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Wey forward for river

by Rod Kebble

On Wednesday 18th April, the Surrey Wildlife Trust and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) hosted a workshop in Farnham to discuss the implementation of the EU’s Water Framework Directive in relation to the River Wey.

Looking west in the Wey Meadow SSSI at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm, February 2012.

Looking west with the Wey Meadow SSSI to the left of the River Wey. Photo taken in February 2012.

Pierrepont Farm was represented by farmer Mike Clear and Brian Lavers, who leads the CRT’s conservation volunteers at the farm and who is also a member of the monitoring group. About 30 people attended in total, from a broad range of interests.

The directive seeks to achieve a general improvement in the quality of rivers by, among other things, promoting sustainable use, reducing pollution and by dealing with drought and floods.

It seems the Wey currently suffers from two problems, the first being diffuse pollution in the form of phosphates, chiefly from farming, and silt and sediment from land run-off. The second problem also involves silt — this time from man-made obstructions such as weirs, which slow the river and hinder or prevent the migration of fish such as sea trout and eel, with barbel and dace also affected.

The problems appear to be less severe on the south branch of the Wey — where Pierrepont Farm is located — than on the north branch.

The opening of the farm’s new dairy last year saw the slurry lagoon moved much further away from the river and thus removed a potential source of serious pollution. There are no weirs on the stretch of river bordered by the farm.

However, a small number of cows do graze the Wey Meadow SSSI in late summer and could trample the bank at a couple of restricted locations when drinking from the river.

The organisers appeared pleased with the largely constructive discussions in the workshop sessions. The implementation plan is in three stages and the first, which ends in 2015, is mainly involved with gathering data and seeking the views of local people. Two more events are planned for Guildford and Pyrford.