This summer a major search was launched for a beautiful water plant to help check the health of rivers and streams in Northumberland National Park.
The extensive survey, which is helping to support Northumberland National Park Authority’s vision for the natural environment, saw a team of 17 National Park volunteers, supported by the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, inspecting bodies of water across the Park for the plants.
‘Water crowfoots’ are aquatic plants related to buttercups that are native to the UK and are recognisable by their small, seasonal white flowers. Water crowfoots thrive best in unpolluted, moving water courses, such as streams and rivers and their presence has long been used as a natural indicator of clean water. There are several closely related species which are sometimes hard to tell apart.
Abi Mansley, Programmes Officer at Northumberland National Park Authority, said:
“The water crowfoot survey is one of the activities we have carried out as part of our drive to enhance nature within the National Park.
“In addition to looking for water crowfoot, other things we plan to monitor include the range of the Mountain Bumblebee and Black Grouse, the number of high-quality hay meadow sites and waxcap grassland sites (special grasslands that support an array of colourful fungi).
“The River Coquet has long been renowned as a great place to see water crowfoot, alongside rivers and streams in the Tweed catchment in the north of the National Park, but the data we had was out of date and needed checking for accuracy. The aim of this initial survey is to collect new, more precise and up-to-date data and to set a benchmark from which we can measure future changes.”
Taking place between June and August while the leaves and flowers were visible, the survey saw teams of volunteers checking out more sedate areas of the River Coquet and other bodies of water. Two more technically difficult sections of the Coquet, downstream from Thrum Mill and between Shilmoor and Linnbriggs, were surveyed by a water-trained team from Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue.
Paul Freeman, deputy team leader at Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, said:
“We were delighted to be able to assist Northumberland National Park’s conservation team and volunteers with the water crowfoot survey.
“It’s very important for the Mountain Rescue Team to work collaboratively and maintain good relationships with external organisations and agencies as it not only helps to raise awareness of what we do, but it is also a great opportunity for us to gain additional experience and enhance our training in areas that we might not ordinarily venture into.”
Andrew Miller, head of programmes and conservation at Northumberland National Park Authority, said:
“The water crowfoot survey is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through pooling our resources and working collaboratively.
“Northumberland National Park is home to some of the cleanest rivers in England which is something we are incredibly proud of. The National Park covers the head waters of several of the rivers; low levels of pollutants enter the water here due to the type of farming, few roads and little development. This makes it a haven for wildlife that needs clean water, such as migrating salmon and otters as well as plant life like water crowfoot.
“Maintaining and protecting our natural environment is one of the Park’s core objectives and this wouldn’t be possible without the help of our volunteers, friends and supporters. On behalf of the conservation team, I’d like to thank the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and all of the volunteers who took part in the survey.”
The data collected during the water crowfoot survey are currently being collated and will eventually be shared with the North East Records Centre at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle.