Limestone Ribble Restoration

Limestone Ribble project area

LOCATION: Upper Ribble catchment, main River Ribble and tributaries.
PERIOD: July 2012 – March 2015
FUNDER(S): Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, Environment Agency and Settle Anglers Association.  Special thanks to the Woodland Trust for the trees and Durham and Liverpool Universities for the monitoring.
VOLUNTEERS: 59 volunteer days were held, resulting in 1,942 hours being donated to the project.

The Upper Ribble catchment has been farmed, quarried and industrialised for hundreds of years. The resulting degraded habitat, diffuse pollution and obstructions to fish passage were causing certain watercourses in this area to fail to meet the required standards under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).  It had also been identified that upland drainage grips were causing poor river hydrology and hydro-geomorphology, which had resulted in unnaturally wide and shallow channels with elevated water temperatures.

The Limestone Ribble 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, as well as planting trees and installing large woody debris.  The project also sought to increase habitat connectivity for eels by installing elver passes on weirs.  A particular focus was placed on improving river hydrology by blocking grips on the surrounding moorland to increase its ability to retain rainfall.

Improved riparian habitat:  9km of fencing was installed and 31,459 trees were planted, improving an area of over 22 hectares.  In addition, 749m of watercourse was furnished with large woody debris.  The exclusion of livestock has allowed riparian vegetation a chance to become re-established and the planting of trees and large woody debris 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.  Early monitoring has indicated an increase in the abundance of brown trout and aquatic invertebrates in project areas.

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 river hydrology:  33km of grips were blocked on the surrounding moorland to help towards restoring natural flow levels in watercourses.  It will also reduce erosion of riverbanks and the moorlands themselves.

Improved habitat connectivity:  2 eel passes were installed, unlocking over 84km of river to eel and elver migration.  170m of watercourse was deculverted, returning the beck to a more natural state.

Socio-economic benefits:  The project enabled links to be made with a local angling club and training was delivered to their members to undertake invertebrate kick sampling within the project area.  This resulted in an increase in knowledge of aquatic invertebrates and their importance in relation to water quality, as well as a greater ability to identify pollution incidents. 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 Limestone Ribble project, and local teenagers took the opportunity to gain conservation experience which counted towards their John Muir Award.  The increased habitat that resulted from the project is envisaged to attract a greater abundance of diverse wildlife in close proximity to tourist areas within the Yorkshire Dales, especially at Stainforth Foss, leaving a more attractive and prosperous environment that can be enjoyed by all.

To find out more about this project and it’s outcomes view our reort on Limestone Ribble Restoration.

Volunteers planting trees at Stainforth Foss in January 2014

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