FARMERS and environmentalists shared insights, thoughts and viewpoints at a conference on river restoration and recovery, held in Hereford on Sunday 26 November.
The ‘Building bridges over troubled waters’ conference was jointly facilitated by Herefordshire Council, Herefordshire Rural Hub and Friends of the Lower Wye, with the aim of building a shared understanding of the challenges of protecting and restoring our rivers, and to find solutions.
Speakers, including local farmers, food and agri-tech representatives, nutrient and soil experts shared their knowledge and experience; outlining their progress and commitment to further solutions.
The presentations were followed by panel discussions with the audience of environmental campaigners and stakeholders. Subjects included: long term nature based solutions, regulation, nutrient loads and balance and the need for a joined up approach.
Councillor Elissa Swinglehurst, Cabinet lead member for environment, Herefordshire Council: “The ecological health of our rivers and countryside is an essential part of the quality of life and wellbeing of Herefordshire’s residents; a healthy ecology also supports a healthy economy.
“The debate about how to protect and restore our rivers often seems to be one in which different groups are pitched against each other, but no one wants to see our great river declining. No one.
“Our farming communities include some real innovators and there is a growing understanding in the wider farming community about the changes that need to happen. Our environmental groups have been at the forefront of bringing the challenges of river pollution to national attention and creating pressure for change.
“The purpose of the conference is to bring these groups together to create a common understanding of the challenges we face and to work together to find solutions. It is more than a conference, it is a confluence – a coming together of ideas and willingness to forge progress, an opportunity to speak and be heard, to listen and to understand.”
Mike Dunsbee and Nick Day, co-founders of the Friends of the Lower Wye: "We have found that all the various authorities and farmers want to see a cleaner, healthier river that benefits all including wildlife. Any solution has to be kept simple to implement and manage.
“The goal has to be to work together and find solutions that work and that can be easily implemented without being too onerous or expensive."
Kate Speke-Adams Managing Director Herefordshire Rural Hub: “The event provided a valuable opportunity for farmers and agri-businesses in Herefordshire to share the investments they are making to reduce nutrient load in the county and their commitment to restoring our rivers. Having the right tools and metrics available to quantify the action taken and the collective progress of the agricultural industry is imperative. Solutions to our phosphate challenge come in many shapes and sizes, and we see how important our role is in ensuring enterprises are supported in identifying and adopting the right approach for them and for us to communicate this far and wide.”
Further conferences are set to be held in 2024, to bring together key interested parties to explore the issues affecting the River Wye and adjoining watercourses in other counties, and identify short and long-term solutions.