An important aim of this project is to engage communities with the River Severn and the shad. At the heart of this are volunteers called the Diglis Island Guides (or DIGs!) who give up their time to guide groups through the history, geography and importance of the island, the fish pass and the surrounding unique local environment.
The volunteers come from a diverse background but all have the same passion, pride and enthusiasm for the project.
I am currently Asset Management Senior Engineer for the Canal & River Trust and I worked at Diglis Lock Island office during the construction of the fish pass, listening to the sheet piles being hammered in! I have seen a tremendously positive change in the area environmentally and physically and am enthused to introduce visitors on to the island and fish pass and provide many with the answers to questions about the area. The lock island has always been an “Authorised Access Only” area and now [via the project’s open days and tours] it has opened up to all, especially those locals that have been walking/jogging/cycling by for years and thought, “I wonder what happens over there?”
I was fortunate to meet Mark Miles, the Informal Leaning and Interpretation Officer (Visitor Experience) in 2021 and immediately engaged in enthusiastic discussions about the fish pass, lock island and history before realising I could have some useful knowledge and experience. As a result of being part of two pre-arranged fish pass visits in late 2021, I was convinced that I wanted to know more and become involved and pass on this information to others. I was in awe of the knowledge of the fish pass guides .
The DIGs as we are known come from a very wide-ranging background and most are reasonably local to the area. That overall knowledge combined with the historical and engineering knowledge of the fish pass, together with a wish to share knowledge has developed a very cohesive group of people, learning more, not only from the other DIGs but from many of the visitors who openly share their own historical insights to the area, from fishing off the beach below the locks to watching the oil tankers going into the oil basin, and seeing a dolphin! All these additional “snippets” gleaned from the DIGs and visitors provide a superb rounding off of information.
It has been a joy to show people around what was once a “no go area” and open up the fantastic history of the island and the future of the Shad and other fish populations upstream of Diglis. It is an honour to be involved in this positive historical step in the river’s history by opening it up again. We move from a historical need for development and trade to the re-introduction of a precious river species that was almost wiped out as a result of man’s intervention, and access for many of the smaller species that cannot swim up weirs.
Image by Barbara Evripidou