From playing in its cool shallows as a child, to witnessing its unforgiving torrents powering through the valley during spate times – the memories and observations of the River Sid from the humans who live nearby are many and varied.

The River Sid Catchment Group is collating data from a community consultation which ran throughout June as part of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Festival, and will be using them to inform a plan to support the River Sid and its surrounding landscapes.

As well as the rich, anecdotal stories we have gathered, members of the public were invited to identify issues that they prioritise for the catchment. Promoting clean water, river ecology (species, ecosystems and processes), reducing peak water flow and bringing migratory fish back to the river were some of the community’s top priorities.

We also had some fun by the river itself. There is a community of small creatures living in our river- dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies and many other species spend their early life under water before emerging and taking flight. We collected, identified and counted these tiny creatures which were then safely returned to their rocky homes. People were shown how chemicals in pet flea treatments can kill these river insects when dogs go into the river.

We experimented to see the impact of different land cover on water run-off with hard surfaces such as roads and housing areas causing the quickest flow and most polluted runoff. Although this was just a bit of fun, it shows the importance of land cover with roots - such as woodland and meadows - which slow the flow of water, keeping our much-needed soil in place and acting as natural flood management.

There was an excellent response to our community questionnaire which showed how human residents of the Sid Valley view nature - with 97 per cent of respondents stating that they care about the natural world and enjoy local wildlife. The questionnaire gave us insight around the sort of action the community would like to see happening within the catchment with the planting of, and greater protection for existing trees and hedgerows coming out on top. Thankfully this is something that is already happening as a committed team of volunteers help Sidmouth Arboretum plant trees and hedgerows throughout the valley year after year.

One important outcome was learning about some of the difficulties faced by the farming community when it comes to land management that is nature friendly, sustainable and regenerative. We have already begun working with some farmers and landowners to explore natural flood management methods.

“What does it all mean?” you might be asking. We will be using information from the consultation to build on our ‘draft’ catchment plan which will be finalised and published this summer. The plan will include the vision to improve freshwater and riparian(riverside) habitats, retain water (and soil) and encourage migratory fish such as sea trout and even salmon back to our wonderful river.

All this will be done with the support of volunteers and we thank all of you who have put your name forward, or who already work hard to monitor the water quality and invertebrates in the Sid. If you would like to have a say, or sign up to be a volunteer, please email or find us on Facebook at the River Sid Catchment Group page.