Ribble Rivers Trust has secured £1.6 million from National Lottery players, granted through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to deliver projects that raise awareness of the plight of our rivers and enable people to get involved in restoring them for the benefit of our wildlife and communities.The Ribble Rivers Trust has been working closely with its catchment partners for the last two years to shape the £3.2 million project, which will now be delivered until 2020 together with match funding from partners and external sources. Entitled ‘Ribble Life Together’, this programme of physical improvement projects and activities will span the entire Ribble Catchment, from the source of the Ribble in the Yorkshire Dales, down to the estuary at Lytham, taking in the rivers Calder, Hodder and Darwen. According to the Environment Agency, only 21% of the Ribble Catchment’s rivers currently achieve a good ecological standard. The remainder suffer from urban and industrial pollution, agricultural impacts, fragmented habitat and mistreatment by the general public – predominantly littering. Floods and droughts associated with climate change and rising temperatures have exacerbated the problem in recent years, putting significant stress on river habitats and endangering certain species. Ribble Life Together has been set up with a range of partners to address some of the issues. Jack Spees, Chief Exec of Ribble Rivers Trust explains;
“Our Catchment Partnership has developed the project and it involves planting thirty new riparian woodlands and constructing 15 new wetlands at priority areas to help reduce pollution, increase biodiversity, provide natural flood risk management and reduce climate change impacts. Hopefully this will create a lasting legacy for the catchment and the communities that live and work here.”14 new fish passes will also be installed on weirs that currently prevent the natural migration of fish. Scientific monitoring will determine how much the river environment improves as a result of these interventions. Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North West, Nathan Lee, said:
“This is a wonderfully ambitious project, which will have a significant impact on the entirety of the Ribble Catchment. From fish passes to new woodlands and wetlands, Ribble Life Together will inspire the local community and drive positive change in the area, and we are delighted that National Lottery players have been able to support it.”At the heart of the project is a determination to establish a better relationship between communities and their rivers by developing people’s understanding and appreciation of river environments. People are invited to get involved in the project in a variety of ways, from attending volunteer events and conservation training workshops, to geocaching competitions, guided river walks, augmented reality videos and oral history. Schools will also be offered educational visits that will help children learn about the importance of healthy rivers and the wildlife that lives within them, and encourage them to get into the habit of caring for the environment from an early age. A new website has been set up for the project – www.ribblelifetogether.org – which will act as a hub of information for people wanting to know more about the project and their local rivers in general. The HLF grant award was celebrated at a fun-packed launch day at Brockholes on 7th July. The event was open to everyone and included talks, demonstrations and guided nature walks.