Nobody who has walked along the river in recent times can have failed to notice the accumulation of debris and litter along the banks as well as the unsightly collection of items discarded in the river itself, turning what has always been acclaimed as one of the city’s greatest assets into something of an eyesore.
County Durham’s bid to become UK Capital of Culture in 2025 has seen fresh impetus to bring about improvements, and partner organisations have been working together to bring about a clean-up of the River Wear throughout Durham City.
Work on clearing up debris from the riverbanks commenced in September. In the lead up to Lumiere 2021 the County Council’s Clean and Green team has been leading clean-up operations supported by Durham Cathedral, the Environment Agency (EA) and the City of Durham Parish Council, with the help of numerous volunteers, who have removed material from the weirs, cut back and improved drainage, and started getting rubbish out of the river.
An issue of particular concern to the rowing community is the accumulation of trees on the weirs. Any damage to the weirs would reduce the depth of water available and immediately preclude all rowing and water-based activities on the river.
In a recent article in the Northern Echo Cllr Mark Wilkes explained how “We are using all possible options to get our river cleaned up”. Durham Amateur Rowing Club has responded by offering the use of two of its launches, along with drivers and volunteers who will help with picking litter out of the water. On November 17th teams of volunteers set about the task of clearing the area between the weirs and were able to remove lots of bags of rubbish before the start of Lumiere. Similar litter picks are set to continue, and anyone who would like to get involved can email the Parish Clerk for plans and details of how you can help.
Earlier this year the Durham Cathedral & Peninsula Stakeholders group was gathered by heritage consultants acting on behalf of the Cathedral. Part of its remit is the revitalization of the riverbanks, aimed at making the riverbanks “part of the Cathedral experience” for visitors.
Progress also continues towards dredging the river following the issue of a permit by the Environment Agency in November 2020 to undertake a capital dredge within the previously accepted sustainable Gravel Management Plan. The permit was issued with a validity of twelve months allowing for dredging between the end of May and the beginning of October. Due to factors such as the very low level of rowing activity and the cancellation of most regattas and competitions on the Wear in Durham, the Regatta has taken the decision to postpone the permitted dredging until 2022. The necessary extension to the validity of the permit has been granted by the EA and the Regatta will obtain estimates for the work, and, depending on the sums involved, will undertake appropriate fundraising activities with a view to commissioning the work for the beginning of June 2022, the earliest date allowed under the permit.
The return of a full regatta is anticipated in 2022. The 189th Durham Regatta is scheduled for June 11th and 12th 2022.