Since becoming a Team Leader in June, I've not been out on site for work, which has come as a bit of shock to the system - I'm used to spending at least one or two days a week out in the countryside marvelling at some of the most scarce habitats and species in the country (and sometimes in Europe!).
Finally, on Friday, I was able to get out and show colleagues how working with farmers and fishing clubs can reap great rewards, by visiting a farm on the upper reaches of the River Itchen, near New Alresford (north of Winchester).
The farmer is in an agri-environment scheme - paid for through EU (and a bit of UK Government) funds, encouraging farmers to farm for wildlife and protect the environment. This particular estate is large (about 1000 acres I think) and has the River Itchen Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of conservation (SAC - internationally important) flowing through it. We've worked really closely with them to establish a suitable grazing regime with his wonderful Hereford cattle on the sensitive banks, and liaised with the fishing club to improve conditions for wild brown trout. Indeed, when we visited, there were several huge trout beneath one of the bridges - an indicator things were going OK!
The river is looking great on the whole - so inspiring to see after all that hard work, with the banks having a wealth of plants, connecting the river with the floodplain derelict watermeadows. The chalk stream was filled with aquatic plants ('macrophytes') including water parsnip and starwort - but none of the water crowfoot. Even this high up in the catchment, the water quality is not good enough to support it in places, a result of runoff from farms and other land uses (septic tanks for example).
But it was still great to see the site looking so beautiful - I hope to return invigorated to work on Monday (but also slightly more motivated to get things done as I'm off to Scotland for a week and a bit so no blog next couple of weekends I'm afraid).