THE Wye has been voted the public’s favourite river in England and Wales, while The Thames has been voted the worst.
The awards have been organised by the Our Rivers campaign - backed by the RSPB, WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association - to celebrate the nation’s rivers and highlight the threats to river wildlife. Since launching in August thousands of people have cast their votes online for the rivers they love, and those which need urgent attention.
The Wye – which straddles the England-Wales border and has inspired artists and composers – was chosen for its iconic beauty, and abundance of wildlife. Voters described it as ‘magical and timeless’, ‘a haven for wildlife’ and a place ‘to get lost and slow down’.
Voters highlighted problems on The Thames, such as the levels of sewage discharge and run off pollution from London streets. Comments left by visitors to the Our Rivers website include, ‘People don’t care about the river, they are not grateful’, ‘It’s a filthy excuse of a river’ and it suffers from ‘hundreds of years of lack of investment in sewage infrastructure’.
Many voters, however, put The Thames as their favourite river and it came second in the best rivers category ahead of The Dart in Devon, The Great Ouse in East Anglia and The Wandle which joins The Thames at Wandsworth. It was followed in the worst rivers category by The Kennet in Wiltshire, The Mersey, The Lea in Hertfordshire and The Trent.
Ralph Underhill, from the Our Rivers campaign, said: “The Wye is a stunning river which captures the imagination of everyone who visits it. It faces real threats, such as fertiliser and soil sediment from agriculture. But it remains a fantastic place to spot wildlife from sand martins and dippers to dragonflies and salmon.
“The Thames was voted the worst river – but the strength of opinion on both sides clearly shows that it has a special place in the public’s heart. It is under a great deal of pressure due to the sheer number of people who live alongside it.
“The problems The Thames faces are the same as those affecting most of the rivers in England and Wales. However major improvements have taken place and a lot of work is ongoing such as addressing the remaining problems from our ageing sewerage system. Like most rivers, diffuse pollution from agriculture, roads and urban areas remains a significant problem, damaging wildlife and driving up water treatment costs.”
A report out earlier this month from the Environment Agency showed that 72 per cent of rivers in England and Wales are now failing European targets. And while last year there were just five pristine rivers left – there are now only four.
The figures showed that 26 per cent of rivers in England and Wales are assessed as ‘Good’, 56 per cent are ‘Moderate’, 14 per cent are ‘Poor’ and two per cent are ‘Bad’. The European Water Framework Directive has set a target for all rivers to be ‘Good’ or better by 2015.
Mr Underhill added: “The Environment Agency needs to bring together conservationists, anglers, farmers, landowners and other interested groups at a local level so that we can work in partnership to address the pressures threatening our rivers.
“But we also need Government to introduce tougher penalties for those who refuse to take action to address the damage they are causing - only then can we ensure healthy rivers for both people and wildlife.”
For more information and to watch a film about The Wye visit www.ourrivers.org.uk