Voting starts for 'best and worst' rivers in England and Wales

Tim Muffett on why some British rivers still have a long way to go

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A survey to find the best-loved and most neglected rivers in England and Wales has been launched by conservationists.The first Our Rivers awards is being run by a campaign group launched last year.

The Our Rivers campaign is pushing for clean, well-maintained and pollution-free rivers across England and Wales.

The group includes the RSPB, WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association.

It is asking people to vote online, for their "best" and "worst" rivers.

A government report on the state of rivers, also published last year, said 74% were failing to meet European environmental targets.

The Environment Agency study found that only five stretches of more than 6,000 rivers surveyed in England and Wales remained in pristine condition.

River threats

According to the campaigners, the rest of the rivers face pressures that include pollution from fertilisers and poorly-designed urban drainage, invasive riverbank species like signal crayfish and American mink, and low water levels caused by over-abstraction.

Ralph Underhill, Our Rivers campaigner, said: "This is the first time the public has had a chance to vote for the river which is closest to the nation's heart.

"This award will be a great celebration of one of our richest wildlife habitats - and one that everyone can enjoy because no-one is more than a few minutes from a river, stream or brook.

"We want to celebrate the amazing rivers we have in England and Wales, whilst raising awareness of the threats they face."

The Our Rivers team of experts will conduct a one-day workshop with local councils and groups to develop an action plan to help improve the condition of, and bring back the wildlife to, the river voted the "worst" in England and Wales.

Voting on the Our Rivers Awards website closes on 31 October.

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