Chris White and I visited this project on Wednesday 3rd May 2023. As the representatives of the Gwynedd and Dee/Clwyd Fisheries Groups on the Welsh Fisheries Forum, we had been invited to view the project.
Uwch Conwy covers an area at the top end of the Conwy catchment. It is a large area roughly the size of the Isle of Wight. The chief partners in the project are NRW and the National Trust. NT owns much of the land, which added to the forestry land run by NRW plus supportive landowners, means that the project covers the majority of the Upper Catchment of the Conwy.
We first visited the village of Yspyty Ifan and the Migneint, which is a large moorland at the top of the Conwy catchment. In the past ditches had been cut for agricultural purposes to drain the vast moorland of the Migneint. This meant that the former boggy land had been drying out with consequences for habitats. Restoring the moorland by damming up the ditches meant that the land was re-wetted with moisture being trapped by the mosses. This had the benefit of carbon capture and the resultant restored bogs absorbing rainfall and acting as giant sponges. Since the project started, there has been a notable impact on the river Conwy at Yspyty Ifan with less flooding and running clearer during floods. The Conwy now rises and falls slower during major rainfall events – this benefits angling activity. The photograph below shows the blocked ditches, if you look carefully you will see another group in the distance. The Migneint is used for field trips by universities and schools as an example of what can be done to restore moorland.
We moved onto Cwm Penmachno where the river Machno had been reprofiled and flood embankments removed. Removal of flood banks means that farmland could be flooded slowing the flow and reducing the impact of flooding downstream in such places as Llanrwst. At Cwm Penmachno there was involvement with the local community with regard to accessing the environment which benefits the community which is recognised as it is one of the most deprived areas in Wales due to its remoteness. The photograph below was taken at the head of Afon Machno with Cwm Penmachno in the background
Our final visit was to Dyffryn Mymbyr on the Nant y Gwryd. This is a river which is at the bottom of Snowdon just off the A4086 between Capel Curig and Pen y Gwryd. The river empties into Llynau Mymbyr (the lakes behind Plas y Brenin outdoor Centre) before joining the Afon Llugwy and eventually the Conwy. The Nant y Gwryd has been re-profiled to return it to a more natural state having been previously canalized. The banks have been reprofiled to enable the river to flow onto the floodplain. Trees have been planted to help stabilise the banks to reduce bank erosion and provide shade to reduce future temperature events. Boulders which had been dredged from the river during canalisation to re-enforce banks were recycled to change the flow of the water to provide good habitat for spawning fish (brown trout). The photograph below is the group standing in a diversion channel which allows the river to divert to the floodplain rather than eroding banks – Snowdon can be seen in the background.
To summarise the above project brings great benefits to people with reduced flooding, creating habitats, improving and future proofing the environment. From an angling perspective any measures taken to improve water quality and habitat is of benefit to fish. During the project the local community (including farmers) were involved and have seen the benefit of less flooding and improvement to their wellbeing and the environment. A short video of the work on the Nant y Gwryd can be seen below.