Anglers ‘heartbroken’ as stretch of River Tone stripped of trees
Environment Agency devastates banks of river near Taunton ‘to protect properties in Bathpool’
Banks of the River Tone after the Environment agency cleared a 250-metre stretch. Photograph: Dominic Garnett/PA
Sun 6 Feb 2022 11.00 GMT
Anglers are “heartbroken” after a 250-metre stretch of the River Tone in Somerset was stripped of trees by the Environment Agency as part of flood management measures.
The semi-wild section of river running through Taunton was a popular spot for anglers and wildlife-lovers, where kingfishers were often spotted. However, the majority of trees were felled last week, leaving the banks of the river as bare earth.
River Tone before removal of trees. Photograph: Dominic Garnett/PA
Dominic Garnett, 42, an angling guide and coach, has fished the stretch of the river for the past 20 years and has been visiting it since childhood. “It was a semi-wild stretch of river and they have channelised it,” he told PA. “It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the destruction of the places you love – you go there to be with nature and to get away and it’s all just been ripped away.”
The length of the river ran through marshland until the 1990s, when the surrounding land was tarmacked to make way for housing and a leisure and shopping complex.
Garnett said the area is now prone to flooding. While woodland planting is often used as a flood mitigation strategy, Garnett said representatives of the Environment Agency had told him the trees were felled “because they make the water back up”. “It is like they have taken an old hippie and given him a buzz cut – it is scorched earth tactics.”
He pointed out that huge swathes of trees had been cleared only weeks away from nesting season, with river plants dredged out when some species of fish are starting to spawn. “It makes them vulnerable to predators – fish need places to hide,” he said.
Dominic Garnett says the trees were cleared weeks before the nesting season. Photograph: Dominic Garnett/PA
Mark Barrow, a film-maker who has specialised in productions about freshwater species in the UK’s rivers and lakes for the past 20 years, tweeted that he was “shocked” to discover the scene on the River Tone. “Complete devastation, courtesy of the Environment Agency. Scorched earth work the Russian army would be proud of! Those stumps were decades old trees where I used to watch the local kingfisher. Everything is now disappearing.”
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “Essential work to manage flood risk and protect properties in Bathpool and the upstream town of Taunton is ongoing.
“We always work to minimise any impact to the environment when carrying out work and have measures in place to compensate, such as new tree planting. Flooding and coastal erosion can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment.”
It is understood the trees at water level were deemed to be creating a flood risk by catching debris and restricting the flow of water. The area is due to be sown with a wild flower seed mix and replanted with native trees.
Source document: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/06/anglers-heartbroken-as-stretch-of-river-tone-stripped-of-trees