As I have discussed in previous posts, I have collected my research and potential ideas and started to refine a potential narrative to follow for my final major project. This is a work in progress and is therefore subject to change. However, I feel that I have succeeded in create a strong position from which to start the next stages of research and practical development.
At this stage, I am focusing upon areas around the North West of England, highlighting the connections between rivers, wetlands, weirs, estuaries, reservoirs and so forth, to see how could relate them and how they might serve to represent both sides of my story, of conservation & wildlife or management & over – abstraction.
This has divided into two general areas of focus:
Urban Waters: Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Morecambe – looking most specifically at the river Mersey and other connecting water sources, many of which share a history of industry and human development and how this has necessitated its recovery via restoration projects for water sustainability, unpolluted waters and the growth of wildlife. There also still signs of a conflict of interest to potentially discuss through agenda of energy companies versus preservation efforts of conservation organisations e.g. Peel Group and RSPB Mersey Estuary relating to Woolston Weir – highlighted history of disagreements over tidal power damaging environments needed for wildlife and healthy water flow (flood & drought prevention).
Rural Waters: Cumbria; looking most specifically at West Cumbria water catchments supplying unsustainable amounts of water to various areas around the North West, referring to Haweswater, Thirlmere, Bassenthwaite, Ennerdale, Derwentwater, Windermere as well as various other connecting water sources. Once again, we find a conflict between the agenda of government policies, water companies (united utilities) in their over abstraction and poor waste water management (pollution via history of industrial development) and environmental organisations striving to preserve and recover these areas as a means of encouraging wildlife and healthy water flow e.g. tourism – Ever increasing number of visitors to Windermere means excess in water usage via toilet facilities, however, water abstraction policies haven’t been adjusted since 1960’s during a time with a far smaller population and the demand of water as it stands now, isn’t sustainable – unfortunately one of the only means of gaining financial and ecological support from the government is to adapt to become popular within public interest – which would explain why quieter, more natural areas such as Thirlmere still suffers from polluted waters.
There is also a connection between them via the newly built West East Main Link Pipeline that can carry 100 million litres of water daily from Prescot Reservoir near Liverpool to Woodgate Hill Reservoir North of Manchester, which relies upon huge water abstractions from Haweswater Aqueduct.
I believe that this will become further developed and refined prior to the start of my final major project. However, I feel that my ideas, research, approach and creative direction have developed massively since the beginning of this module.
Other aspects to consider for the future are more practical in their approach.
Further refine a list of potential contacts that might serve as reference for theory, discussion or audience.
Start to look further at site accessibility and flexibility for visits, as well as potential licences or permits that might be needed specifically for my chosen locations or subjects.
Begin to experiment with images, most likely starting more locally areas and expanding out into other intended locations.
Research other aspects needed to implement presentation and exhibition of series such as potential printers, costs, venues, display layouts, potential materials etc…
Overall, I feel quite confident in my concept and intended approach, hopefully I will be able to implement it in practical and produce a definitive visual outcome that will define the origins of my professional photographic practice.
Throughout the duration of this module through preparation and research, I have started to generate ideas and potential location. I felt optimistic that a test shoot would be available to me prior to submission. However due to financial restrictions, ill health and severe weather conditions, I have been unable to undertake image experimentations prior to finalising this module. As a result, I intend to remedy this as soon as possible. I have also been able to acquire new equipment and finances to facilitate more successful image development and site access. If possible I will aim to develop some very basic test shots, but this is likely to begin after 09/01/14.
In the meantime, I will refer to previous examples of similar imagery that I have produced in previous projects. This should allow me to demonstrate some of aesthetic approach and compositions I might develop in such environments. For this, I have focused upon locations nearby to my home town. This is obviously as a very rough process, as there will be a different intent and focus through my intended series, however, there are a few similarities in terms of the general visual qualities of freshwater sources and coastal locations. As well as evidence of water based bird life during my visits to Blackpool and St Annes, for which it might be likely to feature similar feeding and/or flight formations during visits to estuaries. marine sites or wetland areas.
I have also started to reflect upon other examples upon a wider scale from various visits around the UK. I have found this reflection of my previous represent of water to be quite constructive is highlighted visual qualities I want to represent within this new series such as views of water based wildlife, as well various differences in terms of format and narrative such as documentation of water management and conservation. It demonstrated how my practice had developed since and made me feel confident I could find new ways to define my documentary focus for my final major project.
I will reflection upon this and begin to formulate a potential narrative structure/idea.
For this post, I decided highlight various news stories relating to the recent severity of flooding in the UK. During my research, I noted that there various warning signs for potential flooding which has increased with extremity over the last month. Much of this has been highlighted to be the consequences of poor water maintenance and management such as the over abstraction of freshwater from lakes, rivers and reservoirs and the pollution of such areas from waste water resulting from the cost cutting and financial interests of UK government and water companies e.g. water bill. With this, disruption of healthy water flow has resulted in high tides and increased potential flooding.
The response has been significant, the situation has incited a great deal of media interest, many people calling for better measures for better management of water for flood prevention. As a result, a shared interest water sustainability has become even more relevant as a cultural priority. There is also scope in the aftermath of such situation for discussion within this narrative. This demonstration of overwhelming natural forces, reflects almost a retaliation for human neglect, a demonstration of the true power and force of water. This is especially represented in coastal areas recently, strong winds and high tides has resulted in various injuries, deaths and the destruction of people’s houses and businesses. It gives us a sense of the consequences of human growth and expansion and the influences this is having upon various aspects of freshwater sources.
The agency said there were four severe flood warnings in place, three on the river Severn and one on the Lower Stour at Iford in Kent. There were a further 97 flood warnings and 244 flood alerts in place. The agency has removed 175 warnings or alerts in the past 24 hours.
The Met Office has issued yellow warnings of rain in the south of England and snow in the north of England and southern parts of Scotland. Up to 3cm of rain could fall in just six hours, and there are more warnings of flooding and travel disruption.
Residents in Chiswell and Portland in Weymouth, Dorset, were evacuated ahead of high tide on Friday night, while around 100 people living in Aberystwyth, Dyfed, were advised to move to higher ground, with many taking shelter in rest centres.
The ferocious weather has left widespread damage. In Aberystwyth debris was strewn across the promenade, rail lines in north Wales were left buckled by the power of the sea and a road collapsed in Amroth, Pembrokeshire.
Police continued the search for Henry Martin, 18, who has not been seen since he left his home in Membland, Newton Ferrers, near Plymouth, Devon, to take pictures of the weather on Thursday. Air, sea and land searches were undertaken. Martin had recently started a course in film and TV production at Greenwich University in London but was back home visiting his family for Christmas.
On Saturday, the Port of Dover said ships in the Channel were facing gale force five winds, which were leading to some delays. A spokesman said: “Due to adverse weather conditions the terminal is experiencing slight delays to shipping movements. Passengers are advised to contact their shipping operator for further information.”
The Met Office is forecasting some respite on Saturday from some of the wettest and windiest weather in decades which, as well as widespread flooding, has caused power cuts and travel disruption.
In Scotland, “be aware” weather warnings have been issued for the Strathclyde, Tayside, Fife, south-west Scotland, Lothian & Borders and central regions. The warning also covers Northern Ireland and parts of the north of England. Existing yellow warnings for wind and rain across much of the country remained in place.
Another depression due to blow in from the Atlantic on Sunday could bring winds of up to 50mph rather than the gusts of up to 75mph that struck the UK on Friday.
Helen Chivers, head of news at the Met Office, said that “might be the last really big storm for a little while”. Some unsettled weather would follow but was more likely to be of the sunshine and showers variety than the hatch-battening events that forced yet more mopping up after a combination of high spring tides, high winds and low pressure.
A check on wind speeds suggests December provided the stormiest end to the year since 1969 and one of the windiest months since January 1993. In Scotland, it was the wettest month in records dating back to 1910.
Appeals to the public not to walk on coastal paths and promenades and near flood water failed to deter storm-watchers in some parts of the country. A man was seen swimming in the flooded river Nith between Dumfries and Kingholm Quay, and Carmarthenshire council called in the police to move on sightseers at Burry Port, south-west Wales.
The coastal town, which sits on a tidal estuary, was lashed by huge waves and winds of more than 70mph during the morning high tide. “What they cannot know is what is in these waves. The sea takes up a lot of rock, rubble and stones and throws them violently about,” a council spokesman said. “Stones weighing up to one hundredweight were being flung into the car park and people were literally putting their lives at risk by being there.”
As towns and villages across the country were inundated by sea and river flooding, a pregnant woman in Cardigan was among people rescued from homes by firefighters. In Pwllheli, north Wales, the lifeboat crew helped the fire and rescue service move five people from a flooded caravan park.
In Aberystwyth Millie Farmer, 19, a second-year undergraduate at the town’s university, said the main beach had been destroyed and residents evacuated from seafront properties. She said she had watched six-foot waves crash on to the shore from the third floor of the university library which is built on a hill above the town.
“I didn’t exactly expect weather like this when I chose to come Aberystwyth but it’s certainly an interesting place to be a geography student,” said Farmer, from Shepreth, Cambridgeshire.
Sandbags are being handed out again to thousands of residents in east Belfast as the city prepares for a fresh round of flooding. Emergency measures have been put in place as the Met Office predicts more heavy rain and strong winds to batter eastern parts of Northern Ireland on Sunday and Monday.
The Environment Agency said places most likely to be affected were Fiddler’s Ferry at 2.45pm, Eastford Road at 3pm and Arpley Bridge, Warrington at 3.15pm.
As of 3pm on Saturday, a warning was no longer in place for the coast from Formby to Crosby or Wirral from New Brighton to Hoylake and along the Dee Estuary up to Chester.
The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for snow and ice in the North West tomorrow, but said there was still “considerable uncertainty regarding the extent of any snow”.
It says that icy patches could develop on untreated surfaces as temperatures drop overnight.
In Scotland, the A75 in Dumfriesshire was closed for several hours after a lorry overturned in strong winds, and the A78 between Largs and Skelmorlie was closed by flooding. The Skye, Tay and Forth road bridges were barred to high-sided vehicles and speed restrictions put in place for other traffic.
Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, is under pressure over job losses in roles connected to floods at the Environment Agency for England and Wales. He insisted “frontline services” would be protected, but Paul Leinster, chief executive of the agency, has admitted some roles in flood risk management are likely to go as part of 1,500 job losses.
There were high tides and flooding in streets in Devon and Cornwall, but Tom Mansell, of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), said: “There has been flooding in places like Looe, Kingsbridge and Salcombe, but it is not as bad as we had been expecting,” he said.
Mr Mansell reiterated messages from the emergency services and the Environment Agency that the biggest danger was from people going to the coast to look at the sea.
“They don’t understand how dangerous the sea can be,” he said. “We would say ‘please, please keep away from this water’.”
About 1,500 jobs will be lost at the agency although it is not clear how many flood-related posts will go.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said that while it was spending £2.3bn tackling the risk of flooding and coastal erosion, the agency was making its own choices about “how best to use their resources”.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson chaired the government’s emergencies committee Cobra to discuss the weather situation.
The hour-long meeting was told 3,500km (2,170 miles) of coastal flood defences had been tested by Thursday night’s storms and 130,000 homes had been protected.
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted he was ensuring that flood help was fully in place.
In other developments:
Residents of Chiswell and Portland, inDorset, evacuated their homes ahead of the high tide there at 22:00 GMT
Police have named a missing teenager in Devon as 18-year-old Harry Martin, who was last seen in Membland, Newton Ferrers, on Thursday, walking towards a coastal path. It is believed he was in search of weather-related photos
About 30 properties were flooded in Cardigan, where a pregnant woman was rescued
Four families had to be evacuated from their homes in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, after lightning struck a block of flats
The Thames Barrier was reopened at about 16:00 GMT after being closed earlier in the afternoon for high tide
Bristol City Council has put in place its flood barrier kit for the first time, along Avon Crescent where it meets the Cumberland Basin
The River Severn burst its banks at Minsterworth, in Gloucestershire
BBC Weather’s John Hammond takes a look at the source of our stormy weather which lies in huge North American temperature differences
The combination of strong winds from an Atlantic depression and high tides led to dramatic waves
West Wales, as seen here in Aberystwyth, is being battered by the Irish Sea
Student Thomas Rule filmed this video of flooding in his flat – and Aberystwyth seafront
The latest band of wind and rain comes after thousands of homes suffered power cuts, with some cut off for several days, and many properties were flooded following bad weather during the Christmas period.
“We are extending our goodwill payments so that any customer who was without electricity for any time on Christmas Day, regardless of the duration of the power cut, will be guaranteed £75,” the company said.
UK FLOOD & COASTAL EROSION RISK MANAGEMENT (FCERM) RESEARCH STRATEGY
Living With Environmental Change’s first UK Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Research Strategy was published in Jan 2012. It is available to download below.
The Steering Group, set up to facilitate implementation of the R&D Strategy, has carried out a mapping exercise to provide an at-a-glance overview for research funders and users of research relating to the three thematic areas of Understanding Risk, Managing Probability and Managing Consequence. The exercise has allowed us to identify which of the topics are being actively worked on as well as identifying topics within the strategy that are not currently being researched. We have also been able to ask for views on emerging research priorities.
The maps have been developed based on information fromwww.envirobase.info which has been supplemented by information from the Steering Group members. We shared the draft maps with delegates attending the November 2012 Living With Environmental Change Annual Event, providing an opportunity for feedback. We have included these suggestions in the maps and will be working over the coming months to incorporate information from wider research programmes of relevance to FCERM research. If you wish to share further feedback or suggestions on the maps, please contact email@example.com
The Steering Group, which consists of the main flooding research funding organisations, also facilitates collaboration on future research projects and strengthens the exchange of knowledge between researchers and practitioners. See for example, the EPSRC sandpit event which contributed to the direction of £4 million of new investment in flood research.
The Steering Group will review progress on delivering the strategy and will use feedback from research and practitioner groups to update the strategy at appropriate points.
I intend to continue to stay updated on the situation and potentially arrange test shoots prior to starting point of my fmp. I will consider this in relation to my collective of potential directions for this series.
Of the various examples listed, I am likely to focus upon Cumbria and relate this to other previously considered locations around Mersey and Greater Manchester, looking for connecting waters and the massive water supply that reservoirs, lakes and weirs provide to Manchester and Liverpool from the lake district. I will reflect upon this and consider potential ideas for my intended narrative structure.
For this post, I intend to look closer at freshwater ecology and wildlife, highlighting various topics and information that acquired from general sources and discussion with my partner, a zoology student from the University of Salford who has studied this subject amongst numerous others throughout the duration of his course.
From this, I was able to gain a useful insight into hydro biology, eutrophication and wastewater in relation to its attributes and effects upon freshwater sources.
As well discussing a brief overview of these aspects involved within fresh sources, Rob also referred to a few lecture sources that felt were relevant in reviewing the physical attributes of water sources, in particular eutrophication which is the result of poor maintenance of healthy water levels. In addition, how such water catchments have been influenced by a variety of agricultural and industrial development.
Again, the sustainability of water supplies in such areas is fairly questionable, even when considering various man-made efforts that seek to emulate the physical conditions of healthy water flow. There is significant evidence to suggest a variety of huge influences upon the diversity of freshwater species as a result.
An example highlighted by Rob was say if a bacteria was introduced into the water as a result of being washed in through pollution, that used oxygen and produced carbon dioxide, even if they needed only small amount and they reached a high mass, which means they would use more oxygen, reducing the overall oxygen concentration in the water, resulting in species that require a higher oxygen levels would likely die out.
Another example of eutrophication is nitrogen from fertilizers being leached from soils e.g. farmland, and running off into streams or ponds. This can stimulate the growth of surface algae which can block all sunlight from reaching the pond, this can decrease the overall oxygen in the water, killing any oxygen dependant life with it.
There is certainly enough of an incentive for human concern in prevention of eutrophication as this process has consequences that negative to human usage, our surrounding environments and the various other life forms within them.
There is also discussion of various measures to prevent this process from occurring, which is likely similar to general practice of freshwater conservationists. It serves to offer a greater degree of understanding in regards to what this process entails and possibly aspects to look out for if I were to visit a conservation day or river clean-up during such stages.
•Water Pollution has different effects on lakes and rivers.
•Pollution of lakes and rivers can cause eutrophication.
•Because lake water is not quickly replaced the effects can accumulate gradually, in rivers pollution is eventually washed away to the sea.
•Waste, especially wastewater, from human or animal origin can contain pathogens.
Eutrophication is a natural process that occurs to all lakes over time as the weathering of rocks and soils from the surrounding catchment area leads to an accumulation of nutrients in the water and associated sediments.
Young lakes (and man made reservoirs) usually have low levels of nutrients and correspondingly low levels of biological activity. Such lakes are referred to a being oligotropic from the Greek work oligos meaning little or few. Literally oligotrophic means little-nourished.
Old lakes usually have high levels of nutrients and correspondingly high levels of biological activity. Such lakes are referred to as being eutrophic from the Greek word eu meaning well. Literally eutrophic means well-nourished.
The main causes of eutrophication are:
•natural run-off of nutrients from the soil and the weathering of rocks.
•run-off of inorganic fertiliser (containing nitrates and phosphates).
•run-off of manure from farms (containing nitrates, phosphates and ammonia).
•run-off from erosion (following mining, construction work or poor land use).
•discharge of detergents (containing phosphates).
•discharge of partially treated or untreated sewage (containing nitrates and phosphates).
•In most freshwater lakes the limiting nutrient is phosphorus, so an input of phosphorus in the form of phosphate ions (PO43-) results in an increase in biological activity.
The natural time scale for the aging of a lake from being oligotrophic to eutrophic is of the order of thousands of years. However, a high rate of input of nutrients (from human activities) can increase the rate of aging significantly resulting in eutrophic conditions developing after only a few decades. This artificial eutrophication has already happened in many parts of the world including the Norfolk Broads and parts of Holland, Denmark and Norway.
To renew all the water in a lake may take up to a hundred years compared to a few days for the renewal of the water in a river. Consequently, lakes are particularly susceptible to pollution such as artificial eutrophication.
Effects of Eutrophication
An increase in plant and animal biomass
•An increase in growth of rooted plants, e.g. reeds
•An Increase in turbidity (cloudiness) of water
•An increase in rate of sedimentation
•The development of anoxic (anaerobic) conditions (low oxygen levels)
•A decrease in species diversity
•A change in dominant biota (e.g. carp replace trout and blue-green algae replace normal algae) and an increase in the frequency of algal blooms.
Some of the main consequences of eutrophication are:
•increased vegetation may impede water flow and the movement of boats
•the water may become unsuitable for drinking even after treatment
•decrease in the amenity value of the water (e.g. it may become unsuitable for water sports such as sailing)
•disappearance of commercially important species (such as trout)
•Treating effluent before it reaches the lake.
•reducing the use of phosphates as builders in detergents.
•reducing the use of nitrate containing fertilisers.
•using tertiary sewage treatment methods to remove phosphate and nitrate before discharge of the effluent into rivers and lakes.
•directing treated waste water away from lakes to rivers and the sea.
•aerating lakes and reservoirs to prevent oxygen depletion particularly during algal blooms.
•removing phosphate-rich plant material from affected lakes.
•removing phosphate-rich sediments by dredging..
The next source discussed the concept of water pollution and its relation to rivers. During this, the classification and causal effects of such pollutants are highlighted and again related by to human action via industrial and agriculture waste and development processes.
Even subtle changes in the biochemistry of the water source can have massive effects upon the conditions that many water based life forms require to survive or breed. Thus, reinforcing the importance of wastewater management and preventing any potential pollutants reaching larger bodies of water.
Holdgate (1971) defined pollution as something that is present in the wrong place, wrong time and wrong quantity.
The legal definition of water pollution-Pollution arises by the addition of something to water that changes its natural qualities (Wisdom 1956)
The introduction by man into the environment of substances or energy, liable to cause hazards to human health, harm to living sources and ecological systems, damage to structure and amenity or interference with the legitimate use of the environment (Holdgate 1979).
Waste water or effluent is discharged into water sources at a particular point.
e.g. sewage through a pipe
Most effluents are point sources
Oxygen and Water
What else can affect the amount of O2 in the water?
Speed of water flow
Roughness of surface over which water flows
This final reference refers to waste water, how it is composed and managed and the various significant processes involved within effective sewage treatment. There is wide variety of factors to consider when aiming to repair the significant effects that wastewater pollution can have in surrounding water sources.
For this, there is evidence of various stages of methodology that ensure responsible management, this is likely to be an expensive process which would explain why certain UK water companies have aimed to cut costs when managing wastewater. Restoration near areas of heavy industry are some of the hardest for consistent maintenance, as industrial pollutants both naturally occurring compounds and xeno-biotic compounds (artificially introduced) can only be slowly degraded or reduced, therefore it can prove to be a time consuming process.
(But remember water from washing, body and clothes, preparing vegetables, industrial use, rainwater runoff etc.)
Composition of Wastewaters
Wastewater of domestic origin is usually >99% water with up to 1% solids, both suspended and in solution.
Industrial wastewater streams vary greatly depending on the industry. Abattoirs and food processing plants can produce as much BOD as a small town.
Industrial effluent can also contain toxins.
Removal of dead dogs, foetuses, plastic bottles and other things you cannot pump
Screening through bar screens or perforated plates.
Strainings may be passed through a comminuter (mincer).
Grit Removal – flow slowed to allow grit to settle.
In times of high water flow excess wastewater will pass over weirs and be stored in storm tanks.
Pumping takes energy, sites often sloping to utilise gravity.
•Primary settlement = removal of suspended organic matter through sedimentation
•Flow of effluent slowed in circular or rectangular sedimentation tanks
•Settled material = sludge. This is removed periodically together with any surface scum
•Liquid is now termed primary effluent
Secondary Treatment of Primary Effluent
§Trickling filter (Biological filter)
Land Application of Wastewater
Objective: To utilize the natural soil properties and associated biological conditions to remove undesirable constituents from wastewater.
Benefits: Reclamation/Reuse of water and use of nutrients for plant growth.
Areas of Concern:
Low Cost Treatment Option.
Used Primarily in rural areas.
Assume these are completely mixed biological reactors without solids return.
Mixing provided by heat, wind, and fermentation
Special problems – industrial waste
Industry creates either high concentrations of naturally occurring compounds or wholly man-made or xenobiotic compounds.
These may be only slowly degraded or may be recalcitrant (difficult or impossible to degrade).
All waste must have a discharge consent.
Many industries treat waste before disposal
To conclude, I felt that I have refined my knowledge of some the scientific principles involved within freshwater sources and my considered narrative, particularly when considering the conflict of interest between human development via industry & the growing demand upon agriculture due to the mass consumption of an ever increasing population against the desire to reduce water abstraction and consumption and create a sustainable water supply, maintaining healthy water levels and quality to support the natural conditions of healthy freshwater eco-systems and habitats that help reduce the chances of flooding or drought.
Since my last posts on locations and contact references, I have collected by previous research, as well as undertaking new research as a means of determining other locations and they might co-relate.
I will begin by referred to some of my earlier examples, for this I revisited some of highlighted locations in greater depth to see if there were any suggestions or ideas that could form part of a wider narrative.
Upon the environmental agencies site, I was able to find a concise overview of relevant project occurring around the Merseyside area.
Our Mersey Life Project will restore the River Mersey to create a better place for people and wildlife.
River Mersey clean up
The River Mersey was once the most polluted river in Europe, but over the past 25 years more than one billion pounds has been invested in cleaning it up. The river is now cleaner than it has been in over a century – so clean that salmon have returned.
Restoring the River Mersey
But good water quality is only one aspect of a healthy and productive environment natural. Poor and fragmented habitats and changes to channel structure are limiting factors to the recovery of our rivers.
Our Mersey Life Project aims to address these issues through a phased programme of river restoration, initially focussing on the non-tidal section of the River Mersey – the River Bollin and River Goyt.
The project will look specifically at:
restoring degraded habitats
improving access and recreation throughout the river corridor
developing sustainable fish populations
We want to create a a better place for people and wildlife along our rivers. To achieve this, we need to identify the opportunities that are available. We are looking to develop partnerships with our stakeholders and secure funding to realise the project’s aims.
Over the past 25 years more than one billion pounds has been invested in cleaning
the rivers of the Mersey Basin. Our rivers are now cleaner than they have been in
over a century. They are so clean that species like salmon and otter have started to
return. But good water quality is only one aspect of a healthy and productive
environment. Today, poor access, fragmented and degraded habitat and changes to
channel structure are key factors that limit the recovery of our rivers and reduce the
contribution they make to the green economy.
The Mersey Life Project aims to realise the socio-economic and ecological potential
of the rivers of the Mersey Basin by restoring degraded habitats, developing
sustainable fisheries and improving access & recreation.
We will deliver the project through a phased programme of river restoration beginning
with the River Bollin, the River Goyt & the non-tidal section of the River Mersey.
Our challenge is to build sustainable partnerships with businesses, local authorities,
public bodies and communities so we can deliver the economic and social benefits
that sustained environmental improvements bring.
I then considered the Mersey Basin in greater depth.
Wildlife is thriving in the Mersey’s rich and varied habitats.
Words Chris Baines Photographs Colin McPherson, Steve Young
heart of the Mersey
Nature lies at the very heart of the River Mersey.
The rhythmic rise and fall of the tide exposes miles
of mud and sand, making the Mersey estuary one of
the richest feeding grounds in europe for a host of
migratory ducks, geese and wading birds. if this were
the region’s only habitat, its international designation as
a specially protected area would still be justified. in fact,
the Mersey and the many miles of streams and rivers
that feed it make up a remarkable mosaic of different
habitats. The tidal estuary may offer the most dramatic
natural spectacle but there is a wealth of more modest
wildlife to be found in landscapes as varied as the
moorland of the high pennines, the rich farmland of the
lowland plain and the green spaces of the inner city.
the hills to the east
The Mersey is a relatively short river. its source is less
than 70 miles from the sea, but it rises in surroundings
that could hardly be more different from the grand
Victorian docks and civic buildings of the port of
liverpool. The river is born in a wild and windswept
landscape of heather moorland, haunted by the rippling
cries of curlew and the indignant “go-back, go-back,
go-back” of red grouse. This is nesting territory for birds
such as golden plover, oystercatcher and redshank,
where blankets of sphagnum moss soak up the rain,
build up the peat and offer a toehold for wild plants such
as cotton grass, sundew and bilberry.
Recovery of a working river
The streams of the Mersey’s gathering grounds would
once have flowed down from the moors to pass through
unpolluted countryside all the way to the irish sea, but
for most of the last 200 years that link has been badly
damaged. industry and housing was built over the open
countryside and changed the landscape forever. but it
was pollution that finally wiped out most of the wildlife.
From the early 19th century onwards, the lowland
stretches of the river were poisoned by sewage and
industrial effluent and, as a consequence, the Mersey
almost died. in parts its fish life disappeared completely,
and even as recently as the late 1980s the soap suds
of warrington’s howley weir continued to advertise the
poisoned state of the river. in those days the Mersey
was thought to be the most polluted estuary in europe.
More recently the quality of the Mersey has improved miraculously, until now
about 50 different fish species can be found once more. Many of them may only be
occasional visitors – and the impressive swordfish that now resides in a liverpool
museum was probably a one-off – but there are at least ten fish species that have
firmly re-established themselves in the river and its estuary.
The atlantic salmon is undoubtedly the greatest symbol of success. Two centuries
ago, wild Mersey salmon was a staple diet in the region’s workhouses – so common
that the parish poor complained. with the coming of the industrial revolution, this
sensitive species disappeared completely, but now it has returned as living proof of
the Mersey’s clean up.
even so, there are still some serious problems for the Mersey’s fish. a relatively
recent problem is the complex chemicals found in a range of household and industrial
products that act as ‘endocrine disrupters’ – chemicals known to stimulate gender
change in some fish. by contrast the pesticide ddT is a much older pollution problem.
it was first manufactured on the banks of the Mersey in the 1940s and even though
its use has been banned for years, disturbance of the mud in which it lies can still
cause serious problems. however, although it may be difficult to see the shoals of fish
that are now swimming beneath the surface, the growing numbers of kingfishers and
cormorants, otters and grey seals are visible proof that the river is on the mend.
an urban mosaic
long stretches of the Mersey flow through a crowded urban landscape. Nevertheless,
anyone flying overhead can look down on an almost seamless canopy of trees
and greenery – a living tapestry of parks, tree lined avenues, school grounds and
cemeteries. There are also nearly a million private gardens here and many of them
have garden ponds, flower borders, bird feeders and nesting boxes. These garden
glades within the shelter of the urban forest are becoming the habitat of choice for
many woodland bird species as well as hedgehogs, squirrels, toads and foxes.
The natural streams and smaller rivers have always helped to weave the
landscape together, but two and a half centuries of industrialisation have added other
ecological corridors to the network. The first commercial canal in the country was
constructed here, along the sankey valley, back in 1757. an entire network of canals
soon followed. The anglers who line the canal banks are testament to the fish life
living in these man-made waterways, as are the kingfishers and herons. Miles of traffic
free towpaths offer easy access to an abundance of colourful wild plants and animals.
by comparison the railway corridors are relatively inaccessible. The passing
trains cause little real disturbance and, as a consequence, railway cuttings and
embankments function as linear wildlife sanctuaries. The foxes that raid the bins by
night, the hedgehogs that feed among the flowerbeds and the colourful butterflies
that sip nectar from back garden buddleia bushes – these species and many more
breed in the relative seclusion of wild railway land.
grand public parks are another important feature of the urban landscape close
by the Mersey. Many of them have ornamental lakes as well as sweeping lawns,
flowerbeds and shrubberies, and they are especially valuable for wildlife because of
their big trees. They have become a stronghold for such species as the nuthatch,
tawny owl and tree creeper. There are woodpeckers and sparrow hawks thriving here
as well as such familiar woodland birds as thrushes, robins, tits, blackbirds and
wrens. some of the older parks have good populations of wild mushrooms in the
autumn, as well as butterflies and beetles, and popular creatures such as squirrels,
bats and hedgehogs.
where park keepers make space for dead wood, fallen leaves and wildflowers,
public parks offer a real countryside experience for people living in the heart of town –
and this idea was invented on Merseyside. birkenhead park is world renowned as the
inspiration for New york’s central park and there are hundreds of towns and cities all
around the world that can trace the origins of their local “breathing place” back to its
roots beside the Mersey.
a world class wetland
dumping untreated sewage into a river uses up the oxygen in the water, so as the
region’s human population grew, the wildlife living in the lower reaches of the river
began to suffocate. however, thanks to a massive amount of investment in new
sewerage treatment works, the tidal estuary is once more the natural crowning
glory of the Mersey. it serves as a nursery for the fish of the North atlantic and a
terminus for enormous numbers of migratory wild birds.
The Mersey estuary’s particular ecological importance lies in the huge rise and
fall of the tides – the second largest in the world. Vast sandbanks and tidal mudflats
are covered, uncovered and re-covered twice each day and the hidden wildlife living
within provides the food supply for many other more spectacular creatures. a walk
across the sand and mud at low tide reveals millions of clues to the wild wealth
that is living down below. Mud dwellers such as lugworms and cockles produce
telltale tunnels and waste heaps, but it is the wild birds that really give the game
away. keen birdwatcher colin wells has been monitoring bird life on the Rivers dee
and Mersey since the 1980s, and he regards the recovery of shelduck numbers as
particularly significant. These handsome birds patrol the Mersey’s wettest, softest
mud, sweeping their bills from side to side, harvesting the microscopic snails that
live there. These tiny snails are extremely sensitive to chemical pollution but they
have responded very positively to the Mersey clean up. Now, one in five of the
uk’s shelducks – a staggering 19,000 birds – spends the summer months around
The numbers of wading birds are every bit as impressive. half the uk population
of dunlin – 40,000 modest looking little brown birds – winter here, along with similar
numbers of knot. These birds feed in large flocks that constantly chase the water’s
edge, and one of the Mersey’s most entrancing wildlife spectacles is the sight of
clouds of these birds, flying in perfectly synchronised formation back and forth over
the shallows of a changing tide.
individually, oystercatchers are much more striking to look at, with black and
white plumage and carrot-orange beaks and legs. Their principal food is cockles, and
an oystercatcher’s long straight beak is well suited to plunging deep into the mud to
dig them out. These birds are also commonly seen in twos and threes, probing for
earthworms on the ornamental lawns, golf links and playing fields of Merseyside.
apart from the grey heron, curlews are the largest of the estuary’s wading birds.
They have mottled brown plumage, long legs and a distinctive downward curving
beak that is ideally adapted for extracting juicy lugworms from deep in the mud.
when spring comes, these birds of the winter shoreline fly back to the hills to breed
– an annual to-ing and fro-ing along the length of the River Mersey that must have
been a feature of the region for thousands of years.
on a typical winter’s day there may be as many as 100,000 individual waders
feeding on the mudflats and beaches of the Mersey estuary. There are many more
that touch down for a few days of refuelling on their journeys between summer
breeding grounds in the arctic and winter feeding grounds as far south as the
coast of sub-saharan africa. They share their tidal habitat with wintering ducks and
swans and geese and, all in all, the bird life of the Mersey estuary is as grand a
wildlife spectacle as any in the british isles. This is officially one of britain’s top ten
colin wells admits that it is difficult to get close to the most impressive of the
Mersey estuary’s wild birds, since so many of the richest low tide feeding areas
are such a long way from shore. The development of webcam and closed
circuit TV technology is making it easier to show many more people
just how much spectacular bird life there is on the Mersey estuary’s far
horizons. however, as colin says, nothing quite compares with the thrill
of watching wild birds at first hand, with the wind in your face and your feet
in the mud.
Story of the Mersey salmon
“At times the river literally teemed with fish,
so plentiful that, after human needs were met,
pigs were fed with salmon, and herrings were
used to manure the fields.”
History of Garston and its Church,
by Reverend J. M Swift,
“On the Mersey was formerly a valuable fishery,
which in 1763, was let for £400 per annum;
it abounded with salmon and smelts of a very
superior kind, but has now greatly declined,
not only in the quantity, but also in the size and
flavour, of the fish.”
A Topographical Dictionary of England,
by Samuel Lewis, 1840.
Pollution from the industrial revolution ruined the
Mersey as a salmon river, and by the 1960s the
Mersey estuary was virtually lifeless.
Following a massive clean up, in 1999 salmon
were spotted in one of the Mersey’s tributaries
for the first time in living memory. In 2001, three
were caught and measured at Woolston weir near
Warrington. Then in 2005, young salmon were
found in the headwaters of the River Goyt, proving
they were again breeding in the Mersey system.
a model for sustainable urban living
urban living can all too easily put nature out of sight
and out of mind, and yet we all depend on natural life
support systems for our survival. already more than
half the people on earth are living in cities, and the
proportion is rising rapidly. we need to make space for
nature close to home and the five million people who
live near the Mersey and its tributaries have an enviable
head start. For more than two centuries this region has
been exploiting nature – making it work for people – but
in recent years that relationship has been reversed, and
now wildlife is making a welcome comeback, thanks to
human ingenuity and intervention. That is good news for
the region’s birds and fish and wildflowers – but it also
very good news for the millions of people who live and
work beside the River Mersey.
“There is a wealth of wildlife in landscapes as varied as the moorland of the high
Pennines, the rich farmland of the lowland plain and the green space
I also visited another site, Peel Energy, which offered an insight into a potential hydro power project at Woolston Weir on the River Mersey.
Peel Energy is at the forefront of delivering low carbon energy for the UK.
We have a balanced portfolio in generation or development including wind, tidal and hydro power and biomass.With a heritage of supporting low-carbon energy projects over the last 20 years, we have the determination and expertise to develop, build and operate low-carbon projects across the country.Peel Energy is a division of The Peel Group, one of the leading infrastructure, real estate and investment enterprises in the UK. Our diverse network of businesses ranges from ports to airports; land to leisure; media to hotels; wind farms to shopping centres, and a portfolio of investments in major public companies.
Woolston Weir Hydro is a proposal to install three Archimedes screw turbines with a new fish pass at Woolston Weir on the River Mersey, Warrington. The scheme, with a capacity of up to 500kW, would generate enough electricity to meet the needs of approximately 580 homes and would help provide a more ecological diverse and healthier river.The scheme would provide locally generate electricity for decades to come and make a contribution to emission reduction and renewable energy targets. A new and improved fish pass would also be installed at the site.We are currently at the design stage and anticipate the scheme being operational by 2015.To view a presentation of the Woolston Weir Hydro scheme from January 3013, please click here.
I also had a closer look at Mersey Estuary via the RSPB.
Within which they referred the hydro power project as a threat to local wildlife if it were ever progressed beyond the design stages.
The Mersey is an iconic river with a history that saw it blighted by pollution and then recover thanks to a dedicated campaign of investment. An internationally important site for wetland birds, the Mersey Estuary hosts around 68,000 of them every winter. Designated as a Special Protection Area, it forms a vital part of the Natura 2000 network covering the European Union’s best and most important wildlife sites.
The Mersey is a vital link in the chain of migration that sustains wetland birds escaping the harsh arctic winter. The estuary is particularly important for two types of duck (shelduck and teal) and three types of wader (redshank, black-tailed godwit and dunlin).
This wildlife haven, however, was and still could be under threat. Peel Energy Ltd were planning to build an environmentally tidal barrage across the Mersey, which would have caused significant environmental damage. Fortunately, in June 2011, they announced they were shelving the project owing to financial reasons. We welcomed this decision but are disappointed that this was made for economic reasons rather than environmental considerations and we are still concerned that they may attempt to resurrect the scheme at a later date if economic conditions become more favourable.
If this happended it would not be the first time as tidal energy schemes on the Mersey are nothing new. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were plans to construct a large full impoundment barrage but the proposal collapsed amid spiraling costs, mounting local opposition and clear predictions that the natural environment would be seriously damaged.
It seems there is a great deal of potential with this surrounding area for a culturally relevant and visually interesting body of work. This could form a large part of a more urbanised area relating to industry, water usage its conflict with wildlife and healthy freshwater eco-systems. This could also quite easily relate to its connections with Manchester.
However, I needed to look at a wider scope to determine where a large part of the north west water supply is sourced from. I was already aware of the United Utilities being the North West England’s governing water company, therefore I used this as a starting point.
Current reservoir levels are shown below and are updated once a week. The date shows when the readings were taken (always a Sunday). We try to put them here by the following Wednesday, but it can take a little bit longer if there has been a bank holiday.
29 December 2013
Change Since Last Week
North & West Cumbria
Haweswater & Thirlmere
Dee & Vyrnwy Reservoirs
This highlighted the area that act as prime sources of the North West’s water supplies for abstraction. Of these North & West Cumbria hold the greatest stock of water currently, although Haweswater & Thirlmere seems to be the most varied/abstracted from regularly.
I looked further through their site to find how they managed these areas to find a few extracts of general discussion and a booklet with relevant information.
We’re currently updating our long term strategies which will shape the North West’s water and wastewater service for the next 25 years.
Earlier this year, we published our draft Water Resources Management Plan and we asked for comments during the consultation period (14 May-6 August 2013). The plan sets out our investment needed to ensure that we have sufficient water to continue supplying our customers over the 25 years from 2015 to 2040. For example, in the future we may experience more severe droughts due to changing rainfall patterns and we may need to take less water to help improve the flow in some of our rivers for the benefit of fish and other species that live there. This long term view is updated every five years after consultation. Please see our current plan, which is reviewed annually and was last published in 2009 to cover the years 2010-2035 for more information.
Our revised draft Water Resources Management Plan 2013
We have published our Statement of Response to the consultation on our draft plan, and prepared a Revised Draft Water Resources Management Plan. The Statement of Response describes the responses received during the consultation period and explains how we have taken them into account in revising our draft plan. We have also updated our Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitats Regulation Assessment. These documents can be found here:
The Statement of Response describes the responses received during the consultation period and explains how we have taken them into account in revising our draft plan.
It’s something you don’t always think about.
But every day, you turn on the tap and out
flows clear, high quality drinking water.
Placed end to end,
our water pipes
would stretch right
around the world
3 million homes
Put the kettle on
s talk about water… But your morning brew or shower doesn’t
happen by accident. It relies on a vast
network of reservoirs, underground
water sources, treatment works and
pipes that bring water to you whenever
you need it.
To make sure there’s always enough
water available for nearly seven million
customers, we have to do some careful
thinking and plan for the future.
This document summarises all that deep
thinking. It takes a look at likely demand
patterns over the coming years, and our
proposals for quenching that thirst.
If you want to delve deeper, please do
read the full, more technical report on
our website. We’re keen to hear your
views on our draft ‘Water Resources
Management Plan’, which is explained in
this shorter document.
Find out how you can let us know what
you think at the end of this document.
If you live in Manchester or Lancashire,
you might be surprised to learn that the
cup of tea you’re drinking is probably made
with water from the Lake District. If you’re
in Merseyside or Cheshire, chances are
your brew began life in north Wales.
Getting to know your H2O
Over 50 per cent of the region’s water
comes from the vast Cumbrian reservoirs
of Haweswater and Thirlmere, or from
Lake Vyrnwy and the River Dee in Wales.
The water travels via huge, gravity-fed
The geographical area that relies on
these mega water sources is home to
6.6 million people. It’s known in the trade
as the ‘integrated resource zone.’ Not a
catchy name, but it just means that if
you live in this area, your water can come
from a wide variety of sources.
There are also three smaller ‘resource
zones’ in the north of our region, which
get their water from sources closer to
home. (Please don’t ‘zone’ out at this
point! The information will come in handy
later on, we promise!)
Opposite is a useful map to show the
zones and where the water for each of
these zones comes from.
Even though the North West’s population
is growing, the amount of water we need to
take from reservoirs and rivers is actually
Predicting future demand
demand for water
in our region was 2,500
million litres per day.
By 2040, we expect this
to have fallen to 1,640
This is good news – as reduced demand
means that we shouldn’t have to
develop a large number of new water
The demand for water is going down
for a number of reasons. A lot of this
is due to our efforts to turn the tide on
leakage. By replacing old metal water
pipes with modern plastic ones, and
by locating and fixing the worst of our
underground leaks, we’ve more than
halved the amount of water that drips
away into the ground since 1992.
Education programmes to promote
water efficiency are also playing a part,
as is our promotion of the installation
of free water meters, which allow
customers to manage their water use
more carefully. You can read more
about whether a water meter could be
right for you at unitedutilities.com/
As a customer, you can play your part –
after all, saving water is not only good
for the planet, it can be good for your
bank balance too; always a help in these
tough economic times. You can find out
more about how you can save water,
and save money, by visiting our website:
As a consequence, we expect total
demand for water from homes and
businesses in the North West to reduce
by just under 10% between 2012-2040,
even though the region’s population is
predicted to increase from 6.9 million
to 7.6 million.
Looking at it from a ‘resource
zone’ perspective (we told you that
information on zones would come in
handy), it’s likely that most parts of
our region will have more than enough
water right through to 2040.
It’s worth noting that there is one
exception to this generally optimistic
picture – the West Cumbria resource
zone. More of which later.
Here’s a quick overview of what’s in store
for the North West’s four ‘resource zones’
between now and 2040:
Predicting future demand
We use sophisticated
modelling software to
work out how much water
is available in each resource
zone and predict future
demand to keep
West Cumbria resource zone: likely to
have a significant deficit of water by
2020, without action being taken. That’s
because we’ll need to reduce the amount
of water taken from the environment
in order to protect this ecologically
Integrated resource zone: likely to have a
healthy surplus of water through to 2040, even
if its population grows more than expected or
the climate becomes drier than predicted.
Carlisle resource zone: likely to have a small
surplus of water if population growth and
climate change develop as we expect. A small
deficit is possible if the climate becomes drier
than predicted, or population growth exceeds
North Eden resource zone: this area is supplied
by plentiful underground water sources, which
are resilient to climate change. We don’t expect
any shortfall in the future.
We’ve enhanced the flexibility
of our network to help deal with
the short-term unpredictability
of the weather. For example, the
West-East Link Main, a new pipeline
between Liverpool and Manchester,
can move 100 million litres of
water per day – topping up
local areas when they
All of this served to offer the viewpoint from the perspective of water companies and their asserted that human development of water facilities does not exceed that a manageable, sustainable resource. From this, I noted various aspects, one of which was a new pipeline between Liverpool and Manchester, the West-East Link Main.
West East Link Main
55km pipeline, carrying 100 million litres, is one of the
largest ever undertaken by a water company
The West East Link Main is a £125 million pipeline project that will carry water across the North West of England
from Prescot Reservoir near Liverpool to Woodgate Hill Reservoir North of Manchester. The 55km pipeline,
capable of carrying up to 100 million litres of water a day, is one of the largest engineering projects ever
undertaken by a UK water company.
In 1857 two small holding reservoirs were built in Prescot to receive water from the Rivington reservoirs. These held sufficient water to supply Liverpool for two days. In 1892 water from Lake Vyrnwy supplemented the water stored in Prescot. Four smaller reservoirs were built with a capacity of 200 million gallons, sufficient to supply Liverpool for four days.
Today, so much water is abstracted from Rivington for use in Lancashire that the flow is reversed and water from Vyrnwy is used to supply towns in Lancashire.
We all appreciate a little care and attention and it’s the same for our important water pipes like the Vyrnwy Trunk Mains. We’re completing a 14 year cleaning and maintenance programme targeting our largest and most important water mains, providing even greater improvements to the quality of our drinking water to over seven million customers everyday.
The Vyrnwy Large Diameter Trunk Main (LDTM) consists of three parallel pipelines with a total combined length of around 240km. These large mains carry up to 210 million litres of water a day to 900,000 people in Cheshire and Merseyside. The water in Lake Vyrnwy provides the source which is then transported along the pipelines from Oswestry water treatment works in Shropshire to Prescot water treatment works near Liverpool.
The pipes are almost 130 years old and over time deposits of natural iron, found in untreated water from the reservoirs have built up inside. Although the iron deposits are not likely to be harmful to health, they can cause the water supply to appear discoloured.
We’re using a variety of methods to refurbish these large pipes. We’ll be busy working in stages along the pipeline and expect to complete all the cleaning and refurbishment by 2020.
The purpose of this project was to improve the chemical storage facilities and the chemical dosing performance at Woodgate Hill. Located in Bury, it is one of United Utilities’ (UU) strategic treatment works, intercepting the Haweswater Aqueduct and then supplying up to 500 Ml/d of treated water into the Manchester Ring Main (MRM).
The project involved provision of a new Chemical and Administration Building, and extension to the existing reservoir outlet valve building; provision of chemical storage and dosing facilities, sampling chambers and kiosks, booster pumps, and bunded chemical delivery areas with blind tanks.
Lime stabilisation was used with replacement of compacted ground to provide adequate bearing formation for new Chemical Building.
Other site wide modifications included a new road layout, landscaping, access arrangements, and upgrade of telecommunications systems.
Cheadle0161 4914 600
Leeds0113 259 1927
St Albans01923 893866
From this, I was able to identify some slightly more concentrated potential subjects, as well some possible contact information for references.
I also referred to United Utilities listing of Haweswater as its ‘water quarter’.
Haweswater is not just a beautiful place to visit. It plays a vital role in supplying about 25 per cent of the North West’s water supply – which means that about one glass of water in every four comes from here.
Haweswater was built in the 1930s by Manchester Corporation to provide vital drinking water. It also supplies communities throughout south Cumbria and Lancashire and, these days, can even be used to top up supplies in Liverpool, if needs be.
The picturesque valley has a fascinating history and is home to some of the UK’s rarest and beautiful wildlife. England’s only golden eagle is found here, together with buzzards, peregrines, redstarts and dippers, to name but a few.
We’ve created a lovely lakeshore path along the southern side of Haweswater to link with the public footpaths to the north and make a circular walk.
While you’re here you might catch a glimpse of some of our amazing wildlife. Look out for wheatears, ring ouzels and ravens, as well as goosanders on the water, red squirrels in the woodlands and red deer on the fell.
Please note that, for your own safety, we do not permit swimming. Reservoirs can be very dangerous and are extremely cold. Even the strongest swimmer can get into serious trouble very quickly.
Fishing is allowed, but only with an EA rod licence (no ground baiting).
Site Facilities at Haweswater include:
dogs allowed – if kept under control
Free car parking
There aren’t many shops/pubs nearby so you might want to think about a packed lunch. Remember the weather can change very quickly in the Lake District, so take a waterproof or a change of clothes.
Open all day, every day. For more information contact our team at Haweswater on 01768 772 334 (During office hours)
Referring back to previous resource, another significant aspect of this stood out to me was United Utilities optimism for each area with the exception of West Cumbria.
Again, we’re affirming this idea of the 2020 vision, yet highlight a new example of a connection of a rural area that is heavily abstracted to sustain agriculture, industry, drinking water and various aspect of city lifestyles, all of which adds up to mass consumption. I have visited areas around West Cumbria in the past but never in this capacity. From this, I would assert it a definitive area of focus.
This was reinforced further as the report continued.
The outlook is a positive one for the
North West. In most parts of the region,
we expect to have more than enough
water to meet the needs of our growing
population until 2040.
Our plans to keep
the North West fl owing
That’s not to say there may never be
another hosepipe ban, but we expect
this type of restriction to be few and
far between (once in every 20 years, on
In the years to come, we may even
find ourselves being able to sell water
to other parts of the country. We’re
currently looking at the practicalities of
this scenario, to see how the water could
be moved around economically, and if
such a move would benefit our customers
here in the North West.
Our one area where we have an issue is
West Cumbria – but we have a number of
options that will help. These are outlined
on the next page.
meeting future shortfall
West Cumbria faces a significant water
shortfall in the coming years.
The area plays host to England’s only
viable population of internationally
protected freshwater mussels, plus lots
of other rare plant and animal species. To
protect the ecology of the area, we need
to reduce the amount of water we take
from the local environment.
At the same time, we need to ensure
that we have sufficient water available
to support the area’s growing tourist
industry and water demand as a result of
West Cumbria’s increasingly prominent
role in the UK’s green energy production.
There are three options to make up the
expected shortfall, shown opposite.
This also highlights the conflict of tourism via water usage against sustainability, however, previous research has shown that sites restored or altered to incite public interest and tourism are the most heavily financed. Which likely which it is less highlighted, quieter areas of the lake district that are suffering losses to healthy eco-systems and pollution.
This then led me to visit a site I noted in a earlier post, Friends of the Lake District.
Friends of the Lake District is the only organisation working solely to protect and enhance the landscape in Cumbria and the Lake District.Landscape protection and enhancement is at the heart of what we do.We seek to influence decision-makers to understand the importance of conserving and enhancing the irreplaceable landscape of Cumbria and the Lake District .Our campaigning issues have the common theme of protection and conservation of the special qualities of the landscape and natural beauty of Cumbria and the Lake District.
We work to:
encourage vibrant rural communities, and develop improved links with them, within a living, working and sustainable landscape, especially in the uplands
demonstrate good practice across the whole range of our work and particularly through land ownership
improve the Cumbrian landscape through an Environmental Improvement Grants scheme.
We work closely with local organisations including the Lake District National Park Authority (we are a member of the Lake District National Park Partnership), Cumbria County Council, the National Trust, Natural England, the Environment Agency and Action for Communities in Cumbria.
And we liase with national and regional bodies including the Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ramblers’ Association and the Open Spaces Society.
From this, I have highlighted an article/events I felt was relevant to this.
Drought Permit To Extract Threatens Lake District Landscape, Wildlife And Tourism
Monday, 19 July 2010 12:05
Friends of the Lake District has voiced its serious concern to United Utilities over their application for a drought permit to abstract more water from Windermere in order to safeguard water supplies in the north west.Following months of dry weather, water levels in lakes throughout Cumbria are at record lows. As well as providing domestic water supplies for populations throughout the north west, the lakes are also home to many fish and wildlife, and of course the major draw for tourism in the Lake District.Image left: Thirlmere in April. At its lowest level on 4 July the reservoir was 37.4% full. Last week (25 July) it was 54.6% full.
Whilst accepting the need for the permit, Friends of the Lake District feel more could have been done by United Utilities earlier to prevent this application and its likely negative impacts on the landscape.
Policy Officer Jan Darrall said: ‘United Utilities’ policy is that they will only seek a drought permit once in 20 years, but this is the sixth time they have sought drought powers in the last 35 years. Rainfall has been well below average since last December. United Utilities should have introduced a hosepipe ban much earlier, and been running media coverage and campaigns to encourage the public to reduce water consumption for months.
‘Hose pipe bans and saving water are a regular fact of life in the south east, but people in the north west need to also make the connection between their use of water and the resulting effects of drought on the landscape of the Lake District and its wildlife, in addition to the knock on impacts for tourism and businesses which operate on or near the lakes.
‘Even though we’ve had rain this week the situation is still very serious, and we urge everyone to reduce their water consumption as much as possible.’
Friends of the Lake District are urging United Utilities to revise their plans for future drought situations to include public awareness raising and issue hose pipe bans much earlier to avoid the need for further drought power applications.
United Utilities have made an application for a drought permit for 6 months to the Environment Agency. This would allow them to abstract more water from Windermere under certain conditions. It would not lower the lake level but would reduce the amount of water going down the river Leven. Water from here would reduce the water taken from Haweswater and Thirlmere and allow them to refill if there is rain. United Utilities believe that without the drought permit there is a danger Haweswater aDrought permit withdrawn, but wasteful water use still threatens Lake District landscape, wildlife and tourism Thirlmere will not fill during the winter so that by next spring we could be facing serious water shortages.
Update – 27 July 2010:
Drought permit withdrawn, but wasteful water use still threatens Lake District landscape, wildlife and tourism
During July, United Utilities applied for drought permits to extract water from Ennerdale and Windermere. The rainfall for the year to date had been the lowest recorded for over 70 years, and stocks of water were getting dangerously low.
However, the rain came almost as soon as the applications were submitted, and consequently both applications have since been withdrawn! A hosepipe ban remains in place as reservoir levels are still low.
United Utilities will now be working with all those people and organisations who submitted comments or objections to see if processes and systems can be improved for the future.
We would like to see a review of United Utilities’ current Drought Plan, to avoid the need for drought measures and their negative impacts on the landscape in future, including introducing hosepipe bans earlier, and running media campaigns to encourage the public to reduce water consumption.
Again, we’re seeing this conflict between a desire for economic growth and development versus the well-being of the environment and conservation efforts to reduce water usage and maintain wildlife.
I also noted that they had conservation days which prove to be an excellent photo opportunity to document the process of water conservation and the people involved.
Our conservation work parties are a great opportunity for you to volunteer on practical conservation tasks, helping to protect and enhance the landscape, as well as have fun, meet people and eat lots of cake!Most conservation days are on our land across Cumbria. Everyone is very welcome to join us.The events are hands-on conservation work, including a varied range of tasks usually undertaken in small groups. All involve working in the countryside and sometimes on rough ground. Volunteers of all skill levels are welcome to come along. We supply skilled supervision and any tools necessary.
Please bring warm clothes, waterproofs, gloves and a packed lunch with drinks, suncream in summer. Steel toe capped boots MUST be worn for all dry stone walling days. Please note there are no washing, toilet or other facilities on our sites.
I also consulted Lake District National Park to find out more about abstraction areas and to see what events and projects are in place to protect freshwater sources.
From this, I found various aspects of topical interest. Starting with discussion of Brockholes, a protected visitor centre in Lake District National Park.
Brockhole – the Lake District Visitor Centre: its future
We are all about…
“Creating an inspiring Visitor Centre that encourages visitors and local people to explore and celebrate the Lake District”
Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre (opens in new window) is already open 364 days a year. We want to develop it to be a place where visitors can get a taste of the Lake District. This means giving things a go and gaining confidence and skills to go out into the National Park to have your own adventures.
1. To provide an orientation centre which is an all-weather destination and a taster venue that encourages exploration of the Lake District.
2. To act as an example of sustainability:
showcasing local materials, food and products
demonstrating sustainable energy, water and operation
encouraging sustainable transport choices by visitors
3. To transform the Centre from a cost centre to a profit centre for the National Park Authority.
Over the past year, Brockhole has been the subject of an intense study by Landscape architects Planit I.E. The Altrincham based design team has been awarded the task of drawing up a Masterplan for Brockhole, focussing on the use and development of the site over the next 10-15 years.
Planit’s team know Brockhole well, having been the designers of the new Brockhole jetty, which won the Landscape Institute’s design award in November 2012. They consulted extensively with neighbours, LDNPA staff and members, local businesses and interest groups over a 3 month period from May to July. Authority members approved the principle of the masterplan in December 2012. The final details are to be approved by the Programme Board in March 2013.
The Masterplan is not intended to be a blueprint for Brockhole, but more a “wishlist” of ideas that would work well together. It offers a “loose fit, long life” approach to the development of this extraordinary site.
I also found two restoration projects that could form part of the narrative structure, one in a popular tourist area of the lakes and another a quieter natural water body.
Throughout, various aspects are highlighted that could make for a strong pro-conservation argument regarding both environmental and natural history issues affecting these areas. There is also a discussion of water catchments and an explanation of the water restoration process.
Bassenthwaite Lake is home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including its world famous ospreys and vendace fish from the Ice Age. But this National Nature Reserve is under threat. Water quality is poor and polluted, seriously affecting the wildlife. We need to manage the land because what goes onto the land goes into the lake.
Catchment refers to the area which feeds its water into Bassenthwaite. This 350 square kilometre area stretches as far as Borrowdale, Thirlmere and Troutbeck near Keswick.
Threats to Bassenthwaite
These threats are particularly acute because the lake is relatively shallow, being only 19 metres at its deepest point.
Solid particles are washed into a river or stream, where they will be carried in the water until the flow becomes slow and weak enough for it to settle – for example, when rivers flow into still waters such as Bassenthwaite Lake.
The rate of sediment accumulation on the bed of Bassenthwaite Lake has doubled over the past 100 years. Lake sediments are also disturbed and recirculated during storms, especially in the winter. This clogs up the clean gravels where the vendace spawn.
This erosion dates back many thousands of years. Intensive grazing in the high fells has damaged vegetation and increased soil erosion. More than half of the land in the catchment is used for open fell grazing on steep, high slopes. There has also been a reduction in tree cover. The fine sediment eroded from the soil is washed down the slopes where it settles in waters like Bassenthwaite Lake.
The Lake District has many heavily modified watercourses in its valleys, and the Bassenthwaite catchment is no exception. Building embankments disconnects rivers from their natural flood plain, so that fine sediments then remain in the river channels. Straightening out meandering streams and rivers also speeds up the flow of water, meaning that sediment is carried quickly and efficiently and only settles when it reaches slower waters such as Bassenthwaite Lake.
Mine waste such as spoil heaps, is a source of sediment. It is a less significant factor than other forms of erosion but places such as Force Crag Mine at Coledale Beck, and Goldscope and Yewthwaite Mines in Newlands Valley do affect Bassenthwaite. Erosion makes mine waste less stable over time, and climate change could bring more intense rainfall in the future which would also increase erosion of sediment.
Each litre of water arriving in Bassenthwaite Lake contains 25 microgrammes of phosphorus – it needs to be reduced to 15.
Washing machines, dishwashers, increased population and visitor numbers all contribute to the enrichment on the lake by increased nutrients – such as phosphates which in turn stimulate greater than normal growth of algae.
Since 1995 the local sewage works has had a stripping plant, but the build up of chemicals in the lake bed over the years is still a problem, especially for the rare fish the vendace.
High nutrient levels combined with still conditions in the summer can result in dense growth of algae. This can collect at the lake edge. At such times, signs are placed at access points to make people aware of this possibility, and local farmers and outdoor centres are contacted to warn of the problem.
This species tends to grow in damp areas. This annual is becoming a real problem on the River Derwent from Borrowdale to Bassenthwaite Lake.
An elegant, tall and very attractive plant, the balsam crowds out other native species and also scatters thousands of seeds – a single plant can spread over 6,000 seeds.
Once the seeds for the following year have been spread, the plant dies back over the winter. Having crowded out native grasses it then leaves bare soil, which makes riverbanks or lake shores very prone to erosion in winter storms.
New Zealand pigmyweed – Crassula helmsii
This plant is threatening the Lake District’s wildlife, especially Luronium natans. It’s a tough invader, which grows all year and out-competes our native plants.
It grows rampantly on damp ground, lakeshores, and in shallow and deep water. New Zealand pigmyweed is very hard to kill and just a 1 cm piece can grow to dominate a wetland.
Because New Zealand pigmyweed can be spread by footwear, fishing tackle, boat propellers and boat trailers precautions need to be taken to stop its spread.
It is essential lake users remove any plants or plant remains from equipment before leaving the lake.
I also noted another location related to Bassenthwaite Lake, Dubwath Silver Meadows Wetland Nature Reserve. This provided information not only discussed geological and ecological attributes of the site itself but also offered knowledge of human interference and explained some of the consequences of these actions.
The Dubwath site is traditionally wet and regularly floods. Its peaty soils soak up water and then slowly release it, acting like a sponge. This gives it an important role in controlling the flow of water into Bassenthwaite Lake and flooding in the catchment and beyond. It is also why management of the site was made a part of the Bassenthwaite Reflections programme when it began in 2007.The site is managed by Bassenthwaite Reflections, but is leased from the landowner and farmed by a local farmer. Its management is supported by Natural England through its Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Enhancement work on the site was carried out during 2007/8 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and was opened in September 2008 by Lord Inglewood.Thanks to this partnership the site is now free for visitors to enjoy and wildlife is thriving.
Objectives for Dubwath Silver Meadows
The site is being managed to enhance its wildlife value and to protect the catchment’s water supply. A management plan has been written which outlines the conservation aims for the area. Seven key issues have been identified:
Protecting and enhance the biodiversity of the site
Preventing the release of sediment and nutrients into Bassenthwaite Lake
Controlling non-native plant species from both the site and upstream catchment
Helping people to understand and enjoy the site
Improving access opportunities for a wide range of users
Helping volunteers and the local community get involved in looking after the site
Keeping visitors safe
Plants and Their Habitats at Dubwath Silver Meadows
Dubwath Silver Meadows is a marvellous place to look at and learn about wildlife – and plants are a very important, perhaps the most important, part of wildlife simply because everything else depends on them. Wild plants don’t just grow anywhere – particular plants have particular preferences and tend to grow in places, with other plants with similar preferences, that have particular characteristics in terms of soil (whether limey or acid), wetness (dry or waterlogged), light (open or shady), and how the land is managed by people (is it grazed by animals, cut, or allowed to grow up into woodland?). The relationship between all these things is called ecology. A group of plants that has similar preferences in terms of its ecology is called a plant community and the particular place where these ecological preferences are found is called a habitat.
Dubwath Silver Meadows supports an amazing variety of plant communities and habitats that range from open wetland to wet woodland and from open grassland to dry woodland. While this variety does reflect natural ecological characteristics, it also reflects, in very important ways, centuries-old human intervention in the ecology, mainly through grazing animals and cutting of vegetation. Without grazing and cutting, the reserve would be covered almost entirely by woodland plant communities and much of the variety in plant and therefore other wildlife would be lost.
Dubwath Silver Meadows is an amazing mosaic of different plant communities and habitats. It is made up of mainly wetland habitats:
Mire (open habitats where water lies not far beneath the land surface);
Swamp (open habitats where water lies at or above the land surface);
Wet woodland (shaded habitats where wet-loving trees like willow and alder are dominant – otherwise called ‘carr’ woodland) but also of smaller areas of dryland habitat;
Hay Meadow (open habitat dominated by grasses and perennial herbaceous plants);
Dry woodland and hedgerows (shaded habitats dominated by tree and shrub species like ash, hazel, rowan and bird cherry).
I also noted another site that linked to the restoration of Bassenthwaite Lake, the Bassenthwaite Lake Restoration Programme.
Bassenthwaite Lake is home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including its world famous ospreys. But this National Nature Reserve is under threat.
Water quality is poor, seriously affecting the wildlife, as a result we need to manage the land carefully because what goes onto the land goes into the lake.
The Bassenthwaite Lake Restoration Programme (BLRP) is taking action on the threats tothe lake. We want the water in the lake to be as clean and clear as it was in the 1940s. It’s going to take us about 20 years to do this by:
• Sorting out the water quality –by using better treatment plants on farms and sewage treatment works. • Working together – by encouraging residents and businesses to care for the environment. • Sharing information and telling people –to make sure people know what’s happening. • Digging deeper – by trying to discover more details about the lake and its surroundings. • Learning – by exploring everything we can to protect and improve the lake in the future.
This website will help you to find out more about the habitat of this unique place, threats to Bassenthwaite Lake, the actions being taken to help protect it and how to enjoy the lake responsibly.
In addition, I found the latest report from the Lake District National Park.
In the following chapters, there are a lot of facts and figures about the state of the Lake District
National Park. Here is a quick summary of key issues and highlights from this year’s report.
A Prosperous Economy
Farming and forestry
Farming is significant in terms of employment in the National Park, however farm incomes
are low. Financial support through European and UK government funded schemes is likely to
reduce over the next five years. The trends are towards fewer and larger hill farms, with an
associated increase in number of the smallest (non-commercial) holdings. Livestock
populations have declined, with 30 per cent fewer sheep than in 2000. Woodland area on
farms has remained relatively constant, at about 3 per cent of the total.
68per cent of the National Park area is in an agri-environment scheme based on 2013 data.
There are 28,500 ha of woodlands in the National Park, 12 per cent of the area. 24,000
hectares of woodland has entered Woodland Grant Schemes since 2007 to 2008.
Employment and business
Again, there is a similar story to previous years, while unemployment levels are significantly
lower in the National Park compared to the national average, wages are significantly lower.
We are a long way from meeting the 2015 target of a net increase of 14,000 square metres
of additional employment floor space, however the Allocations Plan has specified areas of
land for employment sites, which should boost development over the coming years.
Broadband still remains a big issue for businesses, and while the Connecting Cumbria
project is progressing, it is anticipated that this will not provide full coverage for the whole of
the National Park.
World Class Visitor Experience
Sustainable tourism and visitor facilities
Tourism continues to be central to the National Park’s economy and it is still attracting
visitors, however the trend is one of increasingly ageing visitor demographic as the Lake
District struggles to attract new and younger visitors. Partners are investigating new ways of
attracting new audiences as well as consolidating existing audiences, furthering their
experiences of the Lake District and what it can offer including the development of the
Adventure Capital Strategy. Visitor satisfaction remains high and while the Cumbria Visitor
Survey found an increase in spend amongst overnight and staying visitors, it found a
reduction in spend amongst day visitors. Since there are a greater number of day visitors the
overall picture is down. The GoLakes Travel project is well underway and aims to promote
sustainable visitor travel. While private motor vehicles remain the most popular mode of
transport for visitors, however this has dropped and public transport and walking is becoming
Education, events, access and outdoor recreation
We fell slightly short of our target of 80 per cent of public rights of way being easy to use this
year however a number were affected by the exceptionally bad weather. There is a wide
range of activities available in the National Park with the most popular remaining walking and
visiting the countryside. The most significant impact on tranquillity is felt in rural service
centres and the increase of traffic on major roads is further reducing this tranquillity.
The number of services in communities is falling however communities are being given new
opportunities to shape the future of where they live through Community Action Plans, have a
say on sustainable development at a local level through Neighbourhood Planning and on a
wider geographical scale through Whole Valley Planning, which is currently being piloted in
Ullswater. 2011 Census data has given us a good picture of the age structure of the National
Park and reflects the trend of an ageing population.
Housing remains a big issue in the National Park as house prices are high compared to
household incomes. This coupled with second home and holiday home ownership is having a
detrimental impact on homes for local people. The number of affordable and local needs
houses (new units) that were granted planning permission and the number of housing
completions increased on last year’s figures. However the number of permissions granted far
outweighs the number of units that are developed, completed and made available to local
people. It is anticipated that the peak in housing completions will be in 2015/2016 and
2016/2017. This recognises that the Lake District National Park Authority have been granting
significantly more planning permissions for dwellings during 2012/2013 than in previous
years. Potential barriers to delivery are that the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) are
receiving less money from Government and banks have tightened their lending criteria
significantly, affecting deliverability of affordable schemes.
The GoLakes Travel project is putting some key transport infrastructure in place and is
promoting sustainable visitor travel. While this is a visitor travel scheme, the new sustainable
travel options provided by the scheme can benefit residents of the National Park. Residents
in the National Park do depend heavily on private motor vehicles however over three quarters
of residents can access employment by public transport, walking and cycling.
Spectacular Landscape, Wildlife and Cultural Heritage
A Climate Change Action Plan has been put in place and so far the Partnership have
identified, encouraged or established projects to save 26,926 tonnes of carbon emissions per
year. Key areas where savings have been made are from home energy, accommodation and
food and drink and travel. While the carbon emissions have been reduced the one per cent
year on year target has still not been met. Visitors contribute a large proportion of emissions
to the carbon budget.
Landscape, biodiversity and ecosystem services
There is a continuing need to develop a strategic approach to managing and improving
biodiversity along with an indicator which we can use in future State of Park reports. Overall,
15 river and lake waterbodies have improved from Moderate to Good classification, whilst 11
river and lake waterbodies have deteriorated in status, however, the way in which this is
measured is not appropriate and is being reviewed.
Cultural heritage and built environment
Each year the number of listed buildings and Scheduled Monuments at risk decreases, we
are on track to meet these targets and we have met the target of no Conservation Areas at
risk. The challenge is to continue the good work. 3
2 Looking ahead
This State of the Lake District National Park Report 2013 provides the foundation of awareness
for the annual review of the Partnership’s Plan and its priorities.
This document will be reviewed annually to measure change. Monitoring the key datasets
featured throughout the chapters will provide a clear picture on the ways in which many aspects
of the National Park are changing. New datasets are likely to emerge each year while some will
cease to be used.
A number of challenges have emerged and a number issues that are central to achieving the
Vision for the Lake District National Park remain pertinent. These cut across all four themes of the
Broadband remains an issue for businesses and residents alike across the whole park.
The Connecting Cumbria project is in place, however the outcome is still unknown and it is
likely that some homes and businesses will still not have access to broadband once it is
Farm incomes are low across the National Park and there is a decline in full time farms.
Housing remains a key issue as house prices soar above the average income of locals.
The availability of affordable local housing is causing changes in the population of the
National Park as younger people are forced to move away to where homes are more
affordable. This coupled with lack of employment opportunities is creating an ever aging
The target one per cent reduction in carbon emissions was not met for 2012 to 2013.
Climate change impacts are being felt across the park which is affecting the distribution
and abundance of species, the quality of habitats and the availability of water.
There is a continuing need to develop a strategic approach to managing and improving
biodiversity in the Lake District. This will contribute to ‘Biodiversity 2020: A Strategy for
England’s Wildlife and Ecosystem Services’.
The quality of our lakes, rivers and tarns is of huge importance to the National Park as it
affects biodiversity and ecology as well as our economy and tourism industry. We need to
identify a way to accurately record the effects of this.
Valley Planning is an ongoing project and there will be a number of lessons to be learnt
from the pilot in Ullswater.
This list is merely indicative, there are many other issues which will need to be considered as
partners discuss and agree their priorities and actions for the future.
In looking ahead it is essential that each partner must be fully aware of the impact that their work
is having on the state of the park in order to achieve this vision.
3.1 About the State of the Lake District National Park Report and the
The Lake District National Park Partnership (the Partnership) first produced a State of the Lake
District National Park Report (State of the Park Report) in March 2012 and committed to renewing
it annually. The purpose of this report is to establish an evidence base to:
give an accurate picture of the condition of the National Park including the special qualities
measure whether the work we are doing is having a positive effect and is working towards
our Vision for the National Park.
The State of the Park Report will inform the Partnership’s Plan annual review and identification of
priorities. The Partnership developed the Partnership’s Plan, which is the Management Plan for
the National Park and details can be viewed at http://www.lakedistrictpartnership.co.uk.
The Partnership’s Plan contains:
The National Park’s special qualities, that distinguish it from other parts of the country so we
can protect them
The Vision for the National Park in 2030 and key delivery aims to help direct our actions
The actions the Partnership will deliver
How we will monitor progress, including 21 indicators of success.
To help focus resources, in 2012, the Partnership identified seven priorities. These are topic
areas considered, by the Partnership to be the most important ones, the must do’s for the
Partnership and the Lake District over the short term. The 2012 priorities were to:
Support and develop profitable farming and forestry businesses while delivering sustainable
Secure superfast broadband and improved mobile phone coverage across the National Park
Develop Cumbria and the Lake District as the Adventure Capital of the UK, whilst
safeguarding the special qualities of the National Park
Facilitate the delivery of affordable and local needs housing opportunities throughout the
Develop an integrated transport network in the National Park
Develop valley plans, looking at social, economic and environmental needs and
opportunities across the National Park
Reduce carbon emissions in the National Park.
The State of the Park Report summarises the condition of the National Park across a variety of
indicators. It includes:
The 21 indicators of success in the Partnership’s Plan
Additional supporting indicators to monitor the special qualities of the National Park and the
outcomes and delivery aims of the Vision.
We have structured this report by the four outcomes of the Vision and the topics identified in the
Partnership’s Plan. We recognise that some indicators are relevant to more than one topic. 5
However, to avoid duplication we have presented data for indicators only under one topic using a
‘best fit’ approach.
For each topic we have written a short textual summary and this is followed by data for relevant
indicators presented in maps, graphs and tables. This report is based on data gathered during
2012 to 2013.
3.2 The Vision for the Lake District National Park
The Vision for the Lake District National Park in 2030 is that it will be:
An inspirational example of sustainable development in action.
It will be a place where a prosperous economy, world class visitor experiences and vibrant
communities all come together to sustain the spectacular landscape, its wildlife and cultural
Local people, visitors and the many organisations working in the National Park or have a
contribution to make to it, must be united in achieving this.
We will see the following outcomes:
A prosperous economy
Businesses will locate in the National Park because they value the
quality of opportunity, environment and lifestyle it offers – many will
draw on a strong connection to the landscape. Entrepreneurial spirit
will be nurtured across all sectors and traditional industries maintained
to ensure a diverse economy.
World class visitor experiences
High quality and unique experiences for visitors within a stunning and
globally significant landscape. These will be experiences that compete
with the best in the international market.
People successfully living, working and relaxing within upland, valley and lakeside places where
distinctive local character is maintained and celebrated.
A spectacular landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage
A landscape which provides an irreplaceable source of inspiration, whose benefits to people and
wildlife are valued and improved. A landscape whose natural and cultural resources are assets to
be managed and used wisely for future generations.
3.3 The Special Qualities of the Lake District National Park
Special qualities distinguish National Parks from each other and from other parts of the country.
We need to be clear about the Lake District’s special qualities so we protect them and have a
platform for effective management. Consultation on the Lake District National Park Management
Plan in 2003 and World Heritage Site proposals in 2006 identified a number of characteristics that
make the Lake District National Park unique. 6
The special qualities of the Lake District are:
Complex geology and geomorphology
Diverse landscape from mountain to coast
Unique farmed landscape and concentration of
Nationally important mosaic of lakes, tarns
and rivers and coast
Wealth of habitats and wildlife
Extensive semi-natural woodlands
History of tourism and outdoor activities
Opportunities for quiet enjoyment
Open nature of the fells
Distinctive areas and settlement character
Celebrated social and cultural heritage
3.4 External impacts on the National Park
There are several external influences that will have affected the State of the Park in recent years:
Like the rest of the UK, the general economic downturn continues to play a part in the State of
the Park. With much less income, funding and investment, houses and other developments
do not get built, visitor and local spending is less and businesses located in the Park have to
work harder to sell their products and services.
The funding elements include uncertainty around the reform of the Common Agricultural
Policy and the future changes to the Rural Development Programme for England. Both of
which have been of huge benefit to the support of farming and forestry practices in the Lake
District in recent years.
The 2011 Census also revealed a 2.5 per cent decline in overall population in the Lake
District, notably those aged under 45 show the highest decrease. Consequently, coupled with
a lack of employment opportunities for younger people, there is now an ageing workforce in
the Lake District.
The Lake District still suffers from poor communication infrastructure (when compared to
other National Parks). A lack of good broadband connectivity and patchy mobile phone
coverage has become a ‘real and present’ factor affecting business efficiency, productivity
and access to new opportunities.
Climate science remains a concern. Changing temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and
more extreme weather events all play a big part on our landscape, land management and
tourism. 2012 was the wettest on record for England, this affected both farming practices and
the numbers of staying visitors in the Lake District. And in March 2013, the heaviest snowfall
for 50 years resulted in thousands of sheep deaths across Cumbria and the Lake District.
4 Indicators of success
We have key indicators of success to help inform us that we are achieving the Vision for the
National Park and in the shorter term that our delivery aims are being achieved.
We have set targets for 21 key indicators with targets for 2015 as follows:
Table 1: Indicators of success
The percentage of new businesses
surviving for three years is higher in
Cumbria than the national average
The percentage of people of working
age who are unemployed remains lower
in the National Park than in Cumbria, the
north west region and nationally
Increase the median earnings of
employees in Cumbria above the rate of
inflation – using the Retail Price Index
Over 90 per cent of planning
applications in the National Park are
approved for business, housing and
A net increase of 14,000 square metres
of additional employment floor space
developed in the National Park
figure is zero –
Over 95 per cent of visitors2
overall experience of their visit as good
or very good
At least 85 per cent of visitors1
previously visited Cumbria
Visitors, who stay in the National Park,
stay on average for at least five nights
Reduce the percentage of visitors1
whose main mode of transport during
their visit is a private motor vehicle to
below 70 per cent
There is unsufficient data to assess whether the target will be met in 2015 as the data is either unavailable, or
we do not know whether it will be met.
Visitors to the Lake District National Park 8
At least 75 per cent of accommodation
providers in the National Park have a
At least 50 per cent of parishes in the
are covered by
Community Action Plans, which have
been updated or created within the last
Maintain the number of settlements in
the National Park with four, five or six
services from: convenience store,
meeting place, primary school, public
house, post office, doctors surgery
Rural Service Centres
Villages with five services 7 settlements 6 settlements
Villages with four services
Villages with three services
Develop 300 additional affordable and
local needs homes in the National Park
figure is zero –
At least 75 per cent of working age
people in the area have access to
employment by public transport, cycling
Reduce per capita carbon dioxide
emissions in Cumbria by 25 per cent by
2015, compared with the 2005 baseline
figure of 10.2 tonnes per capita4
2005 of 9.6
Physical parishes that have any amount of land within the National Park
This data has not been monitored since 2010 so it is proposed that the indicator be altered to reflect action 57
in the Partnership’s Plan – reduce carbon emissions by 1 per cent per year. See section 4.1 for more details. 9
50 per cent of county wildlife sites and
regionally important geological sites in
the National Park are, or have been in
the last five years, in positive
95 per cent, by area, of sites of special
scientific interest in the National Park are
in favourable or recovering condition,
increasing on 26 per cent in favourable
Maintain the area of land in relevant
agri-environment schemes in the
National Park at 75 per cent
80 per cent of total length of public rights
of way in the National Park are easy to
use by members of the public
51 per cent of rivers and 29 per cent of
lakes in the National Park are in at least
good ecological status by 2015
38% – rivers
29% – lakes
42% – rivers
34% – lakes
Reduce the number of cultural heritage
assets at risk in the National Park so
no Conservation Areas are at risk
we reduce the number of listed
buildings at risk from 88 to 80 – as at
Sept 2010 –
less than 100, out of 275 Scheduled
Monuments are at risk
Jan 2011 –
Not available for National Park and no report carried out in 2012. See section 4.1 for more details. 10
4.1 Improving how we monitor the State of the Park
Wherever possible we report data specifically for the National Park and each year we will look into
whether new data at National Park level is available. In cases where data is not available for the
National Park we state what level the data is reported at, which includes data for the:
county of Cumbria
four districts that cover the National Park (Allerdale, Copeland, Eden and South Lakeland)
wards in the National Park on a ‘best fit’ basis, including wards with greater than 50 per cent
area within the National Park as shown on the map on page 11.
It is also important to note the date of some of the data used in this report. In some cases, the
data may not yet be available for 2012 to 2013 or a new survey hasn’t been carried out. Wherever
possible it is made clear when the data was collected.
In February 2013, the 2011 Census data became available which has given us valuable additional
information on the population of the National Park, however this will now not be updated for
another 10 years.
Indicators of success
The indicators of success were identified in 2010. Since then, new data has become available or
some data that was previously used is no longer monitored. A number of the indicators therefore
need to be reconsidered in light of these changes.
10. At least 75 per cent of accommodation providers in the National Park have a quality rating
The number of accommodation providers with a quality rating is falling year on year and while this
could reflect a decline in the quality of hotels, it is more likely to be down to the fact that
businesses may be opting out of inspection schemes in a bid to save costs during the economic
recession. This would mean the figure wasn’t entirely representative of the quality of hotels.
15. Reduce per capita carbon dioxide emissions in Cumbria by 25 per cent by 2015, compared
with the 2005 baseline figure of 10.2 tonnes per capita
This is a Cumbria-wide indicator however it is no longer monitored. Figures are now available
from annual data collected on the Carbon Budget for the Lake District National Park Progress
Report (established 2011). The suggested new indicator is in line with action 57 in the
Partnership’s Plan – ‘Reduce carbon emissions in the Lake District National Park by one per cent
16. 50 per cent of county wildlife sites and regionally important geological sites in the National
Park are, or have been in the last five years, in positive conservation management
Reporting did not happen in 2012 because the indicator NI197 (Improved Local Biodiversity –
proportion of Local Sites where positive conservation management has been or is being
implemented) is no longer used.
20. 51 per cent of rivers and 29 per cent of lakes in the National Park are in at least good
ecological status by 2015
This is being reconsidered as its relevance and usefulness is questionable in showing the quality
of waterbodies in the National Park.
There are also some other new indicators which could be considered in the next Partnership Plan
review, in particular an indicator for biodiversity which is being developed alongside the
Partnership’s Plan. Outcomes identified in Biodiversity 2020 have broadened the awareness that 11
is needed by the National Park Partnership to report effectively on progress on biodiversity action
in the National Park. The State of the Park Report currently reports on the condition of SSSIs and
Local Sites in positive conservation management. This data remains relevant but the indicators
need to be expanded to more accurately reflect the ambitions of Biodiversity 2020 (section 8.2).
Some of the information presented in this report presents a ‘snapshot’ rather than trends. The
report identifies some gaps and issues in the range of information that we have available. We will
work to address these in future years, when data becomes available. A summary of gaps and
issues for each of the four outcomes is given below:
A prosperous economy
We do not have information about small businesses in the National Park and how they are faring
economically. There is also no information about traditional industries and the connection
between businesses and the special qualities of the National Park.
World class visitor experiences
We have a good picture of our visitors. However, we need more information on visitors’
contribution to local communities and how they contribute to what is special about the National
While we are able to monitor volunteering activity undertaken through the Lake District National
Park Authority, we do not have information on learning opportunities and the amount of
volunteering activity undertaken across the whole park. And we have no specific indicators to
monitor the special quality ‘celebrated social and cultural heritage’. In previous reports, the Place
Survey that was carried out in 2008 was used to identify issues that affect people living in the
Park. However it was a one off survey so we were unable to monitor change, and we have no
new information relating to issues for residents. We are able to gather a lot of information about
visitor transport, however we only have one measure for community transport.
A spectacular landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage
The Landscape Character Assessment sets a baseline for the landscape of the National Park and
it is important in guiding planning and land management decisions, but it does not measure
change. Data on wildlife is limited to protected sites. We do not have information about what
benefits the National Park brings to people.
Communities in Cumbria
Country Land and
of Local Councils
Cumbria County Council
Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Eden District Council
Friends of the
Lake District Local
National Park Authority
Lake District National
Business Task Force
National Farmers’ Union
Royal Society for the
Protection of Birds
Finally, I resolved this research through visiting the site of the West Cumbria Rivers Trust.
West Cumbria Rivers Trust (WCRT) is part of the national network of river trusts which have played an ever increasing role in delivering environmental improvements throughout the country. WCRT is a company limited by guarantee (registered number: 701 9413) and a registered charity (registration number: 1142396).
Improve the environmental quality of rivers and lakes.
Promote the sustainable use of rivers and lakes as a community resource.
Initiate, fund and lead major projects that also create employment opportunities.
To create education programmes within the community, schools and colleges.
Achieve our objectives through working with landowners, farmers and all river users.
To conserve our rivers and lakes and their flora and fauna for future generations.
Searching for relevant information, I came across a useful information page discussing the importance of water.
High Quality Water
“High quality water is more than the dream of the conservationists, more than a political slogan; high quality water, in the right quantity at the right place at the right time, is essential to health, recreation, and economic growth” – Edmund S. Muskie.
The waters in the WCRT area are diverse and varied.
Water is not just important from a purely environmental perspective, far from it. Our water and water supplies are not only essential to the local community and its businesses they are also of national strategic importance.
Every year six million people come to visit this landscape and the economy of the northern and western lakes. Indeed, Cumbria as a whole is heavily reliant on tourism. Over 20 per cent of the Cumbrian workforce is employed in the tourism sector which makes an economic contribution of over £1 billion to the county´s economy.
The landscape of the Lake District was sculpted by water over millions of years and water, in many forms, has given us the stunning vistas we all enjoy today.
It is essential that our waters are not only clean and healthy for aesthetic reasons but also from an economic standpoint. The economy depends on them.
Our lakes and rivers provide a diverse range of recreational activities, from a gentle evening stroll along a riverbank to full-on white water kayaking. The lakes provide relatively safe waters for dinghy sailing, canoeing, windsurfing and have recently provided excellent facilities for the swimming element of triathlons and iron man races in the region. This growing trend for adventure racing (Keswick is billed as The Outdoor Capital of the UK) has also fully embraced the varied opportunities to get wet in the Lake District by stringing together ghyll scrambling, canoeing and kyaking in the one race.
There are more relaxed pleasures for boat owners who enjoy sailing in and out of bays or anchoring up for lunch, followed by an afternoon swim, taking in the panorama of the fells from a completely different perspective.
The lakes are undoubtedly the best outdoor swimming pools in the world. Try taking a swim from the shore near the Scots pine trees on the Walla Crag side of Derwentwater, floating on your back, casting your eyes to the heavens and taking in a visual sweep of the surrounding fells. It really doesn’t get any better.
Up top a cruise around around Derwentwater is on the “to do” list for most visitors. By taking a trip on the launch, our visitors are inadvertently helping to keep the traditional craft of wooden boatbuilding alive.
However, tourism and the accompanying jobs and wealth do come at a price.
Apart from most people coming by car, they all go to the toilet, a lot…
Allied to agricultural run-off and river bank erosion, this has led to enrichment (known as eutrophication) of certain water bodies and courses.
The problem has been acute downstream from Keswick, especially in Bassenthwaite Lake where phosphates and nitrates have built up in the sediments. This is believed to have been a major factor in the demise of the vendace (a white fish completely unique to Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater).
Back in the mid 19th century the city of Manchester was thirsty, very thirsty in fact for more clean water. The centre of the Industrial Revolution quite simply needed more water both for industry and private consumption. The city’s eyes settled on a high Lakeland valley containing two quite shallow lakes, Leathes and Wythburn. The plan was to dam the most northern lake, raise the level and flood the valley to produce a reservoir.
The ensuing environmental battle was the first of its type to be waged not just locally but nationally and beyond. The battle was unique in that, for the first time, people not directly affected by a modern scheme protested against it.
As one editorial at the time put it: “The lake country belongs in a sense and the widest and best sense, not to a few owners of mountain pasture but to the people of England.” Nevertheless, and perhaps not surprisingly, Manchester won.
A 100 foot high dam was built and the beautiful and individual lakes of Leathes and Wythburn became one and the valley was flooded. Water flowed by gravity, and still does, via the 100-mile long aqueduct from Thirlmere to Manchester.
Now owned by United Utilities plc the shoreline of Thirlmere has been transformed in recent years and vast tracts of ‘green death’ coniferous woodland have been removed. Public access to the reservoir has increased enormously over the last 20 years or so and long overdue environmental improvements are ongoing.
The present rate of abstraction is in the order of 248.7 megalitres per day or 88,772.0 megalitres per year. This is a significant volume of water.
Recent agreements with Keswick Flood Action Group has led to an agreement to maintain a lower ‘full’ level to leave capacity to help mitigate flooding.
Derwent – apart from Thirlmere, other significant abstractions from the Derwent catchment are from Crummock Water and from Yearl Weir from the Derwent at Workington.
Water from Ennerdale is used to help supply West Cumbria. Careful negotiations with United Utilities are currently on-going with the Environment Agency to ensure that the compensation flow into the River Ehen is suitable to protect the very rare Fresh Water Pearl Mussels and provide enough water to ensure a healthy population of young trout and salmon amongst other species.
Also to ensure there is enough water for both the environment and the rest of us in West Cumbria, a borehole supply is being developed to supplement supply.
Water is also licensed to be abstracted from the Calder for both domestic and industrial purposes and also from Wastwater. In the case of Wastwater water is abstracted from the lake itself. In order to protect the river and all its dependant species, the same applies to Ennerdale, a minimum compensation flow is guaranteed in the River Irt
Overall, these abstractions add up to a large volume of water.
Agricultural extraction also constitutes a significant use of the rivers for everything from dairy farming to crop growing, with the additional problem of run-off from fertilisers, pesticides and manure which goes back into the water cycle.
Additionally there are many smaller abstractions within the catchments. Most are relatively minor, but nevertheless these can still have a detrimental local impact on small spawning / juvenile nursery streams during low flow conditions.
Historically, due to the geology of the region, mining was a major industry, including graphite which was used to make pencils and gave rise to Keswick becoming the centre of pencil manufacturing. Not only was water used in the extraction of ores and minerals, we have been left with a legacy of pollution from flooded mines and quarries which leach into the aquatic environment.
The Nuclear Industry
Sellafield has been for many years, and remains, the major employer for the people of West Cumbria. It is the centre of the UK’s nuclear industry, the biggest plant of its type in Europe. Large supplies of water have always been a must for the nuclear industry and this is unlikely to change.
Land adjacent to Sellafield has recently been sold to a consortium planning to build one or possibly more new nuclear reactors at the location. Another operator has options over two other tracts of land near the site. It is anticipated that at least two new plants / reactors will be built in West Cumbria during the next 10 years.
Angling in West Cumbria
Angling in West Cumbria´s lakes and rivers has a long and well documented history.
In his gazetteer “The English Lake District Fisheries” first published in the late nineteenth century John Watson gives a detailed directory to the rivers, tarns and lakes at that time. All the principal rivers are described in detail with recommendations as to best pools, best flies and baits and best times of year. Today the names of many of the pools on the rivers remain unaltered and many of his other recommendations still hold good.
Watson also highlighted a number of the problems extant and sadly many of those also remain current. Overfishing (in some places), poaching and the lack of bailiffs to police the fisheries as well as destruction by mine water discharges are among his regular themes.
Of course in Watson’s day not all fishing was for pleasure and much of his recording centres on commercial fishing of both lakes and rivers. Stocking with fish reared in hatcheries where fishing interests believed their returns would be improved was a common activity; today a plethora of published science tells us that those endeavours were in large part and in all likelihood misdirected and often wasted.
Since Watson´s time much else has changed: commercial fishing in inland waters as well as estuary netting has ceased (although many of the rights remain intact and could be reawakened if their owners so choose); disease in the 1980´s in the form of ulcerative dermal narcosis (UDN) struck and wreaked a terrible toll on salmon stocks from which many argue they have never fully recovered.
More recently the discovery of the Atlantic Salmon´s feeding grounds and migration routes aided by late twentieth century scientific aids led to devastating commercial fishing on the high seas for salmonid species. To some extent this has been curtailed by international agreements.
Closer to home; many species of coarse fish new to West Cumbria (although native to the UK) have been added to our waterways and many of these new populations now thrive, often to the detriment of the erstwhile native local species.
Modern emphasis on improving fish stocks in our rivers led by published science has switched away from stocking with hatchery bred fish to stock restoration though habitat improvement schemes, opening up previously inaccessible territory and restrictions on numbers of fish killed as well as on angling methods.
Today angling in West Cumbria is widely accessible to residents and visitors alike – much of it amongst stunningly beautiful high peaks, open fells, tarns, lakes and rivers that together offer opportunities for memorable fishing.
Some of the access is free to holders of an Environment Agency licence and much more is readily accessible through day or week permits from local angling associations and private owners at a range of costs to suit every pocket. Boats are available to hire on Derwentwater, Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater and the services of local guides and instructors can be easily located through the internet and local tackle shops.
To conclude, I feel as though this very in depth research and reflection of narrative ideas, has been very productive in formulating ideas for potential locations and future development.
I will consider this further and begin to formulate a refined narrative structure.
The first example I have chosen to focus upon is based upon the subject of fracking, which is proving to be an international environmental topic of controversy and discussion.
Maud Delaflotte captures the essence of the photo story through a series of desolate environmental landscapes and portraits of people living and working in areas of North Dakota.
Below the main article, we are presented with a slideshow which uses stills and audio together to create this atmosphere of uncertainty and struggle amongst the residents and their surroundings. They follow a wide format approach and offer a wealth of detail for their environments.
An interesting factor is also the choice of music, nationally relevant (American Blues) and successful in its ability to capture the bleak and at times isolated theme framed within the images themselves.
Fracking, North Dakota by Maud Delaflotte
22 Nov 13
In the United States, shale gas is the new gold. And Williston, North Dakota, is the new Klondike. The population of this tiny, isolated city has doubled in less than two years and now numbers more than 20.000. Despite the high cost of living and inhospitable climate, many are making their way here attracted by the high salaries being offered. The local landowners too are enjoying high payouts from the extraction of gas located under their properties.
The women who you see in my photographs have either been born locally or have migrated here, with families, or alone, to earn a dollar, or three, and to build a better life for themselves.
With the boom in hydraulic fracturing technology, commonly known as fracking, the US could attain its golden goal of energy independence. But environmentalists are speaking out and slowly making their voices heard. As far as they are concerned supplies, resources and profits have been overstated whilst the environmental risks have been at best underestimated and at worst blatantly ignored.
What if this newly discovered, magic answer to a seemingly endless supply of fuel for energy hungry America is flawed? What if this new Eldorado is only a passing mirage? And what if the yellow brick road that seems to run through Williston today ultimately paves the way back to poverty and environmental desolation?
About the Photographer
Maud Delaflotte started her career as a photographer with the press digital laboratory at «L’Oeil Public» later becoming a photojournalist herself with the intention of exploring and investigating her own subjects through photography. Since 2006, Delaflotte has concentrated her attention on closed communities and isolated regions or social classes. Her photograph has led her to variety of different locations, such as a circus, a refuge for migrants in Paris and the world inhabited by the mysterious aristocracy. Delaflotte’s reports are regularly published in the French press, through her agency, Zoko Productions.
The series offers a very different level of appeal and visual approach to my other examples in that its subject is often focused purely upon its environment with no physical evidence of human interaction.
Helene Schmitz aims to develop upon the relationship between man and nature, focusing in particular upon an invasive species of plant from Japan that was introduced to American in the 19th Century.
This is an example how one seemingly insignificant act of human interference can have greater long term repercussions, an aspect that I wish to convey within my own series in regards to water abstraction and thus the importance of maintenance and conservation.
Visually, the photographs themselves document a definitive representation of a specific topic but speak of broader issues as a result. Although simple in their approach, I believe the series offers an effective approach when speaking of nature, heritage and history.
A rather unusual aspect of this work this the continued transition from black & white to colour, both of which offer quite different visual appeals.
Unlike the two previous examples, the series also occasionally changes format depending on its subject matter, mostly using 8×10 but sometimes using a more panoramic frame to emphasise scale.
To conclude, I believe this area of research has allowed to start to consider the visual approaches, scale and formats of the contemporary environmental picture story.
Follow up from the feedback suggested by Moira, I have started to look further at the suggested points of research through photo journalism and started to think about visual approaches and other potential audiences.
From these, I have focused the examples I found to be the most influential, starting with Sophie Gerrard.
Sophie Gerrard (Scottish, b.1978) is an award winning documentary photographer specialising in contemporary environmental and social issues.
Sophie began her career in environmental sciences before studying photograophy at Edinburgh College of Art and completing an MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at The London College of Communication in 2006.
Sophie’s first major project E-Wasteland won a Jerwood Photography Award, a Magenta Award for emerging artists and was exhibited and published widely in the UK and overseas. Since then Sophie has spent a great deal of time working and photographing in India for NGOs, editorial clients and on personal projects.
Currently based in the UK, Sophie’s work has been published by clients including The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Independent on Sunday, Portfolio Magazine, Foto8, Greenpeace International, Scotland on Sunday and Geographical Magazine. Sophie’s work has been exhibited internationally, and is now held in the Sir Elton John Photography Collection.
Sophie is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery and Eyevine in London.
I then decided to focus upon her first major project, E-wasteland. I hoped this would prove to be a successful starting point in gaining a greater understanding of her approach and purpose for an environmental narrative.
E-wasteland – The growing problem of e-waste in India
“It is vital that we prevent India from becoming the e-waste dustbin for the West” Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace India, 2006
20 – 50 million tons of electronic waste, known as “e-waste” is generated annually worldwide. In Europe and the US, an old computer is thrown away, on average, every 2 years. In the US for every new computer bought, an old one is thrown away.
Each year, thousands of tons of old computers, mobile phones, batteries, cables, old cameras and other e-waste are dumped in landfill or burned. Thousands more are shipped, illegally, from Europe, the UK and the USA to India and other developing countries for ‘recycling’. Some is sent as scrap, some as charity donations.
India has become one of the world’s largest dumping grounds for e–waste. E-waste is highly toxic. It contains lead, cadmium, mercury, tin, gold, copper, PVC and brominated, chlorinated and phosphorus based flame retardants. Many of these heavy metals and contaminants are extremely harmful to humans as well as to animals and plants.
The Basel Convention, of which the UK and India are signatories, bans the transportation of hazardous or toxic waste from the developed world to developing countries.
This illegal toxic trade is, therefore, in direct violation.
Throughout this body of work, the focus is often directly upon the scale and effect of technological waste and how it pollutes and distorts the surrounding environment. The impact of this is often quite dramatic and truly reinforces the significance of the topic in question.
This is then reinforced further through the perspective people who live and work in these conditions, offering another layer to the narrative and allowing to bring a human element into the overall theme.
The juxtaposition of text and image is very influential to the emotional impact of this body of work, reaffirming the importance of context and research when producing a successful documentary story.
Another consistent element is the use of 8×10 format, an approach adopted by numerous other respectable documentary photographers.
Finally, one aspect of this I felt was visually appealing was the application of colour, the contrast of greens and rusted oranges often creates an uneasy feeling of ill health and corruption which again reaffirms the significant of consumerism and waste production.
Acid pollution, Mandoli, Delhi, India, 2006
Acid is used to soak computer parts in order to recover valuable metals. When the process is over, the used acid is poured onto streets and into rivers and waterways by the yard workers causing pollution on a massive scale.
Mandoli, Delhi, India, 2006
A boy looks out over a pool of polluted water at a pile of discarded circuit boards.
Bangalore, India, 2006
Bangalore is the IT capital of India, and like many of India’s cities, is generating thousands of tons of domestic e-waste every year.
Zayek, 12, Anup Vihar, Delhi, India, 2006
“The fumes are bad at night, sometimes it’s hard to breathe. A girl died here last year, she had asthma, the fumes were so bad, she suffocated. Villagers fight with workshop owners, they’ve been to the police but the police are bribed so nothing changes.”
Maya Puri, Delhi, India, 2006
“Maybe it is a little dangerous, but we’re used to it, I’ve been working with acid for many years.”
The environmental implications of illegal e-waste recycling are severe. The release of toxic metals into the ground, air and water causes massive damage to human and aquatic life
Acid pollution in the streets, Mandoli, Delhi, India, 2006
“The irony is that these products are created using the most sophisticated, cutting edge, up to the minute technology in the world. Yet their means of diposal is by pre-historic methods.”
Scotland has a long and pioneering tradition in documentary photography, indeed some might argue that we invented the genre.
Set against many of the great historical events of the age, Scotland has a rich tradition of producing outstanding work by a multitude of committed, passionate and skilful photographers. Reflecting society as a whole, Scottish photographers have been part of the great global waves of exploration and emigration which has defined Scottish life over the last two centuries. In addition, Scotland has provided a canvas for many celebrated international photographers who have used the country as a backdrop to make their own work.
It is with this sense of a place and history that we have established Document Scotland. Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren are four Scots-born photographers, each exponents of documentary photography in our own individual ways. We have lived and worked extensively both at home and abroad. Our work has been published in the pages of some of the most important international magazines, we have won numerous awards and exhibited internationally. We are passionate about documentary photography and we are committed to photographing Scotland.
Now, in a sense, Caledonia is calling.
In the period during which all four of us have been working, Scotland has undergone great change. The monolithic industrial age is behind us. We have moved into the realm of devolved Government with a Scottish Parliament established to represent an increasingly diverse and multicultural nation. Photography too has changed, historically photography has always been a means of communicating ideas, now, with vast technological advances, our visual culture can be disseminated instantly and democratically to a globally audience. We are excited to be documentary photographers making work in Scotland at this pivotal and dynamic time.
Scotland today stands at a decisive moment in its history. Events over the next few years will shape how we relate to neighbours and to the wider world. Document Scotland believe that photography can and should play a central part in documenting this epoch. Our aspiration is to make work and engage in a discourse which will form a vital component of the history and conversation of our nation tomorrow. We hope to leave a visual document, a testimony to the extraordinary times we are living in.
The result of this project has proved to be a huge critical success and what I found quite appealing about this in particular was the sheer variation of ideas, opinions, topics, creative approaches and narrative resulted from simple origins.
From this, I started to search the featured portfolio’s for bodies of photographic work that I found to be inspirational aesthetically and/or contextually.
“Whilst Wilson utilises the language of the landscape photograph, The Last Stand is far removed from the genre in the traditional sense, firmly placing him within a small group of contemporary photographers whose work — whilst landscape in nature — has more in common with that of the documentary photographer.” –Wayne Ford, former art director of The Observer’s award winning colour magazine & Design Director of Haymarket Business Media.
“Since 2010 I have been photographing the images that make up The Last Stand, that aims to reflect the histories, stories and memories of military conflict. The series is currently made up of 43 images and is documenting some of the physical remnants of the Second World War on the coastlines of the British Isles and northern Europe, focusing on military defence structures that remain and their place in the shifting landscape that surrounds them.” – Marc Wilson, photographer.
Document Scotland – Can you tell us Marc, how your Last Stand project began? From where did your initial interest come? Marc Wilson – The roots of the project lie in a piece of work I made about 8 years ago. Called ‘Abandoned’ it was my attempt to look at locations that had a cultural, social or historical significance that had now been abandoned. I’m not certain I was quite ready to embark on what could have been a project of huge scale and ended up feeling a bit limited, producing a set of just 18 images. Within those were some locations of military significance, and then just over three years ago, looking back at this previous work, I realised the importance of this subject matter and started to look into it in further detail, and out of these thoughts came The Last Stand.
DS – Do you have a deep interest in World War 2 history, or of the architecture of war? MW – When I began the work no not at all. I had no specific interest in military history as such, but it was more the emotions, histories and stories that these locations could contain that drew me in. Like many though I do have a family connection with the war, with one of my family being lost whilst flying with the RAF over the Scottish borders.
DS – We see from your folio of Last Stand images that you’ve been photographing in many locations, can you tell us where and how you choose which to visit? How many have locations have you visited so far, and how many more do you envisage visiting and photographing? Are they easily accessible? MW – Perhaps I can answer this and the next question together if that is ok? I am not working using any particular methodological approach as for me the work is not necessarily about specific structure types as such but more about the emotions and memories that these structures and surrounding landscapes contain. It is the stories and histories that I wish to convey. So although the locations do have some very specific histories, which I am having researched, and make fascinating reading, the locations and therefore images can be seen as representational for the many other defences around these coastlines. So far I have visited over 100 locations to make up the current set of 43 images, travelling over 11,000 miles. In terms of what I hope to still visit and photograph there are approximately 32 locations based around the coasts of The Northern Isles, Norway, Denmark and The west coast of France, as well as 3 still to photograph in England and Wales.
DS – Is there even a database listing these locations and defences? How difficult are they to research and how much of your time is spent on this as opposed to on the road photographing? MW – there are various onlie resources which I have tried to make use of for location research which have of course been really helpful as starting points but for many of the places visited it can not be until I see the locations, made up of both object and landscape, to decide wether it is right for the work. The in-depth research, which I am very lucky to be having done for me, is undertaken only once I know an image has made the final edit into the main body of work. In fact my researcher spoke to me today telling me she had started the overall research into Norway and Denmark and was already unearthing fascinating and incredibly moving histories.
DS – You’ve been working on The Last Stand for a while now, is the end in sight? Or perhaps now that some of these structures are crumbling with age and the passing of time, or as happened in France recently when a structure was dismantled and removed, how long do you think you have left in order to complete your aims and project? MW – Yes and no…I am hoping to complete my work on The Last Stand in Northern Europe over the next six months but this is dependant on funding. There is then talk of me photographing the work in another region but this is just under initial discussion at the moment so… After that, whilst I can see the work being made in other continents I would have to see if the ‘need’ for the work is there first in these regions. Whilst the idea of having a ‘decade long’ project to work on is quite enticing there are other factors to consider! How much time I have to complete the work I just can’t tell. The natural process of coastal erosion works at one speed, the influence of man at another. With the recent events in Wissant I do certainly feel a sense of urgency to continue and complete the work and would love to be able to set off tomorrow and come back in 3 months with the complete body…but of course practical considerations come into play…light, weather, commercial commitments, funding, famly, etc, etc (those were in no particular order of course!)
DS – The images we show here are all from the Scottish coastline, are there many such locations in Scotland? Have you photographed them all or will you be back to shoot more here? MW – Ah there are countless more defences dotted around the coastline but as I mentioned before my aim is not to catalogue them all. That said I will be adding to the 7 Scottish locations that currently form part of the body of work (I visited about 15 to get these 7 images) and do still need to photograph in locations on both Orkney and Shetland and with funding aim to be doing so in the next 2 to 3 months.
DS – There is quite a haunted, quiet and subdued feel to the images. All of them show only the landscape, and the structures, with no people, no other tangible signs of humans. Can you explain your reason for photographing them as such? Are you spending a while at each location photographing them extensively, or are you quite selective on your viewpoint and how many sheets of 5×4 film you expose? What are your thoughts whilst in the locations, apart from watching the light, and taking your exposure readings? MW – The images are to me very much about the memories and stories of these structures and landscapes. They are about the histories of 70 years ago and also the intervening years in terms of the shifting and changing landscape. To me the images are in effect full to the brim with the signs of human life but in what is left, what has happened and just as importantly what is missing. The histories are so full of emotion and of course huge and frightening loss of life that I have to photograph these locations in this subdued and I hope subtle manner. There is, to me, no need for any added ‘glamour’ to these locations and histories. My images are there, I hope, to allow the viewer to reflect on these pasts and present locations, and take these stories away with them to dwell on. In terms of the process, these sites demand the considered approach so I try to shoot either one of two viewpoints only, after spending some time walking around and amongst a site, often just the single sheet of film. Some locations do though have more than one structure that I choose to photograph. My thoughts are very much split into pre and post exposure. Pre exposure it is all about the set up, the light, the consideration of the visual, the waiting for the perfect combination of light, tides and feeling and then after the shutter is released, and the darkslide removed from the camera and put safely away into my bag, then the stories I know of these locations start to flood into me…so I’m usually a mixture of being excited about the image but feeling quite, for want of a better word, reflective about the subject….and, in some cases, the thousands of lives lost at these locations.
DS – The Last Stand has quite a list of exhibitions planned, can we look forward to the work being shown in Scotland? Is there a book planned for the work? MW – The work is currently on show near Portsmouth and yes, after further shows in London and Leeds the work heads to Scotland for an exhibition at Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen next year. I am also hoping to exhibit the work at more venues of course. A book of the work has always been one of my aims and I am meeting with a couple of publishers next month to discuss what can be done so yes, I am hopeful that a book will be made of the work…but like most things in the creative world…until it’s in print…
DS – Some of the work shot so far was financed by crowd funding we believe, and at the moment you’re in the midst of a second round of crowd funding in order to help you complete the next stage of the photography, how is that going? What have you learnt from crowd funding in relation to working on a large project, does the interaction with the supporters change how you approach the project, or the work? Are there limitations placed upon you, or is it the opposite, are your freed up and encouraged, by accepting funding from supporters? MW – Yes the current crowdfunding campaign is running on Emphasis. Having the financial backing that a crowdfunding campaign can in theory bring is the only way to produce a project such as this in a realistic time scale. The production costs of the shooting stage alone for this second stage are over £4000 so the help is needed. For me the interaction you get with your backers and supporters can only be a good thing. People back a project not so they can form and control it but because they believe in it as it is and want to see it made, and be a part of that. So the backing places no limitations but in fact provides the opposite, the means with which to make a work. As well as this of course it is immensely encouraging and each backer and supporter allows me to believe in the work more each day. You are building your core audience. The campaign has just over 10 days to run and is currently just over $4000 towards it’s target of $6738. It’s a 100% or nothing campaign so unless it reaches the full amount needed to make the work, all contributions are returned, I receive nothing and the potential investment is lost…and that may have to be the end of the road for The Last Stand…so I dearly hope it does not fall short…it’s odd but a $10 contribution can in effect make the difference between over $6500 of investment and nothing!
DS – Thank you Marc from graciously allowing us to show your work, and for taking the time to let answer questions giving us more insight into your project and working ways. It’s much appreciated. (A crowd funding campaign for Marc Wilson’s The Last Stand is currently running on Emphas.is to gather funding for the second stage of this work. Please visit this link to view the video about the project, see rewards available and help Marc complete this important work.)
The following is an extract from the research by Marc for his project:
“In the summer of 1940, in order to obstruct German troops in the event of a possible invasion from Norway, a line of defences was constructed in the north-east of Scotland along the Moray coast, between Cullen Bay and Findhorn Bay. The defences went through the Lossie and Roseisle Forests.
Concrete anti-tank blocks ran the full length of this part of the coast; square and hexagonal shaped pillboxes zigzagged in a line. The long-range guns stationed at the coastal battery protected Lossiemouth from attack by sea.
In 1941, two men recruited by the German Military Intelligence (Abwehr) in Norway, were flown across the North Sea in a Luftwaffe flying boat, which landed in the Moray Firth. They rowed ashore in a rubber dinghy and after reaching the shore gave themselves up to the authorities, as German spies.
They were John Moe and Tor Glad. They had joined the Abwehr in order to reach Britain and to make contact with the Norwegian forces in exile. Recruited by MI5, they became double-agents, under the code name Mutt and Jeff, and were involved in numerous deception schemes, passing misleading information to the German Intelligence about invasion preparations during the build-up for the Normandy landings. One of them, Operation Fortitude North, was intended to mislead the Germans into expecting an invasion of Norway from Scotland. A fictitious army – the British Fourth Army- had been created, with its headquarters in Edinburgh Castle.
Roseisle Beach, which stretches six miles along the Moray Firth from Findhorn to Burghead, was used- among other coastal locations- by US and Canadian military, for training for the D-Day landings in June 1944. During the training, 8 amphibious Valentine tanks sank, despite their having been built for their ability to land on beaches from landing craft offshore.
On Easter Sunday 1943, four Norwegian sailors, billeted at Burghead and working at the shipyard at Buckie, drowned in Findhorn Bay, where they had gone to retrieve an old boat. The four sailors, who were working for the Norwegian resistance, were members of the ‘Shetland Bus’- the name given to a clandestine Special Operations group which, using volunteer Norwegian crews, ferried agents and equipment from the Shetland Islands, north of the Scottish mainland, into Nazi-occupied Norway, helping to maintain contact with resistance groups.
The ‘Shetland Bus’ was originally operated by a large number of small converted fishing boats, armed with light machine guns concealed inside fish-barrels on deck. The crossings, mostly made during the winter under the cover of darkness when daylight was very short, were under constant threat from German aircraft and patrol boats. Several fishing boats were lost during the early operations, but when, later, fast and well-armed American-built submarine-chasers were added, no more were lost.
On the return trip from Norway, the Shetland Bus boats also evacuated civilians who were facing arrest by the occupying Germans.
After Dunkirk in June 1940, in order to keep fighting and to harass the enemy in occupied Europe, Winston Churchill had ordered that a special force should be trained for raids and sabotage missions on enemy-occupied territory. With its rugged mountain terrain, its sea lochs and its challenging weather, the Scottish Highlands played an important role in the development of commandos. Remote properties were turned into special training centres. One of these, the Commando Basic Training Centre, was at Achnacarry where, as well as British commandos, others, including American, French, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish and Jewish refugees from Germany were trained.
One iconic Scottish commando commander was Lord Lovat- whose No 4 Commando had taken part in the Dieppe Raid in 1942. His first mission, in 1941, had been the successful Lofoten Island raid, off the Norwegian coast, just north of the Article Circle.
In 1944, as commander of 1 Commando Brigade on D-Day, he marched onto Sword Beach with his personal piper, Billy Millin ‘the Mad Piper’, at his elbow, who played, under heavy gunfire, ‘Highland Laddie’, then ‘The Road to the Isles’.
Playing bagpipes into battle had been banned during the Second World War because of the high casualty-rate suffered by pipers during the First World War. But Lovat ignored the order from the War Office in London. “You and I are both Scots”, he said, “so that doesn’t apply!”. – Marc Wilson.
On a brilliantly bright, icy cold, winter Sunday afternoon recently I caught up with Giulietta Verdon Roe over coffee and cake.
I knew that Giulietta had made several visits to the remote Scottish island of North Ronaldsay over a number of years to create a documentary photographic project of the population and character of the island. I was really interested to hear how her photographic project As You Are had begun and why, and what it had been like making the work. The relationships she established with the island inhabitants over time culminated in a body of work which has been exhibited in numerous locations in the UK including The Manse House on the island itself. In an ex-Royal Mail van, Giulietta drove the exhibition from London to Orkney and, due to a storm preventing the ferry taking her work to the island from the mainland, had to freight plane the entire show to the island.
With freezing hands that afternoon we looked through her box of prints and chatted about what had attracted her to the project in the first place.
GVR: “I’d been living and working in New York for three years and in 2007 I found myself unexpectedly back in the UK. Maps have always fascinated me, I’ve always been drawn to the romance of of far away places and after living in NYC I’d found myself looking, this time, to those out of the way places which were a little closer to home.
It appealed to me that for this project I would be constrained to a specific location when making the work. I began researching remote places in the UK, and my attention was drawn again and again to Orkney and to North Ronaldsay in particular. Being the furthest most northernly island in the UK, it was its isolation which first fascinated me, that and the fact that it is home to both to the tallest land based lighthouse in the UK and had unique seaweed eating sheep. I bought a tent and booked my flight.
In 2008 I set off. Arriving on the island alone, I didn’t know what to expect. the first thing that struck me was that island life is utterly dependent on the weather. By the time I’d pitched my tent that first night in North Ronaldsay in September it was cold, windy and dark and I was wondering what on earth I was doing.
I’d romanticised the idea perhaps, an island adventure, far away. My photographic process took quite a few days to begin, and it was almost 2 weeks before I made any pictures, I was interested in the stories and so I walked, and I met people and I talked to them, eventually borrowing an old bike to get around.
The conversations were what came first, with the photographs coming relatively late in the process. I was interested in understanding the everyday life of the island, of understanding how things worked there, I wanted to explore the past, present and future of the island and its community. The locals were used to ornithologists visiting, but not so used to people like me, someone who wanted to know about them and the land. It took time for a mutual understanding and confidence to start to become established.”
GVR “The entire island is dependent on the weather, wholly. Island life is all about the weather. You are at the mercy of it. I felt very aware of my size in relation to the elements, the vulnerability of everything. I felt that I couldn’t make portraits without shooting the elements. The people are so much part of the landscape, I didn’t want to photograph the people without photographing the land.”
GVR “One interesting aspect of community life on North Ronaldsay is that people adopt the names of their homes as their family names. Jenny’s house was O’Scottigar, and then that became her second name. We spent a lot of time talking, We talked about the war, she remembers walking to school with her gas mask on. She was born on the island.”
GVR “The seaweed eating sheep are unique to North Ronaldsay, they are kept out to shore by a 12 mile long dry stone dyke that surrounds the island. There are about 3000 of them and they’re quite beautiful creatures, nearly everyone has sheep. Twice a year, there is an event that I have yet to see, it’s called Punding. The whole community help round up the sheep into pens.”
GVR “Heather was the youngest female on the island when I photographed her in 2010. She is the daughter of the island doctor and the owner of the islands Bird Observatory. Heather commutes to mainland Orkney to go to school.”
The population of North Ronaldsay when I first arrived in 2008 was 63, just 2 years later in 2010 when I re-visited the project the population had dropped to 50. In a small community like this, this was a big change and the school was left temporarily without any children to teach despite being kept open. The orkney island council built two new houses on the island in response to the situation and launched a promotion to select two new families to move to the island, which was a great boost to the community and resulted in putting children back into the school.”
The Manse, North Ronaldsay, 2010.
“I exhibited the ‘As You Are’ exhibition in this house in 2010. At that time it was un-lived in and had been empty for 40 years, but since then the islands school teacher has moved in and there is now new life in the building, it’s been brought back into habitation again. There’s been so much change. It’s also an important place for me as the exhibition was shown here. By seeing the exhibition, I’d hoped the islanders could really understand the project. It’s one thing to see the work online or as small images but to see yourself in a 30″x30″ print is a very different thing.”
GVR: “Whenever I met people they would always ask where I wanted to take their portrait and if they should get dressed up or how they should be posed. So in a way the project named itself as I always explained I want to photograph you the way you are, just as you are.
I loved working in Scotland, it really became a huge part of my life and one that was important to me. It has meant that I have gone on to do other projects in other areas of Scotland and I am also planning future ones too. I now for example cannot watch a weather forecast without looking at Orkney. Just as the environment is so wild and changeable, so can my feelings and emotions be when I am there. Sometimes I loved it, and sometimes I just couldn’t place what on earth I was doing, but more importantly I’ve been left with a powerful relationship with the area.”
Alicia Bruce’s award winning photographs have been presented on an international platform and won several artists’ residencies and bursaries. Her images have featured in national press including The Times, The Scotsman, and STV News, and are represented in several public and private collections including the National Galleries of Scotland photography collection.
Her commercial portfolio features an impressive list of high profile clients including the National Galleries of Scotland and Cashback for Creativity.
“Alicia Bruce’s photographic practice comprises compassionate, figurative compositions based on well-known works of art. Often the source paintings or sculptures which she uses can be found in local collections. By photographically recasting and artistically reinterpreting such work, Bruce brings the history of art into the present. In doing so, her scenes offer a contemporary socio-political dimension.
In the history of photography, one can find others who have worked with such visual intertextuality (for instance Cindy Sherman and Dina Goldstein), but Bruce’s work functions in a distinctly Scottish context. The overall aesthetic seems more reminiscent of the work of William Eggleston with its intense colour and matt finish. Bruce believes in her medium as craft – she firmly subscribes to tangible film and print and prefers her work to be accessed in person. Close-up, the work is strikingly hyper-realistic with its sharp attention to detail. At large, they are powerful, transformative texts which employ strategies of of quotation to make pertinent statements about society. Alicia Bruce captures those subtle flickers of idiosyncrasy which make for truly individual portraits.”
– Catriona McAra (University of Glasgow)
From this, I then highlighted a series of her work which I found to be significant and defined within its narrative structure. Overall, although the series itself is reasonably simplistic in its choice of framing and subject matter, the subtle nuances act as a reminder of the conflict between humanities desire for growth and its desire to preserve and protect land.
An ongoing series which began in 2010 documenting the controversial destruction of the landscape of Menie, an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Aberdeenshire coast. The landscape and the locals have gained international attention as the area is ‘Trumped’ to create what is claimed by Donald Trump, to be ‘The World’s Greatest Golf Course’. Menie was previously renowned for it’s dynamic dune system. The area has now lost it’s accreditation as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). It has become an area of conflict. The locals have fought back. The Trump organisation have offended the First Minister. Will nature fight back too?
To conclude, I have found this area of research to be very productive in generating visual ideas and approaches to documentary photo stories, especially when considering the visual dynamic and dialogue of environments (and possibly characters) that shape contemporary visual culture.
Today, I received an email from Moira which discussed feedback in relation to my latest version of my research proposal.
I would like to stress that you showed beautiful images of birds which didn’t marry with your concerns. I know this is early day’s but you must concentrate on making the right kinds of photographs for your hard hitting and news worthy story.
You asked me for some research. Here are some references which may help you:
It may well be worth looking at some geography theory – trawl the library shelves and speak with your boyfriend to get you reading around the subject
See: news photo-essay’s in papers such as The Guardian, National Geographic, Libération, The Independent, Foto 8.
Much of the latter discussion, I have already started to refine and develop prior and post presentation through my research of freshwater biology and eco-systems, geological theory relating to water consumption/management and which organisations that I could contact and/or interact with as part of this body of work, as well as processing particular approaches I could follow such as looking at connecting rivers, weirs, estuaries, reservoirs, wetlands, lakes and marine sites, starting in the North West.
I have also been looking at the work of other photographers, now with a more specific documentary focus.
However, the listed examples suggested by Moira may help refine this further aesthetically.
If possible, I may also attempt to experiment with more specific photographs in preparation, this should help me focus further on the environmental/wildlife approach I wish to pursue for final major project.
I will update with further research/idea development.
As a means of keeping up to date with freshwater issues, news and other potential organisations to refer to or contact as a part of my final major project, I decided to undertake further research.
Throughout previous references, I had noted this reoccurring theme of Europe’s 2020 vision, especially upon the BBC photo gallery discussing Britain’s big wildlife revival. As a started point, I decided to investigate this further as a means of elaborating upon the greater implications of this ambition.
I discovered that 2020 was part of much larger nature photography project than I had previously considered, with the intention of utilising various media to promote the significance of restoring fragmented natural habitats, featuring the work of 20 acclaimed photographers.
2020VISION is the most ambitious nature photography project ever staged in the UK. It aims to engage and enthuse a massive audience by using innovative visual media to convey the value of restoring our most important but often fragmented natural habitats – to show that healthy ecosystems are not just for wildlife, but are something fundamental to us all.
In a nutshell, 2020VISION is a nature photography project that aims to communicate the link between habitat restoration and our own well being.
For the first time, 20 of the UK’s top nature and wildlife photographers, along with filmmakers and sound recordists, have come together to tell an inspirational story about some of the UK’s ecosystems and the services they provide to us all, such as clean water, fresh air and productive soils.
2020VISION identified a number of flagship projects up and down the country, that are currently restoring, reconnecting, or at the very least protecting, damaged habitats or species. Over a 20-month period, the2020VISION team carried out 20 iWitness assignments at these locations, producing a set of stunning pictures, along with supporting video footage and sound.
The thousands of images and hours of film generated from these assignments have been woven into compelling narratives and presented in innovative ways, such as the stunning 2020VISION Roadshow, a multi-city event that will reach far beyond ‘the converted’.
2020VISION will inspire people of all ages and backgrounds and establish that link between healthy nature and healthy people.
What makes 2020VISION different?
For too long, conservation has been communicated using technical jargon, inaccessible to all but a minority audience. The time has come for fresh thinking; 2020VISION speaks a new sort of language – one that recognizes that people’s relationship with nature is not scientific but emotional; one that motivates a wide audience by connecting with their value systems.
By bringing nature photographers and film makers together with the scientific and conservation community, we can create an unprecedented set of communication resources that would simply not be possible in isolation. Using the power of visual imagery – unique in its ability to communicate on an emotional level – 2020VISION will inspire and inform a massive audience.
Who’s behind 2020VISION?
In the longer term ‘the vision’ is one for society as a whole, but for now, 2020VISION is spearheaded by theWild Media Foundation, a social enterprise company working to bring nature’s stories to life.
Whilst searching the site itself, I discovered various relevant sub-divisions relating areas of interest to my own project, starting with more than just a wetland.
Living Landscapes are exactly that – landscapes (and seascapes for that matter) brimming with life. Up and down the country The Wildlife Trusts are working with lots of different people to restore and reconnect bits of nature that are not as full of life as they might be; to create Living Landscapes.
Down in Somerset is an extensive area of wetland marsh
– The Somerset Levels – which is being revitalised to function
more effectively; not only as a better home for more wildlife but as a water purifier and flood defence for people. Both the Avon and Somerset Wildlife Trusts, and their army of volunteers, are making heroic efforts to restore the Levels to a Living Landscape and elsewhere, a range of partners are reintroducing cranes for the first time in 400 years. Bit by bit, the Somerset Levels are becoming More Than Just a Wetland.
Let’s be straight here: a vast complex of wet grassland, wet woodland, raised bog, reedbed and other watery habitats have been lost to the UK; drained for agriculture, sapped of their life-rich wetness. But this trend is now being reversed and our carbon-locking, water-purifying wetlands are coming back to life. Restoring whole wetland ecosystems is a relatively new science but the rebirth has begun and we’re getting a glimpse of what might be possible in the future (just look at what’s already happening with beavers and cranes), as our wild wetlands spread across the country.
Each contributor has their own area of focus within this, including various interesting photo stories which acted like a diary of their own individual approach and process of their briefs. There was also a large image gallery to offer their own creative representations of these places including Guy Edwardes, Ross Hoddinott, Nick Upton and Paul Harris.
Many of these images felt contextually relevant to some the compositions I have visualised for this project, or rather side of my intended story, one of optimism for natural conservation efforts in wetland areas.
I also started look at more specific examples featured within this category and various others, such as more than just a river which reinforce another reference for freshwater wildlife/conservation imagery.
Almost 2 years ago to the day I pressed the shutter with my camera pointing at a pure white ptarmigan high in the Cairngorms and in doing so bagged my first shot for the 2020VISION project. Recently, I undertook my final assignment and what a difference in habitats. The Cairngorm Mountains are high, rugged and remote. Morecambe Bay is low, flat and surrounded by industry. As such, it’s not the easiest place to work. The forecast was mixed and with a short window of opportunity, I have to say I felt a wee bit pressured. The likes of Chris Gomersall, David Tipling, Danny Green and Mark Hamblin had already fed fantastic images into the story I was following – that of the UK’s estuaries and saltmarshes being ‘More than just mud’. So my task was simple: evocative scenics in dramatic light. Sounds straightforward on paper – trouble is I don’t know the area very well so I had to hit the ground running.
One of the great things about the internet is the ability to research locations and to see what other photographers have done where. Morecambe Bay is seemingly not a landscape photography magnet and I found little online that suggested obvious starting points. I sat in my campervan with a cup of tea and pondered. What were the key elements I needed to articulate here? The only word I could come up with was ‘Bigness’. Morecambe Bay is Big. Big skies, Big views…just Big. But also flat, so I needed some viewpoints and assuming dramatic skies – a pre-requisite for this type of work – I needed to get close to water to show that light to its best effect.With these types of jobs I tend to find that working and then re-working the same few locations is more productive than charging around trying to cover everything. And so it was that over 4 days I began to gravitate towards the area around Arnside and Silverdale (fantastic cafe at RSPB Leighton Moss by the way) with dawn shoots further west at Grange.
Through a set of contacts I managed to coerce a couple of cockle fishermen to ‘model’ for me. The cockle beds in the Bay are closed presently so I’d like to point out that no cockles were harvested during the making of these pictures. The shoot however, did in many ways reflect the backdrop to why 2020VISION had chosen this location.
There’s a big project underway in the area appropriately called Headlands to Headspace. This is an ambitious undertaking with the objective of rejuvenating the productivity of the Bay. I don’t just mean economic productivity, I mean ecological, cultural and even social productivity: allowing the world-class wildlife of the Bay to prosper and to allow people to benefit from improved ecological integrity – this very much includes those who make their living from harvesting natural resources.
Morecambe Bay is ostensibly a land of contradictions where natural beauty struggles to shake off the shadow of heavy industry. But it’s by no means unique in that respect. The secret perhaps – and it’s a tricky one – is not a war between one or the other, but an imaginative and sympathetic accommodation of both. Headlands to Headspace is just about right. Standing out on the mudflats at dawn with a peregrine calling nearby and with Bigness in my viewfinder, Headspace was what was offered and we all need to take up that offer when it’s made available. It’s fair to say that over 2 years working on 2020VISION I’ve had plenty of Headaches but when that memory fades, it will be the magical Headspace moments that stay with me.
Driving across misty moors last November, dodging the ubiquitous straying sheep in one of the more remote parts of the Lake District, we had been scouting streams or becks unsuccessfully for elusive salmon, but we were in luck with their smaller relatives, Arctic charr (or char). Populations of this rare fish have been declining, but thanks to a breeding programme run by the Environment Agency (EA), they are now improving.
These ice age relicts, at their southernmost extreme in Britain, differ from one isolated population to the next, and while other charr in Cumbria stay in the cold depths of the Lakes, at Ennerdale they migrate out into the shallow river for their annual spawning.
The night before, we were wading in the river, glimpsing female charr, silvery in my torch beam, but they were too skittish to get any photographs of. Now, the following morning I have a much better chance, a fantastic opportunity to join the Environment Agency team as they catch some charr to remove eggs and milt (sperm), which go to the conservation hatchery at Kielder Salmon Centre, where young fry are reared and then released back into the water at Ennerdale.
As we draw up to where the EA team are working in the river, there is no mistaking the place. I had expected to see a couple of cars, but there is almost a traffic jam. Some of Wild Ennerdale’s many volunteers have turned up to watch, and there is even a coach party – well a busload of school kids on an educational visit. It is lovely to see the local people getting involved, and Gill Watson of the EA gives the kids a talk about the conservation work, clambering on a car bonnet as a makeshift platform. She then joins Pete McCullough and Martin Richardson to get on with “stripping” the fish by squeezing them (they cheerfully reassured me that this is not as uncomfortable for the fish as it looks), and dye marking them on a fin to see if they return another year for spawning. The team are taking eggs and milt from only a small sample of the charr population, but it’s really giving a boost to the numbers in Ennerdale Water.
Soon they are ready to release the fish back into the river, so Andy Jackson (one of the 2020VISION videographers) and I get in the water to catch the action before the fish disperse. A year ago I could never have imagined myself here, and thanks to 2020VISION (and the very helpful EA) I am having some amazing new adventures discovering hidden corners of wildlife. The challenges are really pushing me though, and it is all trial and error rather than tried and tested. Today’s challenge is a unique moment, so I mustn’t blow it. Am I excited – yes! Nervous – you bet!
The river is not flowing too fast and it’s deep enough for me to lie down and get my head under, so I can see what’s going on, but too shallow to use fins. Brian (my husband) watches us from the river bank and he is so helpful as usual, bringing my heavy weight belt down from the car for me. Without it, my bulky drysuit has made me uncontrollably buoyant and the air inside it has risen to form floating bulges along my back, which I can do nothing about in my present position. With the weight belt round my middle I find I can lie on the stony river bed and bob along when I need to, rather like an ungainly hippopotamus. Forget glamour in this line of work!
The fish are released a few at a time, and as they swim past I am entranced by their breeding colours – the males have lovely bright orangey red bellies, and the scene is bathed in the sunlight that has now replaced earlier glowering skies and drizzle. The water is gin clear, a rare treat for an underwater photographer in Britain, but it is essential for the charr, and these fish are not just beautiful to look at but are important indicators of the habitat’s quality, just like the freshwater pearl mussels I was photographing at Ennerdale previously. When the fish have swum away, I stagger out of the water. It’s been a successful day for the EA’s work with the charr, and for Andy and me too.
The seas around the UK have the potential to be among the most productive and wildlife-rich on earth. A vibrant, healthy sea full of life is the foundation upon which long-term fish stocks are built, not to mention the stars of the flourishing wildlife tourism business – seals, puffins, gannets and dolphins. But presently less than 0.001% of our seas are fully protected from damaging activities. If they are to recover and thrive; if they are to continue to provide us with food and recreation, our seas need our respect; they need our help.
We’re a group of photographers and visual media specialists who have formed a company just like any other. Well, not quite like any other. The Wild Media Company is a company limited by guarantee and we’ve set it up as a social enterprise which means that we get paid for the work we do, but the profits are put aside to further the objectives of the company and we can’t get our hands on them! It’s the law!
We think up bright ideas, take pictures, shoot video, record sound, write text and put together bespoke communications packages to tell nature’s stories on your behalf. Our job is quite simply to bring nature’s stories to life.
Occasionally we’ll instigate projects ourselves which we think have important stories to tell. For this we rely on donations from others. If you enjoy or are inspired by our work, please consider making a donationto help us fund projects.
Why do we do it?
We’re passionate people and believe we have an opportunity to use effective visual imagery to communicate environmental issues to lots of people. We want our products to make people give a damn.
What can we do for you?
We offer a range of innovative and inspiring visual media products and services which will help you to communicate to your audience the stories about nature which matter most to you.
In the past we’ve worked with socially responsible corporates, scientific and research bodies, conservation and land management organisations, government agencies and tourism bodies, to name but a few.
During my research, I also found another relevant organisation that could be worth contacting but on a more local basis, action for sustainable living.
Tiny particles of waste plastic that are ingested by shoreline “eco-engineer” worms may be negatively affecting biodiversity, a study says.
So-called microplastics may be able to transfer toxic pollutants and chemicals into the guts of lugworms, reducing the animals’ functions.
An estimated 150 million tonnes vanishes from the global waste-stream each year.
The findings have been published in the academic journal Current Biology.
“We are losing a large volume of plastic and we know it is going into the environment and the assumption being made by policymakers is that this material is non-hazardous, it has got the same ranking as scraps of food,” explained co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist from the US-based National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.
“The research we have done really challenges that,” Dr Browne added, referring to the findings of lab work carried out by colleagues at Plymouth University, UK, led by co-author Prof Richard Thompson.
“Our findings show that the plastic itself can be a problem and can affect organisms.
“Also, when particles of plastic go into the environment what you find is that they accumulate large quantities of pollutants that are banned. So you have these particles themselves but also a load of nasty chemicals.”
Important roleThe team found that the tiny bits of plastic, which measure 1mm or smaller, transferred pollutants and additive chemicals – such as flame-retardants – into the guts of lugworms (Arenicola marina).
This process results in the chemical reaching the creatures’ tissue, causing a range of biological effects such as thermal stress and the inability to consume as much sediment.
Dr Browne explained that this had consequences for the surrounding ecosystem.
“If the animals are not able to eat as much then there is a change in the function of the organisms and there is an impact on the semblance of the species found in an area,” he said.
He added that the worms had earned the nickname “eco-engineers” as a result of their ability to eat organic matter from the sediment and prevent the build-up of silt.
“Through that process, it produces burrows and changes the whole assemblage of animals that live around it,” Dr Browne observed.
“This is quite considerable because if you look at the total biomass of a shoreline, about 32% can be made up from these organisms.”
He told BBC News that it was the first study of its kind to highlight the toxic risk posed by microplastics to marine organisms.
“For about 40 or 50 years, we have been finding very large concentrations of chemicals in animals. Then they started to find animals with larger concentrations of pollutants and plastics, so researchers began to establish this correlation.
“But no-one had actually shown whether chemicals could transfer from plastic when they are eaten by animals and accumulate in their bodies and reduce important functions that maintain their health.”
Pollution incidents, which have included sewage illegally pouring into a harbour for more than a year, and managers destroying records, show no sign of declining, according to data obtained from the Environment Agency (EA) under freedom of information rules. Only a third of the 1,000 incidents led to a fine (of an average of just £10,800); the rest resulted in cautions.
“In law, the ‘polluter pays’ principle is supposed to deter companies from damaging the environment, but in this case the penalties appear to be so pitiful that water companies seem to be accepting them as the price of doing business,” Joan Walley MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), told the Observer. “The sentencing council must ensure that courts take into account the profits made from environmental crimes, and that fines have a sufficient deterrent effect.”
Simon Hughes MP, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “These figures are another indictment of the failings of our privatised water companies in England. Many of them make large profits, pay huge dividends, increase prices and pay little tax. When, in addition, these figures show they don’t deliver clean water, the public is entitled to say that our monopoly water providers are neither good corporate citizens nor good stewards of our precious environmental assets.”
One in three of the pollution incidents involved sewage. Karen Gibbs of the Consumer Council for Water said: “Sewer flooding is particularly distressing for customers, and something we have pressed the companies to address as a priority.”
The cleanliness of England’s beaches has declined in recent years, after improvements in the decades before, and most water bodies currently fail higher-level European water regulations.
The EA data, obtained by the Request Initiative and analysed by theObserver, showed the most heavily fined company in 2005-2013 was Thames Water, which paid £842,500 for 87 incidents.
A spokesman for Thames Water said its record should be seen in the context of its running 108,000km of sewer pipes and serving 24% of the UK population. It was investing £1bn a year to upgrade its network, he said.
Anglian Water was the third most heavily fined company, including £150,000 in 2008 for three incidents at Newmarket sewage treatment works. In one, the works manager destroyed data and coerced colleagues to falsify records, while another caused a major fish kill.
A spokesman for Water UK, which represents the water companies, said: “We never want to see incidents of pollution. Water companies invest billions of pounds each year to safeguard the natural environment while providing people with high-quality water to drink and healthy rivers, beaches and bathing waters to enjoy. While it’s widely accepted that there is still room for improvement, there is clear evidence of progress in many areas.”
In 1953, on the night of 31 January, a massive storm surge raced down the North Sea, overtopping defences along a thousand miles of coastline, and submerging 380 square miles of Britain’s broad acres. Three hundred and twenty-six people were killed.
Last night an even higher surge struck in very similar circumstances. But it did relatively little damage. The River Tyne burst its banks, a sea wall was breached near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, and coastal areas of Norfolk witnessed the worst flooding residents could remember. But though the Environment Agency issued 60 severe flood warnings, signifying lives were at risk – nearly four times as many as in the whole of 2012, England’s wettest ever year – the only two deaths that occurred were caused by the wind, not the water.
Now, as then, three crucial natural factors coincided – an especially deep depression, very strong winds and an extremely high tide. The low pressure of the depression caused air to rise, taking some of its weight off the sea and causing its waters to bulge upwards. The winds drove the bulge towards land and down through the North Sea, causing it to rise even more as it funnelled into the seas increasingly narrow southern part. And the spring tides did the rest.
The difference between now and 60 years ago was not that the surge was less – at Hull, for example, it rose 5.2 metres compared to just five in 1953 – but that action had been taken in the meantime. Better defences had been built alone the coast – including, most famously, the Thames and Hull Barriers – with the result, says the Environment Agency, that 800,000 properties escaped the floodwaters.
It is just as well, for otherwise such a surge could have been even more damaging than six decades ago. Three million people now live around our coasts, 1.3 million of them on land at risk of flooding. An emergency exercise – Operation Triton, carried out in 2005 – concluded that a surge that overcame the barriers could drive the sea “tens of kilometres” inland, inundating “millions of hectares”, knocking out electricity supplies in some places for up to nine months, and causing a “mass fatalities”.
But the authorities should not rest on their laurels. In all 5.5 million properties in England and Wales – one in six of the total – are at risk of flooding from the sea, rivers, or heavy rainfall. And the danger is expected to get worse as global warming causes sea levels to rise and storms to become fiercer. One official study estimated that average annual economic damage from floods could rise almost tenfold by the 2080s.
And yet spending on flood defences fell sharply after the Coalition came to power, and – though some was later restored – it still remains well below the levels the Government inherited. By 2015-16, the House of Commons Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pointed out in July, it will be running at £80 million a year less than the level the Environment Agency deems necessary to match the rising risk of inundations.
This is odd, particularly at a time when George Osborne is investing in infrastructure to boost growth, since flood defences yield £8 of benefits for every £1 invested, a ratio which – in the words of Lord Smith, the Agency’ Chairman, compares “robustly with virtually any other bit of infrastructure development that the Government sees to undertake”. Think of the dubious economics of HS2, for example.
Indeed ministers appear to concede the point. When the Chancellor provided an extra £120 million for flood defences in last years autumn statement, the Treasury pointed out that this would deliver economic benefits worth up to £1 billion an “help drive growth”. And Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has added: “emphatically these flood defence schemes help grow the economy.”
The Government should draw lessons from last night’s relief and prioritise protection against floods. For we are unlikely to have another 60 years’ grace before we have to face the next serious test.
Threatened wildlife returns as clean-up of rivers pays off
Otters, water voles and kingfishers are returning to the rivers of Britain for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, according to an Environment Agency report that lists the 10 most improved waterways in the country.
The Thames is now teeming with salmon, otter and sea trout after regulations were brought in banning pollution from factories Photo: ALAMY
For more than 100 years, sewage, pesticides and even coal dust have been dumped into rivers, killing wildlife and destroying habitats.
In the 1990s, new laws brought in by the European Union and the realisation that many of the country’s most beloved river animals were in danger of dying out forced the authorities to act.
The Thames, which was declared “biologically dead” at Tower Bridge in the 1950s, is now teeming with salmon, otter and sea trout after regulations were brought in banning pollution from factories.
The Wandle in south–west London has also benefited and is now one of the most popular urban fisheries in Europe for chub, barbel and eel.
In the North, the Mersey, the Dee and the Wear were once polluted by industry, while the Taff in Wales “ran black with coal”. They are all cleaner than they have been since Victorian times and are widely used for leisure activities.
Pollution is not the only problem. Over–abstraction – the taking of water from rivers – has also killed wildlife. On the Darent in Kent, for example, around 35million fewer litres a day are being taken than 20 years ago, increasing flows and helping to support larger populations of wildlife, including brown trout and pike.
One species under serious threat was the water vole – the creature that features as Ratty in the classic children’s book Wind in the Willows.
The water vole became extinct in many counties, but it is now returning to cleaned up areas, including the Stour in Dorset. Lord Henley, the environment minister, said £110million had been set aside to spend on improving rivers.
Current problems include getting rid of invasive plant species such as the Himalayan balsalm and water primrose.
“[With] the extensive work being done by the Environment Agency, water companies and landowners, we’re already seeing fish and mammals, including salmon and otters, thriving once more,” the minister said.
The Nar in Norfolk, one of the country’s few Fenland chalk streams, has had to recover from centuries of work to straighten, widen and deepen its natural course.
A large part of the work involved farmers reducing run–off from fields by cutting down on chemicals and ensuring spraying was more targeted.
Britain still has a long way to go before meeting EU targets for 95 per cent of rivers to be in “good” ecological condition by 2015.
The Enviroment Agency admits that a further 9,500 miles of rivers in England and Wales need to be cleaned up to meet the target.
The RSPB and WWF point out that too much water is still being taken from many of the chalk streams in the South and warn that sewage continues to be dumped in waterways.
A broad-snouted caiman swims in a water channel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP
In early 2000, a string of riots and protests broke out in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba. The “water wars” were sparked by a government decision to hand over control of water supply to a foreign-owned, private consortium. The bid process was uncontested and the revenues guaranteed for 40 years. Residents had every right to be aggrieved. Their bills jumped by 35% overnight and small farmers faced the loss of traditional irrigation rights.
The episode represents a classic case of “policy capture”. More than a decade on and the perception that big business is muscling in on water policy remains widespread. And it’s not just in far-flung corners of the developing world. This week, policymakers are discussing “sweeping new EU-US trade negotiations” that could see greater corporate control over key European water markets, according to a report by Corporate Observatory Europe (CEO), a Brussels-based pressure group. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could lead to reduction in environmental and water quality standards too, water campaigners fear.
“The private water industry is investing heavily in lobbying to shape EU water policies,” argues Olivier Hoedeman, CEO’s research co-ordinator. “The most extreme example of this corporate bias is … where the European Commission uses its negotiating power to pressure other countries to open their markets to EU-based water multinationals.”
But the issue isn’t just limited to companies involved in commercial water services. Far from it. Most water-related conflicts around the world actually arise at the consumption phase. David Hall, a water policy expert at the University of Greenwich and co-author of a paper on corporate water practices and human rights, points the finger to heavy water users in the agribusiness, food and beverage, and mining sectors in particular.
“At a global level, the same companies that are major consumers of water promote a number of initiatives to try and advance ideas which favour their interests in these conflicts with other users,” Hall argues.
Take water efficiency. It’s difficult to argue with the idea of saving water, you’d think. And you’d be right. But what if agribusinesses use efficiency arguments as a pretext for pushing forward high-tech farming solutions, asks Hall, who claims something similar is unfolding in India’s Maharashtra state at present.
Pushing for clarity over water rights is another concept advocated by companies. Again, the idea seems reasonable, especially given the informal nature of such rights in much of the world. However, such a move easily opens the door to a “regime of structured contractual rights”, whereby water is portioned off to the highest bidder, says Hall.
Water is an undeniably emotive topic, and citizen groups have every reason to remain vigil. But big business has a legitimate interest in seeing that water is well-stewarded too. Precisely because of their high levels of water consumption, water stress represents a large and growing risk. A new country ranking by the World Resources Institute (WRI), for example, finds that water-related problems threaten more than half (56%) the world’s irrigated agricultural land.
So companies have to act. The question is how to do so in way that is perceived as fair. The CEO Water Mandate, a company-backed initiative, produced guidelines back in 2010 to address exactly this challenge. TheGuide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy identifies five core principles for business to follow: (i) advance sustainable water management; (ii) respect public and private roles; (iii) strive for inclusiveness and partnerships; (iv) be pragmatic and consider integrated engagement; (v) be accountable and transparent.
Jason Morrison, technical director at the CEO Water Mandate, puts special emphasis on two of these principles: transparency and inclusiveness. Both are “daunting” concepts for most companies, which are used to “discretely and quietly” strike bilateral deals with water ministries, he admits.
“[Companies] have to be very clear about what they’re doing, with whom and why. The degree to which you’re transparent about that, it really does insulate you from the accusation of policy capture,” he argues.
Jesse Worker, associate for the Access Initiative at WRI, agrees. Only full, meaningful and ongoing disclosure will persuade the public that business “has a legitimate role to play” in water policy, he says. In addition to publishing information on the policy-making process, responsible companies should be providing data on their water use, discharge rates and other impacts as well.
As for inclusivity, inviting other interest groups to join in the policy-making process helps pre-empt those same groups accusing a company of policy capture “further down the road”, says Morrison. Collaboration isn’t easy, however. For one, it takes time. Multi-stakeholders processes can “easily take several years” to achieve an outcome, says Greg Koch, director of global water stewardship at drinks brand Coca Cola. Working within the constraints of a government’s bureaucratic decision-making process requires further time and patience, he notes.
Yet an open, participative approach to policy engagement is possible, Koch states. He points to the work of the multi-stakeholder 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG). Launched in 2008, the initiative advocates a three-stage approach in the six countries where it operates – a list that includes India, where Coca Cola has been embroiled in a conflict over water use in the past. The first two stages comprise analysing current and future areas of water stress, and then designing pilot solutions that have the potential to be scaled if successful. Both stages include widespread external consultation.
Stage three is decision time. It’s the “domain of government” to decide what interventions or policy reforms are most appropriate, and how these will be financed and administered, Koch insists. “That’s the point when we and everyone step out.”
‘Whole world’ at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines, epidemics: scientists
Research published by US National Academy of Sciences warns climate change impacts could be worse than thought
Corn crops in New Florence, Missouri, wither in the devastating drought of 2012. Photograph: MCT via Getty Images
An international scientific research project known as the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), run by 30 teams from 12 countries, has attempted to understand the severity and scale of global impacts of climate change. The project compares model projections onwater scarcity, crop yields, disease, floods among other issues to see how they could interact.
The series of papers published by the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that policymakers might be underestimating the social and economic consequences of climate change due to insufficient attention on how different climate risks are interconnected.
Europe, North America at risk
One paper whose lead author is Franziska Piontek of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research explores impacts related to “water,agriculture, ecosystems, and malaria at different levels of global warming.” The study concludes that:
“… uncertainty arising from the impact models is considerable, and larger than that from the climate models. In a low probability-high impact worst-case assessment, almost the whole inhabited world is at risk for multisectoral pressures.”
The uncertainties in the model are large enough that they may “mask” the risk of a “worst case” scenario of “multisectoral hotspots,” where impacts affecting “water, agriculture, ecosystems, and health” overlap in ways that could affect “all the world’s inhabited areas.”
In the worst-case analysis, “Almost the entire global population is exposed to multisectoral pressure” at global mean temperatures of around 4C higher, with “roughly 18% of the global population” projected to “experience severe pressure in all four sectors. The affected regions are in Europe, North America, and south-east Asia.”
How likely is this scenario? The study points out that:
“This worst case is rather extreme, but nonetheless it represents the upper end of the risk spectrum in light of the large uncertainties.”
Robust policy decisions to aid mitigation and adaptation strategies therefore require further research to understand “how impacts in different sectors overlap, as overlapping impacts increase exposure, lead to interactions of impacts, and are likely to raise adaptation pressure.”
Chronic water scarcity
Other papers point to significant risks that are much more likely on a business-as-usual emissions trajectory.
A study led by Jacob Schewe of Potsdam finds that “the combination of unmitigated climate change and further population growth will expose a significant fraction of the world population” to “chronic or absolute water scarcity.”
About 2.7C above preindustrial temperatures:
“… will confront an additional approximate 15% of the global population with a severe decrease in water resources and will increase the number of people living under absolute water scarcity (<500m3 per capita per year) by another 40% (according to some models, more than 100%) compared with the effect of population growth alone.”
The Mediterranean, the Middle East, the southern United States and southern China, for example, could see a “pronounced decrease of available water,” while southern India, western China, and parts of eastern Africa could see an increase.
The study results represent the multiple-model average of 11 hydrological models produced by five different climate models. While some areas like southern India, western China and eastern Africa could see an increase of available water, others like the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the southern United States and southern China, would see a “pronounced decrease of available water” without curbs in greenhouse gas emissions.
Water scarcity in turn will have a dramatic impact on agriculture. Another study in the PNAS collection combining climate, agricultural and hydrological models warns that freshwater shortages could double climate change’s debilitation of global food crop yields.
Current agricultural models estimate that climate change will directly reduce food production from maize, soybeans, wheat and rice by as much as 43 percent by the end of the 21st century, encompassing a loss of between 400 and 2600 petacalories of food supply. But incorporating hydrological models reveals that when accounting for the decline of freshwater availability, there would be an additional loss of 600 to 2900 petacalories – potentially wiping out quantities equivalent to the total present-day food supply.
Such devastating potential losses could, however, be ameliorated by more efficient use of available surplus freshwater. The paper recommends “increases in irrigation capacity and efficiency” to be complemented by “efforts to increase water use efficiency and soil conservation in rainfed systems as well, which have a demonstrated capacity to boost crop yields without further exploiting freshwater resources in rivers and aquifers.”
Other findings of the range of studies show that increases in river flooding are expected in more than half of the areas investigated, and that the frequency of drought may increase by more than 20% in some regions.
Potsdam director Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who co-authored several papers in the PNAS special feature, said:
“There is an elephant in the room: current and future climate change impacts. But strangely, many people seem to be blind to it. Many decision makers prefer to turn a blind eye to global warming consequences, while many scientists tend to focus on very specific aspects of climate change. So we resemble the fabled blind men, who unknowingly touch different parts of the same elephant: grasping the animal’s trunk, one of the men is convinced he has a snake in his hand, whilst one other mistakes the tail for a rope. To recognize the animal, they must talk to each other to properly identify the individual parts and to bring them together. This is exactly what this international project does.”
Limits on how much water farmers can abstract to irrigate their crops could be introduced as part of government proposals to reform the way water supplies are managed.
Ministers are planning a shake-up of the existing water abstraction licensing system in a bid to make it more environmentally-friendly and more able to adapt to the country’s water needs.
They say the current rules are not flexible enough to deal with alternating floods and droughts caused by climate change, or with increasing demand for water due to population growth.
Under the existing system, which has not changed since the 1960s, about 40% of licenses are granted as a “right” to abstract water.
Recently, the Environment Agency has started issuing fewer licenses and those it does issue are on a more cautious, time-limited basis.
However, ministers say those rules do little to protect the environment, leaving some river systems depleted and in poor shape.
In a consultation document launched by environment minister Dan Rogerson on Tuesday (17 December), DEFRA recommends limiting how much water farmers and other businesses can abstract based on how much water is available.
It also plans to give farmers with abstraction licenses a greater incentive to use water responsibly by making it easier and quicker to trade water.
Mr Rogerson said the reforms, which were expected to come into force in 2020 following legislation early in the next parliament, were crucial to safeguard the environment and allow the economy to grow.
He said it was vital farmers shared their views by the time the consultation ended on 28 March 2014 so that the government got the reform right.
Ian Ashbridge of agri-business consultants Bidwells said that while the farming industry only accounted for 1% of the total amount of water abstracted in England and Wales, they faced being hit the hardest if tough limits were introduced.
“Farmers use the greatest volumes at a time of year when it’s least available,” he said.
“Restricting water to food producers when we want them to produce more is misguided – farmers need to have their say in this consultation and make the case for water for food production.”
The consultation is available at www.gov.uk and is open until 28 March 2014.
Martin Baggs of Thames Water at Crossness Pumping Station, Woolwich. Photograph: Matt Writtle
It will take seven years to build, cost about £4.1bn – nearly half the cost of the Olympics – and has already provoked resentment among residents, including impressionist Alistair McGowan, who fear it will blight their neighbourhoods.
Britain’s first supersewer, due to stretch 24 miles from Acton in the west of London to Abbey Mills in the east, might perform the necessary task of preventing raw sewage polluting the Thames, but it is difficult to love. And the really vexed question regarding the Thames Tideway is, who is going to foot the bill?
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey, where machines are due to start their work gouging out the tunnel, has long been of the opinion that it is wrong that the taxpayer should even underwrite the risky project. Surely Thames Water could afford to bear all of the burden? Had it not put something away?
Hughes’s digging into Thames Water revealed a byzantine accounting structure, with multiple companies, subsidiaries and an offshore site. He took advice from a former director of utilities at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Martin Blaiklock, on the workings of the maze that was Thames Water’s company accounts and others.
What he discovered was a system that he believes is letting down the customers and the taxman and one that appears to be repeated across the UK, where 75% of water companies are owned by private equity firms. The first part of the jigsaw is an annual bumper dividend paid to investors or to companies which are often their own subsidiaries, sometimes offshore, and which rip out funds that publicly owned waterworks might once have kept aside for infrastructure investment.
In the five years to March 2012 Thames Water declared total dividends of £1.18bn. In the same period, Kemble Water Holdings, the Macquarie Group-led vehicle that owns Thames Water, paid out dividends to its investors of nearly £700m. Over at Yorkshire Water, a dividend of £63.4m was paid last year to its financing company. Similarly, at Anglian Water, a dividend of £193.6m was paid this year to Anglian Water Services Holdings, via a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands.
Blaiklock found that across the country between 2009 and 2011, total dividends had reached £3.3bn.
The reasons given by the companies for the dividends was the need to move funds on to pay down amassed debts sometimes taken on by holding companies through the purchase of the water companies themselves. At other times, they said, the money was needed to fund infrastructure investment and to repay shareholders for their investment. The result, though, was undoubtedly a severely weakened balance sheet, Blaiklock told Hughes.
The water companies’ shrunken finances meant they were unable to invest in large-scale projects and became ever more reliant on rises inwater bills to pay their way and on the government to support projects such as the new supersewer tunnel. This is the second part of the jigsaw, according to Blaiklock.
Anglian Water’s household customers were told this year that they will see bills increase on average by £22, from £401 to £423. Thames Water customers have been warned that their bills are likely to rise by as much as £80 a year to help them pay their part of the bill for the new tunnel. Yorkshire Water has told its customers that the average water and sewerage bill is going to rise by £21 from £340 to £361, in order for it to maintain the quality of its performance.
A utilities sector populated by weakened water companies unable to significantly invest and dependent on big price rises approved by the water regulator Ofwat was surely not what Margaret Thatcher had in mind when her administration privatised the waterworks. That the chief executives of the companies concerned have been showered with performance-related bonuses in recent years could be considered to add insult to injury.
But it is the final piece of the jigsaw that is perhaps the most concerning and which Hughes is now urging the influential Commons public accounts committee to investigate. Despite the billions of pounds swilling about the industry, Hughes discovered that little corporation tax is being paid by our major water companies – in some years none at all.
Thames Water enjoyed a tax rebate of £79.6m in 2011-12 and paid just £26m in tax the previous year, despite a net cash inflow for that year of £943.1m. Yorkshire paid just £2.9m last year and £11.1m in the year before, despite an operational profit of £303m. In 2012, for the regulated part of Anglian Water’s business, the company paid no corporation tax at all. In 2011 it paid £500,000 corporation tax on the profits and in 2010 it was £1.4m.
The companies say that a combination of interest repayments (on debt) and capital allowances has been used to offset or defer tax payments. Hughes and Blaiklock fear there is more to it than that, despite the water companies’ protestations.
An alternative world is proposed by Hughes: if Thames had paid no dividends to shareholders and placed its profits in the banks or suitable investments, they would today have the £4bn needed to cover the costs of Tideway tunnel.
An unlikely scenario perhaps. But even if Thames had paid shareholders only 50% of what they have received as dividends since 2000, they would have £2.1bn set aside. Thames rejects this reasoning, arguing that such large-scale projects always involve the state, pointing out that a new company has been set up by the government to build the tunnel, and adding that if Thames had to foot the bill it would need to pass on the huge costs to its customer.
The other companies say they have behaved responsibly, that their debt is simple a necessary evil of being a utility company. Hughes, though, is determined to keep on digging. In a letter seen by the Observer to the Commons public accounts committee, which is due to quiz the bosses of Starbucks and Google over tax avoidance, Hughes writes: “The aggressive capital structure implemented by Thames has resulted in the company becoming so indebted that it does not have the financial strength to invest in the large capital projects.
“As you may know there is currently a proposal to build a tunnel through London to collect the sewage overflows from our ageing Victorian sewerage network. The current estimate for the cost of this project is £4.1bn.
“Moody’s, the credit rating agency, has said that given the high gearing of the company even limited involvement in the Tunnel project will have a negative effect on Thames Water’s credit rating. As Thames is required by its licence conditions to keep an investment-grade credit rating it cannot participate in the tunnel project.”
The question Hughes poses in his letter is simple: “Is there a particular problem in the water industry, which is a regulated monopoly with high capital requirements and which allows companies to reduce the capital stock of the utility while lowering their tax liability, and does this requires a policy response from the government?”
In other words, is there something fishy about the way the water industry does its business? At the very least there appears to be a case to answer.
A home hit by the high tides along the crumbling coastline at Hemsby, Norfolk. Photograph: Jeremy Durkin/www.photo-features.co.uk
The telephone probably saved Ray Mooney’s life. His brother called just as he was rushing to the back door of his home. Mooney, 55, took the call, and the back of his immaculate wooden chalet fell into the tumultuous sea below.
Mooney’s house was one of five destroyed in Hemsby, Norfolk, by a storm surge higher in some places than the great flood of 1953, which devastated East Anglia and killed 307 people in the UK.
This year’s similarly lethal combination of onshore winds, high spring tides and a storm surge caused by a North Sea depression, did not cause such loss of life or property, chiefly because of defences erected after the 1953 floods and a well-executed evacuation plan.
But some were still left defenceless against the power of the sea that trashed a historic pier, flooded a newly-acquired nature reserve and devastated beach-side business along the Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire coastline.
A property that has fallen into the sea due to the cliff collapsing in Hemsby. Photograph: Stephen Pond/Getty ImagesMooney’s neighbours, Steven and Jackie Connolly, were in the local pub when they heard the cliff was going. Drinkers formed a human chain to help them rescue their sofa, Christmas presents and three-month-old kittens before their home of seven years was swallowed by the sea.
“Suddenly we heard a shout ‘it’s going, it’s going’ and we watched our kitchen get ripped apart,” said Steven Connolly. “The whole house collapsed before our eyes. We’re devastated at what we’ve lost but at least me, Jackie and the kittens are safe.”
The houses at Hemsby were unusually affordable, mostly bought for less than £60,000 because of their proximity to sea. But many locals criticised the failure of the authorities to build the concrete defences that prop up much of this crumbling coastline. Instead, residents funded a DIY scheme in which concrete blocks were to be put on a 200m stretch of beach. Some blocks were placed there at 5.30pm on Thursday in a futile last-ditch attempt to stem the surge.
“Do you know what it’s like going to bed every night fearing what tomorrow brings?” said Hemsby resident Angela Lewis, 57. “It’s scary. How much longer have we got a home for? Will we have a home for Christmas? All we want is for someone to help us. People have nowhere to go. We can’t start again – we can’t afford to buy anywhere or rent anywhere.”
Collapsed houses lie on the beach after a storm surge in Hemsby. Photograph: Darren Staples/ReutersA local businessman has offered Mooney and the Connollys rent-free accommodation on a nearby chalet park but the homeless of Lowestoft, in Suffolk, are also looking for a new place to stay after their 27-bed hostel was closed by flood damage.
Emma Ratzer, the chief executive of the Access Community Trust who runs the hostel, said that an estimated £50,000-worth of damage to the ground floor meant it would be closed over Christmas.
“The people on the ground floor have lost all their belongings too, so we have been out buying them new socks, pants and everything,” she said. “The first thing we need to do is buy 27 more beds.”
Robin Adams outside all that remains of his house at Hemsby, Norfolk. Photograph: Patrick Barkham/GuardianThe floods also sank the last surviving end-of-the-pier show in Britain. Waves ripped holes in historic Cromer Pier and pulled bench seating in the Pavilion theatre into the sea, forcing the cancellation of the pier’s Christmas show – until council officials declare the pier safe again.
“There’s probably a reason why people don’t have theatres on the end of piers,” said general manager Rebecca Wass. “But we’re not giving up yet. The show will hopefully go on in some capacity.” An alternative venue in Holt is being lined up.
The coast was littered with the remains of beach huts and beach cafes, with boats thrown onto the quay at Blakeney and flooded shops in Wells-next-the-Sea.
Even the fish couldn’t escape: the stricken residents including sharks and a turtle from the sea-damaged Sea Life Sanctuary in Hunstanton were being rescued and transferred to another centre in Dorset.
Wildlife has also been hit by the storm. Before it struck, there were 430 seals and pups on Horsey beach; yesterday, volunteers counted just 177. At Cley, in North Norfolk, a new nature reserve just purchased by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust was flooded, a bird hide had disappeared and holes punched in the shingle sea bank threaten the whole of the marshes.
While Brandon Lewis, Tory MP for Great Yarmouth, whose constituency includes the Hemsby area, pledged to help residents fight for more funds for coastal defence, some people were remarkably phlegmatic about the storm.
“We must have learnt our lesson from Canute – we’re not going to stop the sea,” said Robin Adams, standing in the wooden frame of all that remained of his house at Hemsby.
Despite contemplating a life without a home, Mooney was similarly calm. “Mother nature, you can’t have a go,” he said. “You can shout as much as you want but it will have it’s way. It’s not right or wrong, it just happens. Sometimes it will do a beautiful thing, sometimes it’s just cruel.”
From this, I have gained a sense of potential repercussions for wildlife and UK civilians as a result of poor water management and over abstraction. It will likely that weather condition will become more severe as well the potential for high tides and large scale flooding within the next few months.
I intend to continue my research, in particular other potential locations and narrative ideas to develop. Prior to my presentation I had started to consider areas around Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Morcambe and other surrounding areas, I intend to branch out further into other nearby or rather accessible sites that could act as a comparison, possibly a connecting area that sources large amounts of water throughout the North West of England.
To resolve this stage of the module, I have produced a formal presentation about my Research proposal and how this has evolved throughout the duration of this brief and I have started to consider various critical aspects within my intended idea.
This is the rough draft I intend to follow within my presentation –
S2 – Working title – Britain’s lost waters: the ripple effect.
S3 – In my photographic practice, I feel the most creatively motivated by themes relating to the natural world, especially when developing my understanding of humanities impact and connection with nature. I have produced two landscape projects following different methods of exploring the subject of identity and childhood memories and how this encouraged a ‘nostalgic gaze’ upon nature and natural environments. As well as an editorial documentary project based around the narrative of a ‘day at the zoo’ experience at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, focusing upon human and animal interaction. Most recently, a documentary video project based upon the impact of humanity upon the British landscape, in relation to both land use and local wildlife.
S4 – In this, I want to expand further upon the contextual themes and visual approaches I established during my recent video project. I started to document the environmental impact of human development upon the British landscape (agriculture, industry) and in turn, the resulting changes within local ecosystems and their natural inhabitants, as well as this, I began to validate the endurance of natural life forms and wildlife, surviving amongst the fragile remnants of man-made constructs. My new theme relates to the subject of fresh water. Freshwater is a life source to humanity and almost all other life forms and is sourced through nature. It is essential to our basic survival, our health and mental wellbeing. I would like this series to discuss how even one seemingly small change or disturbance can cause other widespread issues. I want this concept to underpin my project, and in a sense expressing the ripple effect both literally and figuratively.
S5 – To develop research that will further develop and refine my knowledge and understanding of my intended fields of photographic practice. To undertake further research of contemporary environmental/conservational related concepts to ensure this series underpins issues that can still considered to be of current interest and relevant. To consider existing research and undertake new research of national parks, wildlife sites, heritage sites and sites of biological, geological or scientific importance. To acknowledge both practical and creative considerations in undertaking a project of this type and scale – such as time management, site availability, financial needs or any potential restrictions that might influence my overall approach. To consider what audience, organisation or client this series might appeal to and how this may shape the direction of my final outcome.
S6 – Within this project, I intend to consider the concept of freshwater from both sides. This involves the consideration of both people & organisations aiming to protect water based wildlife and preserve eco-systems and as well as government institutions & private companies in their justification for urban development and for increasing water abstraction. For this, I will aim to arrange interviews for both aspects of the narrative – for example, contact individual working an RSPB site or arrange discussion with representative at united utilities. As a result, I will need both model releases forms for potential portraits and a means of accurate data collection during the interviews.
S7 – At this stage it will be likely that I’ll need certain licences to photograph more protected sites or more elusive or endangered animals such as the water vole. However, I can access a variety of wildlife licences online through Natural England, which including potential photographic permissions. Additionally, depending chosen site(s), I might need to contact the relevant institution or owners in advance prior to shoots, for example Martin Mere does not allow images taken at their sites to be for any commercial purpose, thus arranging discussions in advance might allow for greater creative flexibility. However, it is likely I will also be looking for more low key locations.
S8 – I need to acquire a new telephoto lens (canon fit), preferably with a max focal length of 300- 400mm. This would allow for greater range and potential for wildlife shots such as animal portraits, motion shots etc. In addition, I would need access to equipment from university, in particular, a macro lens (canon fit) for close ups and flexible shots of smaller subjects. In addition, the use of a wide angled lens could also prove to be quite constructive in producing large format landscape images. If possible, it might be helpful to consider a wildlife photography workshop to further refine my knowledge and approach when working with wildlife. I have noted that the WWT offer environmental/wildlife photography workshops with guest photographers.
S9 – During my research, I found an article featured within Architecture & Design magazine earlier this year, featuring a review of Edward Burtynsky’s latest work, water. This series focuses upon water deficiency, using large scale aerial images and video from across the world to reinforce the nature of water, its vulnerability, capability, and power and how it is used.
S10- This is a reference which was discussed during a feedback session relating to a series of wildlife images by photographer Chris Jordan that highlight the issues related to waste disposal, consumerism and consumption and how this has negatively impacted the feeding behaviours of various wildlife, particularly birds, often causing in the death of their young. His bold and almost grotesque images reinforce the significance of mass consumption and human development in the disruption and demise of elements within the natural world.
S11 – I recently discovered a photo gallery upon National Geographic’s website that highlights images of threatened freshwater environments across the world. These images range from freshwater areas upon the outskirts of urban areas or previous wetland areas that have dried out or are suffering from drought due to heavy water drainage to sustain the demand for water as well as agricultural and urban development both related to increasing population .
S12 – This is an article featured within the Observer that discusses the scarcity of water and the how UK governmental policies regarding water need to change otherwise we will suffer further losses of wetland habitats and eco-systems that are needed to maintain the natural balance that regulates healthy water flow to connecting rivers, preventing potential droughts and flooding. “Around two-thirds of our rivers are failing ecosystems. Much of the cause for this shaming statistic is over-abstraction. We suck aquifers dry to provide cheaper water for an increasing population in the south and east of England.”- Richard Benyon
S13 – This is an article featured within the Guardian that emphasises environmental issues that will result if the latest changes to the UK water bill are pushed through, focusing in particular upon the river Pang and its resident water voles, source of the inspiration for the Wind in the Willows. The water bill would allow private licence owners to sell drained water from our exhausted British rivers to water companies for both financial purposes and as an attempt to supply our ever increasing demand for water which is turn compromising various wetland areas. “Currently, 30bn litres a day are taken from rivers, 10% more than is ecologically sustainable, but licences exist for a further 50bn litres a day.” – Damian Carrington. “In the future, population growth, climate change and economic development are likely to increase pressure for more water to be abstracted. As a result, unless we all act now, further environmental damage may occur.“ – Environment Agency.
S15 – My first reference of image experimentation was during my visit to WWT Martin Mere. During which I intended a series of talks and workshops, as well exploring and documenting some of site and its resident wildlife. Due to borrowing a faulty telephoto lens, I felt that my potential was limited, however, this offered a lesson in practically in preparation for future shoots. I persevered to produce a selection of images of landscapes and wetland wildlife. This is a process I intend to follow again prior to my final major project, however this will expand further towards other fresh water sources. I have started to consider potential rivers, chalk streams and significant wetland areas and estuaries for more marine based concepts relating to water consumption and pollution.
S16 – I intend to contact relevant organisations – WWT, EA, United Utilities, River Trust, RSPB, Wildlife Trust, Wildlife and Countryside Link. I also want to visit Broughton Clough wetland, as I was contacted by someone via my blog and asked to conduct research of this location as well the broader Manchester area to promote environmental awareness, she mentions in particular an increasing threat from flytippers and an encroaching football stadium. I also intend to start experimenting with images soon and visiting relevant sites, some of which I will refer to next.
S17 – As a starting point for my consideration of relevant location, I began to track numerous connections/crossing between tributaries, estuaries, reservoirs and wetlands. I want this to act as means of generating a potential narrative structure or flow. This includes: River Mersey – Mersey Estuary, New Years Bridge Reservoir, Wirral Peninsula, Manchester Ship Canal, Seaforth Dock. River Dee – Dee Estuary, Burton Mere Wetlands, River Alyn, Alwen Reservoir, Connah’s Quay. I also found an article featured upon the Wildlife Trust website and refers to a recommended marine conservation zone, Aln Estuary in Alnmouth which is currently under threat and is one the of nearest marine focused sites to visit.