Minutes of Virtual AGM 2023
Virtual Annual General Meeting, April 11, 2023
Chris Kinsey, Peter Harris, Richard Rendall, John Bufton, Paula Scott, Mike Davies
Apologies for absence
Kath Wigley, Russ Edwards, Liz Hinkley, Rex Shayler, Martin and Ruth Bemment,
Message from the Chair Kath Wigley
I'd like to say firstly that hopefully we will get back to face-to-face meetings in the future, but it just seemed simpler to continue with the virtual format for this year.
The River Custodians has once again had a relatively quiet year, but we have still kept up with litter picking, along the banks and in the river; dealing with Giant Hogweed and monitoring river fly larvae, and Mike and Paula will be reporting on these items in more detail. Despite being quiet, things have still been happening and hopefully this coming year will see increased activity. We need positive action to increase member numbers, particularly reaching out to younger people.
I would like to give a heartfelt thank you once again to my fellow Trustees, particularly Mike, Paula and Rex, without whose great efforts the organization wouldn't function. I am hoping that this year we will be able to get back on track with the work we know needs to be done. I wish all of you the best of health and look forward to seeing you in person soon!
Minutes of previous AGM
The minutes from the previous virtual AGM 2022 can be reviewed on the RSC web site or sent by email if requested. Their approval was proposed by Peter seconded by Chris and approved.
Chris subsequently reported that the 2022 minutes are not currently on the web site. This will be corrected immediately but since all members had received copies the approval was valid.
Presentation of accounts Mike for Rex Shayler
The accounts have been prepared by Rex and are Appendix 1. The acceptance of the accounts was proposed by Mike seconded by Chris and approved.
Since the accounts were prepared Mike gave a talk on the Drovers of Wales to the Montgomery Vintage Club and received £40 which has been donated to RSC making our total balance £343.21..
Annual report Mike Davies
Our current membership is 37, slightly down from last year, mainly due to members moving away.
Invasive species monitoring and control. We have not generally been taking teams out to control Giant Hogweed along the river banks this year but individual have gone out to the various hot spots and kept these plants under control. During the year at least 15 man-hours were spent on this activity and in most areas it is only new growth from seeds coming downstream, not re-growth of established plants that we used to see.
Areas of Japanese Knotweed are reported to Natural Resources Wales who chemically treat it to protect flood defenses. We encourage people to eat Himalayan Balsam and we only remove it to provide access to the river.
Similarly, crayfish monitoring has not taken place this year. During river fly larvae monitoring none have been seen, which is unusual.
Last year we changed our web host from Host Papa to Hostinger in a cost saving move. So far, the site is working well.
The new footbridge/cycle bridge over the river, across from the rugby ground, was to have been constructed in 2020. This did not happen, although some of the approach work was done. Planning permission has been secured and the ground investigation team has completed their work on the flood defences and are tendering for the contract works. We think that the bridge will be made by a specialist company, but don’t know the timeline for that. The Custodians and Walking Newtown have both registered support for the project with PCC.
Newtown Paddlers/Welshpool Canoe Club did an in-river litter pick in July 2022 using 8 boats and a paddleboard. They collected bikes, deflated boats, metal sheeting, tyres, fencing and agricultural plastic - as well as bags of wrappers, bottles and cans from the river between Vaynor fields and Dolerw Bridge. They also carried out in-river clearing from Dolerw Bridge downstream while thirteen Custodians did a litter pick along the river in September 2022. A total of 28 man hours collected 20 bags of garbage and recyclable material and a large garden shed removed from the river. In October Mike removed a large road sign from the river near the Halfpenny Bridge.
There have been reports of people becoming ill after swimming in the Severn at Newtown. None of the members present had any information on this.
Wildlife on the River, Facebook page and Blog. Mike for Russ Edwards
Unfortunately, yet again, it has been a very disappointing 12 months regarding the lack of wildlife on and around our local stretch of the river.
The most noticeable observation is the low numbers of common hedgerow birds such as Blue Tits, Great Tits, Siskins and Wrens, although Robins, Blackbirds, Long Tailed Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Thrush are still present in slightly smaller numbers.
The Chiffchaff have now returned and an occasional Tree Creeper has been sighted.
On the river itself, the Dipper sightings have become very erratic and pairings are non-existent. These little birds are usually a good indicator of water quality and their absence might suggest that our river is not as healthy as one might wish.
The Goosander numbers are also very low compared to previous years with far fewer males returning after their annual moult.
Rather surprisingly, there are very few sightings of Pied and Grey Wagtails along the edges of the river banks – birds which used to be so common in the past.
However, the Kingfisher, Cormorant, Grey Heron and even a Little Egret have been sighted and might indicate that there are enough fish in the river to sustain them.
Last year’s weather resulted in dramatic changes to the water levels and the river changed from very low to extremely high over very short periods of time. May/June of 2022 was a disaster for the Mayfly hatch and there was no repetition of the clouds of insects swarming over the river, as seen in previous years. Also, the river weed which acts as feeding ground for the Mute Swans was very sparse and hardly flowered last year, leaving nowhere for the Banded Demoiselle to lay their eggs.
Unfortunately, a dead Mute Swan was found on the river early in 2023 and reported to DEFRA. It was apparently a 9 year old bird which looked very under-weight and had possible succumbed to Bird Flu. However, no feedback was forthcoming on its cause of death – rather surprisingly.
In summary, with so little wildlife being around it is no surprise that there has not been anything to post on the Facebook and RSC Website pages.
We can only hope that things improve over the next 12 months to remedy this.
Chris agreed with Russ’s finding in the reduction of most bird species, including the wren. Richard reported seeing a tree creeper in Dolerw recently.
Fly Larvae monitoring Paula Scott
After a long hiatus when, first river levels were too high, then we were not allowed to go out and survey, we resumed monitoring at our sample location downstream of the Halfpenny Bridge. Results are updated regularly on the RSC web site and fed into the national monitoring system, Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative. Training courses are still occasionally available for anyone wishing to participate in other locations, details will be emailed to members.
Some months ago our sampling equipment failed and fell apart from age and overuse so we were unable to do any more samples. Free equipment has now stopped and we thought we would have to buy it but fortunately an RSC member, Peter Thomas was no longer using his equipment and donated it to us, enabling us to continue for free. Thanks to Pete. We finally managed to do our first sample this year a few days ago. The river levels had been too high previously.
Fly larvae are down considerably from numbers a few years ago and we have found fewer small fish and crayfish when sampling. We also notice the water weed in the sampling area has gone. We reported all this in this month’s results to the River Fly Partnership.
Planned activities for 2023
Recruitment, involvement of young people. We would like to encourage more young people to get involved in our activities and will continue to offer presentations to schools and community groups. If any members have contacts in local youth organizations or schools please spread the word.
A visit to the Mochdre Brook area on 7th April showed that the seedlings are just showing and a hogweed eradication visit will be needed within the next few weeks. Please keep your eyes open and report any infestations near public areas. We will try to make arrangements for a coordinated attack as and when areas needing treatment are identified. Members at this meeting supported this approach and are willing to take part when available.
Newtown Outdoor Festival. This festival organized by Walking Newtown was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. Walking Newtown now plan to finally hold this event on June 3rd and 4th Details of the Festival can be found on the web site at www.newtownoutdoorfestival.uk and the WN Facebook page. One of our members, Paul West, will again give fly casting demonstrations morning and afternoon on both days of the Festival. Last year he spent a total of 26 hours at the event. This will take place on the green space in front of Oriel Davies and Paul will provide all equipment with barriers/boundaries provided by Open Newtown/Oriel Davies.
We need a grappling hook and line to remove shopping trolleys, bikes, etc from the river, about £15-20. The grappling hook will enable us to more safely carry out in-river clean ups, which should begin again soon. We also need to cover our ongoing costs for web site and group insurance. Those present felt that with our current balance and limited calls on our funds it was not appropriate to apply for a council community grant at this time.
Any other business
As a consequence of the lack of bird and plant life in the river the meeting wondered whether fish numbers have also declined. Mike will contact local fisherman to find out.
We discussed whether the lack of bird life is directly due to lack of food. We discussed the possibility of feeding birds along the river at certain times of the year. Richard said that Hafan yr Afon stock suitable feed. We will consider the feasibility of taking this action.
In terms of trying to get more young people involved several ideas were proposed. We could see if Open Newtown through their warden can help, also some of the local schools and alternative education and maybe the college librarian.
We’ll organize a Giant Hogweed event at the Mochdre Brook probably in about 2 weeks’ time, depending on the weather and growth in the meantime.
Although we haven’t seen any crayfish during river fly larvae monitoring we agreed that we should try putting traps in to see if any are present.
Richard suggested that we could buy and set up a webcam feed monitoring wildlife, perhaps around Hafan yr Afon. We discussed the camera traps we already have the difficulties in finding suitable vandal proof locations to use them. We’ll explore this more and talk to Open Newtown about it.
In the summer of 2014, the Custodians set up survey sites along the river to assess the use of the banks and footpaths. We set up 7 sites manned for 2 hours on each of 2 consecutive Saturdays and counted people going in each direction and noting whether they were alone of accompanied, on bikes or walking, with children, etc and generated some very interesting data that was passed on to the council. It was agreed that we should repeat the exercise this summer, perhaps with Open Newtown since it is expected that their activities may well have influenced the use patterns.
Election of committee/trustees
The current list of trustees is:
Kath Wigley– Chair
Charles Rex Shayler - Treasurer
Mike Davies – Secretary
Paula Scott – Scientific Officer
These trustees have all confirmed their willingness to continue, apart from John Wigley who has had to resign due to ill health. We thank him for his good service to the RSC over the years and wish him well.
The meeting closed at 8pm.
12th April, 2023
APPENDIX 1 Financial accounts 2022-2023
River Severn Custodians Accounts
Opening balance March 2022
31st Oct 2022 Domain Chq No 000047 £10.00
balance Oct 31st 2022 £183.61
Elephant & Castle Donation 28th Feb 2023 (On Line) £200.00
Total balance 28th Feb 2023 £300.61
Insurance (reimburse Mike Davies) Chq No 000048 £80.40
New balance 30th March 2023 £303.21