Annual Newsletter 2014

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Annual Newsletter: Issue 10 ISSN 2052-8094

RESTORING RIVERS for WILDLIFE & PEOPLE A look at projects in the Ribble Catchment

Invasive Species Top species to look out for

Catchment Partnerships

The future of river conservation

North West Bathing Waters How we’re tackling the issue


Eel Factfile

17 14

Cover photo: John Whitham


Water Friendly Farming

Office: 01200 444452 Address: c/o Hanson Cement, Ribblesdale Works, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 4QF. Director: Jack Spees Office & Publicity Manager: Catherine Birtwistle Fisheries Scientist: Gareth Jones Agriculture Project Officer: Sarah Bolton Habitat Project Officer: John Milne Invasive Species Officer: Adam Walmsley Community Engagement: Victoria Dewhurst Education Assistant: Neil Ashworth Volunteer Coordinator: Richard Atton Trustees Philip Lord (Chairman) Vince Edmondson (Vice chair) Alan Rowntree (Treasurer) Mike Horner Dave Wilmot Dominic Bradley Harvey Marchbank Chris Haworth

©Ribble Rivers Trust Editor: Catherine Birtwistle Charity number: 1070672 Company number: 3498691 The Ribble Rivers Trust is the trading name of the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust Ltd.

 Website:



Fish Surveys Invasive Species


Moorland Restoration

contents 4 Catchment Partnerships

12 Climate Change

5 Bathing Waters

14 Fish Surveys

6 Water Friendly Farming

16 Catchment Science

8 Reconnecting Habitat

17 Invasive Species

9 Moorland Restoration

18 Membership

10 Restoring Urban Rivers

19 Volunteering

The evolution of Ribble Life and working together for the rivers

What we’re doing to address the quality of our failing bathing waters

How we work with farmers to achieve financial and environmental benefits

Weir removals and fish easements in the Colne Water catchment

What are moorland grips and how do they affect our rivers?

Re-naturalising rivers and community projects in Burnley town centre


How we’re adapting rivers to the onset of future climate change

How we monitor numbers of fish and what the data is used for

Scientific research projects in the Ribble Catchment

How to recognise and report the Ribble’s most prolific invasives

Help protect our rivers by becoming a member

How you can help to improve your local rivers for wildlife and people


Welcome Chairman’s report When the Trust was set up 14 years ago, I knew the river needed a lot of work, owing to two centuries’ worth of degradation. However, I grossly underestimated the scale of the work and the expertise required to restore the river to a good condition. I don’t think we’re even halfway through the job and I can see at least another 14 years of intensive effort will be needed, if not more. Our aim is to have a river system of clean water that will support a wide range of wildlife. Fish and invertebrates are the yardstick by which we measure the improvements. We work closely with the Environment Agency who are again facing large cuts to their funding. The Trust can economically

carry out all the environment projects needed and use best science to design and measure projects, but we still need a strong EA as the regulator who deal with planning policies, prosecutions, flood defence and all the other aspects of the environment that come under their remit. This year, the Trust has won GOLD in the Green Apple Awards for Keeping Rivers Cool, a joint project with the Environment Agency. Ribble Life also scooped TalkTalk’s Digital Heroes Award. Both awards were presented at dazzling ceremonies at the Houses of Parliament in London. The Trust’s staff and faithful volunteers deserve a great vote of thanks for their support and effort this year in once again completing such a high volume of work.

Philip Lord, Chairman

Director’s report 2013 was a very exciting year for the Trust, the catchment and rivers in general. DEFRA’s adoption of the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) has meant that the work of rivers trust’s (and others) has now been cemented into the formal ways of working of Government Agencies. Why is this so important? Ribble Rivers Trust has been operating for 14 years and has worked hard to improve rivers, but also to inspire and encourage others into improving rivers too. This has been undertaken through partnerships and collaborations with others such as the Forest of Bowland AONB, RSPB, United Utilities, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission (to name but a few). With the adoption of CaBA, this approach is formally recognised and we are finding more and more groups wanting to help to improve our precious rivers. “Improving rivers is not about managing the environment, but about managing people.” Our CaBA initiative is called Ribble Life and as well as generating more interest in improving rivers, it is also helping

to raise awareness of the Ribble and educate and engage with the public. The momentum that we have built through Ribble Life is growing every day and I hope that we can maintain that into the future as it will see more and more improvements to the Ribble Catchment for ALL to benefit, socially, economically, and environmentally. Working with our Ribble Life partners, we delivered a huge amount of work in 2013, with urban channels being realigned to provide better habitat, fish easements constructed, weirs removed, large woody debris installed, 34,000 trees planted and 16,000 metres of fencing. Not to mention our work with farmers and the general public. Within the newsletter you will see examples of the above and also be able to find out how you can help to make a difference to the Ribble Catchment. I hope you enjoy our newsletter and that you are inspired to help us to improve our amazing river.

Jack Spees, Director


Catchment Partnerships


Ribble Life has taken an interesting journey since its conception back in 2011, developing and evolving in line with guidance and feedback from Defra. At Ribble Life’s heart there is a shared belief that the restoration of the catchment’s water environment will be most effective when people work together. How we achieve this has been the focus of the past two years. Now it’s time to put it into practice and see more river improvements on the ground.

A quick recap… In 2011, Defra established 25 pilot catchments around the UK to explore different ways of working towards effective river restoration. The Ribble was one of the chosen catchments and under the name ‘Ribble Life’, the pilot was taken forward jointly between the Ribble Trust and the Environment Agency (EA). The next two years saw the groundwork being laid for what would become a solid basis for collaborative working. Appropriate stakeholders were identified and invited to quarterly ‘stakeholder exchanges’, where groups and organisations would convene to swap information about their roles within the catchment and how their work relates to the water environment. These learnings provided stakeholders with a firm understanding, enabling them to make informed decisions about catchment restoration.

Vision: “To create a healthy water environment that will bring economic and social benefits for all” agree and deliver the strategic priorities for the catchment and support the EA in developing an appropriate River Basin Management Plan.” Objectives  To deliver positive and sustained outcomes for the water environment by promoting a better understanding at a local level.  To encourage local collaboration and transparent decision-making when planning/delivering activities that improve the water environment. With the support of the stakeholders, Ribble Trust made an application to Defra to become the lead partner of the Ribble’s CaBA and was successful.

Change of pace

Ribble Life is now in a position to begin compiling a management plan for the catchment, with prioritised actions that can be delivered through partnerships.

In 2013, Defra announced its UK-wide roll out of the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA), which was based on evidence and feedback from the pilots. According to Defra, “Stakeholders will

In other words, we’re now able to take a much more ordered and targeted approach to river restoration and maximise our future potential through collaborative working. Photo: Rod Calbrade


Bathing Waters

Pollution is not only a problem for our rivers, it affects the standard of our beaches and bathing waters too. What can be done?

Ribble Rivers Trust has been delivering top down projects for many years, working as high up in the river system as possible to deliver maximum benefit downstream. We call it “upstream thinking�. Now this way of working is becoming increasingly important due to the Bathing Water Directive. The Bathing Water Directive places strict limits on Faecal Indicator Organisms (FIOs), which affect the quality of designated Bathing Waters. To make sure that Bathing Waters comply with the legislation, much work is undertaken by United Utilities and the Environment Agency to improve water quality before it enters the sea. However, these organisations are now looking to others to see if they can help in reducing the amount of FIOs in our Bathing Waters.

tourist areas and crucial to our local economy, and as such it is vital that the Bathing Waters are kept clean to continue to attract visitors. In addition to the designated Bathing Waters, the Ribble is used by many for swimming and paddling, and on a sunny bank holiday you can find thousands of local residents and visitors at Edisford Bridge paddling in the Ribble.

A lot of research has been undertaken along our coast and estuary to identify which beaches are affected by what and where from. Most recently, the Cloud to Coast project, a multiuniversity, EA, Natural England, United Utilities and Ribble Rivers Trust collaboration has been undertaking works to apportion where FIOs come from and in what conditions they affect bathing waters.

Livestock input FIOs directly into rivers and streams

Ribble Rivers Trust has been assisting in reducing FIOs in the catchment since it began fencing water courses, as this excludes livestock and thus their faeces. More recently, we have combined our objectives to deliver multiple outcomes, by fencing to improve river habitat, lower flood risk, reduce diffuse pollution but also to decrease FIOs. In addition to fencing, our farm advisor has been working with Natural England Catchment Sensitive Farming, visiting farms that are in high risk input areas and working with the landowners to provide advice on how to improve use and storage of slurry and manure in order to minimise FIO inputs into rivers. This work is as vital to people and the economy as it is to the environment and we hope to continue to work with our partners to deliver improvements to Bathing Waters and rivers at the same time.

The work has shown that the Ribble Catchment can impact upon several Bathing Waters; St. Annes, Blackpool South, Blackpool Central, St. Annes North, Blackpool North and Southport. Many of these places are


Water friendly farming What is diffuse pollution? Diffuse pollution is the release of potential pollutants from a range of activities that individually may have no effect on the water environment, but at a catchment scale can have a significant impact on water quality. Diffuse sources of pollution include not just farms, but also run off from roads, houses and commercial areas, and seepage into

groundwater, misconnected foul drains and spilled chemicals, such as oil and fuel. Nationally, diffuse pollution causes failures against Water Framework Directive targets in 22% of rivers. 90% of the Ribble Catchment is rural, therefore diffuse pollution from agriculture is one of our biggest threats.

Why is it a problem? Run off from fields and drainage can result in pollutants such as faecal bacteria, nutrients and sediment entering watercourses. Obviously a polluted river or stream is visually unattractive but it can be directly toxic to all wildlife too, often causing a change to the ecosystem and resulting in an indirect loss of wildlife.

Livestock impacting negatively on water quality Photo: Sarah Bolton


For example, an excess of nutrients in streams can cause explosive growth of algae and/or aquatic weed. This could significantly reduce the oxygen levels in the water, killing fish and invertebrates, with knock on effects to other wildlife. Another example of diffuse pollution is an excessive amount of sediment washing off farmland into watercourses. The sediment can settle on the riverbed and smother fish eggs, decimating their populations.

Impact on bathing waters Diffuse pollution is not just a problem for our rivers and the wildlife they support - it also affects people. Faecal matter from livestock is washed down the river to the sea, where it affects the quality of bathing waters in places like Blackpool and the Fylde Coast. Bathing waters are stringently tested by the Environment Agency to ensure that they are a safe standard for public use, but what about other popular bathing areas like Stainforth Foss and Edisford that aren’t tested?

How do we fix it? We’ve teamed up with a number of organisations, including the Environment Agency, RSPB and Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming programme, to undertake farm visits in targeted areas of the Ribble Catchment that have shown to be particularly suffering from diffuse pollution.

The farm visits take the form of an appraisal, which highlights areas for improvement works that not only benefit the water environment, but may also save the farmer some money. Natural England and Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund are providing the grants towards undertaking these visits and the subsequent improvement works that transpire from them. Since the project began in 2012, we’ve held over 35 oneto-one farm visits and more that 60 fixes have been made to address diffuse pollution - too many to list here!


Livestock exclusion on Ings Beck

Top Tips

Addressing Diffuse Pollution Watercourse Fencing One of the most effective ways of reducing diffuse pollution is to erect fencing to prevent cattle from accessing the watercourse. This stops the direct input of faecal matter. It also gives vegetation the chance to grow along the riverbank, which acts as a buffer to diffuse pollution. Erosion rates are greatly reduced too, meaning there’s less of losing land and less sediment entering the water.

for Good Farm Practice  Fence watercourses off from

Hard stoning Areas of high traffic on farmland can quickly be turned into quagmires, for example machinery going in and out of gateways or cattle congregating at drinking troughs. This can result in soil and precious nutrients being washed off the land and into rivers, and is a particular problem during extended periods of rainfall. By hard stoning gateways and drinking troughs, the soil and the rivers are better protected.

Clean and dirty water separation

Renewing and repairing rainwater goods and yard works to keep clean and dirty water separate reduces the risk of river pollution, as well as saving the farmer money in handling and spreading. It allows more storage for slurry during the winter months and allows slurry applications to be better timed to take into account crop requirements and suitable ground conditions.

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Soil sampling Depending on the soil type and farming activities, soil can become compacted over time, which results in a poor uptake of nutrients. If it rains shortly after slurry or nutrients are applied, they can be washed straight off the land and into the river, meaning the farmer has to spend more and more money to keep the land fertile. A quick soil test can check the pH levels and compaction, and solutions can be identified, such as grassland aeration, sward lifting or liming. This can increase the soil’s uptake of nutrients and improve crop development and yields. It can also lead to increased bacterial activity in the soil, improving the soil structure.

Training events Advice and training is important to encourage good farm practice. Often, farmers might not be aware that what’s best for the environment can be beneficial for them too. At our most recent training event held at Winkley Hall Farm, we focussed on soil management and Townson’s Tractors Ltd. were there to provide practical demonstrations of the equipment. 72 people attended the event, of which more than 60 were from local farming businesses, keen to learn more and consider applying that knowledge to their own land. The day was run with the help of Catchment Sensitive Farming, the Farm Advisory Service and the Environment Agency.

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livestock and provide alternative drinking sources and crossing points. Buffer watercourses from field operations – cross compliance now states that a 10m no slurry/ manure spread zone should be maintained. Improve slurry, farm yard manure and dirty water storage, handling and management. Divert clean water from contaminated areas. Timing and quantity of manure applications should take account of crop requirements and nutrient uptake. Regularly update manure and nutrient management plans. Check weather forecasts to ensure manure is not applied within two days of a storm or a very high rainfall forecast. Don’t spread slurry on steep slopes as there is a higher risk of run off. Make sure all farm staff and contractors are trained in best farm practice techniques and aware of cross compliance requirements. Manage soils sustainably. Use pesticides efficiently and dispose of them correctly.

Our farm visits are free and confidential, and grants may be available. Please contact Sarah Bolton if you are interested in a visit: or 01200 444452

The Ribble Catchment ‘Water Friendly Farming Guide’ offers advice and guidance on good farm practice. To order your FREE copy, send your name and address to; or call 01200 444452. Soil training event in 2013


Reconnecting Habitat Weirs can be problematic because they upset the delicate balance of a river’s ecosystem. Not only do they pose barriers to fish, invertebrates and otter migration, they interrupt the natural flow of a river and alter its channel. They also affect the natural downstream movement of gravel, which can starve the riverbed in places of this crucial habitat for aquatic species. A lot of weirs were constructed to power the mills during the Industrial Revolution and the majority of them are now redundant. But their legacy still remains and it’s up to us to

restore the rivers to their natural, pre-industrial state wherever possible, so that wildlife can once again return. The Ribble Trust has made over 30 weirs passable in the last five years. The most recent work was undertaken in the Colne Water catchment as part of a project funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund. As well as making weirs passable to fish, there has been a great deal of watercourse fencing and tree planting in the upper tributaries, as well as community litter picks and invasive species control - a true holistic approach to river restoration.

About Colne Water Colne Water is a major tributary of the river Calder. It is formed where the River Laneshaw and Wycoller Beck join together just below Laneshaw Bridge. The upper reaches of Colne Water have some great habitat and water quality, so the river has the potential to support good numbers of fish and river wildlife. The main obstacle to this is the large number of weirs along the river, which act as barriers to fish movement.

Solutions In an ideal world, we would simply remove all the weirs that are causing problems. Removal is always the best option in terms of fish passage, and it’s usually cheapest too! However this is rarely possible where there are buildings, roads or paths nearby. In these cases, we have to look for alternative ways to allow fish to pass the barrier.

One giant leap...

Weir removal on the River Laneshaw in June 2013

...three manageable steps

The Trust has now completed one weir removal and three fish easements on Colne Water, connecting over 6km of river that was previously inaccessible to the majority of fish. Three fish easements were constructed on weirs at Ball Grove Park on the outskirts of Colne. The park was formerly the site of a large tannery with a big thirst for water.

Fish easement in Ball Grove Park, completed September 2013

Every weir is different, so the fish passage solution has to be adapted to the local situation. Work on Colne Water’s weirs is set to continue throughout 2014, with the aim of reconnecting as much habitat as possible. Thanks to Pendle Environmental Action Group, Friends of Greenfield Nature Reserve and the Friends of Ball Grove Park for their help on the Colne Water project.


No depth of water for fish to swim

Confined channel, deeper water, lesser gradient



Fish easement in Ball Grove Park, completed October 2013

Restoring Moorland Grip blocking

Aside from the regeneration of moorland habitat, ‘grip blocking’ also aids in the restoration of our upland streams.

Moorlands and rivers The River Ribble is sourced from moorland in the Yorkshire Dales. Moorlands should have naturally high water tables, which steadily feed water into upland streams. However, studies show that the presence of drainage grips on moors affects river hydrology and the formative tributaries of the Ribble, namely Cam and Gayle Becks, are suffering as a result. They are not supporting the wildlife they should be.

What are grips? Moorland gripping is the practice of digging ditches to drain areas of blanket bog and wet heathland. The practice has been widespread, particularly in the northern uplands since the 1950s. Since they were cut, many of the grips have become wider and deeper due to

Gayle Beck: over-widened channel with algal bloom

erosion, resulting in a loss of valuable soils, vegetation and habitat from the moors. Grips in the Ribble Catchment can be over a kilometre in length and many have eroded to over 2 metres wide and 2 metres deep.

How do grips affect rivers? Moorland grips interrupt the natural rainwater infiltration process. They can remove water too quickly from the moors, resulting in a high influx of water into streams within a very short time period. The river channel widens to accommodate the flash floods, but the flow is short lived and when the stream returns to normal capacity, the water is spread thinly across the over-widened channel. This leaves the stream prone to algal blooms and overheating on sunny days, which is detrimental to the fish populations. Ultimately, the unnatural flow regime contributed to by grips creates a river channel that is unable to support adequate populations of riverine species.

Blea Moor grip before…

The grip blocking process Since 2011, the Trust has extensively mapped, measured and modelled grips in the Yorkshire Dales that lie within the Ribble Catchment. The model has aided in prioritising which grips should be blocked to be most effective at improving river hydrology and reducing sediment input. Some grips on Blea Moor have already been blocked using the peat dam technique, which takes peat from the surrounding area to create wedges that are securely inserted at intervals along the length of the grip. Between the dams, the sides of the grip are re-profiled to help prevent further erosion and encourage vegetation growth. Over time, the grip naturally silts up and specialist plants such as sphagnum mosses recolonise, and after around two years the grip is barely visible. More of this work is being undertaken as part of the Limestone Ribble Restoration project funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund.

and after.



Urban River

The Urban River Enhancement Scheme (URES) started in Burnley town centre in 2011. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency and several other sources, URES has two distinct aspects to it. One is the physical improvements, which include the naturalisation of the man-made river channels and the installation of a fish pass on Burnley’s largest weir. The other aspect involves the engagement of Burnley’s communities, encouraging people to reassess the value of their rivers and the wildlife that inhabits them, and empowering local people to care more for their rivers.

How we do it...

“Sustainability is the key to successful river restoration” When it comes to river restoration, successfully achieving a balance between physical improvements and people’s increased knowledge of rivers and altered attitudes towards them will ensure that URES leaves a lasting legacy and generates opportunities for continued improvement work in the future.

Changing Channels The heritage Back in the 1800s at the time of the Industrial Revolution, Burnley’s river channels underwent enormous changes. Weirs were built to supply water to the mills and the channels were straightened and lined with cobbles so that smelly, industrially polluted and sewage-filled water could be flushed away from the town as quickly as possible. Burnley had turned its back on the rivers, hiding them in culverts and tucking them away behind buildings. The effect on the local wildlife was devastating. Fish and aquatic insects could no longer tolerate such long stretches of fast-flowing water and lack of habitat, not to mention the toxic pollution. Other wildlife such as kingfishers, dippers and otters were forced to vacate the town and seek food and habitat elsewhere.

Addressing the problem URES aims to return the river channels of Burnley to a state that wildlife can be encouraged back to the town centre, whilst balancing people’s needs. This involves


modifying the channel to create areas of slow flowing water, which fish can use. The slower water will also attract some sediment deposition, which will provide habitat for aquatic invertebrates. The channel modifications involve widening the central flume and altering the levels of the riverbed in order to mimic the natural pool and riffle sequences found in unaltered rivers. 2013 saw work completed on two sections of the River Calder, one near Holden Street and the other behind Elizabeth Street in the town centre. The construction work took less than two months to complete and within a week of making the alterations, silt and gravel had started to accumulate in the bottom of the pools and a 12 inch brown trout was seen moving through the pools. 2014 will see more channel alterations being undertaken on the rivers Calder and Brun, as well as a fish pass that is to be constructed on a large weir behind the Mohiuddin International Girls College.

1. The straight, narrow, cobbled channels in Burnley generate flow velocities of approx. 2 metres per second. We start by identifying suitable locations for the work, drawing up the designs and then carefully modelling the scenarios to ensure that we do not increase flood risk.


ws beh iver flo Main r y wall rar tempo

2. Temporary walls are constructed to divert the river while the central channel is worked on. Cobbles are removed and refitted at different levels to create artificial pools and riffles.

3. The work area is tidied up, the temporary walls and dams are removed and the river flows much more widely and slower than it did before.

Enhancement Scheme Changing Perceptions Securing the support of the Heritage lottery Fund for URES has been instrumental in allowing us to reach out to a much wider audience than ever before. Several new initiatives and partnership projects have already proved to be a resounding success, below is just a taste of the many and varied activities and community days involving hundreds of local people of all ages, interests and backgrounds throughout Burnley. The knowledge gained now is already being passed on to future generations, encouraging the communities of Burnley to respect and enjoy their rivers once again.

Local river action groups

Photo competition and exhibition


Supported by URES, groups of volunteers are working together to help clean up and improve Burnley’s rivers by removing Himalayan balsam, planting trees and repairing footpaths. Adopting a section of river is an excellent way to become familiar with the issues that directly affect it. Thank you to the many local people who have been involved so far – contact us if you would like to see improvements in your area.

URES teamed up with Mid Pennine Arts to run a photo competition and photo safaris during the summer of 2013 to capture the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects of Burnley’s rivers. Later in the year, the best of the 100+ entries were showcased in a high profile exhibition in Burnley town centre and were joined by street artists Urban Canvas. Watch the video produced by Huckleberry Films here:

Dozens of young people benefitted from the expertise and guidance of local artists in a joint project between URES, Burnley Borough Council and Burnley Library. Teenagers completed nationally recognised Arts Award qualifications based on explorations of Burnley’s rivers and riverine wildlife, whilst learning to use multimedia technology to produce creative arts.

River in the classroom

When You See Water

River habitat management course

Launched in November 2013, a teacher training event attracted over 12 primary schools from Burnley who were eager to incorporate ‘River in the Classroom’ into their syllabuses. As part of the programme, fish tanks containing trout eggs are installed into classrooms. The children can see the eggs hatch into fry and when the trout are large enough, they are released into a local stream. The supportive educational activities are specifically designed to enhance literacy skills whilst exploring wildlife of the rivers.

Burnley Youth Theatre are running drama workshops in schools and community centres, which will culminate in a riverthemed outdoor theatrical performance. The project takes a completely alternative approach to teaching young people about their rivers. “I was surprised at just how quickly and creatively the young people welcomed and embraced the activities. Their enthusiasm was fantastic and infectious and Burnley Youth Theatre left the group wanting more”.

Delivered in partnership with the Workers Education Association (WEA), over 30 people have now completed this short pioneering course. Participants gain direct hands-on experience and opportunities to improve practical skills in teamwork, project management and leadership, as well as increased awareness of river habitats and environmental management, health and safety, survey work, species recognition, invasive non-native species, legislative drivers and methods of land management for water catchment and quality.

Neil Ashworth, URES Project Assistant.


Climate Change

and the future of our rivers

There is little doubt that climate change is already disrupting our weather patterns. Take the last few years for example; according to the Met Office, four of the five wettest summers on record have occurred in the last seven years. 2012 began with a severe drought, while April in the same year was the wettest since records began. Spring 2013 was the second coldest spring ever recorded with significant snowfall, but this was followed by a markedly hot, dry summer. And then there’s the recent storms, which appear to be occurring more often, bringing with them 80mph winds, coastal surges, service disruption and fatalities. According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), average global temperatures have already risen by 0.7°C since the 1970s. The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment published in 2012 predicts that by 2080, average UK summer temperatures could be anywhere between 1°C to 8°C warmer and river levels could decrease by up to 80% in some parts of the country. The Met Office anticipates that extreme rainfall events and droughts will become more frequent. Two obvious problems are expected to occur on our rivers as a result of climate change; an increase in flooding and a rise in river water temperatures. Rivers are already suffering from a range of issues, including habitat destruction, pollution and abstraction. What climate change is doing is adding pressure to an already stressed river environment.

High river temperatures for prolonged periods of time can result in fish kills.

How does an increase in water temperature affect rivers? Hot summers, long spells of sunshine and warm air temperatures will increase water temperature. But low flows during periods of drought will exacerbate the problem further, since shallow water is warmed more rapidly. The growing human population does not help matters either, with increasing demands for water resulting in more abstraction from rivers. If water temperature is maintained above 22°C for 7 consecutive days, the result can be lethal for fish, especially salmonids. In the summer of 2013, temperatures of 25°C were recorded for several consecutive days on the Ribble and fish mortalities were observed. High water temperature lowers the immune system of fish and increases the reproduction rate of parasites in the water, so it’s a lose-lose situation. Warmer water is also less able to hold dissolved oxygen and coupled with algal blooms triggered by warm temperatures also depleting the oxygen levels, it’s no wonder our fish struggle to survive. And it’s not just fish we need to worry about, birds and mammals that predate on them will suffer from a lack of food and their populations may also face a decline. Other problems that stem from low river levels include the spread of non-native species, the arrival of new water-borne diseases, less dilution of pollutants leading to poor water quality, siltation and loss of fish spawning habitat, increased vulnerability of fish to predation and the complete drying up of smaller streams.

Dried-up stream in the Calder catchment.


For people, low river levels could result in water shortages. There might also be a decline in the fishing industry and overall, the loss of biodiversity could result in a loss of visitors who use rivers for recreational purposes, which would affect local tourism economies.

How do floods affect rivers? Periods of intense rainfall, particularly following a drought when the ground is hard and rainwater cannot easily penetrate it, can quickly result in flooding. Flooding is a natural process of rivers, that’s what floodplains are there for. Unfortunately we’ve built houses, businesses and roads along floodplains and our impermeable urban environments deflect rainwater straight into rivers, rather than absorbing it and releasing it gradually. Photo: David Bleazard

4,000 trees were planted along Cam Beck in the Yorkshire Dales in 2012.

The cooler water could also be sufficient to stem the spread of water-borne diseases.

The River Calder in flood downstream of Whalley.

The impact of frequent flooding can be damaging to river habitats. Floods cause increased channel erosion, greater sediment and pollution inputs from overland flow, higher risk of effluent discharge from inundated sewage treatment works and the washing out of plants and animals. The impact on people is also significant. Most areas in the UK have already been hit by major floods in recent years, resulting in severe damage to homes and businesses. According to Defra, nearly 1 in 6 homes in England is at risk of flooding and recent flood events have cost the agricultural industry millions of pounds each time. Defra has committed to spending £2 billion between 2011 and 2015 to put measures in place to help tackle the issue and the Environment Agency is urging the UK to stay #FloodAware.

In flood events, trees can prevent excess channel erosion as their roots stabilise the banks by binding the soil. They can help buffer the input of sediments and pollutants that are washed off the land during periods of rainfall, keeping fish spawning gravels silt-free and maintaining good water quality. Mature trees also intercept a lot of the rainfall and promote infiltration into the soil, thus prolonging rainwater’s journey into the river channel and reducing flooding. In the last two years, the Trust has planted nearly 60,000 trees in the Ribble Catchment as part of the award-winning Keeping Rivers Cool project in partnership with the Environment Agency. This incredible achievement would not have been possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers and we hope to secure further funding to continue this work for years to come.

What can we do? We can help our rivers to adapt to climate change so that they are better prepared for fluctuations in temperature and flow levels. Trees offer fantastic solutions to many of the problems caused by climate change. By planting woodland along the banks of rivers, we can create dappled shade, which keeps the water temperatures lower during periods of warm, dry weather and provides fish with cool refuges. The tree cover also helps to protect them from predation and increases habitat for invertebrates - an important food source for fish and birds.

Volunteers planting trees along Chipping Brook in 2014

Want to help with future tree planting? Sign up to our volunteer mailing list by emailing


Tracking Salmon on the Ribble Only in its second year, the salmon tracking project is already generating some interesting results. Gareth Jones, Fisheries Scientist, provides a summary of the findings so far.

After a successful first year of tracking, the Trust has been quick to act upon the results, which revealed that three tagged spring salmon spawned within Long Preston, Skirden and Stock Becks. Stock beck has now been protected by over 3,500m of riparian fencing to diminish the threat of high nutrient and silt loads to juvenile fish development. The result on Stock Beck also proved to be pivotal in convincing one landowner to agree to our works. The majority of last year’s tagged fish were discovered using riffles located throughout the main stem above Clitheroe in the middle reaches of the Ribble. Calling once again on our partners from the EA and local angling clubs, we were primed from the first spring floods in February 2013 in eager anticipation of early running ‘springers’. Yet, it was not until mid-April before the first fish arrived at the Waddow trap with all indications being that the fish were running later than in 2012. In response, our trapping exercise was extended until the 16th June to allow for greater numbers of captures. The floods did not materialise and trapping came to a close with eighteen salmon caught. All but one of this year’s springers arrived in mid-May during a prolonged flood event (compared with a total of twenty-six captures the previous year). Elevated water levels during late spring gave way to a prolonged dry spell and a sharp

Sponsored fish ‘Maloney’ was captured and tagged in May 2013. A pair of salmon were witnessed spawning on the Ribble in November 2013, the male fish was tagged - could this have been our sponsored fish Maloney?

incline in water temperatures, low flows and succulent algal growths with low summer levels reached by mid-June. Spring also saw the Trust host a feedback event at the Swan & Royal in Clitheroe to outline the findings of our first year, as well as team up with local dive store Reefers and Wreckers of Barrow, to attempt a search and recover mission of the previous year’s tags. In tricky conditions for the hardy divers, three sites around Clitheroe were successfully searched and half of the tags from the first year were recovered. This represents a cost saving to the Trust and means that enough tags should be available in the third year with a second recapture exercise scheduled for 2014.

rather than travel up into the smaller tributaries. The spawning grounds have been similar to those used in 2012. The pools used in the warmer months and the autumnal frost that triggered spawning behaviour were also consistent. Becks local to these grounds provide good rearing habitats for young fish and these will be targeted next. An immediate target will be Ged Beck, where the Trust has already begun work upon a new riparian habitat scheme where salmon parr were detected during our electrofishing surveys. Continued upstream habitat improvement remains a possibility here and we hope to target such areas in support of future spring salmon runs.

2013’s tagged fish have remained within the main stem of the Ribble to spawn...

Early indications are that 2013’s tagged fish have remained within the main stem of the Ribble in order to spawn,

Divers from Reefers & Wreckers search the riverbed for salmon tags

Electrofishing Surveys Purpose of the surveys


Electrofishing surveys have always been an integral part of the Trust’s operation. They help us identify new opportunities in underperforming areas of the catchment through the collection and counting of fish. Such counts allow us to monitor where reproduction and development of trout and salmon have been most successful. Often, their absence from a particular site can be related to a limiting factor within the local riverine environment and provides us with an opportunity to work with the landowners to address the issue.




Plenty more fish in the rivers Our surveys focus on trout and salmon fry because they are the most sensitive to environmental issues and therefore their presence or absence at a site is indicative of the health of the river. But they’re not the only fish we find during our surveys... Stickleback

Technique Electrofishing involves passing a weak electrical current through the water, which stuns the fish for a few seconds, allowing us to capture them. All of the fish netted at the site are counted and their lengths measured before being safely returned to the river. Over 300 sites around the Ribble Catchment are monitored each year between June and October, aided by volunteers consisting of students, anglers and other conservation enthusiasts.

Wider benefits During each survey, additional site data is collected such as the presence of invasive species, quality of habitat and possible sources of pollution. The data is shared with the relevant Trust staff for their consideration for future potential projects. The surveys also yield a wider public interest that extends beyond the numbers game. For passers-by, the intrigue of seeing rubber clad Ghostbusters in river warrants further attention! This lends to a wider appeal and interest (not to mention future volunteers) from all walks of life towards their rivers and the wider environment. It is often the case that our survey team is questioned by curious folks wishing to search through our bucket of captures!

Results from 2013 2013 represented the sixth year of the Trust’s annual surveys. The increase in assistants and more favourable weather meant we were able to include the upper Hyndburn catchment for the first time. However, the warmer weather did prove to



Map of the Ribble Catchment showing numbers of trout fry present at each site.

be problematic at times, with river water temperatures exceeding the limit for safe electrofishing during periods of low flow.


The trout population has proven more resilient than salmon to the warm conditions, with healthy returns observed across the Ribble and Hodder catchments. By comparison, salmon did not quite fare as well and a net decrease in numbers occurred that was most pronounced upon the upper Hodder. Nevertheless there were increases across some Ribble sites and some of the more ‘at risk’ areas have continued to retain salmon fry albeit in lower densities than previously encountered. Now with six years data we are able to determine whether the changes we see in the numbers of salmon and trout are cause for concern. It is re-assuring to see that over the course of the last six years, these 2013 results were not our lowest. This presents a case that our wild salmon population will respond positively and that we should seek to retain a continuous record.



Pike Crayfish


Catchment Science A huge amount of research work has taken place in the Ribble Catchment recently. We’ve had students undertaking projects in partnership with Ribble Rivers Trust, as well as the Trust inputting into others’ research, both through the provision of data and also facilitation of sharing data. Sharing of data and research is a key area for the Ribble Trust and its partners. By sharing what we know, we can increase the effectiveness of the actions we are delivering, as well as focusing our actions in places that provide the most value, both financially and environmentally. Sharing data has led us to delivering projects that achieve multiple benefits, for example working with Yorkshire Dales National Park we have delivered riparian woodland that will provide benefit to Black Grouse, a key species for the park. We are working hard to find the best ways of sharing data and research, such that others use the data in the same way. With Durham University, we have developed a computer tool that allows us to target our work in areas that will address multiple issues at once (see diagram opposite). This tool is the first of its kind and not only will it provide significant benefit to the Ribble Catchment, it can also be utilised by other catchments to focus their work. In 2013 we worked with eight students - two studying for their PhDs, two Masters students and four Undergraduates. The projects varied widely in topic, from fish passage efficiency to the impacts of Himalayan Balsam. However all have helped to monitor works delivered and also improved our knowledge and understanding such that we can continue to improve and focus our works more effectively.

Some of the key research outcomes:  Our project with Sarah Underhill from Lancaster University has shown that fencing and tree planting increases the abundance of invertebrates.  Ami Weir, Lancaster University, found that with higher densities of Himalayan Balsam came lower diversity of other native plant species, thus negatively impacting on the biodiversity of the catchment.  Mike Forty from Durham University has shown that our low-cost baffle solution to improve fish passage on Swanside Beck has increased fish passage from around 20% to 77%.


 Rebecca Jackson, Lancaster University, has found interesting relationships between shade, woody debris and fry abundance, that require further research to see if we can use shade maps to indicate if woody debris could be introduced to increase fry abundance.  Karlina, Jess, Tia, and Alex from the University of Manchester have demonstrated that shading aids in maintaining a lower water temperature in the Ribble. This is important evidence given that during the heat wave in July 2013, river temperatures exceeded 25°C killing many fish and invertebrates.  Jonny Ainsworth, Lancaster University, collected vital data on the composition of gravel, pebble and cobble in the River Langden prior to United Utilities adding more gravel. This will be revisited next year to discover if we have improved the River Langden. Our research programme is set to continue, both with continuations of some of the above studies and the addition of new research. This will help us to improve the Ribble’s watercourses and at the same time, give students important work and career experience which we hope will see them increase their employability.

The Ribble Catchment’s



A nightmare of a plant – a real triffid! This giant originates from the Caucasus Mountains and was brought into RPS group Plc Britain via Kew Gardens in 1817, then not the bastion of conservation it is today. Apart from all the usual environmental issues associated with invasive plants, giant hogweed is also extremely toxic to humans. If you get the sap on your skin, it can result in severe dermatitis, itching and blisters which repeatedly flare up on exposure to sunlight. If you see this plant – don’t touch!

This plant has evolved to colonise the barren, rocky slopes of recently erupted volcanoes and lava flows. No GBNNSS wonder that it colonises our green and pleasant land so easily. It also explains why this plant is so damaging to buildings, roads and other infrastructure. For a plant with no seeds, Japanese knotweed is incredibly common, and this success is entirely down to people. Small fragments of plant stems and roots are moved around in soil, rubble, vehicle tracks, green waste etc. and regenerate into new plants where they fall. If you see this plant – do not pull it up or cut it down!



The ubiquitous pink and white nodding flowers which line our riverbanks in summer are another Victorian import. They GBNNSS out-compete native wildflowers and grasses and contribute to accelerated erosion and sediment input to rivers. The popping seed heads of balsam scatter the seeds far and wide, and rivers help carry the seeds over long distances. Yes, bees do love them, but bees were quite happy before the balsam arrived. If you see this plant – please pull it up! Why not start a balsam bashing project on your local stream, it’s much easier than you think!

The American mink has established itself far and wide after escaping from fur farms throughout the last Snowdonia National Park Authority century. A scourge of the water vole, the mink is small enough to follow the voles into their burrows, and is thought to be a major cause of their decline. Mink also heavily predate birds, fish and other mammals. Otters are known to compete with mink for habitat and territory so the recent return of otters may help keep mink numbers in check.

Have you seen any? Report your sightings online at 17

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The Ribble Trust started life as a group of volunteers and they’ve been integral to our delivery of habitat improvements ever since. There’s no way we could make as big an impact without them. We work all over the Ribble Catchment so chances are there’ll be volunteering opportunities near you. No experience is necessary as full training and equipment is provided prior to the activity. Already our volunteers have helped to improve our rivers for the future, but there’s always plenty more to do and we need YOUR help to do it! From tree planting, fencing and wildlife surveys, to litter picks and invasive species control, we offer a range of opportunities to suit energetic, hardworking volunteers who love the outdoors and want to make a difference to their local environment. Anyone can get involved, from families and individuals, to colleges and local businesses. We even offer corporate team away-days, which are great for teamwork and enjoying time out of the office.

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Game and coarse fishing at several locations in the beautiful Ribble Catchment, including main Ribble and Calder rivers. The Angling Passport scheme aims to highlight the importance of a clean and healthy river as a valuable asset to recreation and the local economy. Proceeds from the ticket sales are invested into river conservation activities.

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