Back in March we wrote about wildlife spotted in the Culm catchment and that we’d soon be able to share plans with you on how to get involved, COVID-safely, in one of the many citizen science and volunteering opportunities available. We’re aiming to get as many people as possible actively engaged in enhancing the health of the river, the environment and the people in Culm communities – that means getting out and taking action!

The fantastic news is that time has finally come! We’re really excited that plans for activities are now being made and some activities are beginning to happen again. In this latest news update we bring you the ‘hot off the press’ information that we currently have – please check back regularly for updates and in case things have to change last minute (if you sign up for anything you’ll automatically be kept informed of any changes by the relevant organisers).

First off, Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) Culm Citizen Science Investigates (CSI) volunteers are now able to get back out and undertake their water quality sampling. If you’ve not already joined you can read more and sign up here. We’re going to be running Culm CSI training sessions in Hemyock in July and in Cullompton in August – dates to be confirmed – register your interest at hello@connectingtheculm.com and we’ll keep you posted. We’re particularly looking for volunteers on the Fulford, Ken, Weaver, Madford and Halbeton tributaries, so if you’re near those and keen to help monitor water quality, please do get in touch!

Secondly, Devon Biodiversity Records Centre (DBRC) have produced an exciting programme of training to support Connecting the Culm’s biodiversity surveys and wildlife data collection & monitoring volunteers. The programme kicked off with an online introductory event on 14th June at 14:30 – Vegetation Monitoring in the Culm Catchment and you can watch the recording here. This is being followed by three outdoor monitoring training events for volunteers:

Description: We want to collaborate with those living in the River Culm catchment to help solve the river’s problems. DBRC needs your help in monitoring the river vegetation and so they are running training sessions lead by DBRC ecologists:

  • Monday 21st June 2021, 09:30-14:00 (with a break for lunch) – location: Killerton Estate, nr Exeter. Specific parking details and meeting point to be sent out after booking.

Title: Vegetation monitoring of the lower Culm – This session focuses on the lower reaches, around the Killerton Estate. We will cover how to identify a range of riparian vegetation, including indicator species for habitat quality. After the training you will be able to carry out surveys of the catchment to help the project. Places are limited.

  • w/c 28th June – location: TBC. We aim to provide full details as soon as they become available.
  • Wednesday 7th July 2021, 09:30-14:00 (with a break for lunch) – location: DWT Clayhidon Turbary Reserve. Specific parking details and meeting point to be sent out after booking.

Title: Vegetation monitoring of the Culm headwaters – This session focuses on the upper reaches in the headwaters in the Blackdown Hills. We will cover how to identify a range of wet heath vegetation, including indicator species for habitat quality. After the training you will be able to carry out surveys of the catchment to help the project.

Please email DBRC Community Ecologist Jess Smallcombe to register for these sessions: jsmallcombe@devonwildlifetrust.org

Thirdly, the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding National Beauty (BHAONB) is beginning to release dates for nightjar, crayfish and other species-specific training. For nightjars, an online training event will be held at the beginning of June, with the two survey weeks being at the end of June and July. Nightjars are nocturnal, so some anti-social hours are required to survey for them. More information here – and contact verity.jones@devon.gov.uk if you’d like to know more about all the species-specific training sessions or to register.

Finally, the community-led Culm Himalayan Balsam Action Group (HBAG) is going from strength to strength. The group held an online ‘meet & greet with Q&A’ on 27th May 2021 so those volunteers signed up to date could introduce themselves to each other and exchange skills and experience between the more and less experienced members of the group. The group will coordinate a plan of action to address this invasive species in multiple locations along the Culm (from Churchstanton to Stoke Canon!). If you’d like to sign up to join the group please email hello@connectingtheculm.com with your name and where you live/where you’d be happy to tackle the balsam and we’ll put you in touch with the groups’ coordinators. An outdoor toolbox training session has been setup for those who would like to identify and remove Himalyan Balsam, here’s the details:

Tackling Himalayan Balsam in the Culm Valley, Friday 18th June 10.30am – 3pm.

Meet outside of the Healthy Living Centre, Hemyock, EX15 3SH (please avoid using their dedicated parking)

As part of the Connecting the Culm project, we are offering a free outdoor training and information session for all ages (risk assessed and COVID-safe).  We will show you how to identify and remove this invasive species as part of a wider project to make the river better for wildlife and people.  We will then make a start on tackling the balsam!  Join us for all or part of the day. Please wear stout shoes and bring some gardening gloves too. Following this session there will be a number of Balsam Bash events, as well as opportunities to get involved with surveying the catchment to map the spread of Himalayan Balsam.  To register and for any queries about this event contact Annabel Barr 07788 718125 or Jilly Ould 07840737127.

One last future opportunity to mention focuses on the nature-based solutions the Connecting the Culm project is beginning to implement in the catchment’s priority areas. NBS projects have unfortunately been delayed due to COVID but if you would be interested in volunteering to help with some of the projects and work please keep an eye out for updates – we hope to be able to provide more information about this in the coming months; in the meantime please register your interest by emailing hello@connectingtheculm.com

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