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.
My name’s Siou and I’m proud to be a DIG.
When I was just seven, my father, on his daily commute, met a retired Brigadier with a passion for freshwater organisms. My father took me to meet him in his damp crumbling exciting mansion, full of microscopes and boxes of slides, and I was fascinated. I was given, on loan, a beautiful brass microscope with a pile of new slides and a very grown-up guide to the arthropods and water bears, rotifers and gastrotrichs that live in our ponds and streams. I spent all my spare time joyfully pond-dipping, exploring nature, getting wonderfully wet. Wouldn’t it be the perfect story if I’d been able to follow my passion through life and become a limnologist! But sadly, it didn’t make the careers list in those unenlightened times.
My working life was varied and fulfilling. I was able to take early retirement, travel, and devote quite a chunk of the past 20 years to a restored 18th century Capability Brown landscape managed by the National Trust.
Then came Covid and disillusionment, an uncharacteristic lack of self worth and a need to kick-start my brain. The Canal & River Trust offered an opportunity and I jumped at it. It gave me a joie de vivre! The Unlocking the Severn project is so very exciting and the enthusiasm within the wonderful, friendly, knowledgeable team is a huge privilege to be part of. Somewhat weirdly, it’s also engendered an unexpected passion for fish. My natural optimism has been renewed – I feel metamorphosed, energised, full of enthusiasm, fiercely protective towards the wonderful Twaite Shad.
I’ve always been passionate about nature, birds butterflies and bees, walking and travel, painting too, but in volunteering with the Canal & River Trust I’ve learned a massive amount about migration and a lot about fish and I’ve developed a burning curiosity in all things water-related. I’ve pushed myself to learn more and more and I have absolutely loved it. As I always knew, the general public are interesting and diverse and usually extremely nice. The shared jubilation down at the viewing window when a fish makes an appearance is an experience like no other. Not a dry eye in the house. This is just the start of something rather wonderful and I’m forever grateful to the Canal & River Trust, especially the marvellous Mr Miles, for making me part of the team.
Image by Barbara Evripidou.