My accidental 'baptism' in the River Wandle: Stories from a urban river clean-up

Could angling participation be linked to cleaner rivers in the UK?

I’d venture that most anglers would answer this question with a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, I’d love to have a pound for every time I’ve heard the adage that anglers are “the eyes and ears” of our waterways. However, I’d also wager that many in the non-angling world would struggle to connect angling participation to improvements to the health of aquatic environments…

One component of Substance’s angling research project involves an investigation of the ways in which angling can contribute to wider social benefits – such as the community benefits associated with developing and maintaining clean, healthy river systems. We’ve already collected some interesting data in this area of the research. For example, findings from our angler questionnaire in 2009 reported that 25% of the questionnaire respondents (n=593) had “contributed to environmental or aquatic habitat conservation projects” (see the participation interim report at for more information).

Our interest in investigating the relationship between angling and environmental health also underpins the research work Substance is doing with ‘Trout in the Town’ (, a programme run by the Wild Trout Trust ( At present, Trout in the Town encompasses eight projects in England and Scotland, each of which has an active interest in improving the health of a local urban river. Anglers have been, and continue to be, heavily involved in all Trout in the Town projects.

Aside from collecting headline information about what Trout in the Town is achieving, Substance is working closely with two specific Trout in the Town projects: the River Wandle (London); and the River Goyt (Greater Manchester & Derbyshire). The scope of our research work with these projects includes attending project meetings, conducting interviews with project members and a small amount of on-site participant observation.

Most recently, I attended – as an active volunteer participant – a cleanup event on the River Wandle. It was an opportunity for me to experience, first-hand, how these events work, and to witness the sort of positive outcomes that can be achieved via a single day event. It also was a chance to think critically about the role of recreational angling as a catalyst for increased community awareness of, and engagement with, local aquatic environments.

Read about my experience at the River Wandle Clean-Up by opening the attached PDF document below

Event Details:

Where was it?

The clean-up event was held along a stretch of the River Wandle accessed from Ravensbury Terrace, at Earlsfield in South London. Location maps can be found in the attached PDF document.

Who was involved?

The event was coordinated by the Wandle Trust, “an environmental charity [formed in 2001 and] dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of South London's River Wandle and its catchment” (; in partnership with Thames 21, also an environmental charity focused on the health of waterways but with interests right across London (; and the London 2012 Changing Places programme, which encourages volunteers to get out and transform local areas that will feature as part of the 2012 Olympic Games (

While the Wandle Trust has a regular schedule of clean-up events, this particular event had ties with the Changing Places programme and the WATER project - an EU initiative with ties to the Association of Rivers Trust (

Erica Evans (Clean-Up Coordinator), Dr Bella Davies (Development Officer) and Theo Pike (Chairman of Trustees) represented the Wandle Trust at the event, while Thames 21 was represented by Alice Hall and Ben Fenton.

My Impressions - Wandle Clean Up Event.pdf850.2 KB