Friday, December 10, 2010
There was a small group that did a clear-up of rubbish from the Randwick tributary in October - see here. See also photo.
Philip Booth was one of the speakers in Bristol at a University event about flooding that saw academics from across the country attend. Philip spoke about the Ruscombe Brook Action Group - see more about the day here.
Philip and Jo Botteril attended the Stroud Valley Water Forum meeting with Neil Carmichael who again had to leave early - see here.
Philip also attended the District meeting regarding the new flood warning codes - see here.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Photo: no otters in Ruscombe brook but have been sited not far away
Anyhow I have spoken with them as I have some concerns about the impact of their work and want to see if we can get some improvements in the process of any work. Recently for example FWAG gave advice on what we could do locally - see here. I await with interest their report.
In some ways the relining is a great disappointment as we had hoped for some replacement sewers as suggested by Severn Trent themselves earlier this year - see here our meeting with Severn Trent - they had said modeling showed not enough capacity for the sewage - however as there have been no incidents in the last 2 years they are now going for relining.
In fact, as we know, there have been sewage incidents but they were due to specific blockages. However on the plus side it would mean that any new housing in the valley would be more difficult as the sewer network will be at it's limits.
The new Severn Trent project lead says he has spent a period gathering relevant information that will assist in how they make their investment choice to resolve the problems experienced.
At present it seems their intention is to reline up to approximately 1km of sewer at various points along the Ruscombe Brook combined sewer. This will effectively seal the sewer and prevent future ingress of roots thereby maintaining a free flowing sewer. They have been undertaking further CCTV surveys of the sewers to provide a more up to date picture of the level of sewer dereliction/root ingress to ensure the project scope covers the problem sewer lengths.
Based on their current programme, they hope that work will be able to commence during spring 2011 but note "as you will appreciate there is further feasibility work to complete and various internal approvals that will be needed before we get to that stage".
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Photos: Chantal Brown from FWAG and below various photos from the walk
Well on Tuesday the Ruscombe Brook Action Group were fortunate enough to have Chantal Brown from FWAG join us on a walk along the brook. Local farmer Julia Currie had kindly organised the evening which was a chance to see what could be done to improve biodiversity along the brook. See also my previous blog on invasive species here - although the photos have since been removed - follow the links to the Plantlife website instead.
We also looked at various 'problem sites' along the brook. This photo left is of the fencing put in to reduce cattle poaching - see previous blog on this here - the problem has not been solved and it maybe that a water trough is the answer. The second photo left here is of clay exposed by the water rushing down the brook - there is a pipe which sends water at high pressure out - it has worn the bank away - is it the run-off from the Wheelers Walk estate? Previously RBAG members have put in gabions to prevent further erosion - it looks as if this cheap measure is working at least partly but further work is needed. This again is the subject of our next RBAG meeting along with possibilities of further attenuation of water up the valley.
We discovered an ash tree (left) that had come down that night - great shame - we tried to identify who was the landowner and we will look to alert them of the problem.We also saw further damage to the base of the pipe bridge (see photo) that was replaced some years ago - it is being worn away - not dangerous but not great!
Many issues were discussed. One was about the Himalayan Balsam threat to the valley - infact I've had it reported that someone is growing it in their garden despite being challenged - don't know where but we really do need to try and get it removed - it is a serious threat - see our press release here that we have just sent out.
This year is the UN's Biodiversity year - see my previous blog on that here - much is at risk but we can do lots to improve the situation. Infact our valley is pretty rich with largely organic methods by the farmers - however we can do more - Chantal pointed out that the brook is very dark and overshadowed much of the way - we could significantly improve water quality and the habitat for creatures like bats by opening it up a bit - bats are also at risk - see my blog here - they welcome some open water and coppicing some of the bank edges will improve light to the brook. Indeed bats seem to love the two ponds at Ruscombe Farm (see photo) - and live in the caves at the head of the valley - also going to Woodchester Mansion.
Anyway it looks like we are set to discuss at our next RBAG meeting how we can open the brook more with a work party later in the year - anyone interested in joining us??
We also wondered about whether a sewer pipe was leaking in the fields - see this photo - it has been reported to the Watercourse Warden but no reply yet. It needs checking.
Hamwell Leaze Boardwalk opens
Further along the brook the Broadwalk at Hamwell Leaze had just opened - see my movie here with a write up and photos about the opening. The press have also covered the story and if you look very carefully you can see I got into the photos of both SNJ and Stroud Life.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
In the light of this I did send a piece put together by a local resident. This is what they wrote:
"It is an annual plant which grows to about 2 metres with purplish-pink slipper shaped flowers in June–August. When the seed pods are mature, they explode when touched, scattering the seed up to 7 metres. Himalayan Balsam spreads rapidly, suppressing the growth of grasses and native British plants. Along river banks this leaves the banks bare of vegetation in autumn and winter and liable to erosion and flooding.
"Chantal advised that it should be pulled whilst in flower and before it has a chance to set seed, warning that many Gloucestershire river banks were becoming infested with the weed."
Ruscombe Brook Action Group are hoping to organise several work parties in the next few months to clear scrub and coppice trees along the banks of the brook. If you would like to get involved, contact me on 755451.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Photos: Various pics of the Lake at The Lawns - for those who don't know where that is - and it would seem many are in that boat - it is behind the trees opposite Tricorn House.
Anyway a number of issues were raised re The Lawns including concerns about the silt building up again - but it was good to see the reeds had taken well. We will be talking to the Community Trust that manages the area. It is wonderful to see the area looking more looked after - it is a beautiful peaceful spot - you can follow the brook out through a small bit of woodland to where it joins the canal (see last couple of photos).
At the AGM I was elected again to be an Officer - we also caught up on several issues like Severn Trent flushing the sewage pipes - in previous years they have cut roots to stop the sewage problems - we are hoping this is sufficient and doesn't lead to a return to the dire problems of old. There was an also an update on some of our other projects and plans for our August meeting when we are very fortunate to have an advisor from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group - she will walk some of the brook in the Ruscombe Valley and hopefully give us advice on how we can help improve biodiversity further.
This week we have the Stroud Valleys Water Forum meeting on Wednesday with Highways - a chance to raise a number of issues - no doubt more about that in a future blog.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The walk starts at 7pm on 24th August at Puckshole.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Ruscombe Brook Action Group still meets every month - we have our AGM next month and will be looking for new members and supporters to keep us going - much has been achieved (see point three here).
Photo: head of Ruscombe valley where brook starts
This last week in addition to the usual business we had a fascinating talk and discussion led by Simon Charter about viewing the brook as an organism. There are a number of levels at which we might do this and it helped us view the brook (or indeed any other water system) in a different light.
I do find fascinating such discussions - we've had some in the past - like the Mysteries of water - see here - indeed science seems to be waking up to the qualities of water - see "The strangest liquid: Why water is so weird". This new scientist article says: "The implications of this finding are dramatic: it suggests that a total rethink of the structure of water is needed." Available here - but enough of that for now....
Other issues discussed included:
- Watercourse Wardens and we were joined by Whiteshill and Ruscombe warden, Greg Dance for the first time
- Puckshole: Phase I: new culvert – working well with regular clearing out of trash screen every other month. Need to continue monitoring effectiveness. Phase II: we still need to make progress with the Wheeler’s Walk run-off and see if there are ways the force of the flow from Wheeler’s Walk can be reduced to lessen the erosion to the banks of the brook.
- Severn Trent: we were delighted to hear that sewer root cutting will commence in the next few weeks, but no news on further plans (see discussion here).
- I fed back on the meeting of the Stroud Valleys Water Forum re the canal - see here. Next meeting of the forum is on 21st July at 7.30pm in the Committee Room at Ebley Mill. Tony Parsons from Gloucestershire County Council Highways Department will hopefully give a talk. If anyone interested do contact me first.
- We also discussed the ongoing work of the group: agreed that there is keen interest in the group and that our work should continue. Group will next meet in July and include a walk around The Lawns to see progress there..
- Lastly we are planning another brook walk: possibly 24th August at 7pm.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Photo: from presentation re canal showing impact of Ruscombe Brook on water flows.
Also Philip has spoken to two Parish Council AGM's about the brook - see here. The next brook meeting is Tuesday 8th June - call for details.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Photos: from RBAG meeting and Water Forum meeting with Severn Trent
The Ruscombe Brook Action Group also met the night before to pull together questions and issues (see photo). We are also looking at the next phase for Puckshole and plans for Hamwell Leaze and The Lawns - see previous blog on this.
Other issues we managed to raise with Severn Trent at that meeting include a request for:
- more info re planned works,
- issues around new developments in the area,
- Severn Trent to set up a Customer liaison panel like Wessex Water so that we can have input and feedback from the company,
- them to extend their tariffs to include an Assist tariff that is best for those in financial difficulties (they already have many measures incl their ST Trust Fund but this would be a step further).
Anyway to that article:
Many will know that about five years ago there were well over 20 incidents of raw sewage getting into the Ruscombe Brook including the Randwick tributary. This was mainly due to the sewers surcharging usually during heavy rain. Since then the Ruscombe Brook Action Group (RBAG) have been meeting monthly and incidents have been reduced to a couple a year.
There have been many successes and actions along the way including improvements along key sites of the brook, clear-ups of rubbish and furniture in the brook, work with schools, sorting out misconnections where for example a washing machine had been discharging directly into the brook, a replacement of a pipe bridge, distributing several hundred fat traps to raise awareness about blockages, working to develop a flood catchment strategy for the whole Five Valleys and this December the fitting of a 13k new grill and culvert at Puckshole to reduce flooding. When we met with Severn Trent all that long ago they originally denied there was a problem. Since then we have come along way and they have now done extensive CCTV, flow monitoring, a manhole survey, developed a hydraulic model and much more along the sewer system.
Last week we met again with Severn Trent at Ebley Mill and the year old Stroud Valleys Water Forum. John O' Leary (pictured second from right) from Severn Trent gave us a comprehensive presentation of plans for the area including the huge works at Slad and Cashes Green. At those sites vast pipes will store 180 cubic meters of sewage during heavy rain then discharge slowly into the sewers when flows have reduced. This will hopefully stop the handful of properties in the area from getting sewage in their homes.
John was also very honest about the problems and challenges. Severn Trent now admit there are large sections of our sewer networks that are inadequate. In recent years the water company has, each year, cut tree roots that grow into the sewer pipes in the Ruscombe Valley and Randwick and down the sewers to The Lake at The Lawns opposite Tricorn House. These roots cause blockages which can lead to the surcharges and blown manhole covers...and plenty of not very pleasant stuff in our fields and gardens. Indeed on one occasion we picked up two buckets of sanitary ware alone!
Relining does not appear to be an option as the pipes are not large enough, so a proposal is being submitted for specialised 'pipe bursting' that will lead to replacement of sewer sections. However this is an expensive option as much of the sewer network is inaccessible to the 40 tonne truck they usually use. There are also hydraulic issues and other challenges. So we need to now wait to hear whether the plans are accepted and what level of priority the capital works will get.
While I am delighted the problems have been clearly accepted and documented I am concerned that we will now have to wait a long time. Severn Trent's recent determination by OFWAT means they will have to cut staff. This is not good, but we will have to see what this will mean in practice. We understand priority must be given to people that face raw sewage in their homes but equally we need to address this issue which leaves us open to sewage incidents.
RBAG have a number of projects that we are working on and will continue to push for improvements. We would welcome new members or anyone interested in learning more.
Cllr Philip Booth, Ruscombe Brook Action Group
Monday, March 8, 2010
Ismaila did his MSc with Water 21 and support from RBAG in 2007 and his water sampling showed that between June and September water quality remained fairly good although deteriorated down the length of the brook - there were no sewage incidents during that time - looking at the silt along the brook - again this got worse as he got down the brook although the worst point was at Puckshole with lots of nasty faecal contamination.
Ismaila was the first student - since then we've had several with Water 21 and more this summer - possibly working on Ruscombe Brook. Water 21 website also has lots about Ismaila's report.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
1. The Lake at the Lawns - Over £90k bid
Background: During 2006–07, the Stroud Community Land Trust signed a lease with Gloucestershire County Council to take over management of the Lake at the Lawns site, the second site in the Stroud area that it will actively manage. This site, next to Cainscross roundabout, is all that remains of a large country house that used to exist on the site until the 1960s. The lake, small area of woodland, and more formal lawn area is only one of three sites in Cainscross parish that residents have unrestricted access to for walking, picnicking, and generally relaxing and getting closer to wildlife. This gives the site particular importance given that the parish population is over 5,500 people.
British Waterways did carry out some work as part of plans re the canal - see some of the discussion here - the photo above is before the work was undertaken to dredge and improve the site. Considerable work was done although not quite as we had hoped - nevertheless an improvement.
After taking over the lease, Stroud Valleys Project helped the Land Trust to consult with local people about the roles that the site will play in community life, and how the site should be managed. They produced a comprehensive plan which led to a bid being submitted by the Land Trust before Christmas - a major bid for the Big Lottery Changing Spaces programme.
Andy Read, of the Land Trust (and currently Mayor of Stroud) report that they have already been shortlisted from a first stage process. They expect to hear in 10 weeks time. If successful it will be an 18-month project to do most of the repair and enhancement work identified in the management plan for the site. Some of this includes work to reduce the silting: I've requested further details on this as work we will do will hopefully support silt reduction. If not successful in the bid at least they still have everything fully planned and costed and can fundraise on individual items. The total application is just over`£90k - fingers crossed!
2. The Lake at the Lawns - Habitat work
As a result of the Ibstock Cory funding, Stroud Valleys Project were able to maintain and improve biodiversity at this site. This has allowed some on-going improvements to the site. Their work days are great fun and I well remember helping clear Hamwell Leaze and build a 'snake hotel' on one day (see photo) - recent work with volunteers includes:
- built a newt and toad hibernaculum during a habitat creation session for 10 Y9 students from Marling secondary school
- winter bird survey
- organised a training session for volunteers to help with a bat survey
- removed a laurel from the lakeside. This will help improve the water quality by reducing the amount of leaf litter in the water. The laurel will be replaced by a native hedge, which is more suitable for wildlife in terms of cover, nesting opportunities and provision of food.
3. Hamwell Leaze - Plan and Habitat work
Cainscross Parish Council have commissioned a plan to be drawn up for Hamwell Leaze: many months ago I spoke with the project coordinator and am pleased to see that the plan includes a board walk at the willow end. This is different from the 15 year old plan by Water 21 but
Those visiting the site might have seen some trees marked with white paint. It seems those trees are likely to be removed - understandably those who know the site and have been working on bird and insect surveys are worried that the dead wood will be removed even though it's good habitat for insects. I have telephoned the Parish Clerk and asked that this issue is considered and understand quotes for tree cutting will be considered by the Parish Council next Monday.
There are plans of the project now on the wall at the Cainscross Parish Council building (open I think from 9.30 to 1.00 each day). I have not been able to view the final version yet,l but understand they have been approved in principle by the Parish.
As a result of the same Ibstock Cory funding noted above the Stroud Valleys Project have been able to maintain and improve biodiversity for wildlife at this site. Recent habitat work at Hamwell Leaze has includes:
- gapped up the hedge and cleared bindweed/grass around the trees
- used the grass to re-stocked the area used for slow-worm hibernation
- cleared bindweed from oak saplings
- cut back overhanging vegetation near footpaths to make walking easier
- fixed chicken wire onto the bridge across the stream to make it safe
- cleared out bird boxes
- planted native bulbs to increase the biodiversity of the site
- organised a birdwatch session to help volunteers recognise garden birds ahead of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
- organised a training session for volunteers to help with a bat survey
4. Acre Place, Puckshole - new culvert and grill details
As reported the new culvert and grill are a great improvement over the previous arrangement (see photo and here). In the past heavy rain has led to houses being cut off by a knee deep river and cars being flooded. The new gulley took the place of the previous vertical pipe in the track: this allows flood water (and normal surface water from the track) to drain away following storms. Unfortunately, this may also occasionally act as a “pressure relief valve” if the downstream pipe is surcharged (full capacity exceeded) – just as the vertical pipe did before. For most of the time it should act as a benefit in draining the road.
The final works carried out at Acre Place included the replacement of 2No. vertical screens with a new 45 degree rake-able bar screen and new headwall (est. cost £13k). During the work, it was found that parts of the existing culvert under the track (formed by large stones with a slab stone over approx. size 0.6m x 0.4m) had collapsed, causing obstruction and a reduced capacity. A new twinwall 600mm diameter plastic pipe was therefore laid across the total width of the track so that the other works (screen, headwall) could be completed.
In addition jetting of the culvert downstream through the builder’s yard (made up of old oil cans surrounded in concrete) was also carried out after CCTV work (est. cost £1.5k).
Residents will now monitor the culvert when there is further heavy rain and RBAG will work on phase 2 of plans at the site.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Present: Philip (Chair/Minutes - pictured at Hamwell Leaze), Julia, Keith and Julian.
Apols: Kat, Zarin, Simon, Jo, Beth and Clive.
1. Puckshole phase 1 - culvert: see RBAG site here for photos of recent heavy rain. Group noted culvert managed the large volumes of water but did send an inch or two over the road at it's peak. This indicates some form of attenuation could be beneficial. Agreed it needs monitoring. ACTION: Philip to email SDC to clarify what was done.
2. Puckshole phase 2 - attenuation.
- Water 21 will be giving advice with EA on a number of possible projects in the area. Puckshole could be one of those. This would be a good way to get a costed project together on this site and possible others - it would also allow us to look at issues like who will manage any work longterm etc. Then all those projects would go forward to be considered and the chosen one implemented with a grant of £10k that is available. Agreed to wait for more details from Water 21.
- Wheelers Walk: noted Jo's research into poss ways of finding owner but want to gather further information about the site first.
- Gabions at site - no update other than they held a while back. Are they working? Do we need more? Await further info from Simon?
3. Ruscombe Valley development. Keith raised the fact that this issue was back on the agenda - indeed the issue that got RBAG started in the first place. The Council's seven Alternative Strategies have been created as part of the wider Core Strategy and some include significant developments locally. It was noted that all members would do well to comment on the plans. The Core Strategy will form the basis of a new set of planning policies that guide development for housing, jobs and community facilities. By 2026 the district needs to find 2,000 new homes and encourage a new generation of jobs. To tackle this, seven Alternative Strategies have been created. These strategies set out different ways of providing for future development i.e. what could go where. The council wants your views on which of the alternative strategies work best. A mini guide that briefly outlines the seven strategy options has been produced. The 'Your district, Your future' guide is available at all town and parish council offices as well as public libraries. Copies can also be found at the district council offices and Stroud Subscription Rooms. Alternatively the mini guide, along with the full questionnaire and consultation documents, can be downloaded at www.stroud.gov.uk/core The deadline for feedback is Monday 22 March 2010. Comments can be submitted online or by post. See Philip's blog here.
4. Water 21 gave updates on new partnerships with work on soils - and the 2 students: Adam and Kat who will work on a hydraulic model for Stroud catchment.
5. Hamwell Leaze - Cainscross Parish have been doing some work on how the site could be improved and SVP are doing a study. ACTION: Philip to get update on plans from SVP, Parish and Community Land Trust.
6. Severn Trent - letter sent - see RBAG website here re meeting planned. No answer yet. ACTION: Jo to pursue date with ST.
7. Stroud Valleys Water Forum - see Philip's blog for 26th Jan for notes here. Next meeting 10th march.
8. Ownership of brook - on hold for next meeting as not clear what stage we are at.
- our water saving tips leaflet has been in Runner and Warbler
- Julia would like to discuss further her role re membership at next meeting as agreed no membership charges. ACTION: Julia to email old contact list to see who wants to stay in touch with RBAG
- Easter egg brook walk considered: anyone time to organise?
- sledging during recent snow left much rubbish and criminal damage to land incl rubbish in the watercourse: needs more awareness. Very little help offered from authorities or community. See comment here.
- Website - ACTION: Philip to put version of this on RBAG website without names etc
NEXT MEETING: Julias house 7.30 on 9th March.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Photo: Ruscombe valley
We are now hoping they can make the next Water Forum meeting - here's the letter we've just written...
I'm writing on behalf of the Ruscombe Brook Action Group (RBAG) from Stroud in Gloucestershire and the Stroud Valleys Water Forum, a new group made up of several local Action Groups. We are seeking a meeting with Severn Trent on 10th March, at 7.30 pm in the Council offices at Ebley Mill Stroud to update us on your plans for the Stroud Valleys. I hope that you will be able to pass this letter to appropriate others in Severn Trent who could also attend.
There are several issues we would welcome discussing:
1. Ruscombe Valley: At our last meeting between Severn Trent and RBAG in 2006 the following were cited as the main contributors to sewage pollution in the brook: a) blockages caused by roots entering the pipe, or b) the consented overflow at Puckshole, c) hydraulic problems associated with the design of pipe crossing. We are aware of considerable efforts in the Ruscombe Valley by Severn Trent in root-cutting and to assess the extent of the problems. We are also aware sewage incidents have significantly reduced to only one or two each year. We have been told by contractors at the site on several occasions that capacity issues have been identified in the sewers and have been told that there are plans to replace or reline some sections.
We would welcome an official update re what you have found and plan. You may know that we've recently had success with Stroud District Council who have completed significant improvement works to the Puckshole/Acres End culvert. However we are looking at further flood alleviation measures at that site and would welcome sharing our thoughts on that. You may also know that RBAG have continued to work with community groups to raise awareness around water although have long ago issued all the leaflets that Severn Trent kindly funded for RBAG.
2. Slad Valley: we would welcome an update on the extensive measures being undertaken re sewage pipes and flood alleviation.
3. Other plans for Five Valleys: we would welcome any news you have re other issues. In particular as a group of local volunteers we are well placed to aid communication with the local community and are keen to encourage responsible water use. We would therefore also welcome thoughts you may have on this.
The Stroud Valleys Water Forum meeting will have about 15 representatives from the Ruscombe, Bridgend, Painswick and Slad action Groups and possibly several other interested individuals. We have already had meetings with the EA, GCC, SDC and had support from local councillors and David Drew MP who chaired our last meeting. One of the key challenges we are trying to address is the flooding downstream at Bridgend: to that end we are seeking for agencies to develop a full catchment strategy. We therefore are supportive of moves towards more attenuation in the valleys.
In order to move forward on the above points we'd be delighted if a representative of Severn Trent Water could join us for a meeting of the Stroud Valleys Water Forum on 10th March, at 7.30pm in Ebley Mill Stroud. I'd be grateful if you could let me know by 12th February at the latest if anyone will be available to attend.
Yours sincerely, Joseph Bottrill Ruscombe Brook Action Group and Stroud Valleys Water Forum, Stroud, Gloucestershire
Sunday, January 31, 2010
The new gully was installed just before Christmas - and as photos show, water was being pushed up through the grating and leading to water covering the road. However it is better than previous floods which have seen knee deep water across the road.
The other photographs show the water gushing adjacent to the cattle drinking point on the farm land. It was certainly very high flows of water - elsewhere in the Five Valleys there was again flooding of homes.
So is the culvert inadequate?
The new culvert basically replaced what was there before - although what was there before was partially collapsed and had silt and rocks.....so an improvement with the new grill working well and certainly reduced heavy flows of water that were damaging the road.
So are we getting more water? It is possible as weather is more unpredictable and more extreme but it seems a significant factor could be road run-off from the Wheelers Walk estate - before that was built much of that water would have soaked away into the fields but now is piped to the brook and contributes to the larger flows.
A larger culvert would have meant more water rushing down the brook to The Lawns and onto the canal to lead to potentially more flooding risks downstream. For me, as we've argued all along in RBAG, we need more attenuation - already there are two ponds further up the valley but we need an area that can hold water in storm times to slow the flows.
Anyway this will all be discussed at our next meeting on 9th Feb at 7.30 - do contact us if you are interested in joining the meeting or the group.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Lastly I note The Ecologist has a couple of useful articles: 'How to Fix a tap' here, 'Liquid Blue Gold' here with useful tips and here '10 campaign groups calling for cleaner water'.