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Posted by on in Environment

We have completed our first year of invertebrate monitoring on Midgelden Brook and have now started on the second.

The results page has been updated and a link which will open in a new window can be found here:-


We are now getting to a position where we can determine if any clear patterns in the invertebrate populations can be found.

Monitoring has also started on Carr and Craggs Moor, right at the top of the hill. Here can be found another badly polluted stretch of water, again from historical mining activities, and another potential location for the Coal Authority to construct a treatment plant.

We will probably create another page for Carr and Craggs Moor as there is a lot of information to digest.

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Posted by on in Environment

It may seem like we haven't done much in a while as there have not been any updates. We have in fact been extremely busy and it is difficult to think of when we last had a day off.

One of Wal's projects was a new animation that helps illustrate the main processes involved in the pollution of watercourses by 'Ochre Water' from abandoned mineworkings. Click on the link below to take you direct to the page.




 More updates on minewater and invertebrate monitoring are to follow.

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Invertebrate monitoring is great fun. It is good to get out and about in the nice weather and do something that has a purpose. I enjoy kick sampling in the brook and catching the small swimming creatures with my super large pipette for identification. Wal is better at identification than I am, although it does get harder when the water is more like tomato soup (see first photo).

Compare the two river photographs. The first is of Midgleden brook at site 2 (see river monitoring page) before the reed beds at the Coal Authority mine water treatment plant. The water is fairly clear although there is still a lot of staining due to the iron. The second photo is upstream at site 1 - Woodlands View. The water is incredibly orange and the rocks are covered with a reddish brown sludge as you can see from the final photo. Surprisingly there is still life to be found in this part of the brook but the contamination makes it hard to locate and it tends to be limited to stoneflies, worms and the occasional leech.

Wildlife elsewhere on site is varied. There are many tortoiseshell and small white butterflies, and I am sure that I have seen some small skipper butterflies too. The bright green leafhoppers have done really well; I have never seen so many at WV before. We had loads of cuckoo spit (foam encasement of the leafhopper nymph) earlier in the year so I was expecting rather a lot, but the numbers exceed what I imagined. I will have to try and photograph them for the blog, along with some of the other creatures that inhabit the site.

The baby rabbits have grown well and are semi tame. Wal likes chatting to them as he works and they often snooze nearby in the sunshine. They have even recently taken to helping out with the digging. They quite like sheltering under the car, which leads to a mass panic when it is time to go home as the car engine quite obviously startles them.

The pond was almost completely empty of water so hopefully all this rain will fill it up again. Small frogs are everywhere on site, leaping out of the long grass ahead of us when we go for a walk. I’ve not seen any newts for a bit but they tend to hide amongst the rocks to keep moist.

There are still plenty of jobs to keep us busy this summer but we will take some time out to do some photography and exploring.


Hours of Fun.

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We carried out our first river-monitoring mission this weekend.

On Saturday, the ever supportive and enthusiastic Judith from the Calder and Colne Rivers Trust came up to Woodlands View to check on our technique as we took our first sample from Midgelden Brook above the mine-water treatment works, where the brook bounds South Woodlands.  This area has been tested in the past and nothing was found apart from a leech. 

The brook was running well and the water was fairly clear, although at first glance there was no sign of life.  We took three samples, doing a 30 second kick in each location.  Unfortunately, and to Wal’s great amusement, I had a hole in my wellie and it rapidly filled with exceedingly chilly water.  Still, it helped to weigh me down which was advantageous as the current was fairly strong in places and the bacterial mats made the rocks quite slippery. 

I also performed a rock check, turning over stones and shale in the middle of the brook to look for any creatures that may be clinging to them.  While this method was successful last week in the beautiful waters at Gibson Mill, I found nothing in Midgelden except scum and orange staining.

Wal carried the bucket of water back up to the lecture hall and we started to investigate the contents.  To our surprise we spotted a small stonefly and then my Dad pointed out a large Cased Caddis.  Wal found Caseless Caddis, and Olives.  There were a couple of other invertebrates as well but these do not form part of the monitoring.  Overall, we achieved an Angler's Score Index (ASI) of 4. This was totally unexpected and really pleasing as the water is slightly better than we thought, although it is still not as good as it should be.  However made a good comparison for the water lower down around the treatment works, which we investigated on Sunday.

Sunday's results were slightly more promising. Although in the first site at the treatment works we only achieved an ASI of 4 - the same as on Saturday at Woodlands View, we found another species on the list (Flat-Bodied Heptageniidae) and found an increased number of Stoneflies. Site 3 was lacking the Heptageniidae, but overall we had 4 species and with the numbers found, we achieved an ASI of 5.


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Wal and I spent an enjoyable Saturday splashing about in a local river and hunting for water-based mini beasts. 

We are taking part in the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative and have been learning how to identify several types of aquatic invertebrates that will act as an indicator of the heath of our local stream.

The Riverfly Partnership leads an initiative to allow various groups such as anglers and conservationists to monitor the invertebrate life in their local watercourses and to take action that will help conserve the river environment.  The monitoring scheme is used alongside the work carried out by the Environment Agency and ensures that the water is checked regularly so that any issues are detected and dealt with quickly, and hopefully before any major damage is caused.

The monitoring technique is really simple – even a physicist like myself could understand it! 

Take a 3-minute kick sample from the riverbed

Wash finds

Identify and record creepy crawlies (or should that be swimmy crawlies?)

There are 8 types of invertebrates that are used in monitoring the health of the rivers. These invertebrates are mostly the larval stages of riverflies with the exception of the freshwater shrimp  In our kick sample we found a monster stonefly, many flat-bodied Heptageniidae which look like Darth Vader , and several caddis fly larvae, both cased and uncased. There are other invertebrate species that may be found, but the 8 that we looked for are the best indicators of water quality.

As Wal and I are going to be keeping an eye on Midgelden Brook it is unlikely that we are going to find more than one or two of these species, at least to start with.  We will be setting up a monitoring page with more information about the Riverfly Partnership and our work on Midgelden, but more information on the initiative can be found here: http://www.riverflies.org/ 

Thank you to Judith, Stuart and Melvyn for a very informative and fun day learning how to do something that is going to benefit our local environment. Also thanks to Gary for the lift from Hebden Bridge Station.

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