[singlepic id=557 w=400 h=300 float=middle] To the passer-by, the River Thame is a gentle reed-bordered stream meandering through a peaceful countryside. It is particularly lovely as it passes through our area, from Thame to Eyethrope; a beauty that is readily enjoyed on the circular walk between Cuddington and Nether Winchendon. But all is not as well as it seems. The River is subject to occasional pollution from agriculture or the sewage treatment works at Aylesbury, and as it is a small river passing through highly developed countryside and towns, the results of pollution can be intense.
Over the past few years, I have roamed along its banks in our area, taking photographs and learning about the river and its wildlife. Each year from May onwards, it has been fascinating seeing the different species of dragonflies appear and change as the summer progressed, and this summer looked particularly good after a late start and a couple of poor years.
However in late July, during the hot spell, everything changed. At Eyethrope, I found two very large dead fish on the surface and I noticed a lot of little black flies covering the river. Since then I have seen virtually no dragonflies whatsoever, which has been disappointing and very sad: when crossing the foot bridges over the River, you would normally see banded demoiselles dancing over the river during the summer months, but these are now completely missing. As you can see from this image, a lot of other wildlife, such as fish, have been badly affected such that the fish and herons disappeared from the river after the event.
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The cause of this sudden degradation seems be discharge from the sewage treatment works at Rabans Lane, Aylesbury, which is run by Thames Water. As a result of my alerting them, the Environment Agency have been investigating and it now seems that there have been some severe problems at the works that should have been avoidable with due care.
I am horrified by the terrible effect the pollution has had, and also that the business responsible for it was apparently happy to keep quiet about it until the whistle was blown. This indicates that some of those that make their money from being by the river are much more concerned about their profit margins than they are about the natural world that depends upon. A cynic might say that this shouldn’t have been a surprise.
A lot of what we love about this place revolves around nature: the flowers, birds, trees, insects, as well as a sweet river that has carved our valley and brightens our lives. If we don’t show concern and act when carelessness and greed degrade the land, are we not then party to the loss of what we love? In my view, this is more important than the placement of wind turbines, and across the county, is more important than HS2: the problem is that it is far less obvious.
What do you think? I’d like to know if you think this is important or not and why.
Also, we are starting a campaign to Save The River Thame and aim to get going with a seminar during the spring of 2014.
Please email me at doug@doug-kennedy.com, or drop a note through my letterbox.