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River Thame Conservation Trust

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Fish on the River Thame can now explore parts of the river they haven’t been able to reach since probably Norman times thanks to a recent project at Waterstock Mill, Oxfordshire.

The River Thame Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Environment Agency have made improvements to a stone weir to help fish navigate the historic structure they were unable to swim over.

Over the centuries, humans have changed natural river systems for our own uses, for agriculture, building developments, navigation or water supply.  Watermills are a signs of a time when the river was a major source of power in the rural economy and weirs were important to help provide that power to the mills.  But at the same time, weirs divided a once continuous watercourse, restricting the movement of many fish and insect species, separating them from their food sources and the variety of habitats they need to complete their life cycles.  This has badly affected their survival, and in some cases, species have disappeared altogether in some stretches of river.

Major pollution incidents over recent decades have caused the deaths of thousands of fish, and blockages in the river have prevented fish and other mobile species from moving away from the pollution and being able to re- colonise after the events.

The Waterstock Mill project has resulted in the restoration of more than half a mile of river (almost a kilometre), improving the environment for fish to promote their survival.  It was managed by the River Thame Conservation Trust in partnership with the Environment Agency and funded from the Thames Rivers Trust Restoration Fund and the Environment Agency. The project also had great support from the landowner who allowed the work to take place on his land.

The River Thame Conservation Trust plan to carry out similar projects in the coming years to gradually improve passage and habitats across the river catchment.