The objective of the River team is to continue to preserve and enhance the health and wildlife value of the river and the embankments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, but whilst protecting the fragile ecological system of the river and its dependants.
The River Sid is one of Devon’s smallest and most compact rivers, being only some 6 miles in length. It rises in Crowpits Covert (OS grid reference SY 138963), on the Ottery St Mary side of the Hare and Hounds, at a height of 620 feet above sea level. The river has a rich biodiversity and serves a predominantly rural catchment before it flows through the village of Sidbury, and then crosses under A3052 at Packhorse Bridge in Sidford. The river is joined by the Roncombe stream in Sidbury, the Snod brook in Sidford and the Woolbrook in Sidmouth before out falling to the sea at The Ham.
SVA is responsible for the west bank of the river from Gilcrist Field in the north, down to the southern end of Margaret‘s Meadow just before the confluence of the Woolbrook – a length of some 800m. The west bank is almost entirely wooded over this length with many mature deciduous trees, and an informal footpath accessed through three gates from the SVA land.
The remains exist of an old Victorian pond adjacent to Gilcrist Field. Over the years the original pond has been backfilled and so is now only a small shallow “doughnut” shaped ditch, but which has a small island that appears to contain a predominance of wildlife.
The level of the pond is such that a gravity connection from the river is not practicable so appropriate planting is being considered. In order to maximise the ecological benefits of an established pond at this location, the SVA is in the process of evaluating proposals to enhance the pond and its shallow margins.
There is an ongoing problem with invasive species including Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed, both of which have been identified within the river catchment.
A programme tackling the balsam infestation in the upper reaches of the river Sid is in hand in order to mitigate the re-seeding of the plant downstream. In the early part of the year, a joint initiative was undertaken with Sidmouth in Bloom where we aimed at trying to reduce the spread of this invasive species. Himalayan balsam grows in proximity to damp river areas, and unfortunately the River Sid has over 50% of its length infested. A particularly bad area is at the rear of the Rugby club at Sidford. Although the Sid Vale Association has responsibility for some 800m of river, there are only a few stands of balsam, and these have generally been removed by members wherever possible. We must all be vigilant in reporting and then eradicating these species whenever identified.
To find out more about Himalayan balsam and how to deal with it click here
The river is home to numerous species of fish – including salmon and trout, which in turn attracts otters, dippers and kingfishers, all of which can be observed within the beautiful river margins.
Fish require a succession of different habitats in order to survive and reproduce as they progress through the various stages of their life cycles. Suitable spawning substrates (such as clean, loose gravel for salmon and trout) are essential for successful breeding. Fortunately the Sid is generally unencumbered by sediments and pollutants and is so capable of hosting good fish populations, with our varying range of habitats.
A survey in 2013 identified the river to have a population of both migratory and non-migratory fish. The former included Atlantic salmon, European eel and sea trout, along with the more static lamprey, brown trout, bullhead and others.
However there are a number of impassable fish barriers which do significantly impede the free movement of fish upstream. The most significant of these is School Weir which is situated at the southern end of the Byes and is some 3 metres high. Since 2007 local volunteers, led by the SVA river warden, have carried out regular “fish rescues” over a period of weeks each autumn. In autumn 2015 a report was received that fish were trying to jump up the weir. In order to assist their passage up river, a number of fish “rescues” were arranged whereby fish were carefully netted below the weir and then transported (by wheely-bin!!) to the higher level above the weir, for them to continue their journey up stream to spawn. We netted 93 larger fish including three salmon (two female + one male), along with 90 sea and brown trout, and numerous smaller elvers and younger fish.