Breaking down barriers and building bridges to rivers and nature
Our exciting new partnership project to open up Eden's rivers to more people and wildlife receives a £181k boost from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
By guest contributor, Kit Hollings, The Big Swim
Swim the Eden from source to sea?!
Friends and family thought us mad when we casually mentioned our plan. The four of us have been swimming the same small stretch of the Eden for ten years, our ears and eyes sharpening over time to issues endangering the health and general wellbeing of British rivers and our beautiful Eden is prey to the same effects of floodwash, eroding buffer zones, and general pollution as the next.
We approached Eden Rivers Trust for advice and support for the project and collectively decided to focus on issues of sewage release and buffer strip management.
Planning required the careful collation of 4 diaries and a bit of maths. We divided the 80-plus miles of river into sixteen ‘swims’ of roughly five miles each, with ingress and egress points on public rights of way. When the possibility of making a film of the swim was put forward, using the skills of Rosa Prosser, daughter of one of the team members, we applied to Fellfoot Forward for a community grant to help with filming costs. We were thrilled and grateful in equal measure when our application was accepted last month.
With June – and half the Eden – now behind us, we are not only on track with the plan, but continually pinch ourselves at how blessed and fortunate we are to have this opportunity to explore the Eden from a fish’s point of view. Our Instagram account @viewfromtheriver really reflects this unique perspective.
Informing riparian owners of our swim, and the motivation behind it, we have found them supportive, amenable, and interested.
We are often enchanted by the beauty of our surroundings and the wildlife accompanying us on our journey.
Encounters with humans are few – encounters with herons and oystercatchers, swifts and swans, dippers and dragonflies, are many.
From the wild reaches of Mallerstang Common through the dizzying drop of The Devil’s Grinding Mill, under many a beautiful bridge, to the broad willow-lined stretches around Langwathby, the Eden has taken us so far through a rich and immensely varied geography.
On constant alert for river-rubbish, we pile what we can (from pop cans to frisbees to yards of agricultural plastic) on the ruckraft, a brilliantly designed towfloat we take turns to pull along behind us.
Taking note of good riparian practice along the way, we have been heartened in places by riverbank planting, wide, well fenced-off buffer strips, willow-woven defences and natural regeneration of alder. But there is so much room for improvement – not only in terms of better fencing and more planting.
Our final stretch of the first half of The Big Swim revealed Little Salkeld WwTw topping the sewage league for this section with the release of 1705 hours of sewage in 2022. The government needs to act fast – failure to do so will rob the next generation of their natural heritage.
This project was made possible with a grant from the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Fellfoot Forward Landscape Partnership Scheme supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Photos: Kit Hollings.