Ayrshire Rivers Trust

Established in 2001, the aim of the Ayrshire Rivers Trust is to promote and support initiatives designed to conserve, enhance and develop Ayrshire rivers and fisheries for the enjoyment of current and future generations; and in doing so preserving valuable natural heritage.

The Trust provides advice, carries out research and teaches practical skills to protect and enhance fresh water rivers and their surrounding habitat. 

In 2012, Ayrshire Rivers Trust was awarded £21, 691 from Carrick Futures towards the Carrick Invasive Species Project (CISP) which ran from April 2012 to March 2014. The two year project funding was developed to include the employment of a project officer, training for volunteers, equipment, vehicle costs, awareness materials and general running costs.

The CISP was designed to raise awareness of the issues associated with ‘invasive not-native species’ (INNS) and to provide people from the local area with the skills required to undertake the sustainable control of these key species long term. Specifically CISP aimed to: raise awareness of INNS issues amongst local communities and landowners; educate and involve the community on how to tackle INNS; train volunteers to be able to take up this task going forward; teach Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam best practice control; monitor and control American mink and water vole populations; and promote biosecurity to prevent the spread of invasive plants. 

The Trust was keen to engage with communities across Carrick and tried to raise awareness of the project in a variety of ways by; developing a website to provide information about the project and upcoming events, designing and distributing leaflets; visiting landowners along the Stinchar and Girvan River to gain support and access to begin work; designing and displaying posters and banners across the town in shops, community centres, local community councils and angling clubs. Articles were published in local papers and Stinchar Valley magazine to promote training courses and recruit new volunteers and the project officer took a stall at various community events to talk to about CISP and encourage people to get involved. 

As well as working with local volunteers, CISP also sought to engage with local schools to teach pupils about the importance of preserving and protecting their natural heritage. The project officer carried out eight visits, reaching 105 pupils in total. Pupils learned about how humans interact with rivers and how to use bugs to test the health of their local river. 

In most cases, pupils enjoyed a visit to their local river to go bug hunting – which brought their lessons to life! The project officer also assisted Girvan Academy with an ‘Introduction to Aquatic Environments’ SQA course which involved delivering lessons and carrying out field work with the four pupils taking the course. 

The project aimed to raise awareness of and bring under control Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed and around forty-five volunteers took up free training opportunities to learn the skills necessary to tackle this. 

Himalayan Balsam was controlled by a mixture of hand-pulling, hand cutting, brush cutting and spraying. ‘Balsam bashing’ events also took place in the evenings and weekends. Japanese Knotweed was controlled by a mixture of spraying and stem injection. 

A biosecurity kit and signage was also produced and distributed to community councils, local angling clubs, syndicates and fishing estates.

Twenty-four mink rafts were built and distributed across the project area to volunteers keen to monitor for mink (and water voles) on their local water course, with some successful captures made by volunteers and game keepers.

In the two years of the project, CISP managed to develop a strong network of volunteers throughout Carrick, leaving communities fully equipped to continue to work towards gaining strategic control of Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed. The Trust engaged with a wide variety of local people including individuals, schools, community councils, clubs and other agencies to galvanise support and built a real sense of community spirit to work together to preserve and look after their natural heritage. 

Gillian McIntyre, CISP project manager said, "The CISP project was a very successful two year project, which engaged with the local communities and volunteers to help achieve the aims of the project. It wold not have been successful without the Project Officer, Meryl Norris coordinating and organising everything, nor without the invaluable help from the volunteers."