Dipping delight at the 2021 Rodden Meadow picnic

Learn about what we got up to at the 2021 Rodden Meadow picnic.

We were very happy to welcome lots of people to the Friends of the River Frome stand at the Rodden Meadow picnic this year. The rain held off (just!), the musicians played, and kids and adults alike got up close and personal with the river Frome and its inhabitants.

This year our stand featured hand-crafted bird boxes, a stuffed otter, lots of brilliant wildlife photos and of course trays of critters fresh from the water.

What’s in the water?

The brilliant Jess, an aquatic ecologist from the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust, was on hand with nets, trays, guides and expertise to help us discover what lies beneath the surface of the Frome.

River enthusiasts of all ages wriggled into their waders to go river dipping – where you take a quick dip in the river to see what creatures you can find. We did kick tests – you hold your net just behind your foot, kick the river bed and any wildlife should shoot into the net to be examined – to see what critters were lurking under the surface.

Jess from Bristol Avon Rivers Trust demonstrates how to do a kick test.

River dipping and kick tests help us judge the health of the river. What we want to see is a good amount of riverflies – these flies are vital for healthy ecosystems and if their populations dip then it could indicate pollution or other environmental problems.

Learn more about riverflies

Lots found its way into the nets including little shrimp, fish and different riverflies, including mayfly larvae (a great sign of a healthy river). But sadly there were also lots of signal crayfish, an invasive species which damage river banks and eat native species. Good food for otters (and us!) but not so good for the river.

Getting hands on with a signal crayfish

Thank you!

Thanks to the Frome Festival organisers for putting on a great day and to Jess from BART for helping us all get to know the river (and to Banger the dog for his diligent retrieval of stones and sticks). And a very big thanks to everyone who came along, jumped into (sometimes damp) waders and chatted about the river. It’s only together that we can improve and protect the river Frome and your support makes all the difference.

Remember if you want to support events like this and other citizen science projects you can become an official friend of the river Frome for just £15 a year.

Buy a hand-crafted birdhouse and support the river

It’s getting to the time of year where birds of all shapes and sizes are looking for somewhere snug to nest. Lucky for them, Tony H. one talented member of our committee, has been hard at work building some remarkable bird boxes. And lucky for the river, he’s splitting the proceeds between Friends of the River Frome and the Children’s Hospice, South West. 

So, if you’d like to help our feathered friends and the river Frome, and get yourself a beautiful hand-crafted, unique creation – now’s your chance.

Some of Tony’s smaller creations.

What types of bird boxes are there?

Tony’s boxes come in all shapes and sizes from simple boxes suitable for small birds like robins and blue tits around £4 or £5, to larger boxes for birds like owls and kestrels, costing around £70 to £85.

Room for all the feathery family!

With the larger bird boxes Tony is happy to deliver within a 10 mile radius and place them in a tree for a small extra fee. He’ll be making these first come, first served until he runs out of time or materials! Just get in touch to commission your own.

How can I buy one?

Please get in touch with Tony H. to choose your bird box and arrange a collection or delivery. Drop him an email at anthony-house@sky.com.

Beavers on the Somerset River Frome

A small family of beavers has taken up residence in Rodden Nature Reserve.

A welcome, and increasingly visible addition, to Frome’s wildlife is the Eurasian Beaver – a small family has recently taken up residence at the Rodden Nature Reserve, which is owned by Asda and managed by a management committee of local experts. They are doing their best not to disturb the beavers and ask everyone else to do the same.  One part of the reserve is currently open to the public until 1 March, and reopens on 1 August 2021. The area next to Asda is permanently closed to the public as a protected wildlife refuge. Visitors are asked to respect the visiting restrictions. 

Having moved in and built a home the beavers are now felling some of the trees; this is mainly for food, for extending their lodge and building dams. There is no shortage of trees on the Reserve so their activity is not a problem; instead they are creating new habitat for wildlife as well as reducing flooding and pollution downstream.  You can find out lots more at: Beavers | Somerset Wildlife Trust  

Beavers are fantastic ‘ecosystem engineers’ and they are being reintroduced across Britain with the blessing of governments, to provide cost-effective ‘natural flood management – evidence collected from Devon and Cornwall’s beaver projects proves that letting beavers ‘do the work’ is far cheaper than sending in the diggers and contractors to restore wetlands and slow the flow.

Beavers build dams that hold water back and create nature-rich wetlands that help to reduce water pollution and improve river quality. They benefit fish, water voles, riverflies and many other species and are a keystone species of river and wetland ecosystems. Having beavers back is fully in line with the Frome River Strategy.

As beavers return to our area, Friends of the River Frome is part of a wider group of organisations, including the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Beaver Trust, developing a beaver management framework, based on experiences in Devon and elsewhere. Having this in place will be necessary to give confidence to landowners, land managers and the public that beaver activity will be monitored and interventions made to deal with any potential problems before they arise. 

If you’d like to play a part in supporting these efforts, and other projects to protect and improve the river Frome, you can become a friend of the river. Membership to Friends of the River Frome (FORF) is £15 a year and all profits go towards important river projects.

Beaver FAQs 

How many beavers are there?
Currently there is one small family in residence.

Can I see the beavers?
Beavers are largely nocturnal animals, and they are resident on the area of the Reserve that has no public access with only limited views from the bridge to Edmund Park. 

Will beavers cause flooding? 
The beavers are unlikely to cause flooding that will put at risk roads and properties in the area; instead they help to reduce flooding downstream, which must be the main worry for those living near the Reserve, in central Frome, or indeed for Asda.  Most of the flooding on the A362 adjacent to the Reserve comes from springs that rise from the cemetery, other land at Easthill and from the river when it is exceptionally high.  Building houses at Easthill would be more likely to increase flood risk in this area than the beavers. 

Beavers destroy trees, but many trees have been planted or grow near rivers. How can trees be protected?
A simple wire mesh around a tree will deter beavers. The majority of trees will regrow if they are felled by beavers. Many stretches of our river will benefit from having mature alder trees felled by beavers – and they will re-grow – many have not been coppiced for over 40 years. At this age alders are vulnerable to a fungal disease and also liable to topple over, pulling part of the river bank as they fall.  Beaver-coppicing reduces shading of the water, enabling  an increase in aquatic and emergent plants that provide habitat for fishes and aquatic invertebrates. Fallen tree trunks also provide good ‘woody debris’ habitat for river life and can modify river flow, of benefit to  fishes such as wild brown trout. 

Where can I learn more about beavers?
There are some good videos on The Beaver Trust Youtube Channel that showcase some of the benefits of beavers experienced in the beaver projects in Cornwall and elsewhere.