A FARMER is calling on a charity to fulfil its promise to erect a fence on his land after losing thousands of pounds when four calves drowned.

Geoffrey Hutchinson wants the Tees River Trust to install the safety measure as he says it it no longer safe to allow his cattle to graze on one of the fields as he fears losing more livestock.

He said the charity removed a weir on his farm to encourage salmon into the beck but believes the works have damaged the wildlife environment with a loss of habitat for Kingfishers and water voles.

The farmer, whose family has been working on Fieldhouse Farm, Greatham for three generations, feels let down by the Trust after waiting more than 12-months for them to build a new fence. The calves died after becoming stuck in the muddy bottom of the beck.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Some of the trees left behind by the charity following the work

He said: "I have had site visits with people from the Trust and they promised me that they would erect a fence to stop it happening again but they have never been back. I'm a tenant farmer and can't afford to be losing livestock – it has cost me thousands of pounds.

"I can't use the field where the weir was any more just in case it happens again – the adults can cross it fine but it's the calves that struggle.

"When they removed the weir, they said it wold improve wildlife with salmon coming up the beck but as far as I'm concerned it has caused more damage. The kingfishers have gone, the water voles have gone and the fish that were already there have now gone because mink are having a field day now that the water is shallower."

Darlington and Stockton Times:

After the work was carried out on the beck

Ben Lamb of the Tees River Trust said the work carried out was necessary.

He said: "The weir had become a liability for the landowners as people were using it as a swimming spot and there were increasing incidents of antisocial behaviour, including drug use and fires, around the pool. In addition to that, the weir had for many years been causing a problem for flooding adjacent and upstream land and records show that landowners had been keen to do something about it since the early 1980s.

"The Trust removed the weir to encourage species such as European eel, now a critically endangered species, and other species such as sea trout and flounder to make use of the available water. The beck is an important Tees Tributary for migrating fish as it is one of the few that are below the Tees Barrage, which is known to have an impact on fish populations in the Tees.

"The benefits of the weir removal on fish numbers are being monitored by a Durham University PhD student and there is already a clear improvement, both in terms of fish and invertebrate life in the beck.

"Given that there is much less disturbance in the area around the weir site now that it has gone, we also expect to see a rise in the range of bird species and numbers here.

"This increase will be supported by improved numbers of fish and invertebrates to eat and feed their young with. The increase in fish, marginal habitat and food will also help otters to thrive and with any luck , we may also one day see the return of water voles to the beck."