Rewilding, River restoration, Trout, Urban River Toolkit, Wild Trout Trust, Writing

Power to the people: The Wild Trout Trust’s new Urban River Toolkit

The end of last month saw the culmination of much of my Trout in the Town work so far: holding the Wild Trout Trust’s latest Urban Conclave, and launching our new Urban River Toolkit.

When Merlin Unwin published Trout in Dirty Places, my guide to urban river fishing and restoration, in 2012, it was everything we wanted in terms of celebrating these mostly-forgotten waterways, and profiling the groups who were already looking after some of them.

Naturally, I’d made sure to include as much as possible about riverfly monitoring, community cleanups, weir removals, tree kickers, and health and safety precautions – pointing people towards improvements they could make on their own rivers. But I still felt there might be something even more detailed, the flipside to all that fishing stuff, which wouldn’t necessarily interest a general angling readership: all the nitty-gritty, hard-knocks experience of running an urban river project, year in and year out, a kind of super-niche operating manual in its own right.

Off and on, I pondered this for the next few years. And then I joined the Wild Trout Trust, with a brief to develop urban river projects across the south of England. The Trust already had a solid suite of urban river restoration guidelines, written by my colleague Paul Gaskell in 2010, but we’d all learned a lot more since then. Was this the perfect opportunity to bring these ideas together?

It was. And the result is WTT’s new Trout in the Town Urban River Toolkit: 98 pages of practical, empowering suggestions for local people to help their urban rivers to recover from centuries of abuse (or simply being overlooked and under-appreciated in recent years).

As you might expect from the combined experience of Paul and me, the Toolkit includes nearly 20 years of tried and tested guidance, including:

  • Understanding urban rivers and their surroundings
  • Organising river cleanups and other events
  • Inspiring and motivating volunteers
  • Funding and fundraising
  • Practical aspects of running an urban river group
  • Exciting project ideas
  • Case studies from successful Trout in the Town groups
  • Getting your group accredited as an official Trout in the Town chapter
  • And much, much more…

Paul’s massive expertise in digital publishing has meant that we’ve been able to publish the Toolkit in a truly 21st century way: as a free-to-download pdf from the WTT website (plus helpful appendices) as well as a £15.99 print-on-demand version via Amazon, for those who prefer to study a hard copy, with all proceeds to WTT.

Thanks to the Mersey Rivers Trust, we were also able to launch the Toolkit at an Urban Conclave in Stalybridge, on the banks of the River Tame, which featured in Trout in Dirty Places, and has garnered so much notoriety in recent months as one of the most heavily microplastic-polluted rivers in the world. Delegates from urban river projects across the country gathered to hear presentations from urban river experts like Mike Duddy, Simon Ogden, Mike Forty and Joe Pecorelli, and they all went home with copies of the Urban River Toolkit (and maybe Balsam Bashing too).

So what’s next, now I’ve scratched this long-time itch?

First, a trip to talk to Trout Unlimited Maryland about Trout in Dirty Places, the Wandle project, and all things Trout in the Town. And then, I hope, lots more enquiries about the Urban River Toolkit, and new urban river projects to start thinking about.

If any of this has inspired you to start improving your local urban river, please get in touch!