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Tweed Foundation launches new River Academy

A new educational resource that aims to teach people from the Scottish Borders and beyond about the river environment has been opened at Drygrange near Melrose by The Tweed Foundation, the charity that works to protect and conserve freshwater fish stocks within the Tweed catchment.

The Ian Gregg River Academy is a dedicated facility that will use live specimens, interactive displays and hands-on activities to teach children, young people and adults about the river and the organisms that live in it in order to increase understanding of the importance of the river system.

A two-metre water tank within the Academy includes live examples of fish from the river including small salmon, trout and grayling, as well as minnows and stone loaches, known colloquially in the Borders as baggies and beardies. Visitors can learn how to examine the scales of a salmon under a microscope to establish its age and identify whether it is a spring, summer or autumn fish. They can also see how prey diet analysis is conducted using fish jaw and ear bones to identify the species that fall victim to various predators in the river.

Touch screens will showcase the breadth of The Tweed Foundation’s important work, from the removal of barriers to migration to monitoring fish numbers and tackling rising water temperature across the catchment.

Stop-motion animation sessions will help to teach children about the incredible journeys undertaken by species including salmon and eel, and live aquatic insects can be examined using microscopes and endoscopes as part of efforts to explain the importance of invertebrates within the river system. The Academy will be a Riverfly Partnership Hub and home to the local Anglers Riverfly Monitoring Partnership, as part of efforts to encourage local people to become citizen scientists and help to monitor invertebrate populations across the catchment’s many watercourses.

The River Academy has been named after Ian Gregg, the owner of high street bakers Greggs and a former River Tweed Commission Chief Commissioner who was instrumental in the formation of the UK’s Rivers Trusts movement. Ian attended this week’s launch along with Scottish Government Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater MSP.

Tweed Foundation Director, Jamie Stewart said; “The River Tweed and its tributaries are a huge shared resource that is vitally important to the Scottish Borders and North Northumberland. Our new Ian Gregg River Academy aims to provide a centre of excellence where schools, colleges, local community groups and interested individuals can discover more about the river and the life that teems within it.  We believe that local communities on both sides of the Border have an important role to play in helping to protect and enhance the river system and hope that the knowledge gained through this new educational resource will help to inspire them to become involved in conserving the river environment for current and future generations.”

Speaking at the launch, Ian Gregg said; “It is a great honour to have this River Academy named after me.  The Tweed has played a huge part in my life and the work of the river Tweed Commission and the Tweed Foundation has been an inspiration to river catchments throughout the UK. I hope that this new initiative will help to encourage an appreciation of the river and its tributaries, and a desire to protect it for the future.”

Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity said; “The Ian Gregg River Academy offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about the scientific activities that the Tweed Foundation employs to support and protect the local natural environment. We face an ongoing challenge to combat the dual crises of nature loss and climate change.  A key tool in this fight will be to educate children and young people on the best ways that they can help protect Scotland’s rich and vibrant biodiversity. I commend the Tweed Foundation for their efforts and I hope that this facility can become a shining example that the rest of the country can follow.”

Visits to the Ian Gregg River Academy are free but must be pre-booked by calling The Tweed Foundation on 01896 848271.

A video from the day can be viewed here.

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