Introduction

The watercourses in the Stroud Frome Catchment support a range of features of international and national value including:

 

  • Scattered and threatened populations of White-clawed Crayfish;

  • An assemblage of bats of at least national importance;

  • Strong populations of Otters, Bullheads and Dippers ;

  • Tufa deposits and natural springs;

  • Rich assemblages of aquatic invertebrates.

     

There are a number of threats to the watercourses including:

 

  • Spread of invasive species, including Signal Crayfish, Mink, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam;

  • Land-use changes, including those arising from SDC’s 2015 Local Plan, which focusses much of its housing allocation on the Frome Valley.

     

The local initiatives working to protect and restore the water-courses, include:

 

  • The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes Project;

  • Stroud District Council’s Sustainable Rural Drainage Project;

  • The Minchinhampton Walking and Wildlife Group’s Crayfish Project;

  • The Stroud Survey Group’s River-fly Project.

            

The Environment Agency is supporting these initiatives and encouraging co-ordination between them. As one of the most urgent tasks is the control of Signal Crayfish, Cathy Beeching organised a day focussing on this issue. A note of this is appended.

Whilst the control of Signal Crayfish will absorb much of the available effort, it is recognised that this is just part of the overall strategy for the protection and restoration of the watercourses. When possible, the wider strategy should be considered and developed.

Outcomes from Stroud Frome Catchment Crayfish Day

With support from the EA’s Cathy Beeching, Crayfish specialist Nicky Green visited Stroud on 6 January 2016 to advise on the actions which may control the spread of Signal Crayfish through the catchment. Representatives of the various local initiatives were present: including Richard Spyvee and John Field from GWT, Karen Colebourn from Minchinhampton Walking and Wildlife Group and Josh ?[KC1]  from Stroud Survey Group. In the evening, Nicky and Cathy gave a talk to a wider group of interested locals.

The following actions were agreed:

  1. To set up a Crayfish Project encompassing all current interest groups;
  2. The project to be co-ordinated by Cathy Beeching of the EA;

  3. To further investigate opportunities for controlling Signals at the Miserden/Edgeworth stretch of the Frome, as this appears to be a population which is currently isolated by winterbournes, but if it spreads could threaten the known population of WCC in the upper reaches of the Frome. The first task is to establish the extent of the Signals at this location. Given the reported rapid die-off of WCC, it is also important to establish whether they have the plague. Once this information is available, methods for control can be explored, but they may involve a mixture of intensive trapping in the Artificial Refuges and possibly dewatering.

  4. To ensure that the Avening Brook WCC are protected from Signals in the Horsley Stream. This may involve regular monitoring of the Horsley Stream in Nailsworth and consideration of increasing the barrier effect of culverts between Ruskin Mill and the Nailsworth Stream.

  5. To better establish the distribution of WCC in the catchment. All existing records to be collected by Cathy Beeching. It is already clear that more survey effort is required. Priority locations to survey are: the Painswick Stream; the Wiry Brook; the Toadsmoor Stream; the Avening Brook through Avening. A standard method for establishing presence or absence must be agreed and deployed. This is likely to involve a mixture of manual searching, setting artificial refuge traps and torching.

  6. Representatives of the local initiatives would meet at 8.00pm on 10 February at Jude Smith’s house to discuss priorities and responsibilities.

  7. Cathy and others will give a talk to the Stroud Survey Group on 24 February, to advise on how they should deal with any crayfish they find during tier River-fly work and also to seek volunteers to assist with crayfish survey and control.

  8. In order to ensure the work is done to required standards and to encourage participation, the group will explore the possibility of designing the training and experience to meet the standards for a Crayfish license.