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Avon River Champions is an informal network of community groups within the River Avon catchment from Dartmoor to Burgh Island. It includes all the parishes in the catchment – South Brent, Loddiswell, Aveton Gifford, Bigbury and Bantham & Thurlestone. It held its first meeting at Heron Valley Café in May attended by 17 representatives of groups such as Save the River Avon (200 members) and Aune Conservation Association (300 members). Both groups have several well-known riparian landowners and farmers within their membership. 


The rising concern about the state of our rivers was top of the political agenda in the South Hams during the recent District Council elections and it is anticipated that this will be a hot potato for the next general Election as well.


Avon River Champions is part of the larger network: 

South Devon River Champions which was showcased at the Devon County Show (18,19, 20 May) in the Ocean Discovery Zone thanks to Juliette Jackson of Seadream Education. Fund raising to support landowners wanting to engage in wildlife restoration and run-off remediation works and supporting their projects with volunteer teams will be a priority of the Avon River Champions. 

By getting to know more about what is happening in neighbouring parishes, the Avon River Champions aim to develop collaborative catchment-wide projects which follow the example of the Yealm Estuary to Moor project in the Yealm catchment. Peter Brown, coordinator for the YEM community group, explains that “Yealm Estuary to Moor is a cooperative of community environmental organisations within the catchment with the common objective of restoring existing habitats and creating new ones to form wildlife corridors from the joined up fragments. They do this in partnership with professional NGOs (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Westcountry Rivers Trust and Devon Wildlife Trust) and the support of the riparian parishes, the latter being primarily concerned about sewage discharge into the river. All the parish councils in the Yealm catchment have coordinated their efforts through the River Yealm Water Quality Group with representatives from all parishes and chaired by Brixton parish council. The community group and riparian PCs work together in support of common aims”. Peter says “It is vital that landowners and farmers are approached by known and trusted professional intermediaries who can advise on making space for nature on their land without loss of income. We have recruited landowners in the Yealm catchment following farming workshops organised by FWAG. We provide funding to enable this to happen and will continue to fund habitat restoration works and provide volunteers in support”.


The first step is to recruit more citizen scientists in the Avon catchment to support the work of Westcountry Rivers Trust and inform our parish councils of the pollution incidents in our tributaries that are leading to the poor health of the River Avon. We have 30 places in June on a training for citizen scientists from Jack Middleton, Westcountry River Trusts community engagement officer. (see Bigbury Drums for the date). The sampling kits cost £30 (enough for twelve monthly samples at one sampling point) and the training session costs £350 for a group of thirty. Parish Councils will be approached to fund this vital work. 


Contact 07908 525663 if you would like to know more or to book a place. The Avon is 23 miles long and sampling points need to be about 1.75 miles apart. The Tributaries also need to be monitored.



Compost is a magic potion for good gardening.  It enables gardeners to produce amazing fruit and vegetables which not only saves us money but brings with it a sense of achievement and pride in being able to ‘provide’ for the family table and share the surplus with friends and neighbours. There are several solutions to the withdrawal of the free collection of your old brown bins by SHDC. 

  • Embrace the opportunity to process your garden and kitchen waste into good quality compost - at home.

  • Re-use your brown bin to make a worm-bin or compost bin.

  • Explore opportunities to develop a community compost scheme supported by equipment and grants from SHDC

  • Pay SHDC £49 a year to collect your brown bin waste every two weeks.

The gardening challenge is - can we all improve our composting skills and make it unnecessary for SHDC to burn fossil fuels in those large collection trucks in order to come and collect our garden waste. There are several ways in which you can recycle organic waste into growing medium, mulches, and liquid or solid fertilisers.  


  • Pile composting - layers of ‘green’ & “brown’ materials in a three sided, well ventilated bin, often made out of pallets. 

  • Plastic ‘dalek’ bin with lid and an opening at the base to remove the ready-compost. Worms can be added to this type of compost bin to help aerate the compost.  Old brown bins can be converted to this type of compost unit.

  • Vermi-liquid fertiliser & solid vermi-fertiliser production units - turning small quantities of chopped kitchen waste into liquid fertiliser or solid fertiliser using red wriggler worms to produce lots of worm poo. 

  • Hot composting - an insulated box with an outer wooden frame to protect from wind damage and prevent rats getting inside - to recycle food waste and perennial weeds.  Temperature probes are used to ensure their management keeps temperatures above 60 deg C. 

  • Produce compost teas to use as liquid fertilisers.

If you want to learn about composting or have skills to share - or both -  please join Bigbury Gardeners Whats App group - message 07980 525663 to join.  This invitation is open to neighbouring parishes too - Ringmore, Kingston, AG and Modbury. 


  • Invite other ‘Bigbury’ Gardeners to see, smell and feel your compost, solve problems and share successes.  Mulled wine in the garden talking about compost - heaven?  

  • Share equipment such as chopping machines, compost pressers to make compost transplant blocks for seedlings or sieving machines etc. 

  • Explore other local resources such as seaweed debris washed up on the beach after storms or leaf litter in the garden and along the edge of quiet country lanes. 

  • Ripped up paper and cardboard, wood chips, waste coffee grounds and vegetable peelings from local businesses, shops and restaurants.

  • Share excess red wrigglers when your vermi-fertiliser unit is mature and your worm populations have built up.

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