French chalk exchange
FRENCH conservationists have been in the Lincolnshire Wolds learning the secrets to protecting its rare chalk streams and the ecosystem diversity they promote.
The Lindsey Action Zone, a rural development programme which is supported by funding from the European Commission, recently partnered up with the Lincolnshire Chalk Stream Project and a similar environmental programme based in Normandy.
Following a fact-finding visit to France in June, representatives from various conservation, agricultural and tourism initiatives welcomed their French counterparts to the Lincolnshire Wolds on October 9 and 10.
Presentations were given and ideas were exchanged on water management, tourism, the promotion of local produce as well as ways to manage land surrounding chalk streams.
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Chalk streams are internationally rare habitats which support some of the earth's most threatened plants and animals.
Judy Bell from Lindsey Action Zone explained that chalk is important because it provides natural purification of ground water by trapping sediment and other particles flowing through it.
She said: "Chalk streams are very clear and clean which gives them special characteristics that are important for our ecosystem.
"Fishermen are interested in fishing in it because Brown Trout only live in clear water.
"Farmers farm around these streams so we want to help them to keep them clean as well.
"There are various restoration techniques that we can learn from each other."
The visitors' busy schedule saw them inspecting water treatment works at Covenham and looking for the invasive American crayfish in Biscathorpe's streams with local anglers and members of the Environment Agency.
They also walked a section of Viking Way to view a chalk stream restoration project designed to recreate the natural meanders of the stream and improves the habitat for invertebrates, spawning fish and water voles.
A visit to Caistor, a farm tour and a trip to the Norman castle at Lincoln were among some of the other highlights from the two day programme.
Hailing the event a success, Judy said she hoped similar foreign exchange opportunities for agriculture students in Lincolnshire could become part of future educational programmes.
She said: "We have had a fantastic time – the trip succeeded all of our expectations.
"The visitors were absolutely enchanted by the beautiful rural area and we're all very pleased.
"It was also really interesting to see the similar challenges we face.
"We are all from rural areas with scarce populations and it is by learning from each other that we can continue to improve our environment."