At our AGM on 21st April, the existing committee (Ros Brousson, Peter Marsh, John Peters, Bill Starey, Stuart Watts and Eric White) was re-elected with the welcome addition of Mike Cooper of Loddiswell (representing upstream interests) and our activities for the coming year were outlined. We shall continue to concentrate on the central issues of water quality and quantity.
Specifically, we shall be building on our information database about the location of two species of invasive weed, Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam which threaten the Avon, with a view to controlling the weeds’ spread. We hope to arrange some ’balsam bashing’ working parties early this summer. In his talk after the formal business of the meeting, Roger English of the AONB Unit gave us some ideas about how we might use recent mapping developments, available on the internet, to catalogue reports from the public about the location of invasive weeds requiring treatment.
Our second main area of activity will be our beach and river clean-ups. In addition to our quarterly beach cleans on Cockleridge, we shall be extending our work on cleaning up around the Tidal Road between Aveton Gifford and Stakes Road. That stretch has now been accepted into the Marine Conservation Society’s ‘Adoptabeach’ scheme which means tightening up on our safety procedures and adding another couple of clean-ups per year. Fortunately, the South Devon AONB Unit’s Sustainable Development Fund and the Duchy of Cornwall have helped us with some of the extra costs of safety signage and insurance for which we are very grateful.
On a different tack, we shall be looking more deeply into the occurrence of phosphates in the waters of the Avon. Historical Environment Agency data indicate that the levels of soluble phosphate have been too high, resulting in abnormal stimulation of algal growth and the early stages of eutrophication of the river. Our working hypothesis is that this condition is having a deleterious effect on the ecology of the river, with a slow but steady reduction in biodiversity; such effects have been widely recorded elsewhere – you need look no further than Slapton Ley for a more extreme example. Peter Marsh presented an argument for us all to use phosphate-free detergents for washing purposes and suggested that so-called ‘grey’ water from baths, etc. might be best used in watering the garden rather than being discharged down the drain.
Considerable emphasis was placed on the importance of this website for communicating both with our members and with the public about our activties. Following the main business of the meeting, Bill Starey presented an illustrated talk about how to participate in the members’ forum and provided an introduction to the wealth of useful information available on the site.
For light relief, we shall be organising a few social events, the first of which will be a ‘bluebell picnic’ in Stiddicombe Wood in early May. There will also be a repeat of last year’s very popular ram roast at Folly Hill Farm in July, courtesy of Jane and John Tucker. We shall be arranging an art competition (photographs, drawings or paintings) to find a suitable image for an ACA greetings card. If you are interested in submitting an entry or in finding out more about any of our activities, please keep an eye on this website.