Newport underway

Keith Baker, organiser of the Newport sub-group of CURAT, provides an update on activity and plans, and invites residents to join in.

Since March 2022, Newport has made a start on trying to restore the Cam as it passes through Newport to the chalk stream it once was. Newport is at the centre of the rainwater catchment basin that is the source of the Cam, with tributaries including Debden Water, Wicken Water and Widdington/Henham. All within 4 miles of Newport where they converge.

This has involved educating ourselves about what we need to do, avoiding inadvertent damage in our enthusiasm to do something. Alongside that, there has been some practical activities such as a significant amount of litter removal (including the ubiquitous traffic cones), surveying parts of the river, and invasive weed removal. 

We feel it is really important to work collaboratively with water companies, farmers and landowners. To this end we have arranged with Affinity Water to visit the abstraction plant at Wendens Ambo to understand what we can both (Affinity and us as consumers) do to reduce the depletion of the aquifer which feeds many of the springs in our watershed.

We have arranged a visit to the Newport Water Treatment works, again to understand what Anglian can do to reduce sewage outflow, and what we can do to help by cleaning up what we are sending down our drains to them. It’s not all wet wipes; read the back of your Fairy Liquid bottle.

Farmers tend to get bad press regarding environmental issues, but if you have walked, run or cycled the stunning countryside around Newport, you must have noticed the brilliant efforts of our local farming community to restore hedgerows, wetland and woodland. Recognition is due.

We need the support of farmers and other landowners to give us permission to access the river for targeted action. NOTE: this does not open up a ‘right to roam’. Success in recovery of wetlands, woodland and the river depends on leaving them undisturbed by humans once any necessary work has been done. We should respect the signs that farmers put up.

As well as keeping the community up to date on what has been happening, the reason for this note is there has been two very important developments that will involve asking for more volunteer support in the future.

Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) are visiting to advise us on how to restore the extent and biodiversity of the ‘green corridor’ that the Cam should, and to some extent does, run through. The river and the accompanying green corridor are inextricably linked. There will be many different challenges and EWT has the expertise and resources to train and support us. As a community, we will have to provide the labour to make it work.

The Essex Wildlife Trust project is being established in August, with an assessment of what needs to happen, and to plan activity thereafter.

The Wild Trout Trust (WTT) will be training us on what we need to do to restore the structure of the river. Over many years, the natural route of the river has been changed to aid drainage. Alongside the common in Newport, the long straight run of the river is not natural, and neither is it healthy. The WTT will be able to train us how to restore the natural flow of the river without big yellow machines, and we can use that knowledge in all the parts of the river and it’s tributaries – with the permission of the landowner.

The Wild Trout Trust intends to hold two one day practical training courses, restoring two short stretches of the river. It would be very useful to have a body of people who know what to do to allow us to work our way through the tributaries over the next few years. Hopefully this will happen in the autumn, but there is a possibility it may slide into next year. Fingers crossed.

Whilst the start on these projects is three months away, if you are interested in joining the Newport Curat group with the other practical works that are currently happening, please email newport.curat@btinternet.com – my name is Keith, I’m a resident of the village and not hiding behind an anonymous email address, just using it to separate out the CURAT communications.

If you are a landowner with part of the river, however small, please join the effort simply by allowing us firstly to access the river (we know there are stretches that need no attention, just to be left alone). We would like to assess if there is anything that could be done to improve the health of the river, as well as removing any harmful invasive weeds and any litter we may find. If you want to put your wellies or waders on, wonderful.

Not everything we are doing involves getting wet – there is a need for data collection, collation and distribution regarding water quality testing. I’d like to set up a quick and dirty (ha!) testing regime before refining it once we have figured out what works best – there’s no point getting information we can’t use. Anyone volunteering to take that on would help very much. There is a wet bit to it, but someone smart with spreadsheets, numbers and an ability to organise testers with wellies would be very helpful.

As mentioned, this note is intended as an update and a look forward, and hopefully help our community understand what we’re doing when it comes to the inevitable plea for volunteers.

Join CURAT at curat.org.uk – it costs nothing (but feel free to donate) and you have insurance cover for any CURAT organised activity. A great source of information and expertise. You know it makes sense.

If you happen to be a resident of another community, for instance Saffron Walden, and are interested in getting involved, CURAT chairman Colin Day would be pleased to hear from you. There are streams running from Saffron Walden into the Cam that need attention if we are ever to restore the Cam to the healthy, ecologically-vibrant chalk stream it once was. Contact Colin at: colin@curat.og.uk

Our thanks to local wildlife photographer, Jane Gilbey, for the image of the egret on the river Cam.