I was astonished to hear of ‘flood defence measures’ taken illegally by a farmer within the National Park on the River Lowther.
My friend Lawrence Greasley told me about this, so I went to investigate. I was appalled to find some formerly precious hatch water completely wrecked by a tractor/digger that had been in the river, along with accompanying scouring of a small joining beck; all for the sake of an attempt to produce a little extra grazing, or ‘flood defence’ as stated. I was even more saddened to hear that the scale of this atrocity might be deemed inadequate by the EA to precipitate further action. Such is the state of real conservation attitude on Cumbrian rivers (largely hidden from the public eye) and one is in despair at the lack of protection that the SSSI and ESAC conservation measures really have. Even being within the National Park has effectively no conservation meaning. We can believe whatever spin we like, but the truth is that farming comes first, by a very long way, in modern England. The countryside exists only for the few farmers who are its ‘custodians’. Perhaps it might be different in Yorkshire, because a visit to the Ure valley recently was heartening in that not every tree was festooned with silage wrap… I am so grateful to spend more of my time in France and elsewhere in Europe nowadays, where conservation is taken seriously and they have pride in their wonderful trout rivers. It is tragic, in my view, that we cannot look after even our most precious salmonid-supporting rivers. The entire Eden system should be considered a National treasure, and properly protected as such. This incident is currently being ‘investigated’ by the EA and Natural England and we must hope that appropriate conservation action will ensue.