A pioneering scheme set up to monitor the health of the tidal Thames will celebrate its first anniversary with a series of exciting foreshore activities.

Thames River Watch encourages members of the public to help collect information about the River – by measuring water quality, quantity and types of litter, and the spread of invasive non-native species. The data collected aims to raise awareness of the threats facing the Thames.

Thames River Watch was launched by river charity Thames21 in February last year. To celebrate its first anniversary, The Big Count – a series of foreshore events in Richmond, Hounslow, Bexley and Tower Hamlets – will be held from 19 – 23 February.

Alice Hall, Thames River Watch Programmes Co-ordinator said: “Year one has proved an amazing success for Thames River Watch, with a team of dedicated volunteers obtaining important data on the state of the Thames. Never before have volunteers been enabled to gather data right from the water’s edge, in this way, providing a unique insight into the river environment. I’m really excited about our first Big Count event, which will set the baseline for these events in future years”.

“The commitment of volunteers in gathering data in year one has been remarkable, and we have learnt much about the Thames which will help us to shape the project as we move forward”.

“Over the four days of the Big Count, an unprecedented number of volunteers will participate across the length and breadth of the tidal Thames, shining a spotlight on the issues that the river faces today.”

Activities across the four days will enable volunteers to access the foreshore to help with the clean-up and monitoring operation. Staff and experienced volunteers will be on hand to guide volunteers, demonstrate monitoring techniques and explain how the data will be used. Families and children are welcome to take part.

Thames River Watch is sponsored by Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km sewer which will help tackle the millions of tonnes of sewage which pour into the River Thames each year.

Phil Stride, head of Thames Tideway Tunnel, said: “Every year tens of millions of tonnes of raw sewage overflows into the tidal River Thames. This will be tackled by the Thames Tideway Tunnel when it is completed, but it is vital that we encourage people to take an interest in the health of the river and to highlight the threats it faces. Our goal is for a cleaner, healthier river which people want to reconnect with, so we are thrilled to continue supporting the valuable work of River Watch.”

The Big Count coincides with a week of waterway related activities which take place across London and beyond as part of Action Source to Sea initiated by the Marine Litter Evidence Group. Partner groups, including Thames21, the Marine Conservation Society, The Wandle Trust, Canal and River Trust and Cheshire Wildlife Trust will monitor litter at waterside locations across the week, helping to establish how litter ends up in the river and flows out to sea.

For more information on the Big Count events and activities please go to: http://www.thames21.org.uk/events/category/thames-river-watch/

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