The River Camlad is one of five demonstration catchments which are all part of the WaterLIFE project, that aims to improve the health of rivers across Europe by working with government, business and communities. The Camlad wriggles its way along the English-Welsh border, and was selected as a WaterLIFE catchment to build and enhance work started by the Severn Uplands Catchment Partnership.
The Severn Uplands Catchment Partnership began by bringing together of a wide variety of different organisations, businesses and concerned local communities all with a common goal – to maintain and improve the Severn Uplands water environment. The partnership began with a workshop for over 125 people who had the chance to explain what they felt was needed from the catchment partnership and how best to go about achieving these improvements.
Finding common ground
As expected with such a diverse group of people and organisations, the priorities and solutions to restore the river were not uniform. The participants were split into random groups to aid discussion and create a balanced view of the issues.
Common themes emerged across all groups. Goods that can be derived from the catchment (such as food, water and timber), flooding and biodiversity were unanimously agreed to be an important factor.
One really interesting fact was that every group agreed that improved/changed land management practices were needed.
Partnership working in practice
A small sub-section of that initial group have come together to form the Severn Uplands Catchment Partnership and, with help from the WaterLIFE project, the Camlad was selected to demonstrate how working in partnership can really bring about improvements to the river. The Camlad suffers from many of the same issues raised at that initial workshop – frequent flooding, a fish population that is in a downward spiral due to pollution from farms, including sediment run off.
Severn Rivers Trust as part of the WaterLIFE project has started to develop working partnerships with individual farm businesses to help reduce their impacts upon the local watercourses.
So far the Severn Rivers Trust has worked with approximately 50 businesses in the catchment with the vast majority of these making a genuine improvement to water management. This process of making improvements across many farms has helped improve habitat along 6km of watercourse, and identified and resolved seven ongoing pollution incidents. It has also helped foster a new thinking in these local businesses, which are now incorporating water quality as a defining thought when making decisions on farm practices.
The partnership was also keen to do as much as possible to help alleviate flooding throughout the entire River Severn catchment in a long term sustainable way. Coed Cymru, a member of the partnership, ran the “Pontbren Project” which has shown that increasing tree cover in a small catchment can reduce peak flows of small brooks by up to 40%. The woodland also has the benefit of capturing fertilisers, pesticides and sediments leading to an improvement of water quality.
Exciting times ahead
The Severn Uplands partnership is now expanding the techniques developed as part of this project into the wider Severn Uplands Catchment. We first started work in eight farms above the town of Llanfyllin; each of the farms identified the areas they wanted to plant trees and hedgerows. We are just coming into the second year of tree planting and have restored approximately four kilometres of hedgerow. At the moment, we are replanting a small area of ancient woodland, returning it from grassland. Looking ahead to next summer, we will be starting with fencing to create about two kilometres of riparian woodland. So far we have planted about 2000 trees and most of the farmers are keen to continue into the future. The big plus points for them is working with an adviser who they feel is on their side but has access to many different organisations through the Catchment Partnership. It shows what partnerships can achieve.
The partnership has identified ten more potential sub-catchments to undertake tree planting to help alleviate flooding and improve water quality as well as several more sites along the River Camlad to bring what is an ailing, polluted river into good ecological condition.
The next aim for the partnership is to help bring other local businesses into the conversation about how they can benefit from the improvements to the river environment. I look forward to it!
Peter Powell is the Upper Severn Catchment Officer for the Severn Rivers Trust and grew up on a dairy farm on the outskirts of Welshpool on the banks of the River Severn. He is particularly interested in agriculture and incorporating productive agriculture with the natural environment. He undertakes farm visits in target catchments to examine farm infrastructure and soil management to find ways that improve farm productivity and river health.