With finance from the European Regional Development Fund, pHish was given the go ahead on 1st October 2002. It remains the largest venture the Foundation has ever undertaken (£2.1 million budget) and it extended our activities into a number of new areas.


The overall objective was to improve the Wye fishery upstream of Hay in a way that is both long lasting and permanent (i.e. sustainably).

The project had four main areas of activity:

  • Remedy the effects of acid rain in the extreme upper Wye and Irfon catchments.Powys Habitat Improvement Project (pHish)
  • Continue the ongoing restoration of the habitat in the tributaries.
  • To engage the local community and farmers to appreciate the value of the river.
  • Generate meaningful economic benefits to the local economy from the improvements realised by this project and previous work.

In addition, we took on the responsibility for managing the mitigation stocking of salmon from a hatchery we constructed at Painscastle. Read more about salmon hatcheries.

Hydrological source (bog) liming in the upper Wye in the pHish project

Acid Water Treatment

Before starting, we knew that the success of this part of the project would depend on four things:

  • Developing an effective yet cheap delivery system that we could manage ourselves.
  • Persuading statutory bodies that the benefits far outweighed any downsides.
  • Finding a monitoring programme that could determine unequivocally whether and to what extent we had been successful.
  • Sand liming to correct acidity in a first order stream in the upper WyeLandowner, stakeholder and partnership approval.

Work started in 2003 and we learnt very quickly how difficult liming would be in these remote and high rainfall areas. Summer 2004 was washed out but the summers of 2005, 2006 and spring 2007 were ideal for lime distribution. New skills were learned.

By 2007, the required dose had been reached on the upper Wye but not on the Irfon. A significant problem was that here many of the hydrological sources had been obliterated by the forestry drainage schemes, leaving no available sites in which to deliver the lime (this issue was tackled in our later ISAC project).

To counter this we tried 'sand liming' on a single, severely acid tributary in 2006 and subsequent monitoring suggested a significant water quality improvement.

Sand liming involves applying larger (sand sized) chippings of calcium carbonate to first and second order streams. While forestry deprived us of hydrological sources, their intricate road system made this a relatively easy task. Streams without adequate sources now receive annual sand lime treatments.

Monitoring consisted of investigations in the following areas:

  • Diatom analysis.
  • Invertebrate analysis.
  • pH, conductivity and water chemistry.
  • Fish densities and distribution.
  • Leaf litter break down.

Read more about the Foundation's acid waters work.

Habitat and Access work

In pHish we coppiced, fenced and repaired another 40km of stream to add to the 35km completed in previous projects.

By the end of the project, our teams had completed habitat restoration on the Hafrena, Lynfi Dulas, Felindre, Tregoed, Duhonw, Nant Gwyn, Nantmel Dulas, Irfon, Marteg, Cammarch, Cnyffiad and Hirnant. Six barriers to migration were removed and one fish pass built.


Trout fishing on the Llynfi Dulas, one of the streams to benefit from habitat restoration in pHishA special post Foot and Mouth disease fund (Adfywio) enabled the pHish project to create the Foundation's 'Passport' scheme, an initiative to revitalise angling tourism on the back of the physical improvements being made to the fisheries.

Once an important local income source, the upper Wye had suffered a collapse in angling business. The Passport scheme begun to turn this around. In addition, it also brings in revenue to newly established wild trout fisheries of the tributaries, created through the Foundation's habitat work, giving farmers and landowners an economic incentive to look after these important rivers.

In 2003, the first 'Upper Wye Passport' was published (read more about the history of the Passport scheme).

Giving rivers an economic value is a vital part of ensuring their future health. It provides re-investment to protect and enhance them, ultimately creating a truly 'sustainable' system.

We are extremely grateful to the European Regional Development Fund and to our project partners, including: Environment Agency Wales, Countryside Council for Wales and Forestry Commission (all now Natural Resources Wales); University of Wales, Cardiff; Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor and the Country Landowners Association.