River People Tour!

The tour was a series of four free community events offering ways for local people to celebrate, learn and act for the Ouse. 

The tour has traveled downstream visiting community venues in Balcombe, Barcombe, Lewes and Newhaven taking place between October 2023 – May 2024 and attracted around 1000 visitors. The intention was to build a stronger network, foster a greater sense of connection with our local waterways and increase understanding and profile to address its threats and challenges. We are working on a report detailing the content and outputs of the tour which will help to build on our community knowledge and inform future activities. We will publish the report once it’s ready!

A HUGE thank you to Ouse Valley Climate Action and The National Lottery The Community Fund for supporting the Tour.

Riverside Splash in Newhaven!

What a fantastic last River People Tour event ending our journey from source to sea in Newhaven on 25th May. It was great to put the Ouse and nearby coastline centre stage for the day and so wonderful to be right on the river itself! Brilliant stalls and activities, great atmosphere with the music and packed programme of interesting talks and debate.

Thank you to the approx 300 people who came throughout the day, the glorious sun , our amazing volunteer team and everyone who contributed to make it a memorable day.

Thank you to all the amazing groups who took part:
Ouse Valley Climate Action, Newhaven Gig Rowing Club, Cuckmere Valley Canoe Club, Environment Agency , Newhaven Museum, Greenhavens Network, South Downs National Park, Get Bikery, Sussex Community Development Association, Strandliners, Artists Ruth Lawrence, Caroline Hasler, Edgeland Modern, KP Projects CIC, Dockside Barrel Scrapers, Lewes Pilot Gig Club, Angler Stewart Allum and Just Get It Done catering.

Our talks programme covered local topics. The Safe to Swim? Discussion with presentations by Love our Ouse and Councillor Emily O’Brien discussed whether local ‘Excellent’ bathing status in Seaford is a true depiction of local water quality with valuable input from Southern Water and Surfers Against Sewage. We discussed options for potential community testing programmes and offered resources for local people to know how to report pollution and look up live data to enable them to decide if they feel it’s safe to swim on any given day. Audience members contributed their concerns, observations and what they would be interested in getting involved in.

Tim Bartlett, Coastal and Flood Risk Management Special Advisor at Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Council gave an insightful talk about the Newhaven non-foul ‘sewer’ systems – the vast network of waterways across the town which have recently undertaken an extensive clearing programme.

Love our Ouse delivered it’s Rights of Rivers talk discussing the groundbreaking movement to give the river back its rights and invited local people to contribute their ideas to the developing Charter. The team also reflected on the River People Tour, contributing their thoughts and findings from engaging with this diverse, ever changing river and the wide variety of people who live with, love and share concern for the Ouse.

River People in Lewes

Groups contributing included Environment Agency, local Anglers, South East Water, campaign groups and more. There were arts and crafts and a special contribution from Western Road Primary pupils reading their river poetry, singing the Ouse song and selling their Rescue our Rivers artwork.

Organisers, Love our Ouse, also delivered their own activities throughout the day including the ground breaking project underway to develop a Rights of Rivers Charter following a recent Lewes District Council motion that’s been putting the Ouse on the map nationwide. They will be gathering local people’s ideas.

We brought our large scale maps giving people the chance to get a birds eye view of the whole river and contribute their memories, concerns and hopes for the Ouse. We are also recruiting local people to become Citizen Scientists to upscale monitoring and testing.

Malling Community Centre 

Here’s what happened…!

11am – 4pm, Sat 23rd March,
Pop in anytime for exciting talks, debates, activities, and stalls. There’s something for everyone. Take part in our river community mapping, contribute your ideas to the Ouse Rights of River Charter, help make a Beaver Dam and sign up to be a citizen scientist. Our talks programme is Ousing:

11.00am River Run & Rescue
Western Road Primary School pupils present reports about river species that accompany their artworks, perform a selection of poems from last year’s whole school River Run poetry anthology and will also perform the Ouse Song by James Cory-Wright.

11.40am Rights for the River Ouse
Love Our Ouse
An energetic talk and workshop session on the potential to give the Ouse back its rights. Have your say on what the Ouse Charter should contain!

1.10pm A Public Jetty for Lewes?
Love our Ouse
There used to be a couple of public places to easily access the river, the steps by the Riverside are still there. Not one public launch site exists in Lewes. There is enthusiasm for safe and practical access to the river. This discussion explores the practical options for a return to river recreation in our town.

2.40pm Beavers on the Ouse – a matter of time?
Beavers are back! Ecologist and self-confessed fanatic Dylan Walker explains what makes beavers special, where they are now, and what we need to do to bring them back to the Ouse Valley.

3.20pm Fishes of the Ouse
Clean Ouse Project
Lifelong Angler Stewart Allum talks us through the Ouse fish with fantastic visual photos they’ve taken including details of the threats they face

Here’s what happened in Barcombe, January 2023

We know that people in Barcombe are closely connected with the river and we weren’t disappointed by the turnout. Around 400 people packed the Village Hall throughout the day! We sold all the cake, the talks were very popular and kids were enjoying getting muddy.

We welcomed really insightful and interesting additions from active local groups. Isfield Angling Club displayed Ouse fish photos and spoke about their years of experience watching the declining health of the river. Barcombe Community Wildlife Group impressed everyone with their amazing local wildlife knowledge and spectacular large jar of grass snake eggs. Don’t Urbanise Hamsey spoke to people about their mounting campaign against the potential housing development near the river in Hamsey Village and Wilder Life demonstrated the opportunities and benefits of reintroducing Beavers and got kids creating their own dams! Our community discussion focused on our relationship with the Sheffield Park to Barcombe stretch past and present through the lens of Pollution, Recreational access & Climate Change.

Here’s what happened in Balcombe, October 2023

We kicked off our tour visiting the beautiful Victory Hall in Balcombe where local people were invited to take part in range of river focused activities and talks by ourselves and fellow Ouse partners and enthusiasts.

It was so interesting to hear about and see so many wonderful photos of the huge variety of beautiful fish that can be found in the Ouse. Peter King, Direcot of the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust gave a fantastic talk all about the Ouse, its threats and challenges and South East water talked about whole catchment management with a focus on water supply.

Love our Ouse activities focused on our river community mapping where people were invited to contribute to our giant Ouse maps. We learnt a lot about the heritage of the Ouse Valley viaduct; did you know a pub was built at the construction site for the builders? It was aptly named the Bricklayers Arms! We heard about the determined endeavours to keep fracking out of Balcombe and the huge potential impacts this could have on our waterways. We learnt of the special colony of BIRDS (?) that live on Balcombe Lake.

We delivered our Rights of River session which saw lively debate and strong support for an Ouse Charter via our petition. We also had lots of interest in sign ups for our Citizen Science Project recruiting 8 local people to undertake our River Ecology 101 training sessions and become river monitors for that area.

Thank you to everyone who contributed, volunteered and the local people who came along. We look forward to our next event at Barcombe Village Hall on 27th January!