River Wardens and Riversearch Surveys

Essex Wildlife Trust River Wardens

We are looking for Essex residents to join our award winning volunteer river wardens group - It's a great way to get out and about and learn more about wildlife, your river and how to protect it.

Essex supports a staggering variety of habitats and species linked by a common thread – water. It is the fundamental building block of life, but something which we often take for granted. In Essex, the shocking manifestation of this neglect was rivers so polluted with industrial and agricultural chemicals that only three decades ago, they could not support wildlife.

Thankfully times have changed. Partnership initiatives such as Water for Wildlife have led to consistent, targeted work to restore our rivers, and as a result otters and water voles have recolonised our river catchments. Since work began on the Essex Water Vole Recovery Project in 2007, voles have been reintroduced to the River Colne and habitat improvements and targeted mink removal has resulted in natural re-colonisation of water voles. The Riversearch otter and water vole survey has trained over 200 volunteer surveyors, and Essex Wildlife Trust have recently expanded this programme to incorporate other survey and monitoring tasks. Volunteers can choose to commit to as little or as much time as they want, what tasks they are happy to take on, and the area that they want to monitor. River Wardens can work in pairs or small groups.

You will be fully supported by Essex Wildlife Trust staff and the Catchment Partnership, which includes the Environment Agency. The project has been so successful that it has gained national attention as an example of good practice and the group were awarded the inaugural Lynne Farrell group award at the National Biodiversity Network Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing! The River Wardens were also finalists in the 2016 Living Waterways awards,

As a volunteer river warden, you will have a key role in monitoring a short stretch of your local river and reporting any potential problems that you come across.

River wardens can help by:

  • Recording sightings of wildlife when out and about along Essex rivers
  • Monitoring river features – information which adds to our knowledge and helps to make good decisions
  • Structured monitoring of Otters and Water Voles as part of the Riversearch Survey programme
  • Putting out and collecting water shrew survey tubes
  • Recording and alerting us to pollution incidents – it’s vital to respond quickly
  • Recording invasive species by adopting a Mink monitoring raft, or reporting invasive plant sightings
  • Reporting Fly tipping and littering – it's  unsightly and threatens people, wildlife and fisheries
  • Recording localised flooding and other river issues which affect your community
  • Acting as a point of contact in parishes and communities about river initiatives, raising awareness about the environment and liaising with river user groups.
  • Surveying for Riverflies - freshwater invertebrates that can be an early warning system for detecting water quality problems


Training required?                     Training required for some roles

Skills needed?                           Some species identification skills may be useful (training provided)

Equipment needed?                  Suitable clothing and footwear - all monitoring equipment will be provided.

To find out more about becoming a river warden, visit the Essex Rivers Hub website for details or email RiverW@essexwt.org.uk.

A free e-learning course on non-native species is available here: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/elearning/

Click here to access River and Pond survey resources