Dipper with mayflies for its chicks using a shopping trolley as a perch before entering the nest.

“Stockport is renowned throughout the entire district as one of the duskiest, smokiest holes, and looks … excessively repellent.” Frederik Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

 Cotton mills and houses along the River Mersey, Stockport, from the east, 1948. 
The River Mersey between Lancashire Bridge and Mersey Bridge, Stockport, 1925.

Having grown up less than a mile from The River Tame I’ve seen it change from a dead river – poisoned over previous decades by a potent mix of dyes and bleaches discarded by textile mills, pollutants from battery manufacture, coal mining, coal gas production and raw sewage – to a home for fish, kingfishers and goosander. This blog isn’t meant to be a history of clean up of these rivers, there’s plenty of information available elsewhere. This report on the Mersey and its main tributaries is a good place to start.

A newer threat has recently emerged with the upper reaches of the Mersey and the River Tame have the highest levels of microplastics found anywhere in the world. The researchers from the University of Manchester found microplastic contamination throughput the river system including a site on the River Tame which had concentrations up to 517,000 plastic particles per square metre. These rivers flood frequently during periods of rain and the research showed that micro plastic levels were reduced after these events. Except for the River Tame where they had actually increased. This suggest an ongoing source of microplastics, mostly micro-beads – mostly used in cosmetics and beauty products – entering the river.

Plastic pollution, River Tame, Manchester, UK
Barbel (Barbus barbus), River Tame, Greater Manchester, UK. The story behind this image is that I was trying to photograph dippers with a remote, radio triggered camera when some young lads fishing below the weir hooked this barbel. They were unable to land it so I waded out to release it for them and briefly held it in front of the fixed-position camera for a photo.
Harrison’s Weir in Reddish Vale Country park forms an effective barrier to fish migrating upstream. Not only species like barbel but it also stops the Tame from once again becoming a breeding salmon river.
Sand martin colony, Reddish Vale Country Park. This colony has now moved due to flood protection work on this bank.
Sand martins nesting in old drainage pipes, River Mersey
Fishing for brown trout. River Mersey, Stockport, Greater Manchester
River Tame, Reddish Vale, Greater Manchester.
River Mersey in autumn, Stockport Town Centre, Greater Manchester.
Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), River Mersey, Greater Manchester. Adult feeding chick in nest under stone bridge.
Goosander (Mergus merganser) Male. Reddish Vale Country Park, Greater Manchester
Goosander (Mergus merganser) female with young. River Tame.