Our final Members Site Visit of the year began close to confluence of the Irfon and Wye at Caer Beris Manor Hotel in Builth Wells. The Irfon was the subject of our visit, which was kindly hosted by Simon Evans from the Wye and Usk Foundation.
During the day, the 18 keen participants managed to visit three very different sites across the catchment. These were all part of the Irfon Special Area of Conservation Project (ISAC), a LIFE+ funded project which was completed in 2014.
In the morning we visited sites in the lower section of the Irfon. Here, the Wye and Usk Foundation have addressed issues that have threatened populations of Atlantic salmon and white clawed crayfish. Restoration measures have included barrier removal, bank stabilisation and buffer strips.
In the afternoon our convoy of cars drove up through the picturesque Irfon Valley to look at what is being done in the headwaters of the catchment. Here, tree plantations have resulted in the loss of natural peat and water that is too acidic. In the past this has led to the degradation of many kilometres of vital fish spawning habitat. To address this, the Wye and Usk Foundation have been liming the headwaters to counteract the incoming acidic water. The project’s monitoring results have shown this to be a success. Read more in the end of project report here.
However, liming is an expensive process that needs to be continued to be effective. A more sustainable solution is to restore natural peat bogs. This firstly requires tree clearance and then grip blocking to restore the bogs which naturally control the water quality. At the end of the day we visited a site where this has been achieved. As well as water quality, this will also benefit the flow regime by reducing peak flood flows and maintaining higher flows during dry periods.
The day was great for discussion with Simon, and the rest of the group coming from a wide range of organisations.
We are currently organising our 2016 Members Site Visits, they will be announced here in the New Year. If you would like to offer your project for a visit, please get in touch.