River Catchments - CAMEL AND ALLEN

Rising at 280m on Hendraburnick Down on Bodmin Moor, the River Camel drains a 413km2 area between Bodmin Moor and Padstow and encompasses a diverse range of farming landscapes. With an average gradient of 7m/km, it flows for approximately 40km before joining the sea near Padstow.

The Camel Valley and its major tributaries the Rivers Allen, Ruthern and De Lank are currently designated as a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has also been attributed Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status under the EU Habitats Directive, due to the presence of otters and bullheads. Further designations include Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) status for the Camel estuary and Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) status for the Camel and Allen valleys. This has necessitated the Trust working closely with a number of organisations in particular English Nature (EN) and the Environment Agency (EA).

The catchment is composed of sandstones, slates and shales, with granite being found closer to Bodmin Moor. Historically, mining and quarrying was once an important industry with slate quarrying still occurring at Delabole, towards the top of the river Allen. Redundant coastal lead mines now form an important habitat for bats.

A section of the middle Allen in high flow
River Camel downstream from Poleys Bridge

The upper and middle reaches of the Camel are essentially moorland, passing into woodland. Most of the land is undulating farmland, principally livestock farming, with mixed farming/rough grazing on the poorer land. Indeed, agricultural land covers approximately 93% of the catchment.

Many species, including some rare ones, can be found in the Camel and Allen catchment including bullheads, the pearl bordered fritillary, lamprey, eels, cockles and many other red data book species. The Camel and Allen rivers have been recorded as being amongst the most productive rivers for salmon and sea trout in the South West, due to their high water quality, suitable flow regimes and appropriate habitats.

Over the course of the project, WRT advisors have produced 156 Integrated River Basin Resource Management Plans for farmers and river managers in the catchment, covering an area of 11,765 hectares. Although typically working with dairy, beef, sheep and arable farms, the catchment includes a diverse mix of land uses from golf courses to tourist centres including large areas of woodland.

Grant aided works: Through CRP, £57,794 of grant aid has been spent in the catchment on such items as 40km of stock proof fencing to protect watercourses. As English Nature provide grant through the Wildlife Enhancement Scheme towards fencing along main river SSSI’s, we have concentrated our work on the smaller tributaries. This has not only allowed for effective targeting of resources but has also tackled what are often the principal sources of sediments found in these rivers. The economic incentives for fencing are varied - during a follow up survey one farmer noted that the new fencing has saved £3 per cow/year in a 120 cow herd due to reduced vet bills for mastitis etc.

Example of fencing and relocated hardened crossing point where a spring fed stream was heavily degraded by livestock and vehicle movements and impacting on downstream waters

An integral part of achieving effective stock control involves the design and installation of features that maintain access to areas of land and water supplies. To this end, WRT has provided grant towards numerous gateways, drinking points, water troughs, and crossing points. This is often a challenging part of the fencing work and involves detailed consultation with landowners in order to provide long-term protection of watercourses and reduce potential impacts such as poaching and soil loss.

In addition to fencing works, WRT grants have facilitated: clearing log jams (where they caused erosion or a blockage to migratory fish passage), removing collapsed trees, controlling points of accelerated erosion and improving angling casting areas. On main river sites this has involved detailed consultation with EN and EA.

Improved Nutrient Management: Improving nutrient management on farms has been a key theme of CRP and we have aimed at highlighting the significant environmental and economic benefits this can provide. A particular focus has been placed on soil testing and wherever possible we have provided farm specific cost-benefit analysis. In addition, we have used detailed calculations to indicate the savings associated with initiating manure testing programmes. We have broadly aimed at raising awareness of the problems associated with misapplication of fertilisers and manures including issues relating to the storage and handling of manures.

Improved Soil Management: Throughout CRP we have been working with farmers to identify areas of land that have been, or are prone to, losing soil. We have promoted practices such as contour ploughing, leaving buffers along watercourses, under sowing, bi-cropping and other techniques for providing year round protection of soils. In one example our advice has encouraged a farmer to change his cropping regime from fodder beet to grassland in order to reduce the risk of soil runoff and to save costs.

Tackling Farmyard Issues: Farmyards are not only the source for a large proportion of pollution incidents but also represent an area where considerable financial savings can be made. We have consistently advocated the collection and use of rainwater not only for saving costs but for reducing the volumes of dirty water arising from the yard. Checking for water leaks, assessing options for alternative water supplies and wise use of water resources are common themes within the farm management plans.
During farm visits we have aimed at identifying problems associated with yard/track runoff and have advised on various techniques such as installing runoff diverters and sediment traps including methods of cyclical reduced frequency ditch clearance.

Pesticide Savings: Over 1,809 hectares have been covered by advice on spray savings, in particular relating to the timings/conditions of application and spreading areas. Where farmland weed species are identified as a problem we have advised on the use of both cultural and biological techniques in order to encourage farmers away from a reliance on chemical control.

Wildlife and Conservation: Our work within the catchment has presented a good opportunity to inform landowners of the (sometimes rare) flora and fauna found on their land. This has been well received and will foster an improved understanding of how farming techniques can be adapted to suit the needs of both the farmer and wildlife.

We regularly provide farmers with information on agri-environment schemes such as Environmental Stewardship and wherever possible, help to identify those features worth entering into an application. One notable example was in 2003 when a large intensive dairy farmer successfully entered his 1000+ acre holding into the scheme following our advice.

WRT has consistently encouraged farmers with land in or bordering SSSI’s to consider the benefits of joining the Wildlife Enhancement Scheme in order to achieve both capital and management grants. In addition, our experience has been used in a number of site meetings with English Nature where we have been able to present unbiased advice on farm management and fisheries related issues.

Managing Rivers, Banks and Vegetation: Our technical expertise in managing rivers has been put to good use and we have regularly discussed issues relating to maintaining and improving habitats, controlling erosion, managing woody debris and managing bankside vegetation.

WRT advisors have produced several management plans for the Bodmin and Wadebridge Angling Associations to provide management recommendations for their owned and rented waters and at various sites it is evident the overall quality of the habitat and conditions for fishing have improved. At one site we facilitated the removal of several collapsed trees involving detailed site visits and co-ordination between the landowner, EA, EN and the Angling Association.

Angling issues: We have established 3 Angling 2000 beats in the catchment:
Lemail Mill on the River Allen, Tresarret on the main river Camel and one at the demonstration site farm, South Penquite, on the De Lank River.

Invasive weed control: Upwards of 1/3rd of plans have included information on how to control invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and various pond weed species. Importantly, WRT’s involvement with the Cornwall Japanese Knotweed forum and Camel Invasives Group has allowed us to pass on the latest advice to landowners.

Tourism and Diversification: The Camel catchment is a popular tourist destination and we have often provided advice on options for diversification and potential grant funding through Objective One schemes. This has typically related to barn conversions, developing farm trails, wildlife and fishing ponds including ideas for adding value to current businesses. Our primary role has been referring farmers to the relevant organisations; however, we have aimed to outline important factors such as marketing/advertising.
The current farming climate has encouraged many farmers to consider options for diversification and we have provided information and advice for example on planting new ,and managing existing, woodlands, and establishing game/coarse fisheries.

Demonstration Sites and Raising Awareness: The Trust has installed 3 demonstration sites through CRP in the catchment – at an organic farm near Blisland, at Shell Woods car park by the Camel Trail and at Enfield Park in Camelford. This has allowed us to achieve excellent ‘coverage’ within the catchment thus raising our profile and enabling CRP to reach a large and diverse audience (e.g. the Camel Trail receives 350k visitors/year). The management plan for Enfield Park was subsequently adopted by the Town Council as a working management protocol for the park.

WRT advisors have given numerous presentations to, among others, the Women’s Institute, Probus Club, Treknow Garden Club and the Cornish Guild of Smallholders during the project as well as having display stands at the Royal Cornwall Show, Smallholders Fair, Michaelmas Fair and at the Camelford Show.

Working in Partnership: A key aspect to the success of CRP has been working in partnership with a number of organisations within the catchment. In addition to EN and the EA this has included; Cornwall County Council, North Cornwall District Council, the Forestry Commission, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, IMERYS, The Cornish Guild of Smallholders and the local Angling Associations.

There are a variety of issues in the catchment in which WRT has been actively involved from CAMS, Camel Trail Partnership, to the Camel Invasive Plant Group. WRT has regularly attended the Bodmin and Wadebridge Angling Association AGMs which has helped to increase awareness amongst anglers and identify ways for the clubs to actively manage the fishery resource.