University lecturer branches out to save the River Dee's wildlife

University lecturer branches out to save the River Dee's wildlife

A University of Aberdeen lecturer will cycle the River Dee from 'sea to source' and back again to help a local fundraising group raise enough cash to plant one million trees along the River Dee.

Dr Mirjam Brady-Van den Bos, from the School of Psychology will cycle 132 miles from Footdee in Aberdeen to Linn of Dee near Braemar and back again, stopping at least eight times to swim at different points along the river. 

Dr Van den Bos who is a keen wild swimmer, decided to take up the challenge to raise money for the River Dee Trust, which is aiming to plant one million native trees along its riverbanks. 

The Trust describe the task as ‘one of the biggest nature restoration projects ever undertaken in the Cairngorms, bringing back areas of landscape lost for 2000 years, providing cooling shade which will save salmon and other threatened species.’ 

Early on 30 June, Dr Brady-Van den Bos will begin the six-hour journey cycling out to Linn of Dee where she will set up camp before setting off again in the opposite direction the next day. 

Along the way Dr Brady-Van den Bos plans to cool off by taking a dip in the Dee at various points including Drumoak, Portarch and Cambus o’May but if the mood takes her it may be more. 

For her efforts, Dr Brady-Van den Bos is hoping to raise £500 for the River Dee Trust, which would help plant 250 trees along her cycle route. Experienced forager and nature conservationist, Dr Brady-Van Den Bos explains what inspired her to take on this latest challenge: “My love for the River Dee started during lockdown – as an avid swimmer I was devastated when the swimming pools closed and looking back, I think it put me on the brink of depression.  

“Until, that is, I discovered wild swimming and found a perfect spot in the Dee just off Riverside Drive in Aberdeen. Throughout the first lockdown I spent my daily 'outside hour' there, swimming up and down along the bank.  

“To say 'thank you' to the river, I did my first fundraiser for the River Dee Trust in September to December 2020, swimming there weekly right into winter.  

“In hindsight, it wasn't actually that much of a challenge with a wetsuit, but as I had never done it before in winter, it seemed a challenge at the time and I was delighted to raise 700 pounds. 

“On to my next challenge and I wanted to incorporate cycling. Cycling, comes naturally to me as it's my mode of transport to and from work. But to combine it with a series of river swims without a wetsuit this time will be a real challenge.  

“Additionally, I've have Raynaud’s Syndrome which means when I get into cold water even in the summer, my hands and feet will lose all sensation after about 10 minutes.  

“It can take up to two hours to get my hands looking normal again. So, my aim on this long bike ride is to cycle vigorously between the swims, to get my circulation going again. 

“Nature is something I feel strongly about and I am passionate about conserving it as much as we can – it is not just somewhere to visit – it’s our home and the bedrock of our existence.  

“We can’t live without a healthy ecosystem and that’s why I wanted to take part in this challenge.  

“Without the natural world, nothing else matters.” 

The River Dee Trust’s Chair, Sandy Bremner, said: “Mirjam has been an inspirational supporter of our river restoration work, ever since she started swimming in all weathers to raise funds for our Million Trees campaign. We can’t thank her enough. She embodies the spirit that has turned a nature-restoration project into a campaign that has touched lives across the community.” 

There is more information on the River Dee Trust and how you can support it here.  

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