LOCATION: Mid Ribble catchment; Bier Beck, Savick Brook, Showley Brook, Porters Brook, West Clough, Greystonely Brook, Hodder Ribble.
PERIOD: August 2014 – July 2015
FUNDER(S): SITA Trust through their Enriching Nature Programme, Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, and Woodland Trust through MOREwoods.
VOLUNTEERS: 36 volunteer days have been held so far, resulting in 678 hours being donated to the project.
The mid Ribble catchment has been intensively farmed for hundreds of years, which has resulted in loss of riparian trees leading to degraded habitat, and significant levels of diffuse pollution entering watercourses. Consequently, certain watercourses in this area have failed to meet the required ecological standards set by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Additionally, the lack of tree cover has left watercourses exposed to rising temperatures attributable to climate change, which will be detrimental to fish populations.
The Keeping the Ribble Cool project aimed to increase riverine habitat to promote biodiversity, protect aquatic species from the effects of climate change and improve water quality by reducing diffuse pollution and erosion. This was done by fencing off the riverbanks to exclude livestock and encourage vegetation growth, as well as planting trees. Alternative watering facilities for livestock were provided through the installation of drinking troughs.
Improved riparian habitat: 10km of fencing was installed across 13 sites and 10,000 trees were planted, improving over 9 hectares of riparian habitat. The exclusion of livestock has allowed riparian vegetation a chance to become re-established and the planting of trees will provide additional habitat for riverine wildlife, as well as shade the water to maintain cool temperatures for fish in the face of climate change.
Improved water quality: The exclusion of livestock from watercourses had reduced faecal matter inputs and allowed riparian vegetation to naturally recover, buffering overland flow and diffuse pollution. These improvements are not just seen in the immediate vicinity, but also help towards improving bathing water quality at the coast.
Socio-economic benefits: The project has strengthened the Ribble Trust’s relationship with local farmers, opening up opportunities for working together towards water-friendly farming. This has led to more landowners contacting the Trust to identify ways in which their farms can help to improve the water environment, and in ways that can improve the farm business and even save them money. Health and wellbeing has also been encouraged through the project by generating opportunities for local people to volunteer and get active outdoors, undertaking simple, physical tasks like fencing and tree planting. Volunteering also helps to increase people’s understanding of the issues that rivers face and the importance of carrying out restoration projects. Volunteers gained new practical skills through volunteering on the Keeping the Ribble Cool project.
The increased habitat that resulted from the project is envisaged to attract a greater abundance of diverse wildlife in close proximity to public footpaths, leaving a more attractive and prosperous environment that can be enjoyed by all.