Griff Rhys Jones’ BBC One series Rivers, which ends on Sunday August 23, features the comedian and presenter travelling up some of the UK’s most iconic rivers with his trusty companion Cadbury the Labrador. The show pulled in around five million viewers for each show during July and August, and overtook big hitters like Holby City, The Bill and Big Brother.
Local river groups across the UK are now preparing for a wave of interest from people inspired by the show who want to learn more about the waterways on their doorstep and the wildlife they support.
This increased awareness also comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s new plans for the way we care for our rivers at the end of the year. A partnership of organisations including the RSPB, WWF UK, the Association of Rivers Trusts and the Angling Trust recently launched the Our Rivers campaign which is putting pressure on the Government to make sure the plans are robust and far reaching.
Author and Our Rivers campaign supporter Daniel Start, who has written a book about wild swimming in the UK, has seen the number of people who visit his website wildswimming.co.uk double since the programme launched.
“Since the series first aired there has been a massive increase in traffic on the wild swimming website as people become more keen to get out there to make the most of our lakes and rivers,” he said.
“It’s great that there has been a surge in interest but we need to safeguard the future of our waterways for future generations to swim, paddle and enjoy.”
“A lot of people have been talking about the show,“ continued Arlin Rickard, director of the Association of Rivers Trusts.
“It’s certainly generated a lot of discussion about the way rivers are changing and has really helped articulate some of the arguments about how we use our rivers, which is fantastic news.
“We all have an interest in what happens to our waterways and we all impact on it every day from the water that comes through our taps to water we flush down the loo. I think it is brilliant that people are now getting interested in their local river and want to find out more about how they can get involved.”
Rob Cunningham, head of water policy at the RSPB, said: “Many rivers and wetlands in the UK are under threat from pollution, over abstraction and the effects of poor town planning – however the impact this is having on wildlife is too often ignored.
“But thanks to the exposure the issue has got from TV shows like the Rivers series and a lot of hard work done in raising awareness by conservationists, volunteers, anglers and wildlife lovers, people are now beginning to take a real interest.
“The Government will soon be setting out how it plans to care for the UK’s waterways in the future and the Our Rivers campaign will be pushing ministers hard to ensure that it delivers for all UK river wildlife including otters, water voles, kingfishers and more than 30 species of fish.”
1. The Government is set to publish River Basin Management Plans for the 11 river basin districts of England and Wales as part of the European Water Framework Directive at the end of the year. These plans will set out how the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) deals with pollution, abstraction and other issues affecting rivers and wetlands.
2. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires us to meet ‘good status’ in all water bodies by 2015 (with extensions permitted to 2021 or 2027 under some circumstances).
3. A major new assessment of the health of the rivers and lakes of England and Wales was completed in 2008. It found that less than 20% of them are currently at ‘good status’. Major improvements in sewage treatment in England and Wales over the last 20 years have bought real benefits, but the health of many rivers and lakes is still in long-term decline, with threats from pollution, abstraction and habitat destruction exacerbated by a range of growing pressures such as agricultural intensification, urbanisation and climate change.
4. Volunteering to help keep local rivers clean, healthy and accessible is becoming more and more popular across the country. Thames 21 is just one river volunteer charity which runs clean up events and discovery days in and around London and it has more than 4,000 volunteers on its books. For a full list of local river groups visit www.associationofriverstrusts.org.uk/locations