The Avon Estuary Forum (AEF) is a biannual meeting of all those agencies and individuals with a relevant interest although discussions often include upstream matters that might affect the estuary. The Forum is usually held in Thurlestone Parish Hall and anybody is welcome to attend. If you’d like to be added to the mailing lists for alerts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The meeting on 3rd March was my second as Chairman and I have decided to provide occasional reports to widen the information base beyond the distribution of the formal notes that are provided prior to our next meeting (on 13th October in this case).
Ryan Hooper (Estate Manager & Bantham Harbourmaster) announced that the Bantham Estate would continue the operation of the Avon Patrol in 2020, financed as previously by South Hams DC and the Bantham Estate, with voluntary contributions from the Aune Conservation Association (ACA), the Avon Valley Ski Club (AVSC) and the Duchy of Cornwall. Last summer, the revamped patrol made a valuable contribution to the safety and security of many estuary users.
There was further discussion, without resolution, about possible improvements to the Bantham/Bigbury ferry operation and how these might tie in with changes to the England Coast Path proposals from Natural England, to the advantage of walkers and regional tourism. Funding is one unsettled issue.
Public participation in several consultations was invited. The first involves the South Devon Catchment Partnership and ‘Challenges and Choices’ (see – http://south-devon.org/challenges-and-choices/). That consultation explains why water is such a vital resource, describes the challenges that threaten the water environment, explores how we can work together to manage our waters, looks at who should pay for the actions needed and, importantly, invites input on all these issues. In that context, there was considerable discussion about river water quality and how standards can be maintained in the face of severe Environment Agency staff cuts. The second consultation, open until 6th April, (see – https://consult.defra.gov.uk/mmo/draft-south-west-inshore-and-offshore-marine-plans/) is about marine planning in the SW, including the Avon Estuary (now designated as a Marine Conservation Zone). We also heard about proposed new ‘bag limits’ that might be imposed by the Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) on the hand collection of foreshore species such as bait worms, scallops, cockles, mussels and limpets but the deadline for that consultation has now passed!
As a direct outcome of the meeting, I have contacted Devon & Severn IFCA about local reports of diseased crabs and lobsters by AVSC members. It seems likely, from a brief Internet search and the description provided at our meeting, that these crustaceans might be the victims of ‘black spot’ disease – a bacterial infection (see picture obtained from the internet) .
The Outdoor Swimming Association has told me that there will be a new event this year – the Bantham ‘Boomerang’ on Friday 3rd July, whereby swimmers will enter the water at Bantham beach at around 1630 and swim upstream with the tide. All swimmers will turn with the tide at 18.00 (wherever they may be!) and return to Bantham – the last swimmers are expected to be out of the water by 20.00. The Bantham ‘Swoosh’ will take place on Saturday 4th July, with swimmers entering the water at Aveton Gifford from 06.00 and exiting at Bantham by 09.15. Please beware of swimmers and let’s hope nobody will get a dose of ‘black spot’!