The ACA Forum

Conserving the Devonshire Avon from source to sea


by | Jan 10, 2022 | Main | 0 comments

As we enter a new year, the ACA committee has been reflecting on our current situation, membership and activities. Our members are an assortment of some 140 well informed, like-minded people from around the South Hams with a love of the Avon and its estuary. Individuals may differ but the binding influence is an appreciation of the natural environment’s involvement with water and a determination to give it the upper hand in interactions with our own interests – be they in recreation, water quality, planning, conservation, etc. Another defining feature of our membership is its age profile which to some extent limits our activity programme.   Our organisation would benefit from some youthful revitalisation! The question of how to encourage such a transformation was discussed at a committee meeting late last year and I was asked to contact parish magazines to invite anybody interested in helping with the future stewardship of the ACA to contact me, whether current members or not.

Over the past 16 years or so that I have served as Chairman, I have been conscious of a slow diminishment of the ACA’s vitality (as well as my own!) despite our many accomplishments during that period – of which I am very proud. Although the information and intelligence gleaned from email communication with our many loyal members still underpins our actions, the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic have hardly helped the association thrive as social mingling has ground to a near standstill. We have had to rely on such email exchanges, occasional digital newsletters, brief articles to parish magazines and our own website to keep in touch. Fundamentally, however, the advancing age of our membership is a constant factor in limiting our activities. We need an injection of fresh blood, new ideas and renewed enthusiasm if the ACA is to survive for much longer.

Early in my 16-year period of tenure, the ACA was accepted as a bona fide charity. By nurturing an extensive network of helpful and influential contacts beyond our membership (e.g. with the Avon Estuary Forum, SHDC, our three riparian parish councils, Environment Agency, Duchy of Cornwall, Bantham Estate, AONB, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Avon Fishing Association, South West Water, Devon Wildlife Trust, Plymouth University, Surfers Aginst Sewage, Marine Conservation Society, etc.), we have lived up to our charitable objectives (to advance the education of the public and to promote for the benefit of the public, the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of the River Avon – or Aune – within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). We have been able to make a collaborative and constructive contribution to a wide variety of initiatives and changes, involving the river and its estuary, the people who cherish them both, and the wildlife in, on or around the waters.   Examples are not hard to find; improving water quality, protecting habitat, commenting on planning applications, improving recreational safety and security, clearing of invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam, restriction of poaching activities, academic research collaborations, etc. Many are described in considerable detail on our website at Other examples do not reach the public domain because of their sensitive or confidential nature. Unfortunately, despite a slow but steady trickle of new members, many local people remain ignorant of the ACA’s existence or achievements!   Whereas some organisations stamp and shout to gain attention, we prefer to discuss, persuade and encourage to get movement in the right direction, always aligned with the best interests of the natural world. We all have our own operational styles; maybe ours needs updating in this media-crazy age!

If you love the Avon and feel you could make a difference by becoming involved with the ACA’s management, please let me know. Otherwise, you might consider making a financial contribution to help keep us afloat via the SeaMoor lottery (

Please help keep the ACA alive! Thank you.

Stuart Watts (January 2022)

Email:                        Tel: 01548 810373


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