Before the inception of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), overgrazing and damage to river habitats was relatively rare. Since CAP, there has been an inexorable rise in the number of grazing animals and intensity of arable farming.

The increase in grazing has included riparian vegetation; intensive arable farming often sees ploughing almost to the water’s edge and pastures are replaced with crops.

Adding to our problem is that there was an historic but now discontinued practice of rotational coppicing for the alder wood itself and latterly, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, this continued in the belief that it would reduce flooding. This practice produces multi-stemmed trees that are prone to toppling and being ripped out of the bank during floods.

Small wonder then that in the heavily grazed Wye and Usk catchments we spend a lot of time and money restoring and protecting the riparian zone of our tributaries.