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Thread: Cutting Branches to Make the River Safer

  1. #1

    Default Cutting Branches to Make the River Safer

    I have very mixed feelings regarding the idea that we can modify a river to make it safer for paddlers. The Wye is a Special Area of Conservation and there are obviously a number of conservation & fisheries issues regarding the works, nesting birds, bats, loss of habitat for fish etc but I also wonder, 1. quite where we should set limits on this kind of thing? 2. Is there a danger of instilling a false sense of security?

    In the USA there have a been a number of deaths where the families have tried to force, via the courts, the authorities to dynamite rapids to make them "safer". I believe so far this has been resisted. If we set about removing trees to make the Wye safer where do we stop? Should we take all the trees away because they may one day form a hazard? What about our rapids? I accept that there are some rivers I may never be able to paddle but if we moved a few rocks about perhaps we could make them easier and let me and thousands of others navigate them safely

    As for a false sense of security. Well if we tell paddlers that we have been out and cleared branches then it is important to remember that the river was only clear the last time you looked. Would you be liable if you missed a branch and someone was caught up on it? Things happen to rivers to make them change in quite a small time. On a recent Tanat trip we chose not to paddle one section beacause there was a large tree across the main route down the rapid. We all need to know our limits and have the skills or be accompanied by people who can guide us in our choices.

    As individuals we need to be aware of the hazards we may encounter and for people making a living from putting others on the water systems must be put in place to make sure users are informed of the potential risks.

    Please don't get me wrong. This was an absolute tragedy and something we should learn from, but the hazards will always be there. Just like the bears in Canada they part of what makes the natural world just what is, but they are also something that we must always treat with respect.
    "All right" said Eeyore "We're going. Only don't blame me"

    www.canoepaddler.me.uk

  2. #2
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    I agree with Chris. It is all well and good to have safe waters for learning but to try and sanitise the outdoors too much will end up destroying what attracted us in the first place.

  3. #3

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    i take your point, its a very impractical and limited reaction to the recent event,s but considering only 2% of the rivers in wales and england can be canoed without express written permission from all the land owners concerned i can think of worse reactions to this tragic event.
    ive just compleated 4 months work taking all the overhangigng branches off the brecon monmouth canal(about 15-20 miles worth) and in all that time we had nothing but posative reactions to our work as some of the canal was posativly deralict untill we had finished , not one single negative coment and certinly no accusations of sanatising nature.
    its mostly asthetic and gives the people involved a sence of doing somthing, maybe just puts ther mind at ease a little, i suppose i could just tell them its just cosmetic and wont prevent it from hapaning next week or the week after but i dout that would help matters either, and the people who asked work on this river every day and have done so for decades in some cases so i dout you need to remind them the river can change overnight

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    Quote Originally Posted by lyndon

    ive just compleated 4 months work taking all the overhangigng branches off the brecon monmouth canal(about 15-20 miles worth)
    well, as I assume you got paid to wreck the natural environment I'll bear that in mind when I read the rest of your observations.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Quote Originally Posted by tenboats1
    well, as I assume you got paid to wreck the natural environment I'll bear that in mind when I read the rest of your observations.
    Steady Tony. As a tree surgeon I am sure he did get paid to do his job.

    I was just about to post saying that canals are man made environments anyway so I would not be as concerned to see these tidied up as it would be returning them to their original state, working waterways. Just like I would not mind seeing rivers returned to their original state, wild and unmanaged. So Lydon was not wrecking the natural environment at all but working to restore an industrial site. No different to resurfacing a road.

  6. #6
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    If a river gets blocked by a fallen tree, paddlers are usually quite eager/happy to see it cleared!
    Sensible tree pruning can be acceptable. Its the age old problem of getting everybody to agree to my/our/your idea of [common??] sense.

    Sometimes one has to react to 'the populace' even if it isn't at the core of the problem
    [check out the tree pruning under powerlines, some is essential, some is needed, some is just a reaction to the power outages a few years ago who's roots were elsewhere]

    Philip
    Ban all beaver dams - dams ain't natural.

  7. #7

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    actually i was paid to manage the environment m8 what do you do for a living ? remember the original topic and please dont turn this in to a slanging match we were here to discuse and sypathise over the tragic death of a 9 year old girl if youd like to make personal atacks pm me for my adress.

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    It was perhaps a mistake for me not to post a stronger reply to Tony's post. The post was more inflammatory than constructive but I was hoping that my gentle nudge in reply would put things back on track. I still have hopes that this will be the case and that we will not see the first locked thread of the forum.

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    I'm going to pipe up and lend my support to John and Chris. Certainly tidying up vegetation overhanging a canal makes sense if the canal is to be used for what it was intended. This is not just for canoes but more for barges.

    There is certainly a balance to be srtuck when clearing from rivers. It would make sense to remove a tree blocking the navigation or presenting a hazard. Who would complain about that? But trees generally overhanging or growing out of the bank which is covered during high water? Perhaps we should leave these as part of the natural way of things.

    But we do see trees which don't really fall into either categories which it might be prudent to prune. If there is a hazard just downstream from a canoe hire centre, it might well make sense to do something to reduce the potential for catastrophe.

    I don't know exactly which tree or trees we are talking about. Having Lyndon take his chainsaw to them might just be exactly the right thing to do.

  10. #10

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    Just my 2p worth - It is very complicated in England, as we lived in a 'gardened' country. There are few areas which have not be managed in some way, and one of the problems with this is once you start - you cant stop. Even what we consider wild places have been heavily altered by man.

    River management is always a balance between several different demands. The need for navigation, water extraction, sewage disposal, drainage, angling and amenity value all play a role in the decisions made about rivers.

    It would be interesting for England to revert to natural - but it is not going to happen - so it is a matter of how much gardening we do and where we do it rather than interference or not. Personally I am on the do as little as possible end of the spectrum, but I accept that some things must be done.

    PS Magikelly - could I suggest you separate this thread away from the much more important announcement? I feel does not maintain the respect that the original thread deserves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeardyWeirdy
    PS Magikelly - could I suggest you separate this thread away from the much more important announcement? I feel does not maintain the respect that the original thread deserves.
    Good idea. I have split the last posts off into this new thread.

  12. #12
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    I like rivers to be wild but I will still curse the blo_dy trees sometimes on trips. I would swear some are bored Ents who prefer to hang over a nice surf wave.

    I have seen people stuck in trees and always take a small saw just in case.

    I will admit to cutting a fallen tree branch (and my hand) on the lower tryweryn the other day. It was blocking must of the river and there are a lot of paddlers on there that aren't quite ready for it.
    Rogue

  13. #13
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    What a tragic accident and my deepest sympathy goes out to the family.

    In fear of taking the thread off track again I feel that our whole lives are frought with risks people die every day just crossing the road, using pedestrian crossings help but still don't make roads safe. It is all about minimising the risk factor as much as you possibly can. Removing trees along the course of a waterway will NOT eliminate the risk of capsize,learning to swim will NOT eliminate the risk of drowning,using a pedestrian crossing will NOT eliminate the risk of being run over.None of us here Know all the facts that ended in such tragedy but we are all now aware of what can happen.This poor girl and her family will be in my thoughts every time I venture out onto the water,and as a relatively inexperienced paddler I will always make sure I have the backup needed for when I get it wrong. Mike B...

  14. #14
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    Many of the fallen trees leaning in the water and floating down rivers are cut back to improve access to fishing spots! Rivers such as the Wye where at one time important navigations and as such probably had few trees overhanging them, now they are used for recreation.
    I personally would not lament the loss of a few trees if that was balanced with safety and access on the few rivers we have to paddle. However, what water level would you use a benchmark when removing trees? Using flood levels you would have to remove practically every tree along the water course!! During the summer all but the most overhanging cause any problems at all.

    If however you like tress on a river and want to try a river that has its fair share of tress as a comparison to more managed ones take a paddle on the River Lugg . Bet you take a saw next time!

    Next week canoes, trees, and the river will be forgotten; especially when costs are brought into play.

    Just get out and paddle and leave the rest to people who really worry!!

    Nigel

  15. #15
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    I have been involved in the removal of dead tree debris from rivers where it posed a significant problem to navigation, i.e. blocked the only line, and in once case was a safety risk on a popular stretch. In moderation, I see no real harm in moving the odd tree carcass to one side rather than wait for the next flood to do it for you.

    What I would object to is the pruning or remocal of living trees and vegetation for any reason. It is unsightly and, more importantly, greatly reduced the amount of fish food in the river - overhanging branches teem with life and a significant amountof it ends up in the water.

    A few years back, the Findhorn between Sluie and the A96 bridge had one bank completeley cleared of vegetation to allow access for fishing - criminal.
    Veni Vidi Natavi

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    On our trip on the Tay on Sunday we ended up being confronted with a fallen tree entirely blocking our path. It wasn’t too hard to eddy into the side and carry around, but in high water having chosen that channel could have been a very serious mistake with little time to get to the side.
    We had the children (5&7) with us and the tragic story of the girl drowning on the Wye immediately popped into my head. I half thought that having this tree trunk removed would be a good idea. Then I actually thought through the location and river dynamics. In time this channel will catch more debris and silt up, pushing more flow across low shingle banks to the right creating a deeper safer channel. The channel before the one we took may have been safer though the reason we did not go down that one was the low overhanging branches.

    Rivers are dynamic. They constantly change character depending on water levels and obstructions etc which create new flow patterns and over the course of time can dramatically change where the river bed is.
    That said there is very little truly natural habitat left in this country. People have been exerting their influence over the land for thousands of years, not always with the desiered consequenses.
    I have worked in conservation for over 14 yrs. In this time I have actively managed many areas that were important for wildlife. In most returning to a truly natural state would not have been possible and would even have depleted the Biodiversity of the area.

    People do need relatively safe environments to learn in. Perhaps that may involve clearing branches occasionally, but I wouldn’t be the one to authorise it as you could end up being liable for any that were missed. Canals are and always have been managed water ways. Rivers on the other hand I think the more natural the better, time has shown that the more we interfere the more problems there generally are.

    My son asked me a couple of months ago why we do dangerous things like Skiing and Canoeing with them. We asked if he would rather just stay in his bedroom watching TV as some children seem to. He said ofcourse not.

    Be as safe as you can be out on the water, but accept there are risks in everything.
    As to cutting branches, there may be a time and a place but there is no formula that you could reasonably use. Everywhere is unique. and where would you stop.
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silvergirl
    Rivers are dynamic. They constantly change character depending on water levels and obstructions etc which create new flow patterns and over the course of time can dramatically change where the river bed is.
    That's a very good point. I'd hope that on the odd ocasion I've done this I didn't noticably alter the dynamics of the river but, as you say, it's all a matter of judgement.
    Veni Vidi Natavi

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    I've moved many logs, rocks, and beaver dams in waterways over the years - just to get through. Doesn't matter. They soon reappear as if by magic.
    The perfect canoe -
    Like a leaf on the water

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    Default Tree removal

    The last couple that died in my area got pulled under a fallen tree; we call them sweepers. I cannot speak on the ethics of removing them in the UK but here in my area, there are rivers that have so many fallen trees that you have to cut your way through the log jams every few miles.

    These lads had a rough time cutting through this one on the Tobique River a few hours north of my home town.
    I have had to drag canoes over these and cut them off as well. Often they completely block the river. The last one that I had to cut through was on a river called the Pollet, where I had to do the tightrope act under a bridge that was helping to form a logjam. Quite scary with the water rushing under you.
    For the most part if a tree is leaning out over the water from soft soil and is threatening to canoeists, its days are numbered anyhow, mother nature has other plans for it as driftwood somewhere else. The permanent ones with a good hold on a rock face probably deserve to stay where they are, but could be trimmed up occasionally without causing too much damage.
    I think sweepers are just part of canoeing and as pierre girard says they do come back just like magic, just usually in a different place.

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