ANGLERS have said a stretch of towpath looks like it was hit by a hurricane after a landowner cut back scores of trees.

The willows along the Thames Path between Sandford and Radley were reduced to stumps after the Environment Agency said branches were causing problems for boats navigating the river.

Landowner Nicholas Frearson, of Gooseacre Barn, said the work would also reduce the risk of flooding posed by build-ups of silt being trapped by tree roots.

But fishermen have been left dismayed by the move and claimed it would harm natural habitats of birds and fish.

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Keen angler John Beesley, 62, said: “It looks like a hurricane has taken everything down.

“I have fished down that stretch for more than 40 years and I can’t believe what it looks like.

“Fish used to breed in sheltered areas and that has all just been destroyed. There’s just no telling about what has been lost.”

Oxford Mail:

All that remain of trees that used to line the towpath.

Malcolm Jones, treasurer of Abingdon and Oxford Anglers Alliance, said: “It will affect our bookings for the summer league and winter league because we hold some of our biggest events there.

“I am totally amazed this was allowed. The club owns the fishing rights near Sandford Lock so we feel we should have been notified about this.”

Environment Agency spokeswoman Freya Dean said they wrote to Mr Frearson in December 2013 asking him to cut the trees back because a survey of the Thames had found they were “adversely affecting the river and its navigation”. The agency advised the work be done between September and February, she said, to avoid bird nesting season, but it had been delayed by high water levels last winter.

Mr Frearson admitted that the work looked “dramatic”.

But he added: “We are liable if branches hit people on the towpath or the river, but the problem is also that branches grow and put down roots in the water. When that happens silt builds up, making the river shallower and reducing its capacity to carry floodwater away.

“So anything that was dangling in the water has been pollarded, but we have not pulled any roots out.

“It should be done along the length of the Thames because it is something that used to get done regularly.

“That is why it looks dramatic now. If you go down there in three months’ time you will wonder what the fuss is about.”