From 2017 to 2023, the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust lead the Rivers in Elmet (RIE) Project. The project was predominantly funded by the Environment Agency (EA) and aimed to address soil and nutrients loading in watercourses, as well as habitat modifications.
Fencing installed on Cock Beck
Phase 1 2017 - 2020
- Engaged with 50 farmers
- 7km of riverbank fencing
- Improved 15 livestock drinking points
- £27,000 worth of in-kind support
- 3000 trees planted by volunteers
Phase 2 2020 - 2023
- 2.84km of river protected by fencing
- 1.25ha wildlife habitat created
- 5400 trees and hedge plants planted
- 6 individually tailored farm plan reports drawn up
Phase 1 2017-2020
In the first phase of the project (April 2017- March 2020), the trust engaged with around 50 farmers to deliver a range of practical conservation measures. Fencing was a key output of the project, with a total of 7km of riverbank fenced off, creating approximately three and a half hectares of buffer strip. More than three thousand trees were planted including half a kilometre of hedges. This work helped to exclude livestock from the rivers and improved 15 drinking points. We installed five pasture pumps to provide alternative watering solutions and ensure livestock had access to water. These physical improvements have helped to reduce erosion and pollution, whilst enhancing the quality of bankside habitat.
The project successfully engaged with communities across the catchments, hosting volunteer days and working within schools. Events included a litter picking day (in partnership with the Environment Agency, Leeds City Council and the Yorkshire housing association) and a riverfly monitoring training workshop, where we were able to train six local volunteers to monitor invertebrate populations. Volunteers were actively involved in planting trees and installing in-stream channel deflectors to improve fish spawning and aquatic habitat. The volunteer hours alone generated an incredible £27,000 worth of in-kind support while demonstrating the importance of proactive community engagement for project delivery and success.
Connecting with schools was an important part of the project – Catherine (our education and engagement officer) visited seven different schools across the catchments and engaged with 425 children, educating them about river processes, pollution and river invertebrates.
Phase 1 2017 -2020
Phase 2 2020-2023
The second phase of delivery ran from April 2020 to March 2023 and addressed sediment, nutrient pollution and habitat modifications in five adjoining waterbodies (Collingham Beck, Thorner Beck, Cock Beck, Mill Dike and Bishop Dike) in the lower Wharfe and lower Ouse catchments.
On the ground benefits delivered included improved habitat diversity and better protected watercourses from sediment and nutrient runoff. This was delivered through physical interventions including:
- Riparian fencing – enabling rougher vegetation to develop, buffering watercourses and providing varied habitat for wildlife
- Alternative drinking options – reducing livestock erosion of bankside and soiling direct into the water
- Riparian and cross slope hedging – creating a more diverse habitat for species, slowing the flow of water entering the watercourses and reducing sediment and nutrient runoff by filtering runoff as a physical barrier.
Benefits also included increased engagement across local communities around caring for their landscapes and environment including:
- One to one farm visits providing farm plans and guidance to improve habitat and environment
- Soil health event for farmers and landowners
- Volunteer leaky dam and tree planting events
- Community engagement evenings.
As part of the project YDRT also trialed and demonstrated the benefits of external body modelling of sediment runoff to focus farm engagement efforts across a large catchment.
We would like to say a big thank you to all of the partners, farmers, landowners and volunteers that have been involved in this project and we look forward to seeing what the future may hold!
Whilst this project has come to an end, YDRT continues to keep in contact with many of the farms and groups across the catchment. We are looking into future opportunities to continue working across the area with the potential of collaborating with local councils looking into Natural Flood Management.