The Natural Course project is a collaborative project which we are delivering with the help of the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Natural England, local authorities, and local Rivers Trusts.

What is natural course?

The need for the Natural Course project stems from the fact that the majority of waters are failing to meet water quality targets. Alongside our partner organisations, we’re exploring best practice in urban and rural environments.

As part of this, Natural Course brings together organisations from across the Ribble catchment. Together, we seek cost-effective solutions to improve and protect water quality for future generations. The project aims to make it easier and more affordable to improve the quality of our rivers. At the same time it is empowering and encouraging the public, local businesses and organisations to work towards a shared goal.

One of the main ways that we’re achieving this is by teaming up and working together. In our case, this is known as a catchment-based approach. In the past, many organisations worked independently, keeping hard sought data, project ideas, and funding opportunities to themselves. However, we can acheive so much mor by working together, sharing information, and working on collaborative projects.

The Ribble catchment, a focus for Natural Course.

What is a catchment based approach?

A river catchment is an area of land from which all water flows into a single river system. It is essentially the geographical area that surrounds a river and all its tributaries. This includes the land, hills, mountains, and other features that drain into it. When precipitation falls within the boundaries of a catchment, the water it eventually makes it’s way into the river system.

So, the catchment based approach means that we look at the whole of the Ribble catchment as our work place. Not just the rivers. When we work across large areas like this, we can connect with other organisations to deliver as many benefits as possible.

A hypothetical example of this could be that Ribble Rivers Trust would like to plant some trees to reduce flood risk. In order to deliver the maximum benefit we could be approached by United Utilities, who may suggest a way that this new woodland could also improve water quality, the Forest of Bowland AONB may chip in to find a grant that would incentivise the land owner to connect this new woodland to an older woodland with a hedgerow, the Woodland Trust may donate trees for the woodland, and the RSPB could provide data on bird life which will help to optimise the habitat to suit a wider range of creatures.

What has natural course achieved so far?

So far, we have developed and delivered numerous projects through the partnership. These include two of our largest projects to date, Ribble Life Together and HEAL. These projects include partners from Ribble, Lune and Wyre Rivers Trusts, Borough Councils and County Councils, Environment Agency, Forest of Bowland AONB, the Freshwater Biological Association, Groundwork, Lancaster University, NHS Trusts, RSPB, United Utilities, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, and many, many more.

Regular workshops also help us to share information and project updates. They mean we can also ask for and offer help, guidance, and assistance when needed. Our partnership is open to any organisation working for the benefit of the environment with the catchment. In fact, the partnership is constantly expanding, with some core members, and others that prefer to drop in as and when they can.

Why select Ribble Rivers Trust?

This area has been chosen for Natural Course because of the regions unique balance of urban and rural areas. The cities and other highly-populated, historically industrialised, urban areas stand in stark contrast with the rural landscape. Our catchment contains a lot of agricultural land, with large areas designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

As well as a diverse range of land usage the region also has a range of pollution problems which affect water quality. In urban areas there are current and historical pollution issues, some of which stem from the Industrial Revolution. In rural areas diffuse pollution from agriculture and other rural communities is a major contributor to the poor water quality.

Finally, the North West is home to some of the most stunning and valuable landscapes and water environments in the world. Our catchment has a hugely diverse range of landscapes and habitats- not forgetting that the North West has the highest rainfall levels found in England and Wales with little radiation from the sun!

North Yorkshire is one of the regions to benefit from Natural Course