Annual Newsletter 2019

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RIBBLE RIVERS TRUST Annual Newsletter: Issue 15 | 2019 Suggested donation: £1 ISSN 2052-8094


Latest surveys indicate a good year for salmon populations


A project aimed at introducing young people to angling


New circular routes added to the river walk series


CEO Jack Spees marks RRT’s 20th anniversary



CONTACT Office: 01200 444452 Address: c/o Hanson Cement, Ribblesdale Works, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 4QF.

Fish Passes

STAFF Chief Executive Officer Jack Spees Office & Publicity Manager Catherine Jaggs


Administration Assistant Charlotte Ireland Ribble Life Programme Manager Harvey Hamilton-Thorpe Project Officer Adam Walmsley


Riparian Woodlands

Ribble Life Together

Agricultural Project Officer Matthew Powell Kathryn Oddie Catchment Science Coordinator Mike Forty Fisheries Officer Adam Wheeler GIS Officer Ellie Brown

Education Officers Emily Bateman Neil Ashworth Community Projects Officer Helen Thompson Volunteer Supervisor Jonny Walker

TRUSTEES Philip Lord (Chairman) Alan Rowntree (Treasurer) Mike Horner Dave Wilmot Dominic Bradley Harvey Marchbank Jeff Cowburn Mike Ellacott John Bleasdale

©Ribble Rivers Trust Charity number: 1070672 Company number: 3498691 Production: Catherine Jaggs Cover photo: Mark Sunderland (Alamy Stock Photo P77F9E) Back Cover: Topix (Alamy Stock Photo A3K162)

 Website:


Fish Survey Results

Contents 1 Ribble Trust Turns 20

12 Farming for Clean Water

2 Ribble Life Together

13 Farmers’ Working Group

3 River Walks

14 Protecting Bathing Water

4 Woodlands

15 Pendle WINNS

6 Wetlands

16 Education

8 Fish Passes

17 Research studies


18 Fish Survey Results

Twenty years of improving rivers by Ribble Rivers Trust’s CEO

Taking different approaches to connect people with their river heritage

The latest trails to be improved to bring the joy of rivers to varying abilities

The newest riparian woodlands being planted to benefit rivers and wildlife

The ecological merits of creating wetlands on farmland

Opening up new stretches of river habitat to migratory fish

A report on the progress made in restoring Blackburn’s rivers


Farm appraisals that help farmers improve their land management

Farmers working together to improve the Forest of Bowland for wildlife

Working with farmers and the public to maintain clean seas and beaches

Planting woodlands and tackling Invasive Non-Native Species

Inspiring the next generation to love and protect our river environments

An overview of research studies being undertaken in the Ribble Catchment

An overview of how our salmon and trout populations fared in 2018

Twitter: @RibbleTrust /@RibbleLife

Welcome Our 20th Anniversary CEO Jack Spees


ast year saw the Trust’s 20th year of delivering river improvements in the Ribble Catchment. And what a year it was: six barriers to fish migration tackled, over 15,000 trees planted, six wetlands created and thousands of people engaged in our various project activities. Our scale of delivery hasn’t always been so far-reaching though. Back in 1998, a group of anglers concerned about the deterioration of the rivers came together to voluntarily deliver small-scale habitat improvements to encourage greater numbers of fish. Momentum built slowly, with the Trust finally employing its first paid member of staff in 2005. The Trust’s development really began to accelerate with the arrival of The Rivers Trust’s River Improvement Fund in 2009, funding the removal of Padiham Weir. The success and experience gained through this programme helped the Trust go on to secure £1.4 million from Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund in 2012, expanding the team to 12 members of staff to deliver projects for the next three years. At the same time, Defra was piloting its Catchment Based Approach, with the Ribble being one of 20 test catchments in the country. This would significantly alter the way that RRT would go about delivering future projects, as working in partnership with other organisations achieved a greater impact than the Trust operating alone. Two subsequent Heritage Lottery grants opened up a whole new world for the Trust of engaging communities and delivering

John Davidson Photos—Alamy Stock Photo

education in schools, at the heart of which was the ambition to leave a lasting legacy with the future guardians of our rivers. 2018 saw the Trust increase again in size to 20 employees and four apprentices, who we hope will help to deliver improvement to the catchment and the wider environment into the future. We are delivering work to improve the Ribble on an unprecedented scale, which puts us up there with the likes of the Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust and the RSPB. The backbone to all of our work, always underpinning everything we deliver, has been science, and we now have datasets stretching back over 10 years. This enables us to clearly demonstrate the need for projects, the benefits that we aim to provide and the successes of our work. We are currently developing new ways to analyse and record data to better focus our work, to make sure we are delivering the greatest benefit possible with the funds we receive.


What will the next 20 years hold in store for RRT? We have seen first hand the importance of people in helping to make and sustain the improvements we have made. We want to be able to demonstrate more clearly the advantages healthy rivers and catchments bring. One way we plan to do this is to acquire a piece of land and use it to demonstrate the land management techniques. We often find it difficult to engage people about rivers, when it shouldn’t be - most people live closer than they realise to an incredibly complex and beautiful ecosystem, but so much of it is hidden below the water surface. To that end, we have decided to build a new visitor centre in the coming years to allow the public to find out more about our rivers and how they can help make them better. We hope you will continue to support our worthwhile work, giving what you can and volunteering your time, to help us deliver more benefits to people and the environment.

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Ribble Life Together The Ribble Life catchment partnership was set up in 2011, aiming to explore better ways of engaging with people and organisations to improve the water environment at a catchment scale. In March 2015, the partnership was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop its first collaborative project, Ribble Life Together. Following a successful development stage, the HLF granted £1.6 million for the project to be delivered from April 2017 to October 2020. Contributions from match funders including The Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and other sources have helped to increase the project value to £3.2 million. The aim of Ribble Life Together is to bring people and organisations together to deliver a healthier river system for the benefit and enjoyment of local communities and wildlife.


One of the main objectives of the Ribble Life Together project is to connect people with their rivers and instil a sense of responsibility towards their protection so that our environment will be in safe hands long after the project has ended. We’ve chosen to approach this through the arts as well as science, to encourage as many people as possible to appreciate the wonder of rivers and wildlife.

Sketch workshops

Bat walks

A series of sketch workshops are being delivered at various riverside locations around the Ribble Catchment with local artist Pat Southern-Pearce. The workshops endeavour to encourage people to value the beauty of our rivers and wildlife, whilst learning about the importance of protecting them for future generations to enjoy.

Two bat walks were held in 2018, led by local expert, Pat Waring. After an introductory talk at dusk, participants were taken on a short walk along the River Ribble to search for bats, study their behaviour and learn why healthy rivers are crucial for providing the right habitat for this enigmatic species.

Short films Filming of the various river restoration projects has been ongoing over the course of the project, to enable people to see the difference the work is making to the health of our rivers without needing to visit each project site. An animation was also commissioned to encourage people to think differently about how they use water at home and raise awareness of the impacts their actions can have on the state of our rivers, beaches and seas. Watch the ‘River Friendly Folk’ video and many more informative short films at:

Photo competition The second annual photography competition was held in 2018, with the theme ‘river wildlife’. Congratulations to winner Pat Mansfield who took this charming photo of juvenile mallards. Pat Mansfield

Stephen Root

Heritage Open Day In September 2018, as part of the nationwide Heritage Open Days initiative, a celebration event was held on the banks of the River Ribble at Edisford, Clitheroe. Visitors of all ages were invited to find out about our river restoration projects, learn more about their river heritage and enjoy hands-on activities such as fly fishing, riverfly safaris, litter picking and crafts.

Gary Britland

River walks Being active outdoors and enjoying nature has been proven to provide all sorts of health benefits, from increased fitness and weight management, to improved mental health and wellbeing. A total of 15 river walks are being developed as part of the Ribble Life Together project at locations across the Ribble Catchment, from the Yorkshire Dales to the estuary. Lengths vary from 2 to 9 miles and many take in river restoration schemes such as new woodlands, wetlands and fish passes. Walk guides can be downloaded from: enjoy/circular-walks. Paper copies are also available at all of our public events and local agricultural shows. We have also created digital walk guides to accompany the walk routes. These are available on our Ribble Life app and provide additional information about points of interest along the route. Photos, videos and audio clips help you learn more about the history and wildlife along the route. The app is free to download and is available for Android and iOS smartphones. Simply visit your app store and search for ‘Ribble Life’.

Five ways to get involved 1. PLANT TREES Help create new habitat and a lasting legacy for our rivers.


Available now • Ribble Estuary, Lytham - 5 miles • Rivers & Bridges, Preston - 5 miles • Preston Docks - 2 miles • Calder & Brun, Burnley - 8 miles

Coming soon • Sabden Brook, Sabden - 5 miles • River Hyndburn, Accrington 5 miles

• Pendle Water, Barrowford - 5 miles • River Hodder, Slaidburn - 4.5 miles • River Loud, Chipping - 3.5 miles • River Ribble, Stainforth - 5 miles • Cam Beck, Horton in Ribblesdale 8 miles

Tackle plastic pollution, protect wildlife and help make rivers places for people to enjoy. 3. ATTEND A WORKSHOP OR EVENT Be the first to hear about our guided walks, wildlife events, talks, training workshops or art sessions. 4. ECOLOGY TRAINING Learn to undertake wildlife surveys and help us build our data sets. 5. BE WATER FRIENDLY Watch the ‘River Friendly Folk’ animation at films Sign up to our project updates and volunteering mailing lists to be the first to hear about activities you can take part in. Simply visit

• Park Brook, Salesbury - 7 miles • Bashall Brook, Clitheroe - 6.5miles • Boyces Brook, Ribchester - 6 miles


Woodlands As part of the Ribble Life Together project, more new woodlands have been planted adjacent to rivers and streams over the 2018-2019 winter season, partly funded by the EU LIFE Programme. The locations have been carefully chosen to have the greatest impact on improving freshwater ecology.

Increase habitat and biodiversity Riverflies in their adult form use overhanging foliage to lay their eggs.


Riverflies in their larval stage feed on the organic matter that falls from trees into the river.


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White-clawed crayfish use overhanging tree roots and vegetation both as a food source and for cover from predators.

Daubenton’s bats use riverside trees as roosts, also taking advantage of the insects that hatch from them. Freshwater fish benefit from the cover and shade that overhanging branches provide.

Why plant trees?


Improve water quality

Reduce flood risk

Trees are excellent filters of pollution. When rain falls onto uniform surfaces such as farm pastures or hard urban terrain, water washes quickly into watercourses, carrying pollutants such as faecal matter, chemicals and sediment with it. The presence of trees intercepts and slows down the flow of water, encouraging pollutants to be deposited before they reach our rivers and streams, and helping to keep our water clean for riverine species.

In a similar way, trees intercepting and slowing the flow of water over land can help to reduce the risk of flooding. Rainfall that reaches rivers quickly causes the water to rise sharply to a high level, resulting in a flash flood. When trees are present, rainwater travels towards rivers at a much slower rate, meaning the water level rises and falls more gradually over a longer period of time, reducing the risk of the river suddenly overtopping its banks.

Kingfishers and other birds use bankside trees as perches when hunting for fish and insects. Otters breed in holts within bankside tree roots, benefitting from abundant food associated with good water quality. Red squirrels and other woodland animals thrive in wellconnected pockets of woodland habitat.

Decrease erosion Rain falling onto uniform surfaces like compacted farm pastures flows quickly into watercourses. The quicker the flow, the more energy the water has to transport sediment particles, resulting in soil loss from farmland and excessive riverbank erosion. The presence of woodland helps to slow both the overland flow and the in-channel flow, reducing erosion and the contamination of the water by too much sediment.

Reduce atmospheric CO₂

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock the carbon away for centuries. This helps to reduce the rate of global warming, which is believed to have been exacerbated by the human consumption of fossil fuels. The more trees we plant globally, the more chance we will have of reducing the frequency and intensity of undesirable events caused by extreme weather events.

Create shade Hot summers, long spells of sunshine and warm air temperatures increase the water temperature in rivers. Low flows and evaporation during periods of drought exacerbate the problem further, since shallow water is warmed more rapidly. If water temperature is maintained above 22°C for 7 consecutive days, the result can be lethal for fish, especially salmonids. This situation has already occurred several times in the Ribble Catchment over the past few years, with fish deaths observed.

High water temperature increases the reproduction rate of parasites in the water, while at the same time, lowers the immune system of fish. Warmer water is also less able to hold dissolved oxygen and coupled with algal blooms triggered by the 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. Planting trees adjacent to rivers and streams creates shade to reduce evaporation from the channel and keep the water cool, as well as providing fish with cover from predators.


In 2018, air temperatures reached record levels across the country. We had been monitoring water temperatures in Bashall Brook at both a shaded woodland area and an exposed grassland site, just 1km apart from each other. The results seen during the summer were of great concern, with river temperatures peaking at 29.8°C in the unshaded reach. This was very similar to the air temperature and 9°C warmer than the shaded site upstream, demonstrating how quickly water temperature can increase when riverbanks become unshaded. For this study section at least, there is a bright future, with tree planting and fencing to exclude livestock having been installed over the past winter. Going forward, bankside tree planting will continue to be a key part of the Trust’s strategy to create more healthy and resilient ecosystems.

Tree planters needed! Every year, Ribble Rivers Trust sets an ambitious target to plant thousands of trees. It simply would not be possible without the help of dedicated and hard-working volunteers. Planting trees is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors, spot wildlife, meet like-minded people and give something back to the environment. It’s also extremely rewarding to revisit the site a few years later and see your new woodland beginning to flourish! If you’re interested in helping at one of our tree planting days, visit to join our volunteer mailing list. 5

Wetlands A number of new wetlands have been created over the past year as part of the Ribble Life Together project. The locations were collectively chosen by the catchment’s partnership organisations to not only improve river ecology, but also to provide new habitat for wading birds and invertebrates.

Increase biodiversity Wading birds feed on insects that inhabit wetlands, and breed close by to provide food for their chicks. There are around 350 species of water beetle found in UK ponds, providing a base for the food chain. Dragonflies and damselflies are often found at the margins of wetlands, feeding on flies and midges.

Great crested newts are a protected species. They breed in clean ponds during the spring. Bats take advantage of the plethora of flying insects that inhabit wetlands.

Why dig wetlands? Increase habitat Wetlands are listed as a priority habitat for conservation in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan, as they support over one hundred priority species. The amount of historical wetland habitat has significantly reduced over the years due to urban development and changes in agricultural practices, and 80% of the wetlands that remain are considered to be in poor condition. By restoring and creating new wetland habitat, we can


help to boost the populations of a wide variety of endangered species that depend on wetlands.

Improve water quality All types of wetland, from ponds and scrapes, to water meadows and peat bogs, have the potential to slow the run-off rate of rainfall and reduce the amount of pollution entering our rivers and streams, by trapping and retaining sediments and nutrients from the surrounding land.

Grass snakes are the UK’s largest snake. They feed almost exclusively on wetland amphibians. Common frogs feed on the insects that live in ponds and lay frogspawn in them during the spring. Wetlands provide conditions for many types of specialist plant, such as the yellow flag iris.

Reduce flood risk

Slate Pits Wetland near Accrington

During periods of heavy rainfall, agricultural land can quickly become saturated, increasing the run-off rate of water into rivers and streams and posing a risk of flash flooding downstream. Wetlands act as storage basins for rainfall, initially keeping water out of the river channel and then releasing it slowly, meaning river levels rise and fall more gradually with less chance of it overtopping the banks.

Benefits for farmers

Through the government’s countryside stewardship scheme, farmers are eligible to receive payments when they designate parts of their land to create features that benefit nature, such as wetlands. There are also indirect financial benefits to creating wetlands on farmland, as they reduce the amount of soil and nutrients lost during heavy rainfall by slowing the rate of overland flow and reducing erosion rates.


We are carrying out before and after monitoring of water flows through two of our new wetland sites, one near Tosside and the other near Accrington, to determine what impact they are having on river flows. This will help us understand how best to design wetlands for natural flood management and how many would be needed at a catchment scale to

influence flood peaks. We are very grateful to Detectronic for their continued support with this monitoring. We have also been keeping an eye on wildlife that takes up residence in our new wetlands, some surprisingly quickly. Ringed plover, smooth newt, broad-bodied chaser and toads have all been found on wetlands under a year old.

Curlew Richardom - Alamy Stock Photo


Fish Passage Opening up new sections of rivers to migratory fish has been one of the main objectives of the Ribble Life Together project. Six more weirs have been modified over the past year with the aim of increasing the numbers and diversity of fish populations around the catchment. Not only do increased fish populations benefit other wildlife that predates on them, it also helps diversify the gene pool, making them more resilient to future environmental change. This is especially important for the Atlantic salmon, a species that is currently endangered.

Dean Brook Dean Brook flows down from the south side of Pendle Hill and enters the River Calder at Simonstone. Shortly before the confluence, a complex stone and concrete structure existed within the channel, however its purpose was not known. The weir was found to be in a state of severe disrepair and as well as being a significant barrier to upstream fish migration, it was also causing excessive erosion of the riverbanks downstream. Feasibility studies showed that removing the weir completely could increase the rate of erosion,

Old Laund Old Laund Weir, located on Old Laund Clough, a tributary of Pendle Water near Nelson, is believed to have been constructed in around 1920 to supply water to a mill. At 1.5m high, this stepped concrete weir was preventing fish from migrating upstream to a potentially valuable nursery stream, especially

Before therefore a rock ramp was constructed on top of the existing structure. The ramp offers fish a lesser gradient to swim upstream, allowing them to move through the pools between the rocks, without the requirement to jump and clear obstacles. Upstream of the weir, Dean Brook is largely encompassed by woodland, which offers good habitat and water quality for fish spawning. It is hoped that the works will contribute to increasing populations of fish within the Calder Catchment.

for salmon and trout spawning, as it is surrounded by woodland and open farmland. Because the stream’s channel was confined by a man-made wall, removal of the weir was not possible as the subsequent erosion would likely cause the channel sides to collapse.

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Instead, a rock ramp was constructed over the top of the existing weir, not only enabling fish to swim upstream more easily, but also helping to support the side walls of the channel. With fish populations expected to increase as a result of the work, it is hoped that other wildlife such as otters and kingfishers will be spotted more frequently in this area.


Cow Hey Cow Hey Brook is a tributary of Bashall Brook, which flows through the Forest of Bowland AONB near Bashall Eaves before joining the River Ribble at Clitheroe. This weir was built to provide water for a mill situated downstream. Very little evidence of the mill remains, however the weir continued to block the upstream migration of salmon and trout.

After West Bradford


West Bradford Brook flows down from Waddington Fell and joins the River Ribble just north of Clitheroe. As it passes through the village of West Bradford, it flows through a confined channel, presumably historically built to prevent flooding and erosion in the village. It is believed that the stepped, concrete clad weir was constructed to prevent downward incision of the river bed caused by the confining of the channel. At only 0.7m tall, the weir was relatively small, however its design provided very little depth of water at the foot of the weir for fish to jump over the obstacle and swim upriver. Removing the weir would have posed a risk of erosion to the surrounding properties and road, therefore an embedded rock ramp was constructed over the top of the existing structure to provide salmon, trout and eels with an easier route over the crest of the weir.


Construction of the fish easement at West Bradford was delayed for some weeks due to the discovery of native white-clawed crayfish in the brook. White-clawed crayfish are an endangered species and their presence in West Bradford Brook was not previously known. Even more exciting was that the crayfish found was a female carrying hundreds of eggs. Elsewhere in the

catchment, white-clawed crayfish are significantly declining due to competition from invasive American signal crayfish and pollution. A survey was carried out prior to the construction of the fish easement to capture any white-clawed crayfish in the vicinity of the works and relocate them to suitable habitat upstream.


In order to check the effectiveness of the fish easement at West Bradford, 55 brown trout were captured from upstream of the site and fitted with PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags - the same that are used to microchip pets. The tagged fish were relocated downstream of the fish pass. It is hoped that their natural homing instinct will encourage them to swim back upstream, over the newly constructed easement, and back to where they were originally caught.

Built from wood and reinforced with stone and concrete, the weir was found to be in severe disrepair and no longer a functional part of the landscape. The surrounding land and lack of nearby infrastructure provided a good opportunity to completely remove the weir at this site. The weir was replaced with a rock ramp in order to limit any subsequent erosion and scour. Removal of weirs is always the best option in terms of increasing the ecological value of a watercourse. It allows all fish species of all sizes to migrate freely, even in the lowest of flows. Not only that, but removing weirs completely also allows gravel to move downstream too, creating the pools and riffles that fish need for spawning. Our surveys have show that salmon and trout numbers in Bashall Brook have been poor over the last few years. With this weir removal, coupled with work with local farmers to reduce pollution, it is hoped that fish populations will begin to improve over the coming years.



The capture will be replicated in the springtime to see how many of the fish were able to navigate over the weir.


BRILLIaNCE Blackburn’s Rivers: Important to Lancashire’s Landscape Investment and Natural Capital Economy

The BRILLIANCE project began in 2016, with the aim of improving the ecology of Blackburn’s rivers. The project is jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund and includes the construction of fish passes over two sizeable weirs on the River Darwen, as well as the renaturalisation of a section of the River Roddlesworth at Feniscowles. The two fish passes were completed during the summer of 2018 and work is now underway to create the new river channel.

One of the reasons why the River Darwen is classed as being in poor ecological condition is because it has been heavily modified over the decades to harness its power for industry. Most of the mills have now gone, yet the weirs that remain continue to disrupt the natural migration of fish. Thanks to the project, two of these barriers have been made passable.

Lower Darwen Weir Lower Darwen Weir was constructed in the early 1800s to supply a mill race to Ewood Cotton Mill and later to Scotshaw Brook Paper Mill. Both mills were demolished by 1945, leaving the weir redundant and posing barrier to the upstream migration of fish. Due to the size of the weir and its proximity to houses and other buildings, removal was not an option due to the subsequent erosion it would cause. Instead, a bypass channel was constructed on one side of the weir, also helping to stabilise the riverbank, which was beginning to show signs of erosion. A fish tracking study was carried out at the site before and after the fish pass was installed. This involved capturing and tagging 16 resident brown trout from above the weir and relocating

them downstream. Trout have a natural homing instinct, allowing us to monitor their movements as they attempt to ascend the weir and make their way back upstream. Before the creation of the fish pass, only 5 of the 16 trout were successful in ascending the weir. The study was replicated once the fish pass was in place, this time with 20 brown trout. We were delighted to see immediate success, with 5 fish moving back upstream after the first day. In total, 16 of the 20 trout ascended the weir during the study, and 8 of them were found to have used the fish pass in both upstream and downstream directions. This is excellent news for the River Darwen, with the river now connected for fish passage between Samlesbury Bottoms and Darwen itself.

The original weir

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Hoghton Bottoms Weir Hoghton Bottoms Weir was one of the largest structures to be tackled by the Trust. It is located on the River Darwen within a picturesque sandstone gorge to the west of Blackburn - the only feature of its type in the Ribble Catchment. The weir itself is of historical importance, once providing water to Higher Mill at Hoghton Bottoms, as well as Livesey’s Cotton Factory. The mill leat, while in disrepair, is still visible along its entire length, from the weir to the viaduct over the river. At over 3 metres high, the structure was posing a complete barrier to upstream fish migration. The only feasible way to tackle the obstacle was to install a bypass channel up one side of the weir. Given that the weir itself is a famous local landmark and the subject of many photographs, the design of the fish pass had to be sympathetic to the local environment. An existing bedrock outcrop provided a solid foundation to house the bypass channel and its retaining wall. Though costly, the amount of river habitat that has been connected as a result of the pass is an impressive 14 kilometres, enabling once isolated populations of fish to mix.

After the bypass channel was completed, resident trout were fitted with radio tags and their movements tracked to test whether the design of the pass was effective. A kilometre of river was fished upstream of the weir, from which 16 adult brown trout were captured, tagged, and placed downstream below the weir. The fish movements were traced using a handheld antenna. Initially, the trout resided within pools downstream of the weir, presumably taking in the idyllic scenery while waiting for rains to create optimum water levels to stimulate upstream movements. When rains eventually came 11 days later, most fish spread out further downstream, but one trout managed to successfully find the fish pass and move upstream!

Next phase Work to de-culvert a section of the River Roddlesworth, a tributary of the River Darwen, is set to begin in 2019. For decades the river has been diverted underground beneath a former paper mill, posing a risk of flooding as well as being a barrier to fish migration. With the mill demolished and the site being developed for housing, the river channel was being diverted around the development. This has provided a rare opportunity for the Trust to design a ‘close to nature’ river channel and improve the ecology of the River Roddlesworth.

Over the month-long study, 3 of the 16 tagged fish were found to have used the fish pass, confirming that these sections of river were connected again for the first time since the weir was built. While not an ideal efficiency for the fish pass, the weir has gone from impassable to passable and we expect more fish will have found the fish pass entrance after the end of the study.


Farming update Natural England has been helping to fund our work with farmers in the catchment for over five years, with the aim of modifying certain farming practices to improve the water quality in our rivers and the wider environment. Last year, £15,000 was granted to enable our Farm Advisors to carry out more farm appraisals and help farmers access government funding to deliver improvement works. We also continued to facilitate the River Loud Farmers’ Group for a fourth consecutive year, helping them to collectively prioritise and deliver actions to address pollution in the River Loud catchment.

A large part of the Ribble Catchment is made up of agricultural land. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of our rivers suffer from diffuse pollution from slurry, nutrients and sediment running off the land, as well as direct inputs of faecal matter by livestock accessing watercourses. By working closely with farmers, we can often find a way to help them address these issues whilst benefitting their farm business at the same time.

Farming for clean water Ribble Trust has been working in partnership with Natural England on their Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative since 2013. The project aims to help farmers identify opportunities and take action to reduce the amount of pollution coming from their farms, and help improve the water quality of surrounding rivers and streams. Each year, the project focuses on a different area of the catchment where water quality is found to be poor. Recent efforts have focused on the Bowland and Pendle fringes, which include Easington Brook, Bashall Brook, Stock Beck and the River Hodder. Reducing pollution in these immediate watercourses is not the only aim; the target area is also found to impact on the quality of bathing waters along the Fylde Coast, from Blackpool to Southport. By reducing the amount of pollution coming down the river, we can help our Northwest beaches achieve and maintain their Blue Flag status and make it safer for people to paddle and swim. Over the past year, our Farm Advisors have visited 15 farms in the target area. After walking around the farm with the landowner, opportunities for reducing pollution are identified and written into a report. Particular emphasis is placed on breaking pathways that transport pollutants from the farm to the watercourse, such as yards and tracks, as well as


intercepting runoff from fields and preventing livestock from having direct access to rivers and streams. These opportunities also highlight farming benefits. Not only do the reports detail ways to address pollution, they also signpost the farmer towards government grants that can help fund the intervention works, such as Countryside Stewardship and Water Capital Grants. For the first time since we began collaborating on the project, we have employed a new mapping technique to help us prioritise farms in the target area that could have the greatest positive impact on water quality if action was taken to address pollution issues. The prioritisation was based on land use (agricultural land, woodland, builtup areas etc.), the topography of the land and the average rainfall across the region, all of which affect the flow of water overland after rainfall and the potential for pollutants to be transported into nearby rivers and streams. Two of the priority farms that were visited in March 2018 have already been successful in obtaining grants to fund interventions. The works have included woodland creation, roofing manure stores, concreting yard areas and constructing cow tracks, all of which help to reduce sediment and faecal matter runoff into watercourses.

River Loud catchment Topix - Alamy Stock Photo

River Loud Farmers’ Group The River Loud Farmers’ Group was set up in 2015 to improve the ecological value of the River Loud valley by adopting new farming methods. In its fourth year, the group now comprises 30 farms covering an area of just under 5,000 hectares. The farmers meet regularly to discuss factors that might be impacting on river water quality, the wider environment and farming. Training workshops and events are organised to help equip the farmers with knowledge that will help them collectively address the issues. One of the topics that the group focused on over the past year was how to improve the productivity of their pastures by managing the growth of rush, whilst balancing habitat. A grassland specialist was invited to deliver a workshop detailing how farmers can reduce reliance on herbicides and employ more natural methods of rush control, such as reducing soil compaction, improving drainage, balancing soil pH and ploughing and reseeding. Inspired by the rush management

workshop, the group organised a farm walk with another specialist to look at grassland management in general. Soil health and compaction were highlighted as issues to address when looking for ways to maximise grass production, both of which are less costly to the farm business and less detrimental to the environment than applying nutrients. A third workshop was held to help the farmers generate nutrient management plans and tailor them to meet the needs of their individual farms. The plans will help to avoid costly over-applications of slurry and ammonia, with reduced potential for run-off of nutrients into watercourses.

Alongside the workshops, the Ribble Trust assisted group members who were applying for, delivering and claiming Countryside Stewardship funding. These grants are paid to eligible farms by the government to help landowners make environmental improvements. At each group meeting, the hot topic of discussion was the new agricultural policy and how it might impact their farm businesses in the post-Brexit era. Understandably, concerns were raised as to how funding for the continued delivery of environmental improvements could be accessed, whilst still maintaining farm productivity.

Oakenshaw Weir

Volunteers help to plant trees

A group member’s field before and after treatment, following the rush management work-


Tidal Ribble The Tidal Ribble project is a partnership project between Ribble Rivers Trust, United Utilities and the Environment Agency. Delivery of the project got underway in 2016 with funding from United Utilities to help address issues in the Tidal Ribble area that were affecting the water quality of bathing areas along the Fylde Coast. After nearly three years of working with farmers and communities in the area, we’re assessing the impact the project has had on water quality.

The Tidal Ribble area is characterised by vast urban areas and agricultural land, both of which have significant impacts on the quality of water within our lowland rivers and streams, as well as at the coast. The project took a two-pronged approach, working with farmers and communities to try to reduce the amount of pollution entering our watercourses. Since 2016, we have worked with 20 farms to employ measures to reduce the amount of pollution coming from agricultural land. Actions such as fencing off watercourses to prevent livestock accessing the water, planting trees along riverbanks to intercept runoff, and improving farmyard infrastructure have all helped to ensure that less faecal matter, chemicals and sediment end up in our rivers and along our beaches. Furthermore, we have delivered 36 community events and worked with 17 schools in the area, promoting ways for the public to be more water

This isn’t just good news for local communities and tourism, it’s also a step in the right direction for the survival of riverine and marine wildlife, which will benefit from the cleaner waters and reduced plastic pollution.

Commission Air - Alamy Stock Photo

Monitoring Reducing faecal matter in the Ribble Estuary is one of the key drivers of our work in the Tidal Ribble area. As such, we have been conducting annual water sampling since 2015 on the tributaries which flow in to the estuary. The bacteria E.coli and Enterococci are associated with faecal matter and their presence in the water column is very undesirable, particularly for people bathing on our beaches given the illnesses associated with ingestion. The bacteria enter rivers through animals defecating in or near streams, or through septic tanks (especially poorly maintained ones!).


friendly around the home. Raising awareness of the impacts of flushing the wrong items down the loo, not picking up after pets and littering in general has gone some way to reducing the amount of pollution from urban areas and keeping our North West beaches clean and safe for people to enjoy.

Faecal matter that enters the lower reaches of the river system, in close proximity to the sea, is especially problematic.

Our monitoring of the water quality in these lower tributaries has been crucial in highlighting where septic tanks haven’t been functioning properly, as well as where land management practices are contributing to higher bacterial inputs. The results of the monitoring have been an important tool, helping us to focus where we work, and demonstrating the impacts of pollution to landowners, residents and farmers, as well as where their actions have improved water quality.

Pendle WINNS Pendle Hill is the source of several streams in the Ribble Catchment, some flowing into the Ribble itself, with others flowing south to the River Calder. The Landscape Partnership project offers a fantastic opportunity for the Trust to tackle several water quality issues at their source. The Ribble Trust’s role in the partnership project involves engaging local farmers, communities and volunteers in the creation of new woodland habitat around Pendle Hill, as well as improving the management of existing woodlands to increase rainfall retention in the uplands and reduce flood risk. Trees are one of the most crucial aspects of healthy rivers. Unfortunately, around Pendle Hill, much of the woodland has been cleared over the decades to increase the productivity of farmland. Over the winter of 2018/2019, 11,300 native trees were replanted by our dedicated volunteers, with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, Woodland Trust and Forestry

Commission contributing towards the supply of the trees. Additionally, throughout the summer months, the Trust has been working with volunteers to tackle the spread of invasive Himalayan balsam. This non-native weed outcompetes our indigenous flora and dominates riverbanks. When the balsam dies back in winter, riverbanks are left bare and prone to erosion. Pollinators, including bees, also face a ‘boom and bust’ situation, as the balsam is only in flower for a few months of the year. With the balsam cleared, a greater diversity of native flora will have a chance to flourish, providing a sustainable nectar source for a more prolonged period and improving the biodiversity on Pendle Hill, as well as more stable riverbanks.

The Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership project, led by the Forest of Bowland AONB, was awarded £1.8 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2018. The grant is being used to restore, enhance and conserve the heritage and landscape of Pendle Hill, reconnecting people with their past and their landscape, and creating a sustainable future for the environment. Ribble Trust is helping the project achieve its aims by involving local volunteers in the planting of new woodland and control of invasive species around this iconic landmark.

Graham Cooper


Education The Ribble Life Together project has enabled us to further enhance our education programme to engage primary school children in freshwater science. By doing so, we hope that the next generation will develop an appreciation of the catchment’s rich natural heritage and inspire in them a sense of responsibility towards its protection.

Primary Schools 2018 saw 21 new primary schools embark on our ‘Rivers in the Classroom’ programme, along with our regular schools and a wave of secondary school, college and university students. Through this experience, over 2,000 youngsters across the catchment are stepping out more ‘river wise’. Through Rivers in the Classroom, children are playing an active part in conservation work that’s improving

created a new patch of woodland at Oakenshaw, sowing the seeds of a fantastic future environment for the fish they released into Hyndburn Brook in the spring as part of our ‘Trout in the Classroom’ programme, downstream of our new fish pass. We look forward to more schools joining us to create riverside woodlands next winter. Year 7 students also impressed us and our project partners through passionate presentations of their solutions to challenges that the River Darwen is facing through a new KS3 challenge day.

the quality of their rivers right now, while discovering more about their local rivers and how they can help protect them at home and as part of their daily life. We hope that this experience will stay with them and inform decisions they make long into the future.

Children in Darwen joined us for a series of ‘sketch-walks’, visually reporting their personal journey to the river. This was part of a project with local artist, Pat Southern-Pearce. The children’s artwork was stunning, and they enjoyed discovering more about the Trust’s work to improve connectivity for migratory fish around a local weir in Darwen. A head teacher who joined us fed back that

Wellies and woollies were donned again over the winter, with school groups complementing our regular volunteers’ tree planting. One class

making this new Creative Rivers session available to more schools

“It’s a wonder what a combination of studying nature and art can do for your wellbeing.” We look forward to

Get Active Fishing Our fishing sessions with schools have always been very popular and feedback has indicated that schools would like to have more opportunities for their pupils to engage in active, extra-curricular activities. At the same time, some local angling clubs were struggling to recruit and retain junior members. Funded by Sport England, the ‘Get Active Fishing’ project was set up to engage 14 - 20 year olds from Burnley, Accrington and Preston in free introductory sessions with fishing clubs throughout the summer, including training by qualified coaches, loan of equipment and transport. These areas were chosen because of their lack of opportunities to be involved in outdoor activities, leading to poor health and low levels of physical activity, leading to higher than average childhood obesity. A decline in opportunities and facilities for young people has also resulted in a rise in antisocial behaviour in these areas.

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The aim of the project was to provide opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged groups to begin a lifelong relationship with a sport that will benefit them in many ways, including being more physically active, improving mental health and wellbeing, and learning how to protect and conserve rivers and their wildlife.

The summer sessions culminated in a cross-club angling competition, with each participant being signposted towards further opportunities to learn and develop their new hobby.

Photo: Todmorden Angling Society

Research Studies The Trust continues to work with students and researchers from local and national institutions for mutual benefit, supporting research on the Ribble Catchment to improve our knowledge of the river system; where problems lie, and how effective our efforts are to address them. Here we detail some of the completed and ongoing work. USING MODELS TO PREDICT RIVERBANK EROSION ON A CATCHEMENT SCALE Siôn Regan, a Ph.D. student from the University of Liverpool has been investigating riverbank erosion on three catchments, including the Ribble, using historical maps to track how rivers have changed over the last 100+ years. He is using this information to bridge the gap between small and largescale modelling approaches to predict riverbank erosion on a catchment scale.

His work is still ongoing, however initial results are showing that the Rivers Ribble, Hodder and Calder have been mainly stable during the study period. The most active sections in terms of channel movement have been around the Skirden-Holden Beck confluence in Bolton-by-Bowland, lower sections of the River Calder, and isolated sections of the River Loud.

Section of the active Holden Beck confluence area.

MEASURING FLOW RATES OF THE RIVER RODDLESWORTH THROUGH AN UNDERGROUND CULVERT Connor Scholey, a B.Sc. student at Lancaster University has been working on a dissertation project with us investigating a de-culverting project that we are delivering on the River Roddlesworth, a tributary of the River Darwen at Feniscowles in Blackburn. The project, supervised by Professor Andy Binley and in partnership with the Environment Agency, has investigated the residence time of water through a 320m long culvert, i.e. the time it takes water to travel from upstream to downstream of the culvert. The results of the study have proved

very interesting and mystifying, with tracer studies identifying a residence time of 41.8 hours, only 7.66 meters/ hour. This odd phenomenon goes some way to explain the historical flooding experienced because of the culvert and leaves many questions about why water takes so long to pass through the culvert! As part of the BRILLIANCE project, the river is due to be re-routed away from the culvert and into a new close -to-nature river channel in 2019, which hopefully will answer some questions about the mysterious culvert.

IMPACT OF RIVER RESTORATION ON AQUATIC FOOD WEBS Charlotte Pike of Queen Mary University of London has been undertaking her M.Sc. dissertation with us looking at aquatic food webs and how they are impacted by weir removal and our habitat schemes. Under the supervision of Jonny Grey, Professor in Practice at Lancaster University & Conservation Officer for the Wild Trout Trust, she has been using samples of fish and invertebrates collected in 2016 and 2018 to trace how aquatic food webs alter in response to these two methods of river restoration. The two study sites are Bluebell Weir on the River Calder above Burnley where we partially removed a weir in 2017, and Bashall Brook where we have installed a number of tree planting and fencing habitat schemes. The study is using a technique called ‘stable isotope analysis’ to trace what has been eating what, with the hope of identifying any changes using a before-after control-impact study design.


Brown trout from Green Brook on the Calder catchment

Fish Surveys The Ribble Trust surveys over 300 sites around the catchment to monitor the spawning success of trout and salmon. These keystone species indicate the heath of our rivers and the survey results help direct sustainable management strategies to protect and improve the Ribble Catchment for the future. Are Salmon on the rise or is it just a glitch in the matrix? Despite 2018 being the hottest summer on record and water temperatures reaching highly stressful levels for trout and salmon, there was a marked improvement in the number of Atlantic salmon young found in the Ribble and Hodder catchments (Fig.1). However, while the numbers of salmon fry improved, there has been a reduction in their distribution, a possible effect of the drought conditions. During the 2018 survey season, 67 out of 333 sites were reported as having low water and 6 sites recorded as completely dry.

The Hodder catchment remains a stronghold for salmon spawning, with the highest numbers of 2018 recorded on the main River Hodder. A total of 97 salmon fry were captured in a single 5-minute survey below Slaidburn. Data analysis also shows tributaries around Long Preston and Gisburn to be key spawning locations for the main River Ribble. The Calder Catchment remains in a poor state for salmon spawning, however additional sites for 2019’s survey program will hopefully identify areas that are being


utilised for spawning and nursery habitat. Locations where The Trust has completed new fish easement work will also be targeted to monitor their long-term success. A bumper year for trout on the Calder, in addition to the highest grade-score recorded by The Trust, the observed numbers of trout parr (+1-year-old) has doubled from last year. This indicates brown trout abundance on the Calder is returning to expected levels, after the knock-on effect of the 2015 Boxing Day floods. Across the whole catchment, trout

populations are faring well with only a few waterbodies highlighted for future investigation into low abundances and absence of expected species. Chub Chub Chub! The Ribble is a diverse catchment and host to many fish species. A notable change for 2018 is the number of sites with juvenile chub. This fish is another river angler’s favourite, which have been mapped in an additional 20 locations local to the main stem of the River Ribble. What does the future hold? The fisheries monitoring in the Ribble Catchment will continue to map trends of Atlantic salmon spawning and identify areas of habitat importance for the conservation of an ‘at risk’ population. Species richness and the presence/absence of keystone species will also highlight waterbodies that are failing to reach their biological potential. From this information, the Ribble Trust can continue to direct its sustainable management strategies to improving the water environment and its surroundings for the benefit of wildlife and people.

Figure 1. Total NFCS grade score and total salmon fry numbers per 100m² across the catchments core 87 electric fishing sites between 2008 and 2018.

Photo: Rod Calbrade

Game and coarse fishing at several locations around the Ribble Catchment, including the main Ribble and Calder rivers. The Angling Passport scheme aims to highlight the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy river as a valuable asset to recreation and the local economy. Proceeds from the ticket sales are invested back into the conservation of the Ribble Catchment’s rivers and streams. Catch and release is encouraged on all beats.

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Volunteer with us!

Simply email and ask to join our volunteer mailing list, or visit From tree planting, fencing and Himalayan balsam pulling, to litter picks, fish surveys and riverfly monitoring, there are many things you can do to help protect your local rivers and wildlife. We send out email bulletins whenever an opportunity is coming up and if you wish to take part, just reply to the email to let us know. Experience is not required as we provide all the training and tools. You just need to dress appropriately for outdoor work and get stuck in!

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