12 days of Rivers Trusts – Day 8: Introducing Tees Rivers Trust
Ben Lamb, Trust Director, tells us about Tees Rivers Trust challenges and ambitions for 2019…
When did your Trust form?
The TrusTEES (see what I did there?) got together around 2007/8 and were granted charitable status in 2009. I was the first paid officer here and came on board in 2009.
How many people work at your Trust?
There are seven of us in the team at the moment; Kate keeps the business and admin end running, John is our invasives terminator, Richard is fish and farms, Zoe heads up eels and research work, James is trees and instream works, Jacqui delivers the education and I try not to get in the way too much.
We owe much of our success to our incredible and active volunteer crew who help out with everything from tickling elvers, to annihilating giant hogweed.
What are the main issues with Rivers in your catchment?
I could go all WFD on you and start baffling on about all sorts of high-level parameters that supposedly define failure; I could also get red-faced and pointy and rant about the Tees Barrage, but it’s Christmas and in the interests of stopping you from closing this page in despair… The Tees, like so many other rivers everywhere, suffers from accidental and intentional abuse from multiple sources. However, I think one of the main issues we have on the Tees is a negative perception of the river both locally and nationally which stems from its historical pollution. The river is a million miles away from the toxic sludge that made it infamous and we are helping to gradually pull that round by getting folks involved with the river and letting it be known that the Tees is bl**dy brilliant and well worth a visit!
Are there any particular rivers keeping you up at night and why?
Barely a night goes by when I don’t rear up in bed in a cold sweat shouting the name of some waterway or other. At the moment I have taken to sleepwalking on stormy nights and have been found by my wife and children on a number of occasions out in the garden like some deranged Quasimodo figure baying just two words into the ripping wind.. ‘THE SKERNE…THE SKEEERNE’. It’s fair to say that there is quite a lot to do on the Skerne and we are just about to get cracking on it as part of the ‘Brightwater’ Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Landscape Partnership project headed up by Durham Wildlife Trust.
Our first job is to pull together some materials to establish a low flow channel through a 6km reach of massively over widened and straightened channel. To do this we are making 2000 birch bundles and cutting 4000 alder stakes to pin them with, so, although this is the feature activity for this year’s Tees Rivers Trust Forced Labour Christmas Do (you have to earn your BBQ sausages around here!) any help out there I am sure will be welcomed by James!
Why is the above picture your favourite photo of the year?
One May Saturday afternoon at the beginning of this year’s amazing long hot summer, my 7 year old son, Fred, asked me if we could get our goggles on and go and see what was in the beck over the field. So, we did and subsequently carried on doing it at any available opportunity! This is my plan for our next run of education work – get kids in becks to have a proper look at what’s going on. If the beck is too dirty or dangerous, then what better reason to fix it?
What key issue or project will you be hoping to tackle in 2019?
Oooh, so many to choose from. We are kicking off our 4-year Tees Operation Hogweed (TOPHOG) project which has just received £360k HLF funding matched with another £100k from a combination of Stockton Council, Peoples Postcode Lottery and Garfield Weston Foundation.
We are also getting stuck into some exciting new territory for us down in the Tees Estuary with our INTERREG-funded IMMERSE project which will be creating some intertidal habitat at some redundant industrial sites and looking at the potential to co-locate a mariculture enterprise with the Tees inshore wind farm.
The Tees Estuary is an exciting place and incredibly complex both in terms of stakeholders and ecology. Luckily, we have a great partner in the shape of the Tees Industry and Nature Conservation Association who will be working with us on this.
Any Christmas wishes or New Year’s resolutions for the Trust this year?
I think you make your own luck, but as we go into our 10th year, the main resolution that I have for the Trust is to get back to our grassroots as an organisation, celebrate and enjoy the Tees and lead and encourage direct action!