A river rejuvenated through work of volunteers

From hatching salmon to removing trees, a team of volunteers has made an amazing difference to the River Cree.

Now, the body which looks after part of the river, the River Cree Hatchery and Habitat Trust (RCHHT) has praised the work of its “enthusiastic volunteers”.

Building bridges for access

Building bridges for access

Both male and female and with an age range from nine to 70-plus, the trust says the majority of the works carried out would not have been possible without their help.

The winter storms brought down several large trees along the Penkiln and Lower Cree. Some of these trees had the potential to pose a flood risk. A concerned local resident contacted hatchery co-ordinator Murdo Crosbie to make him aware of five trees which had all caught up at the same area, causing a jam.

The volunteers swung into action and the trees were removed from below Bypass Bridge, Sparling Bridge, Ghyll Pool and the lower tidal stretches of the Cree and a few areas on the Penkiln.

By April the trust had completed cutting, clearing and burning over three kilometres of rhododendrons from the banks of the Penkiln Burn.

This was carried out to improve the bankside habitat and to allow more light to the waterway which will, in time, lead to an improved aquatic ecosystem.

There will be ongoing monitoring for rhododendron re-growth and appropriate actions will be carried out if necessary. As well as help from the volunteers, the trust also had the assistance of the local Scout Group.

Kirkland Burn was walked with the landowner and a plan of work was identified and agreed. This involved removing and burning extremely thick patches of gorse which were completely choking the waterway.

There was also the added problem of debris such as old branches and rotting trees which were removed with the assistance of the landowner. Some small trees were removed to allow more daylight to the burn.

A project on the Challoch Burn will be carried out over two years and has been partly funded by a grant from Dumfries & Galloway Fisheries Local Action Group.

Phase one involved the removal of a culvert bridge which was replaced by a span bridge, this will create easier passage for fish migrating upstream to spawn.

The volunteers cut back overshading trees and bushes and helped clear a large tree which had fallen in the burn lengthways causing severe erosion of the south bank.

Phases two and three have involved stock fencing approximately 2200 metres of banking to protect the banks from overgrazing and damage from livestock. The volunteers cleared the areas of bushes and six foot tall reeds to allow the contractors easier access. They have also been making and erecting watergates.

With regard to the problem of Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam, walkover surveys were carried out along the banks of the River Cree and identified areas were photographed and mapped.

The trust also had various reports from householders who had discovered the plants in their garden.

The knotweed spraying commenced at the beginning of September and the Himalayan Balsam is being continually picked on sight. This will be an ongoing project.

the is also ongoing bank maintenance with the volunteers strimming the banks on the angling association waters to aid accessibility to the river, they have also built bridges below the A75 bridge to ease the passage for visiting anglers. Approximately 135,000 salmon fry were stocked into burns within the River Cree catchment area which includes the Cree, Minnoch and Penkiln. Over 20 volunteers assisted with this stocking out, the youngest being nine year-old Ben McDowall. Broodstock capture was carried out in October and November and 30 hen salmon and 24 cock salmon were caught.

From these fish were stripped approximately 140,000 eggs. These eggs are looked after in the hatchery by the co-ordinator and the volunteers. A yearly Open Day is held at the hatchery in March/April, last year was

Well attended with over 100 visitors. The trust also hold pre arranged visits by local groups and individuals.

Educational visits are encouraged and the children all show great enthusiasm 
and interest.

If anyone feels they have anything they can contribute to the work of the RCHHT, whether by way of skills, finances, time or enthusiasm and no matter how much or how little, please feel free to contact Murdo Crosbie, hatchery coordinator or leave a message on the Facebook page.

The trust is holding a fundraising Ceilidh Dance to raise much needed funds to allow the work of the hatchery to continue. This will be held on Saturday, March 14 at Douglas Ewart High School.