Norvic Philatelics - GB New Stamps and Special Postmarks

Pictorial Faststamps: Freshwater Life - Rivers - 20 September 2013

In 2013 the Post & Go pictorial Faststamps series will be on Freshwater Life.   Freshwater covers just one per cent of the Earth’s surface, yet ten per cent of the world’s creatures live in this environment.

Half of the United Kingdom's ponds have been lost in the twentieth century. The series will feature some of the fish, amphibians and invertebrates that live in the UK’s ponds, lakes and rivers over a set of three issues. ‘Ponds’ was the first issue in the series, followed by ‘Lakes’ (20 June) and now ‘Rivers’ (20 September).  The rivers set will be on sale from Hytech Postalvision New Generation vending machines at Autumn Stampex.

There will be three sets of stamps in the year.  This set looks at river life.   Post & Go terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packets, pay for and print postage labels and stamps without the need to visit the counter. The first Post & Go machine was trialled in The Galleries Post Office® in Bristol in 2008.  The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices around the country, and from the Hytech machines at Midpex, and then probably Autumn Stampex.

The labels can be obtained with 6 different service indicators: 1st class up to 100g & 1st class Large up to 100g, Europe up to 20g, Worldwide up to 10g and 20g, and the new Worldwide 40g.  The stamps are dispensed singly or in strips of up to 5 of the same value or various values. Thus there are 36 different value/design combinations in total.   

  Set of 6 pictorial faststsamps showing river life

Row 1: Minnow, Atlantic Salmon,
White-clawed Crayfish
Row 2: 
River Lamprey, Blue-winged Olive Mayfly larva, Brown Trout
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The stamps in detail

Atlantic Salmon

The Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, spends most of its life in freshwater where the eggs are laid and juveniles mature, being known initially as parr and later as smolt, migrating to the sea to feed and grow, before returning to spawn in streams and rivers.  Average adult specimens measure 71 to 76 cm long and weigh 3.6 to 5.4 kg. Record-sized specimens reach a maximum of 153 cm with a weight of 45 kg. The colouration of young Atlantic salmon does not resemble their adult stage. While they live in fresh water, they have blue and red spots. As they mature, they take on a silver-blue sheen. When adult, the easiest way of identifying them is by the black spots predominantly above the lateral line, although the caudal fin is usually unspotted. When they reproduce, males take on a slight green or red colouration.  Atlantic Salmon are declining throughout most of their range and are listed as requiring protection in the European Union Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention. They thrive only in the cleanest of rivers and are far less numerous than in the past. During the last 30 years, numbers of wild salmon returning from the sea have fallen by more than half.

River Lamprey

The river lamprey or lampern, Lampetra fluviatilis, is a primative jawless fish. It is found in coastal waters around almost all of Europe. It feeds as a parasite by attaching itself to the side of another fish and rasping with its sucker mouth. The reproductive cycle is similar to that of salmon. River lampreys migrate upstream from the sea in autumn or winter. Spawning activity is greatest in the springtime and young river lampreys spend several years in soft sediments in their natal rivers and streams before migrating to sea as adults. It is not currently known how long these animals spend in marine habitats be fore making the return trip to spawn.   Good water quality is very important to lampreys, and hence threatened by any habitat degradation. Maintaining a strong population in the UK is vital for the health of the species Europe-wide.

White-clawed Crayfish

The white-clawed or the Atlantic stream crayfish Austropotomobius pallipes is is one of the largest freshwater invertebrates in the UK.   White-clawed crayfish live in small streams, brooks, rivers, lakes, some ponds, reservoirs and water-filled quarries. They prefer clear, well-oxygenated, alkaline water without too much fine sediment. Typical favoured habitat features includes crevices in rocks, gaps between stones, aquatic plants and submerged tree roots, which all provide refuges for them to hide in. They are very susceptible to pollution and dredging and canalization of rivers.   There has been a substantial reduction in the extent of their distribution in recent years due to reduced quality and pollution of watercourses, competition and disease transmitted by introduced species of crayfish and, habitat modifications along many rivers and streams. As more and more rivers become populated by introduced crayfish many populations of white-clawed crayfish are becoming increasingly isolated or lost. The British populations represent the greatest concentration of the species in Europe.

Brown Trout

The brown trout Salmo trutta is a relative of the salmon. There are both purely freshwater populations and a sea going form known as the sea trout. The latter migrates to the oceans for much of its life and returns to freshwater only to spawn. Sea trout in the UK and Ireland have many regional names, including sewin (Wales), finnock (Scotland), peal (West Country), mort (North West England) and white trout (Ireland).  The brown trout is a medium-sized fish, growing to 20 kg or more in some localities, although in many smaller rivers a mature weight of 1 kg or less is common. The spawning behavior of brown trout is similar to that of the Atlantic salmon. A typical female produces about 2,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight at spawning.

Blue-winged Olive Mayfly larva

Mayflies are relatives of the dragonflies and damselflies. They are aquatic insects whose immature stage (called "naiad" or, colloquially, "nymph") lives for a year or more in freshwater. The lifespan of an adult mayfly is very short and varies depending on the species. The primary function of the adult is reproduction so the mouthparts are vestigial and the digestive system is filled with air.  It often happens that all the mayflies in a population mature at once and emerge from the water. This is known as a ‘hatch’, and for a day or two in the spring or autumn, mayflies will be everywhere, dancing around each other in large groups, or resting on every available surface.


The minnow Phoxinus phoxinus is a small freshwater fish (8 to 10cm long) of the carp family. Common throughout much of Eurasia, the minnow prefers cool (12–20 C) streams and well-oxygenated lakes and ponds. It is noted for being a gregarious species, shoaling in large numbers.  Minnows are small, slender, dark-coloured fish with a blunt snout and small scales. The belly is cream to pearly, changing in the male to red in spawning season where the males also have tubercles.

Technical details:

Designed by Kate Stephens and illustrated by Chris Wormell the six 56mm x 25mm stamps are printed in gravure by Walsall Security Printers, with two phosphor bars.  The stamps in the pack will have the service indicator and other detail printed in gravure.   All images are by kind permission of Royal Mail, Copyright 2013. This website is copyright Norvic Philatelics 2013.

Products issued

The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices around the country, and also at Autumn Stampex.
A mint set of 6 x 1st will also be available from Royal Mail's Tallents House Bureau in a pack similar to a presentation pack. All values in the pack are 1st Class.

Royal Mail will again produce a First Day Cover and official First Day Postmarks for these.

Special Postmarks
Postmarks available for the day of issue will be shown here These are not to scale. These postmarks cannot be obtained after the date of issue.

First day postmark showing map of British Isles.
Postmark showinga fish.
Non-pictorial postmark River, Dover.
Stampex fd postmark for River life issue.
Ref FD1320TH
Philatelic Bureau Official Postmark illustrated with a map of the British Isles
Ref FD1320PL
River, Dover
Ref FD1315NP
River, Dover
Ref L12952 Autumn Stampex, Post & Go,
Freshwater Life III, First Day of Issue London N1
Postmark showing a fish.
Postmark showing a fish.
Postmark showing a fish.

Ref M12956 Freshwater Life Gloucester Ref M12957
Riverside Cres, Birmingham
Ref M12958
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

This page created 13 September 2013

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