Weed Update August 2009
Weed Cutting or the finish of it, has been announced for the Lower Avon. By weed cutting we are referring to the mechanical cut for land drainage purposes, that for nearly fifty years has chomped its way up and down the main channels. It doesn’t really have any implications for us on the estate as we have never permitted this practice but it will be interesting to watch the impact elsewhere. The research down on the Frome proved where weed cutting ceased the biomass of the river reduce by as much as 30% over the next five years will be the key to this. If we have wet summers in the next year or two there will be problems. If however we manage a period of reasonably normal or low flow years we might see light at the end of the tunnel. I confidently predict a hot summer next year and you may remind me of that should I have got it wrong. I won’t tell you the indicators I believe to be key to this for fear of being branded a lunatic and burnt at the stake; suffice to say I can feel it in my water.
Weed cutting to cease meaning fewer blocked hatches for me.
Others involved with neighbouring rivers have expressed concern at this being a precedent for EA policy across the entire chalkstream region. I would be surprised if this were the case as we are talking about land drainage cuts here on the Avon not fishery cuts as practiced elsewhere. Weed cutting will continue in its many guises with Environment Agency and Natural England support where appropriate. Whether that support extends beyond the consulting process into hard cash involvement will be watched with interest. I do have one slight concern and that is the fate of the funding currently expended on weed cutting services. I dearly hope that the Water Level Management teams retain this budget for investment in other directions to assist in the restoration of the river. It would be a tragedy if this was purely a cost cutting exercise and hiding behind a scientific façade of justification the funds were clawed back into central funding. What might be nice to see would be a swamp track 360 and the team currently out in their boats redirected into restoring the old drainage system of the Avon that gave refuge to so much wildlife. Working in partnership with Natural England HLS scheme and local NGOs there is a perfect opportunity to see a very positive result from the current mood for change.