MPs angling group catches the latest news on Kennet and Pang river restoration work

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling held a
successful visit to
Berkshire
on Friday 25 May to hear about the work that has been done to improve angling
and the environment on the rivers Kennet and Pang.

The
Environment Agency hosted the visit to the Englefield Estate near Theale by the
All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling, which is chaired by Reading West MP
Martin Salter. The cross party group represents the interests of coarse, sea
and game anglers and took the opportunity to go trout fishing on the River Pang
and at Haywards Farm lakes in Station Road, Theale. They landed rainbow trout
from the lake and had a good catch of both wild and stocked brown trout on the
dry fly from the Pang in the afternoon.

During the course of the day they will hear about the
partnership work, spearheaded by the Environment Agency through the Kennet and
Pang Fisheries Action Plan and the Kennet Chalkstream Restoration Project.
These projects aim to bring about improvements in water quality for all river
users throughout
West Berkshire
and beyond.

The Rivers Kennet, Pang, Lambourn, Dun and
Enborne have historically had very high reputations as quality game and coarse
fisheries. The Kennet and Lambourn have both been designated as Sites of
Special Scientific Interest, and the Lambourn has also been given international
status as a Special Area for Conservation. The rivers, which are fed by groundwater
springs, have enjoyed excellent water quality, which is highlighted by the
varied plant and animal life. Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus), often regarded as the ‘chalk stream’ weed, is widely
spread throughout these rivers which have produced fish notable for their size,
abundance and quality.

But the River Kennet has suffered in recent
years from a range of pressures resulting in lower flows and water which does
not meet the ‘gin clear’ expectations of a healthy chalk stream.  In the
Upper Kennet the increased
levels of nutrients have caused a rise in the amount of algae, which smothers
aquatic plants and spoils the appearance of the river. On the lower river the
cloudiness is felt to be more associated with the interaction between the
Kennet & Avon Canal and the River
Kennet and with the growth of towns such as Newbury, Thatcham and
Reading. Over the last
couple of years some fish stocks have shown signs of recovery on the Kennet. In
the drought years of 1989-92 the river Pang suffered from low flow exacerbated
by Thames Water abstraction policy at the head of the river catchment. Although
the abstraction was licensed it was under an old licence which did not meet
current environmental safeguards. Local people ran a “Save the Pang” campaign
and eventually Thames Water agreed to reduce abstraction by over 50% from the
Compton borehole in the
Berkshire Downs. Flows were restored and by 1994 the source of the river had
moved back upstream a further 6 kms to Hampstead Norreys. Today the river is
once again a healthy chalkstream with reasonable flows and good stocks of fish.

Craig Woolhouse, area manager at the
Environment Agency, said:

“We are delighted to welcome the All Party
Parliamentary Group on Angling here today to see the hard work we are doing on
this catchment to improve the problems along the River Kennet. We know that
there is still a lot of work to do, but the visit gives us a terrific
opportunity to demonstrate our co-operative approach to restoring these rivers.
The support and understanding of such an influential group can only help us to
achieve our goal of seeing the rivers returned to their former glory.”

Martin Salter added:

“With the increase in house-building in the
South-East there is always a danger that our rivers can be sucked dry or
degraded so it is good to highlight how a beautiful little southern chalkstream
such as the Pang was brought back to life and to hear of work to restore
Berkshire’s River Kennet as one of the premier fisheries in the country.”

Newbury MP Richard Benyon said:

“I think it’s important that MPs see for
themselves what’s happening to the rivers and streams of
Britain and how they can
play their part in protecting this fragile but vital environment.”