Colne Water Restoration

Colne Water project area

LOCATION: Colne Water catchment, with particular focus on Colne town centre, Laneshaw Bridge, Wycoller and Ball Grove Park.
PERIOD: July 2012 – March 2015
FUNDER(S): Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, Environment Agency and the Lancashire Environmental Fund.  Special thanks to the Woodland Trust for the trees, Hanson Cement for the rock and Durham University for the monitoring.
VOLUNTEERS: 41 volunteer days were held, resulting in 1,304 hours being donated to the project.

The Colne Water catchment is both farmed and urbanised, and some of the river channels were heavily modified for industry.  Certain watercourses within the catchment were failing to achieve good ecological status as defined by the EU’s Water Framework Directive due to diffuse pollution, lack of riparian habitat and obstructions to fish passage.  Fish populations, especially salmonids, were found to be greatly diminished compared to the rest of the Ribble Catchment.

The Colne Water Restoration 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.  This was done by fencing off the riverbanks to exclude livestock and encourage vegetation growth, and by planting trees.  A particular focus was placed on improving habitat connectivity by removing or altering several weirs to increase fish passage through the Colne Water system.

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Riparian woodland creation on Wycoller Beck in 2013

Improved riparian habitat:  6.7km of fencing was installed and 19,916 trees were planted, improving an area of over 15 hectares.  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 shading 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.

Improved habitat connectivity:  8 fish easements were constructed and 1 weir was removed completely, unlocking a further 44km of river.  The fish passage works have reconnected localised populations of fish and increased the availability of habitat indefinitely.  Early monitoring has indicated an increase in the abundance of brown trout.

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An innovative fish easement on Colne Water in Ball Grove Park, constructed in 2014

Socio-economic benefits:  The project enabled links to be made with a local angling club, who subsequently granted permission for Ribble Trust to include their Colne Water beat in the Angling Passport scheme.  This has given more people access to affordable, day ticket fishing, which helps to promote health and wellbeing through more active lifestyles and allows more people to enjoy the recreational activities that rivers have to offer.   Health and wellbeing has also been encouraged through the project by generating opportunities for local people to volunteer, 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 Colne Water project and some gained nationally recognised qualifications, allowing them to chemically eradicate invasive plants adjacent to watercourses.  As a result of the fish passage works, one particular urbanised area is now at less risk of flooding than it was prior to the capital works taking place.  The increased habitat that resulted from the project is envisaged to attract greater abundance of diverse wildlife in close proximity to the urban centres within the Colne Water catchment, leaving a more attractive and prosperous environment that can be enjoyed by all.

To find out more about Colne Water Restoration, why we did the work and the outcomes we achieved view our  project report.

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