Opening Up the River (OUR) Douglas Project

Opening Up the River (OUR) Douglas Project is the first major project the Ribble Rivers Trust will deliver on the River Douglas Catchment. The project aims to create a healthier river environment by facilitating fish passage between Gathurst and Horwich. The project is being delivered with our partner Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside who are hosts for the Douglas Catchment Partnership, who act as the Steering Group for the project.

The £949,454 project is receiving £505,828 from the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, through the European Regional Development Fund, £387,347 from Delivery Partner Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside, as well as charitable funding from Ribble Rivers Trust

The project will achieve its aims through reconnecting river habitat resulting in a river environment that will support greater abundance and diversity of fish, invertebrates, bird and mammals. Through improving one of the major rivers within Lancashire’s unique landscape the project aims to also raise awareness of the river and its biodiversity, with the enhanced blue space benefitting people as well as wildlife.

Why is this work necessary?
The River Douglas can be found in Lancashire and Greater Manchester, flowing from the West Pennine moors at Winter Hill, past the urban centres of Horwich, Adlington and Wigan then northwards through largely agricultural areas and is joined by the River Tawd, south of Rufford and the River Yarrow north of Rufford. It meets the Ribble estuary north of Tarleton, near Preston and the waters then flow northwards towards the bathing waters of the Fylde Coast.

Worthington weir, one of the many barriers in the Douglas catchment being tackled by Ribble Rivers Trust as part of the OUR Douglas project
Worthington weir, one of the many barriers in the Douglas catchment.

The River Douglas is currently in a degraded state with all water bodies failing to meet “Good Ecological Status”, due to a legacy of construction and pollution from its industrial heritage. Many of the water bodies are considered “heavily modified” in part because of the presence of multiple weir structures along its course. These antiquated structures are often no longer functioning for their original purpose, and in many cases provide a large barrier to habitat connectivity within the water course. This is particularly the case for fish. This barrier reduces the ecological potential for the River Douglas, reducing or blocking access completely for many or all species that require movement through the watercourse for spawning, to survive, thrive and also recover from pollution or disturbance events such as floods.

Addressing barriers such as this one at Downstream Pincroft will make the Douglas a better place for a variety of fish
Downstream Pincroft, another of the many barrier this project will address.

What will the work entail?
The project will deliver fish passes at 8 sites along the River Douglas with delivery spread across 2020, 2021, and 2022.
1. Gathurst weir
2. Pottery Terrace weir
3. Scholes weir
4. Red Rock weir
5. Worthington weir
6. Downstream Pincroft weir
7. Upstream Pincroft weir
8. Grimeford weir


Gathurst weir is one of the barriers the project will tackle
Gathurst weir is one of the barriers the project will tackle

What will the outcome of the work achieve?
The fish passes will reconnect 106 hectares of the River Douglas catchment, benefitting all fish but allowing migratory fish such as sea trout and Atlantic salmon to reach as far as Horwich in the future. This reconnection will improve the ability of fish populations to spawn, reach a larger range of food resources, and recover from high flow or pollution disturbances quicker than before. The resulting healthier fish populations will support a healthier food chain benefitting birds and mammals also.

How will we determine the projects success?
Each of the fish passes will be evaluated through mark-recapture studies of fish using visual implant elastomer markings and electric fishing surveys to see if upstream and downstream habitats have been reconnected.

Events will be held and surveys of members of the public will also be undertaken to determine whether the improved river environment is providing increased benefit and to gauge public feedback on the works and to direct future works.