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Search on for river bellwethers; TONY HENDERSON reports on how the search for signs of non-polluted rivers and streams, such as water crowfoot, will provide the Northumberland National Park Authority with a benchmark for the future.

Byline: TONY HENDERSON

RESCUE volunteers set off on a search mission which - for once - was a sedate affair. Instead of urgently looking for the lost or injured in remote areas of Northumberland National Park, the team were tracking down plants.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team took part in the hunt for water crowfoot plants, which are an indicator of unpolluted streams and rivers.

Other park volunteers also joined in the extensive survey of the locations of the aquatic plant, which is related to the buttercup.

Abi Mansley, programmes officer at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: "The water crowfoot survey is one of the activities we have carried out as part of our drive to enhance nature within the national park.

"In addition to looking for water crowfoot, other things we plan to monitor include the range of the mountain bumblebee and black grouse, the number of high-quality hay meadow sites and wax cap fungi grassland sites.

"The River Coquet has long been renowned as a great place to see water crowfoot, alongside rivers and streams in the Tweed catchment in the north of the park, but the data we had was out of date. The aim of this initial survey is to collect new, more precise and up-to-date data and to set a benchmark from which we can measure future changes."

Technically difficult sections of the River Coquet, downstream from Thrum Mill and between Shillmoor and Linnbriggs, were surveyed by a water-trained team from Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue. Paul Freeman, deputy team leader, said: "We were delighted to be able to assist Northumberland National Park's conservation team and volunteers with the water crowfoot survey.

"It's very important for the mountain rescue team to work collaboratively and maintain good relationships with external organisations and agencies as it not only helps to raise awareness of what we do, but it is also a great opportunity for us to gain additional experience and enhance our training in areas that we might not ordinarily venture into."

Andrew Miller, head of programmes and conservation at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: "The water crowfoot survey is an example of what can be achieved through pooling our resources and working collaboratively.

"Northumberland National Park is home to some of the cleanest rivers in England, which is something we are incredibly proud of.

"The national park covers the head waters of several of the rivers. Low levels of pollutants enter the water here due to the type of farm-ing, few roads and little development.

"This makes it a haven for wildlife that need clean water, such as migrating salmon and otters, as well as plant life like water crowfoot.

"Maintaining and protecting our natural environment is one of the park's core objectives and this wouldn't be possible without the help of our volunteers, friends and supporters.

"On behalf of the conservation team, I'd like to thank the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and all of the volunteers who took part in the survey."

Low levels of pollutants enter the water hereAndrew Miller

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Members of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team searching the River Coquet for water crowfoot Handout pic

Paul Freeman, deputy team leader at Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team with some water crowfoot.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 4, 2017
Words:543
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