Sept 2015 Clean Up River Irwell

A new start to our series of river clean up and habitat improvement events.

We deliberately chose a section of river we know well at Dumers Lane, Radcliffe which benefits from nice easy access and shallow water. Our new Gazebo got its first airing and the kettle boiled promptly at 10.30am by which time 15 volunteers had showed up ready to crack on.

River Irwell clean up - a nice bright start

River Irwell clean up – a nice bright start

We split into two groups, the first doing the hard graft of removing decades worth of tyres, traffic cones, push bikes, assorted grot and a sweet little dolly. By 2pm when we finished, an amazing pile of grot had been accumulated (awaiting council removal on Monday morning).

Cleaning out the tyres

Cleaning out the tyres

And the shopping trolleys

And the shopping trolleys

An Irwell Doly

An Irwell Mermaid

A good days haul !! Many thanks to everyone for their efforts

A good days haul !!
Many thanks to everyone for their efforts

Our other smaller group took on a very different task – a mini habitat improvement project, cleaning a section of algae clogged river bed, turning the gravel over with rakes, and then planting rannunculus (water crows foot) to show what the Irwell could be if given a chance.

As you can see from this series of photos, the river bed is coated in thick slimy algae (caused by over enrichment of the water by sewage). This algae coats and clogs up the river gravels which need to be clean and well oxygenated in order to support the wide variety of insects a river needs to develop healthy ecosystems.

The left of the photo showing dark algae clogged river bed. The right showing lovely bright clean gravel

The left of the photo showing dark algae clogged river bed. The right showing lovely bright clean gravel

It only takes a little raking over before the difference can be seen – and then a little green magic was dug into the river bed (ranunculus) which has the effect of stripping the water of nutrients, providing homes for insects and little fish, and also providing spawning material for coarse fish.

Ranunculus (water crows foot)  Looks amazing in summer

Ranunculus (water crows foot)
Looks amazing in summer

Green magic

Green magic

Why can't the Irwell always look this good ?

Why can’t the Irwell always look this good ?

Despite us only clearing 5 metres sq of river bed, the contrast was stark – the dirty grey river bed clogged in algae and the clean brown gravel flecked with the bright green fronds of ranunculus.

Now we have to determine a way to ensure it remains this way.

Our next clean up event is taking place on the River Irk in Blackley on Sunday the 25th October. If you fancy doing something different with your time – you are welcome to come and join us improving our local rivers.

You can keep up to date with future events via our events page