The River Avon rises south east of Cumbernauld and flows in a generally north-easterly direction to the Forth Estuary at Kinneil. It drains a relatively well populated catchment with an area of about 200 km². There are 12 municipal sewage treatment works serving a population of around 50,000 people. From a fisheries perspective the river can be considered in three parts: The main river above Westfield; the Logie catchment which enters at Westfield; and the river below Westfield.
The River Avon above Westfield is generally in fairly good condition but all the tributaries in this upper section have at some period in history been seriously affected by coal mining operations. Although many of these have long since ceased operation there are still problems from time to time. This upper section of the river is generally slow and sluggish and in parts very weedy until a little way downstream of Slamannan. Much of the area between Slamannan and Avonbridge was subject to large-scale dredging and realignment works in the late 1970s which caused severe problems with siltation, but the river now seems to have recovered. The river changes character near Balmitchell and becomes much more open and broken with outcrops of bedrock apparent between Avonbridge and Westfield.
The Logie Water and its tributaries, the Couston Water and Barbauchlaw Burn, demonstrate the consequences of having to deal with the combined effluents from the towns of Bathgate, Armadale, and Blackridge. This is unfortunate because it is these burns which have the substrate and habitat most suited to salmonid fish. The gravels are now compacted and polluted and of little use. The upper reaches of the Barbauchlaw Burn appear to be in a better condition with some viable gravels still present. The Couston Water is in poor condition, bearing the effluent from Bathgate sewage treatment works. Historical water quality data does suggests that there is some improvement but in low flows problems will always arise. Just above Westfield Paper Mill (Closed approx. 2002), which discharged its treated effluent into the Logie Water, there is a weir which fish are unable to negotiate and where water was abstracted for use within the mill.
Discharges, including pentachlorophenol, from Westfield Mill have in the past been blamed for the total demise of salmonids and the virtual elimination of coarse fish below Westfield. Following the elimination of use of this chemical in around 1988 and other more recent improvements at Westfield Mill, the River Avon has shown a marked improvement from that point down stream.
After the Avon receives the Logie Water the gradient increases until it falls through a steep-sided gorge with a series of falls and pools at Wallace’s Cave near Muiravonside House. When it reaches its confluence with the Manuel Burn the gradient eases as the flood plain widens at Linlithgow. At Birkhill below Linlithgow the river enters another short gorge before it reaches the tidal flats at Grangemouth and into the estuary at Kinneil.
The majority of the fishing on the river is leased by the Linlithgow Angling Club, Avonvalley Angling Association and Slamannan Angling Club, together forming the River Avon Federation.
River Level Data provided by SEPA for the Avon at Polmonthill
Linlithgow Angling Club Website: www.l-a-c.co.uk
Avonvalley Angling Association: Brian Potts (Chairman), 43 Main Street Avonbridge, FALKIRK, FK1 2NF. Tel:01324 861276.
Slamannan Angling Club: George McIntosh (President), 51 Ramsay Avenue, LAURIESTON, Falkirk, FK2 9JQ. Tel: 01324 715735.
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