Tidal Ribble

The Tidal Ribble area is a unique landscape characterised by large spreads of urban areas and agricultural land, both of which have significant impacts on the quality of water in our rivers and streams, as well as at the coast.  The project looks at working with farmers and communities to try to reduce the amount of pollution entering our watercourses, with work carried out in partnership with United Utilities, the Environment Agency, Catchment Sensitive Farming, the NFU and Blackpool Borough Council.

Set up in 2015 this project aims to work with farmers and rural communities to protect vulnerable bathing waters and shellfish waters along the Fylde coast which are being impacted upon by the Ribble estuary.

Research has identified that the main impact on the water quality is faecal matter from both urban and rural sources entering the watercourses with diffuse pollution from agriculture and discharges from private septic tanks being identified as the main contributors to this issue.

Since the project began, we have worked with 20 farms to implement schemes to reduce the amount of pollution coming from agricultural land.  This work includes fencing off watercourses to prevent livestock accessing the water, planting trees along riverbanks to intercept run-off, and improving farmyard infrastructure, this has all helped to reduce the amount of faecal matter, chemicals and sediment end up in our rivers and along our beaches.

In addition to this we have delivered 36 community events and worked with 17 schools in the area, promoting ways for the public to be more water friendly around the home by raising awareness of the impacts of household waste water mismanagement and waste disposal.

Locations where dwellings are likely to have septic tanks and other private water treatment facilities have also been identified and a targeted campaign has been created in order to help people within these communities better understand how their systems work, how they can be maintained and what the consequences can be when these systems fail.


Our first project to restore Blackburn’s rivers is now complete. Bypass channels, or fish passes, have been constructed alongside two large weirs near Hoghton Bottoms and Lower Darwen, these channels will allow fish such as trout, salmon, and eels to migrate further upstream into river habitat that has been inaccessible for decades.


The weirs were originally built in order to harness the water for the local mills, which, at one time, were abundant in this area. However, the mills at these sites have long since been demolished some time ago. Despite this the weirs have remained and continued to affect the ecology and habitat quality of the river, as well as providing a barrier to the upstream migration of spawning fish.

Now that the bypass channels are working it is expected that there will be an increase in the fish populations here, and with more fish other wildlife will also return to the river such as otters and kingfishers.  This is also good news for the people of Blackburn and Darwen, with these improvements in the rivers and associated habitats providing more diverse green spaces for people to visit and enjoy.

Following the success of these fish passages further work will be carried out on a section of the River Roddlesworth near Feniscowles in 2019. The section of river that is being improved is currently flowing through an underground culvert on the site of the former Star Paper Mill and is completely devoid of wildlife with no natural features. The area is now being redeveloped into housing which is providing us with the opportunity to return this section of river to a more natural state, allowing it to see daylight for the first time since the mill was built in 1875.

The River Roddlesworth flows down from the moors above Darwen, passing through woodlands and reservoirs before finally joining the River Darwen at Feniscowles. Just before this confluence the river is diverted into an underground culvert beneath the site of an old paper mill. It is here that our latest project is taking place.

The site of the old paper mill is now being developed into housing. Initially the plans for the development included the removal of the old culvert and the creation of a new concrete lined channel across the site. However, after discussing the project with the Ribble Rivers Trust the developer’s plans were changed and a project was set up to construct a ‘close to nature’ river channel around the site instead.

An example of a ‘closer to nature’ river channel

With support from the European Regional Development Fund and with our project partners Edenvale Young the new channel will be designed with features that will mimic those of a natural river. Following the course prefabricated by the developers, the new channel will have features such as pools and riffle sequences which will create a variance in flow that will provide the best habitat possible for several species of fish and invertebrates. It is hoped that in time these invertebrates and fish will attract different species of birds to the area and perhaps even mammals such as otters. The quality of the river habitat above and below the site is already good and so by renaturalising this section we hope to connect the habitats and create a wildlife corridor.

In addition to the renaturalisation of the River Roddlesworth there are three fish passage projects taking place above and below the mill site which will reconnect the fragmented habitat and open a further 19 hectares of river habitat for migrating fish and other wildlife.

Houghton Bottoms weir

The lowermost of these is Hoghton Bottoms Weir which was originally constructed to power a mill and cotton factory but is now surplus to requirements. It is proposed that a rock ramp be constructed on the left side of the weir, providing a channel that fish can use to bypass the structure.

The uppermost weir to be targeted is Lower Darwen Weir. A map from 1845 shows a mill race running from this weir to Ewood Cotton Mill with another, later map showing a second connection to a paper mill. Lower Darwen Weir is close to a swimming pool, nursery and industrial estate meaning that removal of the weir is not an option. Instead a rock ramp bypass channel will be built to the left of the weir which will encourage fish passage and help to stabilise the areas of erosion on the riverbank.

Thirdly the weir located just upstream of the ‘close to nature’ channel will enable fish to move along the length of the River Roddlesworth as far as the Roddlesworth reservoirs.

A map showing the current route of the River Roddlesworth in blue and the new route in red

Why is this work necessary?
The North West of England has a rich industrial heritage but this industry has resulted in environmental damage and neglect. Blackburn and Darwin’s rivers have historically been used for the disposal of sewage, waste and chemicals and dyes from the mills. In addition to this the towns expansion and the resulting mills, factories and houses meant that the rivers were subjected to greater controls with many being forced through stone and concrete lined channels which created a fragmented river habitat capable of supporting very little life.

A decline in industry and the introduction of environmental regulations has meant that water quality has already improved dramatically as has the diversity and abundance of wildlife. However, weirs and culverts are still proving problematic for wildlife and people; weirs and culverts can be barriers to fish migration, reducing their breeding potential and limiting the amount of number of species that can rely on them for food. Culverts also provide limited space for water and during periods of heavy flow they are often overwhelmed which causes flooding.

How will we determine the project’s success?
One of the ways we can measure the success of fish passage projects is by using Passive Integrated Transponders or PITs (which are similar to microchips in cats and dogs) to track the movements of brown trout. This tracking data will show us how easy the fish find it to ascend the rock ramps and continue their migration upstream.

Water level loggers will also be installed upstream and downstream of the site to collect baseline data then, once the ‘close to nature’ channel is constructed the loggers will again be used to measure the flow. It is predicted that the project will have a positive impact on the size, duration and timings of peak flows.

It is also hoped that following the project Blackburn with Darwen will see an increase in the abundance and diversity of wildlife across the district, helping to encourage a greater understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the outdoors.

Ribble Life Together

Ribble Life Together is the ambitious flagship project of the Ribble Catchment Partnership, which is made up of environmental organisations, businesses, local authorities and interest groups, all with a vested interest in improving the catchment’s water environment for the benefit of people and wildlife.

After a two-year development phase, Ribble Life Together was awarded £1.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable its delivery until 2020, together with a further £1.6 million of match funding from partners and external sources.

Our Vision: Working collaboratively, we’ll deliver a substantially healthier Ribble river system by 2020 for the benefit of people and wildlife.  We’ll celebrate the heritage of the river, improve access and use the river to inspire and educate.  Through practical environmental action, based on science, we’ll leave a positive legacy for future generations.

According to the Environment Agency, only 21% of the Ribble Catchment’s rivers currently achieve a good ecological standard. The remainder suffer from urban and industrial pollution, agricultural impacts, fragmented habitat and mistreatment by the general public – predominantly littering.  Floods and droughts associated with climate change and rising temperatures have exacerbated the problem in recent years, putting significant stress on river habitats and endangering certain species.

Ribble Life Together

Ribble Life Together has been set up to address some of the issues.  30 new riparian woodlands are being planted and 15 new wetlands are being constructed in priority areas to help reduce pollution, increase biodiversity, provide natural flood risk management and reduce climate change impacts, creating a lasting legacy for the catchment and the communities that live and work here.

14 new fish passes are also being installed on weirs that currently prevent the natural migration of fish.  Scientific monitoring will determine how much the river environment improves as a result of these interventions.

At the heart of the project is a determination to establish a better relationship between communities and their rivers by developing people’s understanding and appreciation of river environments.  People are being invited to get involved in the project in a variety of ways, from attending volunteer events and conservation training workshops, to geocaching competitions, guided river walks, augmented reality videos and oral history.

Schools are also being offered educational visits that will help children learn about the importance of healthy rivers and the wildlife that lives within them, encouraging them to get into the habit of caring for the environment from an early age.

The physical improvement projects and activities being delivered as part of the Ribble Life Together project span the entire Ribble Catchment, from the source of the Ribble in the Yorkshire Dales, down to the estuary at Lytham, taking in the rivers Calder, Hodder and Darwen.

A new website has been set up for the project – ribblelifetogether.org – which acts as a hub of information about the project and our rivers in general.

Project partners and funders:

Ribble Life Together - partners and funders

Our latest short films!

We have had two new short films produced by Northern Heart Films as part of our Ribble Life Together project. The first short film looks at the work we are doing with farmers in the Ribble Catchment, and how it not only benefits our environment, but also the farmers who care for it. The second looks takes a light hearted look at how important it is to educate the next generation of river guardians, equipping them with the knowledge and skills that they need to look after the environment, and ensuring that it will stay with them forever.

Monday 4th February to Friday 15th February 2019: Work experience

Monday 4th February to Friday 15th February 2019: Work experience

By Henry, St. Christopher’s CE High School


When I arrived, I was met by Ellie, who showed me around and introduced me to all the welcoming staff at the Ribble Rivers Trust. Firstly, I found out what everyone’s roles were, before learning in more detail what the Trust does and what I would be doing during the next fortnight, including tree planting which I did the next day. Then in the afternoon I went to Bashall Brook with Adam W to take some pictures to show the difference that has been made to the site as many trees and fences were put up and planted and there had been other features like brash bundling put in to stop erosion.

I arrived in early on Tuesday to go tree planting with Jonny and some of the apprentices, after loading the truck we set off for the day. After offloading the truck upon arrival to Wycoller, we set out alongside the stream planting trees. Planting trees near the river helps cool the temperature of the river and can stabilise its banks. Once we had planted all there was to plant, we set back for the warmth of the office all tired out, especially me as I’d never planted before!

On Wednesday I went to Stainforthwith Helen to test a circular walk route. On the route we took grid references at any gates, stiles or other forms of gateways. All of this is to produce a leaflet for the circular walk and to see if it is true to the map and suitable for people to walk. When we got back from Stainforth I started researching places on and around the walk as information for the leaflet learning lots about Stainforth, I also put the grid references into a computer to map out the route checking we had walked it right and to know where all the gates, styles, and other features were.

On my fourth day I was introduced to Neil, who is involved with the Rivers in the Classroom project. We had to go around some of the schools who are keeping trout in their classrooms, checking on them. We went to schools in various locations, from Oswaldtwistle to Hurst Green, checking every school’s tank. They were all fine, so we turned the temperature up on the tanks to encourage the trout to develop. When the trout grow, they can start to be fed by the children, getting them more involved, eventually the trout will be released into a river near to the school. As well as checking trout we also went to a meeting to discuss fishing in schools and some fishing awards for a school which Neil runs.

On Friday I went to a careers fair at Myerscough College with Matt, Kathryn and Helen. At the fair there was lots of other businesses and organisations from different subject areas. There were lots of students present and many spoke with us about what the Trust does and what career paths it can lead to and the volunteering side of it, we gave out many leaflets and students loved the free pens!

Then we went for a much-needed lunch break before heading back to the event. Lots of students enquired and all from different subject areas and tried out the virtual reality head set we brought along, which shows a 360-degree view of two sites improved by the Trust, giving facts about some work done and issues in the catchment. Then after the rush had died down and students had left, we packed up and headed back for the day. This had been a great first week to start my two weeks work experience, getting involved in multiple tasks to do with different sides of the Trust with different people.

To start my second week, on Monday I went out with Jack and Kathryn to Stotts Farm with Myerscough College to do some diffuse pollution training. Once the students had arrived Jack gave a talk on diffuse pollution including what diffuse pollution is and how it can be controlled. We were then given a guided walk around the farm to see what they do and how they have stopped some diffuse pollution. Then we had a lunch break before heading out to a site down the road where some work had been done by the Trust to stop diffuse pollution, such as planting trees on hills and softening the ground and slowing run off.

On Tuesday I went with Jonny, Ryan, Rob and Michael (a volunteer) to Wycoller tree planting. We planted some aspen, common oak, holly, silver birch just to name a few. When we arrived, we split different types of trees up into bags and went out onto the hillside in the wind. I mostly did some hammering of the stakes, holding the cases up for the protection of the tree, especially needed with the wind up there and all the rabbits. After planting lots of trees, we headed back to the office to unload the truck after warming up.

On Wednesday I went to Lytham with Helen to clean a beach with some volunteers and staff from LOVEmyBEACH. We then had a meeting with Emily from LOVEmyBEACH to talk about working together in and around the estuary and tidal River Ribble. This is because the areas the two charities cover overlaps near the estuary, meaning they can work together on certain events. Litter picked along the Ribble and other smaller brooks and streams around the Fylde area is prevented from ending up in the sea. Then we went to a park in Preston to look at the amount of rubbish being tipped there and into the stream, which all ends up in the Ribble to try organising a clean-up. Then we went to some schools and local businesses to promote a tree planting day near Preston at half term as it is family friendly, so ideal for locals.

It was back out tree planting on Thursday with an early start as we headed out to Wycoller on a very nice morning with the sun shining. When we arrived, we put up a sign on the main road for volunteers as it was a volunteer tree plant. Before the volunteers arrived Jonny, Ryan and I started planting some Scots Pine, then some volunteers arrived so we planted with them. The sun stayed shining all day and after a few hours it was time for a break and coffee, and before long we were planting again, I had a chance to meet new people and chat to them whilst planting in the lovely weather for a change. Then after a day of planting we headed to the office once again, a lot of progress had been made at Wycoller whilst I’ve been here and is soon to be completed.

Overall, I’ve had an enjoyable two weeks at the Trust doing many different tasks and getting a taste of what it will be like to work in the future. I have learnt a lot from how to plant trees to diffuse pollution. It has been a very positive experience, and I’ve picked up many skills, and gained in confidence along the way talking to people outside of my friendship group. I have also learnt all about the Trust and how they help my local rivers and what impact it had. I would like to thank the Trust for having me and everyone helping me out and giving me great experiences, also for a welcoming atmosphere in all areas. Couldn’t have picked a better place for my work experience.

Christmas tree collections: UPDATE

UPDATE: Our Christmas tree collection scheme has been a huge success this year with hundreds of Christmas trees collected. These trees will be used in our brash bundling work, where they will provide  support and stability to eroding river banks, helping us to limit river erosion and build river banks back up.

We’d like to say a massive thank you to the Green Jersey, the landowners who let us use their fields as collection points, the volunteers who helped with collections, and all those who donated their trees!

Ellie and Adam providing perspective for our Christmas tree mound!


Due to an amazing amount of support we are no longer able to accommodate new Christmas tree collections.

This is the first year we have run this appeal and we have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had. Thank you for thinking of us and we hope you’ll remember us next year. We are active all year round, so please visit ribbletrust.org.uk for more information about the range of work we do to improve the rivers in the Ribble Catchment for wildlife and people.

What’s in our rivers?

Our survey team searching for fish

Our survey team searching for fish

Over the summer the Trust have surveyed over 300 sites across the Ribble catchment. Our survey team do this to monitor fish numbers, particularly salmon and trout numbers. This helps us to gauge the health of our rivers and look for the areas which are doing well, and the areas which seem to be in poorer health.

This year’s summer has been extraordinarily warm and dry, leading to lower river levels and higher river temperatures. This caused problems both for our team (who are more used to summer rain!), and the catchments resident fish. 67 of our 333 sites had extremely low water levels and a further 6 were completely dry.

Fisheries Office Adam with his catch

Fisheries Office Adam with his catch

Despite this there has been a rise in the number of salmon found in the Ribble and Hodder, with the Hodder yielding the highest numbers of salmon. However, there has been a drop in their overall distribution. This drop has been attributed to the warmer weather, warmer river temperatures, and low water levels.

On the Calder trout appear to be thriving, with numbers doubling compared to last year. This is likely to be a sign of the species recovering following the Boxing Day floods, which decimated fish numbers in the Calder. However, salmon numbers here are still low here. Next year we are planning to survey more sites in this area and carry out further investigations into what could be preventing salmon from spawning here.

It’s not all about salmon and trout. There are many other species that we find and record across the catchment. One notable discovery this year is the number of sites supporting juvenile chub. The fisherman’s favourite has been found at another 20 sites this year!

To find out more look out for an extended report in our 2019 newsletter, or our official report which will be uploaded to the Ribble Rivers Trust website soon.

This Christmas keep our sewers clear!

This festive season we’re asking people across the UK to help keep our rivers and beaches clean by making sure all their leftover cooking fats and oils are put in the bin rather than poured down the sink.

If leftover fat from cooking the Christmas dinner goes down the sink, even with hot water and washing up liquid, it soon sets hard in the cold pipes. When it mixes with other unflushable items, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, it creates what is known as a Fatberg.

The Fatbergs then clog the sewerage pipes and stop the waste water reaching the treatment works as intended. This means the risk of sewage spilling out into homes, streets, rivers and seas is substantially increased and this type of pollution is particularly bad for the invertebrates, fish, mammals, and birds that call the river their home.

However, this is easily addressed. Make sure you follow these simple steps this Christmas and give the gift of clean rivers and seas for 2018 and beyond:

  1. Scrape or pour leftover fat from roasting trays and pans into a heat resistant container then recycle or bin it once cooled
  2. Wipe out grease left in pans with kitchen roll before washing
  3. Use a sink strainer to catch any greasy food scraps

Work experience by Abigail Naylor, Clitheroe Royal Grammar School Sixth Form

Work experience with the Trust

Monday When I arrived, I was introduced to the team members and I was shown around the building. After a health and safety brief by Emily, I was given some leaflets and information about the trust and what they do within the catchment.

I then visited Bashall Brook with Adam and we checked the quality of a newly built fenced area to ensure it would be suitable and hold up in the winter months when the river levels rise.

At lunch time we went to a wooded location near the trust and did a cleanup of the litter in the area. I then went onto the trusts website and read the short summaries of each team member’s role and I spoke to Nick- whose job sounded interesting. He sent me a link so I could access a current project and read up on it.

I spoke to Ellie about her role in GIS and how it is used within the trust. This was particularly interesting as it showed the trusts impact on the environment in a visual format and how much they have done for the catchment.

Tuesday On Tuesday morning I went with Michelle to take part in some volunteer work picking invasive species called Himalayan Balsam which was introduced to England in 1839. The plant colonizes along river banks and it is a concern to the environment as when it dies back in the winter months, the earth underneath it is left bare and exposed, meaning it is vulnerable to erosion. To avoid this, we pull up the plants (this is fairly easy, as the roots are shallow and not too strong).

In the afternoon, I helped Emily gather kit and sort out activities for the family fun-day on Thursday.

Wednesday On Wednesday I went electrofishing with Adam and Jake. Before that day, I didn’t know what electrofishing was, or why it was done, however it was soon explained to me in detail by the staff. After observing at the first site, it was my turn to have a go with the net, and I caught: some trout and salmon fry, as well as many… many minnow and three eels.

In total we visited eight different sites, however after a month and a half of very warm weather, some sites we visited were all dried up!

Families at the Family Invert Fun Day

Thursday Thursday was the family fun-day at Peel Park in Accrington. We set up the tent and after talking to a few families for a while, we walked up to the lodges with some nets and trays to see what we could catch.

In the end, we ended up with a wide variety of species, the most interesting being newts and a tadpole.

Friday On Friday, I spoke to Jonny about his role with volunteers and he explained to me how he got involved with the trust and what he does when he takes volunteers out into the field.

I then went with Nick to a local farm which he was working with. The idea was to work with the farmers to put them onto a scheme whereby they would ‘get back’ for making adjustments to their farm to make it more environmentally friendly. I sat through the discussion between Nick and the owners and listened to both views. This was especially interesting as I hadn’t realized how many small adjustments to a space could have such a great impact on the environment.

Being the education officer, Emily explained that she often works with children and asked me to develop an idea for an activity about the time taken for different waste products to decay. This again was an intriguing task, as I am usually the one learning and completing tasks as opposed to designing them.

Overall, this week has been a very fascinating week, filled with new experiences and learning opportunities. Before this placement, I had no idea that there were so many diverse roles within organisations such as the Ribble Rivers Trust. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the trust, and I would highly recommend it to anybody looking to gain experience with environmental work, or to volunteer and do good for our environment.