THE Wye is the public’s favourite river in Wales and England, a poll reveals today.
Voters described it as “magical and timeless”, “a haven for wildlife” and a place “to get lost and slow down”.
Organisers of the Our Rivers campaign award – backed by WWF Cymru, RSPB, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association – said the Wye is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the UK’s most important rivers for nature conservation. It is home to wildlife including water voles, salmon, otters, kingfishers, dippers, sand martins, dragonflies, eels and lamprey.
Anne Meikle, head of WWF Cymru, said: “We are thrilled this award has been won by a Welsh river. It is well deserved and clearly the public appreciate the Wye’s beauty, serenity and the wealth of wildlife which make the river and its banks their home.
“Despite this the river Wye faces threats, including high levels of pollution from agriculture, declining fish stocks and damage from excessive grazing. These problems need to be dealt with to ensure future generations can enjoy its beauty.”
Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, chief executive of the Wye and Usk Foundation, said much of the lower river valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that today’s accolade came as no surprise to him.
“The Wye – the source of which is in the Welsh mountains at Plynlimon – flows in an enormous D-shape through Rhayader, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Monmouth and Tintern, meeting the Severn estuary just below Chepstow,” he said. “It is 156 miles long, has a 1,650 square mile catchment, half of it is in England, half in Wales and I can’t think of any river to match it.
“It makes wonderful waterfalls and carved sculptures in the river bed before settling and meandering along the lower land to the sea.
“It contains a huge amount of marine biodiversity and is home to many fish. In its heyday, fisherman would catch six or seven thousand salmon annually and we are trying to get these figures back.”
Dr Marsh-Smith said it is also a popular river with good access along its entire length.
Since the award’s launch last August, thousands of people have cast their votes online.