People are invited to take part in Earth Day celebrations and show their support for the environment by joining local volunteers for a river clean up operation along the River Ribble near Settle, to help restore the natural beauty of the area.
The river clean up is a chance to make a real difference to the local area and help celebrate Earth Day – the world’s largest environmental movement which brings together a variety of events on April 22 each year.
This year a number of Settle-based voluntary groups are getting together for the river clean up, hosting a mass litter-pick to clear rubbish from a section of the River Ribble.
The river course slows down as it passes through Settle, and as a result litter is deposited on its banks between Settle and Long Preston. The flat, often waterlogged, area of land can be seen by car from the A65 and by train as you approach Settle from Long Preston.
Known locally as ‘The Deeps’, the Long Preston Floodplain area is managed by local farmers and landowners for livestock and wildlife. In 2004 a consortium of charities and conservation groups, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), formed the Long Preston Floodplain Project – part of their purpose is to re-create and enhance the rare wet grassland habitat found on The Deeps, together with restoring the river Ribble and reducing flood risk downstream.
The area attracts a lot of interest from local and national conservation bodies including Natural England and the Environment Agency because it is an important haven for wildlife. A significant part of the area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and many nesting and migratory birds rely on the unique floodplain habitat.
Adrian Shepherd, Long Preston Floodplain Project Officer at YDMT, said: “The Ribble is a fast flowing river in its upper reaches and carries all sorts of rubbish downstream until it reaches The Deeps, at which point the flow slows and the River begins to meander. When this happens rubbish is deposited along the river bank, and it is particularly bad just south of Settle, where the Ribble passes under the A65. Unfortunately litter has built up over a number of years, which is not just unsightly, but also poses a real hazard to wildlife and to farm animals that graze nearby. The Floodplain is important to many different groups, including farmers, landowners, local businesses, conservationists, bird watchers, anglers and walkers. I am pleased that this river clean up event will bring the local community together to help restore a unique Yorkshire habitat.”
Jack Spees, Chief Executive of the Ribble Rivers Trust, one of the project’s key sponsors, has worked with Adrian and other local groups to organise the river clean up. Jack said: “Rivers are the conduit along which not just water flows but, sadly, much of our pollution too, including litter and plastic. River clean ups are a great way to improve our rivers and make them a more enjoyable place to visit, but also to protect our seas which are becoming increasing clogged with plastic. This event allows the local community to take an active part in improving their environment and we are pleased to be a part of it.”
Ensuring that the river continues to support healthy fish populations is central to the conservation work of the Settle Anglers Association, who own the fishing rights over much of the Ribble in Settle. Chairman Steve Rhodes says, “Settle Anglers’ Association are delighted to be involved in this river clean up on the Association’s water along the River Ribble. Fishing clubs, anglers and other associated organisations do a huge amount of work, monitoring, maintaining and improving the health and well being of rivers and streams which not only benefits fish and other aquatic life but wildlife and the environment generally. Anglers are very often the first to alert the Environment Agency to potential problems or pollution incidents. Litter, especially plastic, is just another form of pollution.” Steve goes on to say that, “Settle Angler’s Association no longer stock the river Ribble with trout. This has had a significant effect on improving the number of wild trout and especially grayling which have seriously declined in the majority of the Dales rivers over the last 30 years.”
Local naturalists, the Craven Conservation Group, are strongly behind the Earth Day river clean up. Melanie Fryer, CCG Secretary, said: “CCG fully supports local conservation and environmental initiatives. This event brings together different interest groups in order to benefit our local environment and the wildlife that inhabits it. We would like to mark Earth Day in the future, by supporting habitat restoration projects like this.”
If you would like to take part in the River Ribble litter pick on Earth Day, 22nd April, please meet under Runley Bridge (where the A65 passes over the River Ribble) at 13:30. Gloves, rubbish bags and pick sticks are kindly provided by Craven District Council. Dress in suitable clothing, wear wellington boots and bring your own drink and snack. Children are very welcome, if accompanied by an adult.