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Good fences make good water quality

The quality of water is an appropriate topic for a parish magazine, so I’ll make no apology for returning to it. Just after I had written last month’s piece I heard of a YouTube clip on the success of fencing cattle away from streams to keep beach water clear of ruminant runoff. http://www.youtube.com/user/ECSFDI shows the Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer, Lizbe Pilbeam, talking to John Tucker, who farms on the Aune. Insomniacs will also have heard Richard Foss, who farms near Lanacombe and chairs the AONB, describe his similar experience on the 6 o’clock Farming Today programme. Fencing streams to protect water quality is now recognised as good farming practice and looks likely to be a key reason why South Sands beach is reaching Blue Flag standards (it has to do so for two consecutive years to qualify for the flag).

Peter Marsh also stars on the YouTube clip as he farms oysters on the Aune. At a recent harbour conservation forum he made a passionate plea for everyone to use low phosphate detergents as phosphates are linked with the toxic algae which appears from time to time in Frogmore creek, where Peter has another oyster farm. This was a point made also by Richard Foss on Farming Today. Peter recommends Ecover products. It must be true that if locals, holiday makers and yachties all switch to low-phosphate detergents, the level of phosphates in the harbour would decrease and the so-called red tides should go away. It would be really good to have a co-ordinated local campaign of this kind. But we may need to do more research to get it right: the May issue of Which? finds little difference between detergents in terms of “impact on aquatic life” and this could be because the industry has already begun to phase out the ingredients which have historically caused most problems.

We rowed past Peter Marsh’s oyster beds up to Frogmore for lunch this week and used the new pontoon (recycled from Batson). It provides useful additional access, even on low midday tides, and now you don’t have to get your feet wet or muddy. The pontoon is on the south side of the creek, just past the spit, and adjoins Frogmore Boatyard.

Finally, a quick update on the Rivermaid: the Dartmouth Railway and Steam Boat Company has decided to take over the service. They will lease Rivermaid from Peter Moule for this season but whether or not they stay with the Rivermaid or use some other vessel next year has not been

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