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Voluntary Bailiffs

We have divided the whole length of the Ver into 12 sections which are patrolled regularly by our team of voluntary bailiffs. They measure the flow in the river, monitor wild-life and vegetation, report on pollution and blockages whether natural or man-made, and record the state of the paths of the Ver Valley Walk. We have recently been pleased to welcome two new volunteers to our team after two long-standing bailiffs decided it was time for them to step down. However we would be very pleased to hear from anyone willing to act as a bailiff to one of the less well-covered sections or to be a reserve – it only requires a short walk along a stretch of the river about once a month and completion of a brief report form. Please email if you’d like further details.

During 2005 the bailiffs recorded steadily decreasing flows, with the river bed completely dry in the upper reaches. The very dry winter and early spring of 2006 resulted a negligible river until south of Redbourn and dismal flows for the rest of the river until the end of 2006. However  a wet autumn and winter into 2007 have improved the situation considerably and we can hope for a more healthy river through the summer this year.

In spring the water meadows usually have a good array of wild flowers but later in the year Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam are invasive downstream. Other foreign invaders, mink and signal crayfish also cause problems as our native water voles and crayfish are unable to compete. The mink problem is being tackled by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust with our support and there are some indications of success but the signal crayfish problem seems intractable. Bird life along the river corridor is very interesting [see separate web-page] and we also see a good variety of invertebrates.

 


 

For Bailiff Notes after January 2007 refer to the "Newsletter" page and download any date. Each Newsletter includes a quarterly report from Jane Gardiner, our Bailiffs Coordinator.

 


Bailiff Notes January 2007

Everyone will have noticed that we have had quite a wet autumn and early winter and figures from Rothampstead show that the last 3 months were about 40% wetter than average. This has resulted in a slight but none-the-less pleasing improvement in groundwater level by December, which is on average the lowest month, but of course the present level is still over 4 meters below that average.

There is some flow in both the Ver and the Red in Redbourn but nothing north of there in early Jan. South of Redbourn the bailiffs are beginning to measure some improvements in flow, especially after heavy rains, but still disappointing for the time of year. This may partly be due to the river channel being largely overgrown and/or blocked by debris and rubbish over very many stretches, so that large pools of standing water have formed in meadows beside the River in several places with the water not getting into the River. The Environment Agency has done a little clearance work at the back of Prae Close but we encourage them and the St Albans District Council to do more. It is possible that the channel may be able to re-establish itself to some extent in some places if we do get plenty more rain resulting in improvement in flows. The renewal of the compensation water pipe from Bow Bridge to St Michael's’ end of Verulamium Park has been completed.

 

While on the subject of blockages I would like to mention the M1 widening near Junction 9 which goes across the River Ver. Spoil heaps have appeared adjacent to the channel with much debris, plastic pipes, wooden planks and railway sleepers, beside and in the channel itself. Although it is dry up there at present the dip slope of the channel also appears to need correction once water returns to flow there. Peter Fox has been assured by the Environment Officer of the works that all will be put right before they move on but we shall keep a close eye on the situation.

We are looking for a couple of volunteer bailiffs for the Gorhambury and Drop Lane stretches of the River. If you might be interested please do email.

Now to wildlife matters. The relatively mild weather so far has some interesting effects. A ruddy darted dragonfly was recorded on 19th November, a kingcup is in flower already at the Wildlife Watercress Association and hazel catkins are well advanced. Only a few redwings and fieldfares have come this far as yet and very few snipe seem to be about. However there are regular sightings of little egrets  as well as the more usual reports of kingfishers, grey wagtails, buzzards, red kites, mixed tit flocks, common water-fowl including tufted ducks and pochard.

I have not received any reports of hares being seen so far this winter but a muntjac deer was seen near Sopwell Mill and rabbits remain very numerous. Moles have been very active in some areas. One or two of our Bailiffs are also fishermen and they have reported good sized perch and roach as well as small chubb, mirror-carp and minnows south from New Barns Mill at Sopwell. This shows that where a reasonable amount of water can be maintained the River can support a healthy and varied fish population.

Jane Gardiner (Bailiff Co-ordinator)


Bailiff Notes October 2006

We are grateful to all the Bailiffs for their continuing hard work on behalf of the Society and commitment to protecting our River. Of course it has been a somewhat dispiriting summer for them as far as water in the river is concerned, with the August rain having negligible effect after the June/July heat wave and so many previous dry months. Many Bailiffs have had no flow to measure or where there is a trickle, the growth of cress, weeds, reeds etc has made measurement impossible, to say nothing of unsightly build up of debris and rubbish. Even where there is water, the flows are exceptionally low. Although no compensation water has been added to at St Michael's, a little flow through Verulamium Park has been maintained possibly due to the suspension of pumping at Bow Bridge following the Buncefield disaster, reducing the ‘cone of depression’ in the water table there. It also seems that this summer’s drought has increased awareness generally of the need to conserve precious water stocks which must be welcomed.

   The wildlife picture however has not been so dismal with plenty of reports of dragonflies [common darter, emperor and brown hawker], damselflies [red as well as blue and banded demoiselles] and butterflies [whites, speckled wood, gatekeeper, comma, red admiral, peacock and common blue]. Various fish have been seen [trout, chub, dace, roach, perch] mostly small but one 3lb pike near Moor Mill. I have had only one sighting of a mink reported, which is encouraging and a grass snake was seen swimming across the river! Signal crayfish are all too prevalent, with100 being caught by a family in the pools of aerated water of the fish ladder in Verulamium Park.

 

You can read the exciting news about ‘our’ baby barn owls in John Fisher’s bird notes but other nice bird sightings include flocks of goldfinches, greater-spotted and green woodpeckers, willow warblers, wrens, yellow hammers, various finches, buzzards, red kites and a few kingfishers [these seem less common this year], as well as all the more usual waterfowl [mallards, coots, moorhens, herons].

Flowering plants are now mostly over but there is still some water mint and forget-me-not about as well as, unfortunately, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. There is an abundance of all berries and fruits this autumn making the hedgerows quite spectacular in places.

Finally, no doubt many of you are aware of the proposed rail-freight terminal on the old Radlett aerodrome. This and the ‘Country Park’ intended to be created in conjunction with it, would impinge considerably on the Ver Valley south of St Albans.  I have therefore written to the planning authority on behalf of the Society outlining our concerns about the detrimental impact such a development would have on the natural environment of the river valley and asking to be kept informed.

Jane Gardiner (Bailiff Co-ordinator)

Bailiff Notes July 2006

I am sure none of you will be surprised to know that those Bailiffs who have any river to measure are recording very low flows. The rain in May had a negligible effect and the June/July heat wave is having a dire effect, [see rainfall and groundwater figures below]. There is no water north of Redbourn but the River Red seems to make enough of a contribution to have kept some flow in the River south of Redbourn to the end of June at least. Of course the lack of water means the channel is very overgrown and even where there is water, the level is low so unsightly blockages of debris and rubbish build up. The Frogmore pits are at their lowest for 30 years but at least great crested grebes have nested there along with the ducks, swans and geese.

On the wider wildlife front some fish [brown trout, sticklebacks and perch] – dragonflies [common darter, emperor, banded demoiselles] – butterflies [speckled wood, orange tip, peacock, tortoishells] have been reported,  as well as numerous birds [chiff chaffs, willow warbler, wood warbler (unusual), blackcaps, whitethroat, grey wagtails, skylarks, green woodpeckers, yellowhammers, herons, swifts, swallows, martins and some birds of prey; sparrow hawk, hobby, buzzards, red kite]. As far as flowering plants are concerned the display of ragged robin and buttercups in Redbournbury meadows has been spectacular and elderflower seems particularly prolific as has also, the much less welcome, Japanese knotweed. Other reports have noted comfrey, yellow flag iris and brooklime doing well. Water forget-me-knot and water crowfoot have also been recorded and 22 bee orchids in one area!

We welcome another new Bailiff to our team – John Bell will be keeping an eye on the River through Verulamium Park from Holywell Hill to Bluehouse Hill – he takes over from John Cadisch after many years of loyal service. It is pleasing to note improvements to the Ver Valley Walk near Sopwell Nunnery ruins made by the District Council/CMS. CMS volunteers will be doing footpath clearance work on the Walk on Thurs 20th July so if you’d be prepared to join them phone 01727 848168 for details nearer the time We would also welcome some help manning our display at Verulam Angling Club Open Day on 19th August.

The Environment Agency continues its checks for pollution following the Buncefield disaster. Of interest is the third progress report; www.buncefieldinvestigation.gov.uk Section 4 on Environmental Impact.

For the most recent rainfall and ground water levels see the information page.

Jane Gardiner (Bailiff Co-ordinator)

 


Bailiff Notes October 2006

We are grateful to all the Bailiffs for their continuing hard work on behalf of the Society and commitment to protecting our River. Of course it has been a somewhat dispiriting summer for them as far as water in the river is concerned, with the August rain having negligible effect after the June/July heat wave and so many previous dry months. Many Bailiffs have had no flow to measure or where there is a trickle, the growth of cress, weeds, reeds etc has made measurement impossible, to say nothing of unsightly build up of debris and rubbish. Even where there is water, the flows are exceptionally low. Although no compensation water has been added to at St Michael's, a little flow through Verulamium Park has been maintained possibly due to the suspension of pumping at Bow Bridge following the Buncefield disaster, reducing the ‘cone of depression’ in the water table there. It also seems that this summer’s drought has increased awareness generally of the need to conserve precious water stocks which must be welcomed.

   The wildlife picture however has not been so dismal with plenty of reports of dragonflies [common darter, emperor and brown hawker], damselflies [red as well as blue and banded demoiselles] and butterflies [whites, speckled wood, gatekeeper, comma, red admiral, peacock and common blue]. Various fish have been seen [trout, chub, dace, roach, perch] mostly small but one 3lb pike near Moor Mill. I have had only one sighting of a mink reported, which is encouraging and a grass snake was seen swimming across the river! Signal crayfish are all too prevalent, with100 being caught by a family in the pools of aerated water of the fish ladder in Verulamium Park.

 

You can read the exciting news about ‘our’ baby barn owls in John Fisher’s bird notes but other nice bird sightings include flocks of goldfinches, greater-spotted and green woodpeckers, willow warblers, wrens, yellow hammers, various finches, buzzards, red kites and a few kingfishers [these seem less common this year], as well as all the more usual waterfowl [mallards, coots, moorhens, herons].

Flowering plants are now mostly over but there is still some water mint and forget-me-not about as well as, unfortunately, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. There is an abundance of all berries and fruits this autumn making the hedgerows quite spectacular in places.

Finally, no doubt many of you are aware of the proposed rail-freight terminal on the old Radlett aerodrome. This and the ‘Country Park’ intended to be created in conjunction with it, would impinge considerably on the Ver Valley south of St Albans.  I have therefore written to the planning authority on behalf of the Society outlining our concerns about the detrimental impact such a development would have on the natural environment of the river valley and asking to be kept informed.

Jane Gardiner (Bailiff Co-ordinator)

 


Bailiff Notes July 2006

I am sure none of you will be surprised to know that those Bailiffs who have any river to measure are recording very low flows. The rain in May had a negligible effect and the June/July heat wave is having a dire effect, [see rainfall and groundwater figures below]. There is no water north of Redbourn but the River Red seems to make enough of a contribution to have kept some flow in the River south of Redbourn to the end of June at least. Of course the lack of water means the channel is very overgrown and even where there is water, the level is low so unsightly blockages of debris and rubbish build up. The Frogmore pits are at their lowest for 30 years but at least great crested grebes have nested there along with the ducks, swans and geese.

On the wider wildlife front some fish [brown trout, sticklebacks and perch] – dragonflies [common darter, emperor, banded demoiselles] – butterflies [speckled wood, orange tip, peacock, tortoishells] have been reported,  as well as numerous birds [chiff chaffs, willow warbler, wood warbler (unusual), blackcaps, whitethroat, grey wagtails, skylarks, green woodpeckers, yellowhammers, herons, swifts, swallows, martins and some birds of prey; sparrow hawk, hobby, buzzards, red kite]. As far as flowering plants are concerned the display of ragged robin and buttercups in Redbournbury meadows has been spectacular and elderflower seems particularly prolific as has also, the much less welcome, Japanese knotweed. Other reports have noted comfrey, yellow flag iris and brooklime doing well. Water forget-me-knot and water crowfoot have also been recorded and 22 bee orchids in one area!

We welcome another new Bailiff to our team – John Bell will be keeping an eye on the River through Verulamium Park from Holywell Hill to Bluehouse Hill – he takes over from John Cadisch after many years of loyal service. It is pleasing to note improvements to the Ver Valley Walk near Sopwell Nunnery ruins made by the District Council/CMS. CMS volunteers will be doing footpath clearance work on the Walk on Thurs 20th July so if you’d be prepared to join them phone 01727 848168 for details nearer the time We would also welcome some help manning our display at Verulam Angling Club Open Day on 19th August.

The Environment Agency continues its checks for pollution following the Buncefield disaster. Of interest is the third progress report; www.buncefieldinvestigation.gov.uk Section 4 on Environmental Impact.

For the most recent rainfall and ground water levels see the information page.

Jane Gardiner (Bailiff Co-ordinator)

 


.. © River Ver 2011