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From source to sea: a journey through the River Dee catchment


What better way to showcase the River Dee than by travelling its length under your own steam, and filming the journey from source to sea? Chair of the Dee Catchment Partnership’s management group, Marc Stutter, recently embarked on this 88-mile journey, along with his colleague at the James Hutton Institute, and manager of the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), Rachel Helliwell.  Over the course of three days, the pair hiked, biked, then canoed their way from the Dee’s source in the Cairngorms to its mouth at Aberdeen.

The expedition came about as a result of many of the planned activities in Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters being cancelled, as Marc, a Senior Scientist at the Institute, explains: “As an alternative, Rachel suggested a catchment triathlon, in which we would walk, cycle and canoe the length of the Dee, filming the journey as we went along.”

From its headwaters high in the Cairngorm mountains, to the sea at Aberdeen harbour, the pair captured the beauty of the catchment in a short film summarising the main pressures on Scotland’s water environment, such as climate, land use and changes in demographics.  Through their film they aim to provide an update on how Scottish academics, public bodies and the water industry are working together to find solutions to these challenges.

“The river essentially has three zones, which mapped quite neatly onto the three days we spent travelling it, using three different modes of transport,” Marc continues.  “We were keen to show the connections between the top and bottom of the river – that issues at the bottom are very much dependent on what happens at the top.”

““We wanted to describe the catchment from the source to the mouth – how the river changes along its course, how the various pressures on the river change along that journey,” adds Rachel.  “We covered a range of issues – in the mountains we discussed climate change and the impact of less snow on river flows and temperatures, then as we cycled through the middle reaches of the catchment we addressed topics such as forestry and land management, then in the lower reaches we discussed the importance of agriculture, increased development in response to population pressures, and flooding.”

Marc and Rachel now face the challenge of editing the footage into a 5-minute film, which will shortly be launched on the James Hutton Institute and CREW websites.  They are keen to reach as wide an audience as possible, as Rachel explains: “While we are keen to interest people working in water management, our film will also make a great teaching tool, and will hopefully appeal to the general public too. We really want to get across the different perspective gleaned from travelling along the river at a slow pace, and inspire a curiosity in the Dee and its catchment.”

Dee Catchment Partnership Chair, Marc Stutter, and CREW Manager, Rachel Helliwell, both from Aberdeen’s James Hutton Institute, will raise awareness of the Dee and its catchment with a film about their journey from source to sea.  Their families joined them on the walking segment – Marc is second from right, Rachel is second from left.


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