The All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling held a successful visit to Berkshire on to hear about the work that has been done to improve angling and the environment on the rivers Kennet and Pang.
The Environment Agency hosted the visit to the Englefield Estate near Theale by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling, which is chaired by Reading West MP Martin Salter. The cross party group represents the interests of coarse, sea and game anglers and took the opportunity to go trout fishing on the River Pang and at Haywards Farm lakes in Station Road, Theale. They landed rainbow trout from the lake and had a good catch of both wild and stocked brown trout on the dry fly from the Pang in the afternoon.

During the course of the day they will hear about the partnership work, spearheaded by the Environment Agency through the Kennet and Pang Fisheries Action Plan and the Kennet Chalkstream Restoration Project. These projects aim to bring about improvements in water quality for all river users throughout West Berkshire and beyond.

The Rivers Kennet, Pang, Lambourn, Dun and Enborne have historically had very high reputations as quality game and coarse fisheries. The Kennet and Lambourn have both been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and the Lambourn has also been given international status as a Special Area for Conservation. The rivers, which are fed by groundwater springs, have enjoyed excellent water quality, which is highlighted by the varied plant and animal life. Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus), often regarded as the ‘chalk stream’ weed, is widely spread throughout these rivers which have produced fish notable for their size, abundance and quality.

But the River Kennet has suffered in recent years from a range of pressures resulting in lower flows and water which does not meet the ‘gin clear’ expectations of a healthy chalk stream.  In the Upper Kennet the increased levels of nutrients have caused a rise in the amount of algae, which smothers aquatic plants and spoils the appearance of the river. On the lower river the cloudiness is felt to be more associated with the interaction between the Kennet & Avon Canal and the River Kennet and with the growth of towns such as Newbury, Thatcham and Reading. Over the last couple of years some fish stocks have shown signs of recovery on the Kennet. In the drought years of 1989-92 the river Pang suffered from low flow exacerbated by Thames Water abstraction policy at the head of the river catchment. Although the abstraction was licensed it was under an old licence which did not meet current environmental safeguards. Local people ran a “Save the Pang” campaign and eventually Thames Water agreed to reduce abstraction by over 50% from the Compton borehole in the Berkshire Downs. Flows were restored and by 1994 the source of the river had moved back upstream a further 6 kms to Hampstead Norreys. Today the river is once again a healthy chalkstream with reasonable flows and good stocks of fish.

Craig Woolhouse, area manager at the Environment Agency, said:

“We are delighted to welcome the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling here today to see the hard work we are doing on this catchment to improve the problems along the River Kennet. We know that there is still a lot of work to do, but the visit gives us a terrific opportunity to demonstrate our co-operative approach to restoring these rivers. The support and understanding of such an influential group can only help us to achieve our goal of seeing the rivers returned to their former glory.”

Martin Salter added:

“With the increase in house-building in the South-East there is always a danger that our rivers can be sucked dry or degraded so it is good to highlight how a beautiful little southern chalkstream such as the Pang was brought back to life and to hear of work to restore Berkshire’s River Kennet as one of the premier fisheries in the country.”

Newbury MP Richard Benyon said:

“I think it’s important that MPs see for themselves what’s happening to the rivers and streams of Britain and how they can play their part in protecting this fragile but vital environment.”

PHOTO: Please find attached two photos from the APPG trip. Captions as follows:
1) MPs Richard Benyon (Newbury), Martin Salter (Reading West) and Charles Walker (Broxbourne) with a 3lb rainbow trout caught at Haywards Farm in Theale.
2) The Chair and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling Martin Salter MP (4th from left) and Charles Walker MP (2nd from left) beside the restored River Pang in Berkshire with Englefield Estate Manager Ken McDiarmid (left) and local river keeper Rob Starr.