River Wye Glasbury-Hay update

It’s been a long time since we provided a general update to SWOAPG Members on the situation for paddlesport launching at Glasbury Bont – because nothing much has changed since April 2021 (!) when launching was prohibited while Powys County Council undertook a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) to ascertain whether paddlesport might cause damage to the river environment.

However, the Council has now, at long last, published a report provided to them by an environmental consultant to support their HRA. This report is now open for consultation (until 15 August), after which they will make a ‘final’ decision on whether to re-open the launch site for paddlesport operations; and what restrictions they will impose on operations.

The report itself (available at the link below) is very detailed but, in summary, concludes that paddlesport activity launching at the Bont (and in combination with launching at other sites) could affect the river’s ‘conservation objectives’ by:

  1. Disturbing during April-June the shallow gravel beds which are breeding habitats of river lamprey, sea lamprey and twaite shad, and nursery habitats of Atlantic salmon – as a result of trampling while launching and landing, and repeated grounding-out in low water conditions;
  2. Disrupting migration and/or foraging by lamprey, shad, Atlantic salmon and otters – particularly after dusk and before dawn; and
  3. Spreading non-native invasive species.

However, it also proposes that these effects could be adequately mitigated by:

  1. Paddlers “taking special care not to disturb beds of waterweed and gravel beds, particularly by trampling and launching / landing on gravel beds when the water levels are low” – and avoiding ‘bunching’ of craft especially at the first shallow site (S bend downstream of Glasbury bridge); launching and landing on shingle banks only as specifically permitted by the previous (2017) Code of Conduct (river-right before the oxbow lake and river-left by the chicken farm); and the imposition of a ‘closed season’ for non-guided hire craft between 1 Apr and 30 Jun each year [an alternative to this – restricting paddling to certain water levels – was also considered but not considered practical by NRW since it would mean detailed depth assessments being carried out each year, which they judged could not be done in a timely fashion – and could result in greater restriction than the proposed ‘closed season’];
  2. Limiting paddlesport to daytime hours (e.g. as per the 2017 Code of Conduct: launching 10am-4pm, landing at Hay by 5pm);
  3. Observing check-clean-dry protocols – with verbal briefings to users by “commercial canoe operating companies” and “dissemination of more guidance to all recreational user groups”;
  4. Introducing a ‘management mechanism’ to achieve these outcomes (e.g. a ‘concordat’ arrangement with operators – and with “signage…at the entrance to the [Bont] advising users on the sensitivity of the site and the downstream river environment; restrictions on landing; and the Check Clean Dry procedures”); and
  5. Reviewing species survey data annually to inform continued operations.

SWOAPG will be responding to the consultation process with suggestions for the widest possible interpretation of what is meant by ‘guided’ activity (thereby aiming to minimise what is regarded as ‘non-guided’ – and therefore prohibited – activity during April-June). We are also working with the Council to define a concordat arrangement – based on the Waterfall Country gorge-walking model – that could meet their needs for a ‘management mechanism’. This is being coordinated through our ‘River Wye Paddlesport  Advisory Group’ (comprising a range of paddlesport operators, SWOAPG Members and other stakeholders) and will be presented to all SWOAPG Members for agreement at an appropriate time.

Please feel free to contact us is you have any questions or suggestions about this process and SWOAPG’s role in it.

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