Our Finest Dour is a National Lottery Heritage Funded Project to raise awareness about the incredibly important River Dour in Dover, through schools, training and community engagement.
CommunityAd talked to Iona from the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership about the fantastic project and how it will help the chalk stream be understood and looked after for future generations.
How did this project come about and why?
Our Finest Dour came about from the River Dour Partnership (RDP) group seeking White Cliffs Countryside Partnership’s help in getting the river more recognised. RDP is a group of volunteers who champion the importance of this chalk stream to councils, the public and other organisations. WCCP look after chalk grassland/nature reserves in Dover and Folkestone Districts and have been doing litter picks in the river, monthly for over ten years. It was felt by RDP that more needed to be done so WCCP won a successful National Lottery Fund of £95,000 for the river for three years 2018 – 2021.
You are on the second year of this fantastic National Lottery funded project; how many volunteers have/do you have on the project?
We have over 32 volunteer ‘river rangers’ and wider volunteers. They often live along the river or in the Dover area and join us in river cleaning tasks, watching out for the river, reporting issues of pollution, litter picking, monitoring wildlife, helping with events or surveying wildlife. We are always so grateful to those that help look out for the River Dour.
What has been the impact of the educational sessions that you give to volunteers and schools?
In a word; awareness. More people and children know that the River Dour is special. We hope the takeaway is that people know the River Dour is a rare chalk stream; with only 200 in the whole world which makes them rarer than the giant panda.
The River Dour is vital for people and is an important habitat in the middle of Dover; it’s home to threatened species such as brown trout, European eel, grey wagtails, water’s crowfoot (the in-channel green reed that blooms with white flowers in spring) and much more.
How important is it that we look after our local rivers for our environment, biodiversity, our ecosystems and nature?
It is more important than ever that we look after our rivers; without them, we would not have biodiversity which is vital for ecosystems to stay stable enough to support life.
The River Dour aquifer provides us with water and incredible nature that we all benefit from.
What can the local community in Dover do to help the efforts looking after the river?
There are many ways to help the River Dour including; saving water, not littering, checking your deeds or contract to see if you have riparian rights, using eco-friendly products, checking your plumbing to make sure wastewater isn’t going into the river, only putting water and the 3 P’s (loo-paper, pee, poo) down the toilet, becoming a river ranger, reporting pollution incidents to the Environment Agency and keeping dogs out of the river from November to April (trout spawning season).
In the next year, despite the huge challenges of COVID-19 what do you hope to achieve?
We hope to achieve all that we had to cancel this year and despite the uncertainty, we hope to:
- Run the schools project (invite back the 6 schools to put the River Dour at the heart of their curriculum) give the centre as a classroom resource for schools and partners
- Open the River Dour Centre officially
- Train more volunteers in river skills such a River fly and wildlife monitoring
- Look for more funding to keep the river clean
- Ensure everyone knows the name of their local chalk stream and how important it is