Anglers mourn river that's lost all its trees… and accuse eco-bosses of 'scorched-earth tactics'

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Anglers mourn river that’s lost all of its trees… and accuse eco-bosses of ‘scorched-earth tactics’ in flood management works

  • The 250 yard stretch of the River Tone running through Taunton famous with anglers for its wildlife has been stripped of its trees for flood-management  
  • The Environment Agency said it plans to compensate for the loss of the trees 


A stretch of a river popular with anglers has been stripped of its trees – leading the Environment Agency to be accused of ‘scorched-earth tactics’.

The 250-yard section of the River Tone running through Taunton in Somerset was famous for its wildlife, particularly kingfishers.

But after flood-management work that felled the majority of its trees last week, the banks of the river are now bare.

Dominic Garnett, 42, an angling guide who has fished the stretch of the river for 20 years, said: ‘You go there to be with nature and to get away and it’s all just been ripped away.’ 

After flood-management work that felled the majority of its trees last week, the banks of the river are now bare

After flood-management work that felled the majority of its trees last week, the banks of the river are now bare

Mark Barrow, a film-maker who specialises in river wildlife, tweeted: ‘Complete devastation, courtesy of the Environment Agency. Scorched earth work the Russian army would be proud of!’

The Environment Agency said it plans to compensate for the loss. 

The area is due to be sown with a wild flower seed mix and replanted with native trees.

The length of the river ran through marshland until the 1990s, when the surrounding land was tarmacked to make way for a leisure and shopping complex and for housing.

Mr Garnett said the area is prone to flooding.

Woodland planting is often touted as a key flood mitigation strategy, but Mr Garnett said representatives of the Environment Agency had told him the trees had been felled ‘because they make the water back up’. 

The length of the river ran through marshland until the 1990s, when the surrounding land was tarmacked to make way for a leisure and shopping complex and for housing

The length of the river ran through marshland until the 1990s, when the surrounding land was tarmacked to make way for a leisure and shopping complex and for housing

Woodland planting is often touted as a key flood mitigation strategy

Woodland planting is often touted as a key flood mitigation strategy

He added: ‘It is like they have taken an old hippie and given him a buzz cut – it is scorched earth tactics.

‘When are we going to start putting nature first? We always mess around with it. It is always very short-term and later on it is always nature that pays the price.’

He pointed out that huge swathes of trees had been cleared only weeks away from nesting season, with river plants dredged out when some species of fish are starting to spawn.

‘It makes them vulnerable to predators – fish need places to hide,’ he said.

When the complex was originally built a large lake was created, in part, according to Mr Garnett, to ‘appease’ locals angered by the loss of the marshland.

But he says that due to a lack of maintenance, the lake, which could have helped flood control efforts, is now silted up and only two or three inches deep in places.

‘It’s just depressing,’ Mr Garnett said.

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