Building on recent success…more work to restore Snowdonia rivers

Work to restore three rivers in Snowdonia so that they flow naturally and attracts more wildlife is underway.

It builds on recent work to restore a section of Nant y Gwryd near Capel Curig. Here, there are already signs of improvement, with the river using its flood plain in times of high flow and better habitats for fish to spawn.

The Afon Machno, Caletwr and another stretch of Nant y Gwryd are the latest focus for attention. It’s all part of Natural Resources Wales and the National Trust’s joint project with local landowners to improve the environment of the Upper Conwy catchment for people and wildlife – an area that covers 336 km2.

Dewi Davies, Upper Conwy Catchment Project Manager explains: “Sections of these rivers, previously modified, have steep banks that prevent water reaching the original floodplain. By reprofiling parts of the banks and placing boulders in the river channel, the rivers will be able to meander naturally once again. Slowing the flow will help reduce flood risk in areas lower down the valley.  
“More structural diversity in the rivers, including areas where water can pool and riffle, will be fantastic for fish such as brown trout. Otter will benefit too as well as a wealth of insect and bird life.”

The work, to be completed by 15 October by Llanrwst-based contractors C T Roberts, includes:

  • Removing a footbridge (see photo) from Afon Machno at Carrog farm, as part of reprofiling the riverbanks to improve the natural flow of the river and reconnect to flood plains – work which started back in 2019. The bridge was constricting the natural flow and will be reinstated at a better location, upstream.
  • Working with a landowner, at the top of the Afon Caletwr catchment, the flood plains will be brought back into use, helping to reduce the energy in the river and reduce erosion on the more productive farm fields further downstream.
  • At Nant y Gwryd, work will continue at two separate sections to further improve the river’s flow and habitats for fish.

The riverbanks will then be fenced off so that trees can be planted to create an improved corridor for wildlife. This will further slow the flow of water and reduce the river water’s temperature in the summer. Measures like this that prevent livestock from entering rivers also help improve water quality.

Dewi added: “This is just part of our work, with the invaluable help of local landowners, to take care of the Upper Conwy catchment’s environment by finding sustainable solutions that bring many benefits.”

You can find out more about the Welsh Government funded Tir Afon project in the Upper Conwy catchment and the National Trust’s Riverlands Programme here: