to fight the fire, much of that water will have run off, probably into the river, carrying pollutants from the burning mill. We thought that the contaminated runoff may have affected the river fauna.
To check the health of the river following the fire we recently did a kick sample below the bridge by the mill. We were very relieved to find that there was a good population of invertebrates showing, indicating that the river has not been unduly affected. Here are the figures from the recent sample with some from a sample last autumn for comparison.......
The figures do show a slight drop in population but this is not significant.
Nationwide a group of local volunteers regularly sample sites on their local rivers as part of the Riverfly Partnership with the Environment agency. They are an important part of the agency's pollution monitoring. For a couple of years RWF have sampled at a number of sites on the Worth and North beck on an informal basis but recently two sites, one on North Beck and one below Woodhouse bridge, have been registered with the Riverfly Partnership. We are looking for volunteers to sample at these sites.
On Saturday 2nd April at 10.00 am by the river at Aireworth Grove there is an opportunity to find out more about river flies on the Worth as we are encouraging people to get in the river with a net and get kicking to see what turns up, we will have experts on hand to help identify the invertebrates. It will be a great opportunity to find out more about the life in our wonderful river, so if you want to find out more please come along. Bring the children as well as kick sampling is almost as much fun a pond dipping!