River Maintenance

Mains Burn Clear up Project, River Avon, LINLITHGOW

One of the main priorities for the River Avon is the ongoing management of habitat, including the management and control of invasive plant species along the river banks

Clearing debris and vegetation from the Mains Burn at Linlithgow was identified as one of the top ten Priority Actions within the River Avon Management Plan. The Mains Burn is the first major tributary on the Avon and runs from NS988780 at Linlithgow Sewage Works to approximately NS994758 near Preston House. This project would open a considerable length of prime water as a spawning area for migratory fish.

Above Littlemill Bridge, the burn runs through arable land and has very few obstructions to the passage of spawning fish. The pilot project concentrated on the more heavily obstructed length between the main stem of the Avon at NS 98870 and the Littlemill Bridge at NS 986781.

Lower reaches of Mains Burn

One of the major advantages to tackling this section was that there are only two landowners involved. One being West Lothian Council, and the other being the farmer, Jamie Smart at .Balderston Farm.

Both landowners have already been approached and had agreed in principle to the work. There have also been initial consultations with Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and they had no objections in principle to the work as it would have minimal impact on the watercourse. Written confirmation was sought from both landowners and all relevant Statutory Bodies.

The River Avon Federation commissioned a professional Arboriculturist to carry out the clearance work over a 4 to 5 day period in early Autumn 2011, using funding obtained from the River Forth Fisheries Board. The work was limited to cutting up and removing fallen trees and obstacles over the burn. Standing trees were not felled and any arisings were simply stacked on the river bank to assist the biodiversity of the area.

In addition to the professional labour, Linlithgow Angling Club, as part of the Federation, provided voluntary labour to remove and stack cut timber, and acted as Project Managers to obtain quotes and all necessary permissions.

The contract for the clearance work was awarded to Lothian Tree and Landscaping Specialists from Humbie. The improvement work was carried out in reasonable good weather while the burn was at low level between 29th September and 4th October, 2011.

Record Photographs – October 2011

BEFORE – Looking downstream (west) to show fallen trees.

Work commenced with clearing access routes into the Mains Burn using brush cutters.

The contractors then worked upstream from the confluence with the Avon back to the Bridge at Fishers’ Brae. Obstructions, obstacles and litter within the burn were removed first and wood stacked above high water level. On the last day, overhanging broken branches were removed by climbing the trees as required.

In all, a length of the Mains Burn of approximately 300m was cleared of in-stream obstacles and a considerable amount of fallen timber cleared from the burn, opening up the burn and allowing sunlight to penetrate. The flow rate increase considerably during the period of the works, and it was noted that deposits of silt were already being dispersed downstream.

After – upstream

After – showing removal of Obstructions and clearance of fallen timber – Downstream

Overhanging timber and branches were allowed to remain in places to provide shade and shelter to any fish. In particular approximately 25m of overhanging branches were left at the confluence with the Avon in an attempt to deter upstream passage by cormorants and saw-billed ducks.

During the improvement works a significant number of trout of different year classes were seen in the deeper pools. The Weir Pool was discovered to be almost 1m deep!

Fallen timber within the Burn had been acting as “snags” to catch numerous items of litter,

AFTER – Looking upstream (east) at Weir Pool.

BEFORE – Looking upstream at the Old Weir Pool.

ranging from the ubiquitous plastic bottles, through carpets from cars to children’s car seats and precast concrete manhole covers. These were removed above flood level, with the intention of completely removing such debris as part of a co-ordinated “litter pick” in Spring 2012.

Cut timber was stacked above flood level to produce additional habitat for invertebrates and amphibians. In addition to fallen timber, four trees were climbed to allow the removal of damaged limbs which were overhanging the water and could create a future blockage, if they fell.

Thanks are due to Jamie Smart of Balderston Farm, and to West Lothian Council for permission to carry out the work and to Forth District Salmon Fisheries Board for providing the grant funding.

Actual cost came in exactly on budget and the limited aims of the project were achieved. In the year since the work was carried out, the Mains Burn has altered its course slightly, but significant improvements have been seen in the depth of the water, the creation of some pools and the cleaning of gravel beds. Trout fry have been seen in most of the improved stretch, but so far electrofishing has failed to find any salmon fry or parr.

Spring Clean April 2012

To continue with the cleaning up of the Mains Burn and its environs, LAC decided to register as part of the National Spring Clean for 2012.

The Club contacted West Lothian Council who agreed to provide equipment, black bags and to arrange a pick up of rubbish from a central point. It was determined to spread the litter pick over two days, Wednesday 18th April and Saturday 21st April 2012, to allow as many members to participate as possible.

Scottish Water agreed to allow us to park at the entrance to the Linlithgow WWTW and to leave all the collected litter on their land until collected by WLC. In addition to six LAC members, Scottish Water allowed six of their employees, to take the day off from their normal duties and help with the litter pick.

The target area was Mains Burn from Fisher’s Brae to the confluence with the Avon. We filled a tonne bag with some 30 or so full bags of rubbish and had carpets, cones, child’s ride-on buggy, cycle tyres, sledge, plastic pipe, car seat etc plenty surrounding it.

In the evening, six members extended the litter pick from Fisher’s Brae up to the culvert below the motorway.

On Saturday 21st, nine LAC members turned out, clearing sections of the Mains Burn between the rugby pitches and the Aldi / Homebase / Linlithgow Bridge Primary School areas. Another significant haul of rubbish including shopping trolley, central heating radiators, iron fencing, children’s scooters, a shovel, the usual bags of paper/plastic and a ‘keep off the grass’ sign!

Overall the Spring Clean had a very positive effect with an article in the Linlithgow Gazette, including picture, and acknowledgment of the Club by other local community groups. All this was in addition to the primary aim of vastly improving the environment of the Mains Burn.