In November RRC attended the Rivers Trust Autumn Conference hosted by the Severn Rivers Trust in the spectacular Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, Shropshire. It was exciting to see the great work being done for our rivers, and to find out about what the Rivers Trusts are planning for the coming months and years.
Here are some of our key take home points from the event.
- Partnerships are vital to the success of effective river management and restoration
This was repeated again and again during the conference, and is thankfully a recent area of growth within the river restoration sector through adoption of the Catchment Based Approach in England. Presenters particularly highlighted the increased opportunities for community engagement, assistance in securing funding, and the ability to deliver multiple benefits from projects, as key benefits of working in partnership.
However, working in partnership can entail a cost; different priorities and points of view will often require a degree of compromise. At our Annual Network Conference this year we’re looking forward to a series of talks about ‘Addressing multiple objectives’. Click here to see the draft program.
- Achieving independence in funding projects
The ability to independently secure funding is critical for the long term sustainability of organisations, like the Rivers Trusts, and there are already great strides being taken in this area. Defra and Environment Agency funding, such as the Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF), enables organisations to complete projects and thereby demonstrate their capabilities to future funding sources. We (alongside EA and CaBA) are hosting Capacity Building Workshops early next year to discuss how we can learn from completed CPAF projects and how to use the evidence and experience gained. This also helps in securing future funding streams.
In order to promote successful projects and demonstrate that they have achieved the desired aims and objectives, effective monitoring and project appraisal is necessary. This is one of the workshop topics for our Annual Network Conference where we will discuss how to set good monitoring objectives and the next step for more coherent monitoring across the UK.
- Community engagement
There is an increasing understanding about the importance of community engagement in river restoration. It’s not enough to just show the benefits of a project to those with vested interests. There is a clear need to engage all within river restoration. There have been some great examples of this by many different organisations; e.g. Severn Rivers Trust’s Monty Rivers Project discussed during the conference. But how to engage more people in river restoration and get the public excited about their local rivers is a challenge. A great way may be to increase links with the arts, for example our Youtube channel hosts a number of videos created by a number of different organisations to inspire interest in River Restoration projects. People are often more excited about watching a video than reading a factsheet!
- We need continuous improvement and review of river management
Finally there is a clear need to keep reviewing the way we deliver river restoration to keep up-to-date and follow best practice. This needs continual and increased communication between organisations and partnerships to share knowledge and lessons learnt. There are many great events going on in the industry which we publish on our website. These can be fantastic opportunities to meet people and discuss topics of interest. So long as we keep having events and continue having conversation, we can be confident that river restoration will continue to grow in scope alongside our capacity in the UK to deliver and increasingly engage community and political interest.
Many thanks to the Severn Rivers Trust for hosting a fantastic event, and to all those who presented.