I am writing to explain the ACA’s (and Bigbury Parish Council’s) attitude to the feeding of swans on the Avon Estuary which has featured in the local news recently. Anybody who is not familiar with the details might find our attitude difficult to understand. We are not talking about a few crumbs thrown into a village pond by excited children! Rather, this is an ‘industrial-scale’, daily routine of artificial feeding with an alien diet by one man with an obsession. Bigbury Parish Council – in conjunction with the ACA – has responded to police and parishioner requests to post an advisory notice about wildfowl feeding on the Tidal Road (see this link – DON’T FEED THE WATERFOWL) because of the perceived hazard to humans posed by the swans and by the nuisance caused to road and river users by one man. We recognise that the feeding is not illegal but hope, probably forlornly, that this notice will help to stop it and the associated anti-social behaviour. There are also powerful biological arguments for stopping the feeding.
Our first concern is the preservation of free access to the estuary and the Tidal Road for the public. The estuary, of course, is an asset of huge recreational importance. We should all be concerned whenever that recreational experience is spoiled. The local police became involved because of the very widely reported nuisance behaviour of ‘Swan Man’ – who is spoiling the estuary experience for many users of the water and Tidal Road with his off-putting, personal behaviour whenever he feels that his ‘charges’ may be at risk. The police have asked that anybody who feels threatened in any way (and it may be very early in the morning or very late at night, depending on the tides) should report details of the incident on their 101 non-emergency number. The Duchy of Cornwall has asked us to make it very clear that ‘Swan Man’ is not acting as their agent, in any capacity, despite what he may claim.
Our biological concerns are explained in outline on the poster (local ornithologists and wildfowl experts were consulted on the wording of the sign and we are confident that the statements are an accurate representation of the facts). We have been told by experts that swans are attracted to our estuary from other local habitats by this artificial feeding programme, the regularity and scale of which causes a large congregation of swans at one point – usually at the Bigbury end of the Tidal Road. In addition, large–scale swan feeding creates an ecological imbalance in the estuary which probably goes way beyond the nutritional impact of an alien diet on the swans, themselves, and may affect other species in a complex interaction. One example may help to make the point: an adult mute swan can consume 3-4 kg of submerged aquatic vegetation per day (the normal diet) – that is almost 5 tonnes of vegetation per month for the average number (around 40) of swans that are resident in the estuary throughout the year, never mind what the extra visitors consume. Sixty tonnes of food per year equates to an awful lot of faecal waste excreted into the estuary! We need the resident swans to be feeding throughout the estuary on a natural diet, not just in one place on ‘organic’ grain. These days, swans are rarely seen near Bantham, we are told.
A further biological point involves changes in swan behaviour. Swans display a natural, aggressive, territorial behaviour when threatened. Such behaviour is well documented and may become a hazard to humans. Swans regularly fed by humans will start to associate people with food. Therefore, these swans may approach people more closely than otherwise and might become more aggressive if no food is provided.
The culmination of Maya Plass’s exploration of South Efford marsh with children from Aveton Gifford primary school took place on Thursday 5th June following a series of workshops during early summer. Here, Maya revises some of the key learning points with the children at an open afternoon for members of the Aune Conservation Association (who sponsored the workshops) and parents.
We shall be meeting as below in Stiddicombe Wood. I suggest that people meet either at the Aveton Gifford (Timbers) car park at 1400, cross over the bridge and take the footpath through South Efford and across Stiddecombe Creek OR meet at 1430 in the Evans Estate car park and walk up river from Bantham. The bluebells and wild garlic flowers should be spectacular!
Wednesday 7th May 1500 – meet at John Crawford’s memorial bench near the downstream edge of Stiddicombe Wood for a picnic tea when we hope to also enjoy the floral beauty of this idyllic spot – bring your own picnic! N.B. You can find guides about the wood and its ecology under the ECOLOGY/STIDDICOMBE WOOD tabs and the AONB team have done a brilliant job in putting together a guide for the Avon Estuary Walk which includes Stiddicombe Wood .
The AGM of the ACA will be held at 7.00pm on Thursday 22nd May 2014 in the Fisherman’s Rest, Aveton Gifford. The AGM will be followed by a talk by Maya Plass of ‘Learn to Sea’ and author of the ‘RSPB Handbook of the Seashore’ describing the exploration of South Efford marsh by the children of Aveton Gifford Primary School. The evening will be capped off with a light buffet for which there will be no charge.
Click on this link to check the river records at Loddiswell Gauging Station:-
Our next ACA beach clean will be on SATURDAY 13th JULY 2013– Cockleridge beach, Bigbury on Sea (opposite Bantham) at
3.00pm. LW will be around 4.00pm.
All are welcome but no unaccompanied minors, please. Please come equipped withstout footwear, gardening gloves, warm clothes, etc. If you have any spare collection sacks, they would be useful.
In response to the recent spate of commercial fishing by use of nets, we have been agitating for some visible action by the responsible agencies. Nigel Mortimer , Estuaries Officer of th AONB has sent this message:-
There has been a flurry of reports of fishing boats openly netting within the Avon estuary recently and there was been much concern that nothing appeared to be happening despite the many phone calls. I am assured that the netting was checked but at the time of the visits and within the byelaws that the officers were warranted to enforce, the vessels were netting within those byelaws. However, as part of the ‘Water of Dartmouth’, the Avon estuary is a Several Fishery owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, meaning that there is no public right to fish or collect any bait from its tidal waters (including foreshore). Whilst there has been no intention by the Duchy of Cornwall or the lessees of the estuary to be obstructive to fishermen involved in their pursuit for personal & non-commercial leisure purposes of responsible fishing and bait collection at present levels, they have been clear that they do not allow commercial fishing without licence. The enforcement officers were not able to enforce this at the time of the visit(s). The Duchy are in talks with the relevant authorities and I have received this from Neal Gray of the Marine Management Organisation,
“We encourage all members of the public to report any incidents of potential illegal fishing activity to us on 07770175479. We endeavour to act on any information provided and are actively attempting to tackle the issue of illegal fishing by enforcing the appropriate legislation available to the MMO or through partner agencies whenever possible. We are also looking at the possibility of writing to all netters administered from the Plymouth Fisheries Office and advising them of the Duchy restrictions on netting in the Avon and Kingsbridge/Salcombe areas. My colleague Will Sykes is looking into this and we hope to have something in place shortly (Will is not in the office this week). Regards Neal”
I would like to thank you for your continued support in reporting incidents around the Avon estuary – your eyes and ears do help!
Nigel Nigel Mortimer Estuaries Officer – South Devon AONB Unit Follaton House, Plymouth Rd, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5NE
01803 861465 07971 544010 (not 24/7)
Check this link for more on the fish netting story:-
The revised contact details for reporting suspected illegal fishing can be seen listed by clicking on this notice -
Weather permitting, we shall be picking up and recording any rubbish found on Cockleridge as part of the Beachwatch Big Weekend, in collaboration with the Marine Conservation Society on Sat 21st Sept 2.30pm – 3.30pm (LW~2.30pm)
Everybody is invited to come along and help. Wear gloves, boots and suitable clothing, please.
As a condition of participation, all volunteers are expected to adhere strictly to commonsense Safety Guidelines at all times and to follow the advice of the Organiser on the day as conditions may vary. The guidelines can be scrutinised by clicking here – ACA BEACH CLEANS3
Concern has been expressed about the deteriorating condition of the groynes and concrete retaining wall at the north west corner of Cockleridge Ham at the mouth of the Avon Estuary.
It has been agreed that temporary works will be done to the retaining wall in an effort to prevent further erosion by the sea over the winter. These works will include the use of chunks of conglomerated concrete from the beach (and which come from the wall) and timber shuttering. Ryan Hooper of Evans Estates will be supervising the works which are likely to commence in October.
The Duchy of Cornwall has been informed and, also, the South Devon Heritage Coast Service of South Hams District Council.
If anybody has concerns, they should contact Jonathan Aylett of Michelmore Hughes, Totnes, and or Ryan Hooper at the Evans Estate office in Bantham. It is hoped that everybody will understand that the measures being taken are with the best interests of the community at large in mind.
Thought is being given to what might be done in the longer term to protect the Ham at this point and the Estate will endeavour to keep the ACA informed about what, if any, decisions are made.
Local police officers have been working in partnership with the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to target marine criminals. Earlier in the summer officers conducted a stop check on a vehicle towing a boat, issued a fixed penalty for offences detected and passed a photograph of the boat to the MMO. This vessel is suspected of being involved in illegal netting in the estuary around the Bigbury area. On 27th August an IFCA patrol spotted it afloat and called the MMO who recovered the boat for inspection and have since seized the engine.
On Saturday 25th January, Devon Wildlife Trust is holding an Open Day on South Efford Marsh and would like to invite local residents to come and see how the wildlife reserve is developing two years after the new tidal gate was installed. There will be a number of people there to give information about the various things to be seen, including our two local birders Rod Bone and Eric Wotton, and Anissia White will be there to update us on her botanical research on the saltmarsh. A series of guided walks is planned from 10.30am until 3.00pm. Soup and hot drinks will be available to take the chill off a winter’s day.
If you would like to take part on one of these walks DWT have asked that everyone contact them to book please, so that they can ensure that everyone gets a place, and so that they can have an idea of numbers.
By phone, Devon Wildlife Trust – 01392 279244
or email – email@example.com
Visitors to the marsh will also be able to use the newly completed hide which, in spite of all the awful weather, was finished just before Christmas. It has been put up about halfway down the marsh, and gives a good view over the newly developing saltmarsh and, also, over the bank behind to the river.
We have received a report of theft from a Dinghy Tender moored at Bantham Quay, Kingsbridge. The Carburretor and Air Intake were removed and stolen, this occurred around 1620-1635hrs on Saturday the 4th January 2014.
Three men and a Ford Saloon vehicle were seen in the area around this time, Male one is described as being white in his 20s wearing a grey/blue hooded top with the name NIKE to the front and tracksuit bottoms.
The second male is described as white in his 20s with light brown/blonde hair of gaunt appearance with what appeared to be a tattoo on his neck and may have been wearing spectacles he was wearing a black hooded top, dark coloured trousers and dark coloured trainers with white around the sole.
The third male is described as white, of larger build with short dark or black hair , wearing a black sweatshirt with a logo to the chest area, dark trousers and dark coloured trainers with white around the sole.
Owners of sailing vessels are asked to be aware of this incident, report any suspicious activity you may see in and around moorings to the Police promptly.
If you see or recognise the description of these men or vehicle, please call the Devon and Cornwall Police 101 no: quoting crime ref JK/14/24. Thank you
Here in Devon we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by some beautiful and diverse wildlife hotspots. In Aveton Gifford, for example, there is a budding, thriving marshland – South Efford Marsh. Already this area is a hotspot for a wide variety of wildlife.
The children of Aveton Gifford Primary School are very lucky to have the opportunity to explore this wonderful wildlife spot. Thanks to funding from the Aune Conservation Association they will become wildlife rangers for the last half of this spring term and the first half of the summer term. They will discover what the “current environmental status” of the marshland is – essentially a snapshot of what wildlife currently lives at South Efford Marsh.
The children will explore every nook and cranny of this area with me (Maya Plass from Learn To Sea) and the help of some identification books. We will use the latest technologies to “capture” otters (trail cameras); pond dip for invertebrates in the creek; lay small mammal traps to see which rodents live in the hedgerows; sweep nets for flying invertebrates; binoculars for our larger feathered friends and much more. The children will even work towards creating a display for the recently erected bird hide.
Through this experience I know that the children will be bowled over by the variety of life that they can discover right here on their doorstep. This early experience of wildlife and becoming inspired by the great outdoors is how we create future ecologists and conservation minded adults.
The information they collate will help future children understand and compare what they can see at South Efford Marsh in subsequent seasons and years. The information and progress of the project will be recorded on a blog page: www.ourbogblog.blogspot.co.uk
It’s hoped that other local nature enthusiasts and visitors might also feed information through on any sightings so please do get in touch if you see anything that you think would be good to report! You can do this at firstname.lastname@example.org
The children will be running an Open Day on Thursday June 5th to help inspire their school friends and others in the community to connect, engage and protect their local wildlife hotspots. Please keep an eye out for posters around the village nearer the time and come and learn from the Aveton Gifford’s mini wildlife rangers!
Our AGM will be held in the Fisherman’s Rest, Aveton Gifford, at 7.00pm on Thursday 22nd May. The AGM will be followed by a talk from Maya Plass (local author of the ‘RSPB Handbook of the Seashore’) about her exploration of South Efford marsh with some of the lucky children of Aveton Gifford Primary School. After the talk, a light buffet will be available, FOC.
We would like to acquire some new committee members at the AGM. Anybody interested can contact the ACA via this website (see ABOUT ACA and CONTACT US tabs) or by phoning 01548 810373 prior to the meeting.