Water rangers keeping an eye on Jesmond stretch of Ouseburn

Originally published in JesmondLocal – 24 March, 2017

Water Rangers article header

A Northumbrian Water scheme to help look after the north east’s watercourses has been extended to Jesmond’s Ouseburn.

Initially set up in 2014 with 32 routes, the scheme has now been extended to a total of 55 routes, with Jesmond joining the areas covered by the volunteer water rangers.

The idea of the scheme is to get “dog walkers, ramblers, cyclists or anyone who just loves the outdoors and cares for the environment” to help maintain and protect the region’s watercourses.

Volunteers in Jesmond signed up over the New Year and are now walking the prescribed routes, looking out for signs of pollution, blockages, and anything else that should not be in the Ouseburn.

Vicky Cairns, who organises the walks for Northumbrian Water, told JesmondLocal that when the rangers are walking the route they are mainly looking for “pollution, wet wipes, any kind of sewage. Also, things like misconnections where people have possibly misconnected the pipes in their home.”

The scheme was devised as a way to get the public involved in ‘policing’ the watercourses as multiple pairs of eyes across a time period is better than dedicated teams only going out at particular times. With this method, problems can be spotted and reported far quicker.

“They’re also looking for things which aren’t Northumbrian Water’s responsibility,” said Cairns, “such as fly-tipping. So we’ll pass that information onto the local authority.”

One of the volunteers, Nick Atkinson, told JesmondLocal he signed up as he’s “passionately involved in the countryside.”

“I spend a lot of time in Jesmond Dene,” he continued, “so obviously I can add value by just helping out.”

Nick’s daughter, Grace, is Britain’s youngest water ranger and she accompanies her dad on the walks, looking out for the signs of pollution and also the varied wildlife found on the banks of the Ouseburn, telling JesmondLocal she had seen “a rat and a squirrel” on her walk that day.

Upon signing up, volunteers receive thorough training on environmental issues and also what to look out for on their walks. There are also opportunities to get involved with other local community events and the chance to attend Northumbrian Water’s annual celebration event.

Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater Director, Richard Warneford, described the scheme as “hugely successful”, saying that it “has helped us to spot and deal with potential threats to the environment at the earliest possible opportunity”.

Aside from becoming a water ranger, Jesmond residents can help maintain their watercourses by only flushing what is meant to be flushed and by ensuring their home and business pipes are connected properly.

To get involved with the scheme, residents can go online at https://www.nwl.co.uk/your-home/environment/getting-involved.aspx, email their interest to waterrangers@nwl.co.uk, or call 0191 301 6308.

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