At least fifty to follow, we think.
As the river flows down through the beautifully relaxed farm land passing Taddington a couple of horses wandered around the upper slopes of the valley and a flock of farmyard ducks waddled nearby in a scene that probably had not changed since Wilson MacArthur walked the route back in 1946. The photo is grainy, but you can see horses and ducks!
The Gore Tex clad party of walkers that appeared on the hillside, on the footpath would have looked more than a little alien in 1946 but that was already how Wilson regarded his own appearance, as a trekker, to the local folk way back then.
As the stream gained a little more water from successive springs, two wooden foot bridges appeared - and there we saw it. The first little lump of foam on our journey. We know that some of this is naturally occurring and we certainly hope this piece was, as it did indeed fit the description.
As we move downstrean we will probably encounter some of the many other shades and formations of foam we have seen in previous years, and this time, with some expert help, we hope to be able to work out which are natural and which are not.
I suspect that Archie was wondering whether he could eat it...
Was it natural or could there already be a run off from a septic tank to the tiny river? Many small villages are still not connected to mains sewers and have to rely on domestic sewage plants or old fashioned cess pits and septic tanks. There has been no effective incentive for the water industtry to connect up our villages and hamlets to the main sewers and as more homes are built, and homes now use so many chemical washing and cleaning products and many more pollutants, the risks of contamination increase. Home owners do not expect to have to know how to manage their own sewage treatment, do they? .
The first step in our citizen science was to check it to see if there were any optical brighteners in this bit of foam as brighteners are a feature of laundry products, designed to make our white clothes look whiter than white! Therefore they are a feature of sewage.
More on how that was done tomorrow. It is really cheap and simple and you might want to have a go yourself.