Our experiences with traditional engagement activities such as volunteering and guided walks have been successful for many years. The Ribble Life Together project will enable us to build on this success and engage with a wider audience through new and exciting activities.
Following our research during the development phase we have decided that the Talking Rivers activities will take three forms:
Audio interpretation and guides
Our audio interpretation will take the form of short audio clips which will be located at key points of interest around the catchment, for examples close to pieces of art or on our circular walks.
These clips will be accessible through QR codes or by using the WildKnowledge app which enables users to download a map of an area and then highlights points of interest encouraging app users to visit the area. By integrating this form of interpretation into other activities such as our geocaching and circular walks, we will enhance the activities and make the user experience more special and unique.
Oral history is a valuable source of information about the local heritage and as part of Talking Rivers we have been speaking to local history societies to find out more about the local social, cultural, and industrial heritage associated with the rivers of the Ribble catchment.
One example of this are the many mills and factories in the area that have been developed from water mills, this type of feature has been hidden or transformed and are now used for different purposes. Hearing about this history from enthusiasts, experts and people who have experienced these changes first hand is a powerful way to bring history to life!
Following discussions with a range of people with different backgrounds and interests, we discovered that when visiting rivers some people want to simply enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
As a solution to this we have planned to release a series of podcasts which will be readily available for download and can be listened to anytime. Some of the suggested podcast topics include water quality and quantity, habitat quality and connectivity, volunteering, river heritage, and the people of the Ribble. These podcasts will explore topics more deeply than the audio interpretation and oral history and will be made available in complimentary documents such as transcripts to ensure the podcasts can be enjoyed by everyone!
Art is a great way to engage with people in a creative, alternative way and provides new opportunities for us to work with communities and families who we may not reach through other, more traditional channels.
The Ribble Life Together project will enable us to create six pieces of sensory art and deliver six community arts projects.
Our sensory art works will take a variety of forms including sculpture, soundscapes, murals and mosaics. Fourteen possible locations have been shortlisted, all chosen for their significance, for example the source of the Ribble, major tributaries or locations where other significant projects have taken place. The art works will all be accompanied by an interactive guide featuring QR codes and other technology with large text and audio versions of the guide also being being published.
As part of our development phase we’ve already delivered a trial art project in partnership with Ribble Valley Borough Council and the Environment Agency focusing on rivers and floods following the winter floods of 2015-2016. The project enabled us to engage with over 200 people including pupils from Whalley Primary School, their family members, farmers, business owners and many other members of the community.
The details for the community art projects have to be decided but we’ve had some exciting suggestions including music, spoken word, interactive theatre projects and a mini arts festival- so watch this space!
More information coming soon!
As part of Ribble Life Together 15 new circular walks will be created across the catchment, from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Lytham and the Ribble Estuary. These walks will vary in difficulty and in length from 2.2 miles to 8.5 miles (3.5km to 13.7km). The routes will focus on river and freshwater features as well as local social, industrial and cultural heritage.
The purpose of the circular walks is to achieve the following objectives:
Increase access to and interpretation/understanding of rivers
Increase existing use of rivers
Widen the audience of rivers
Each walk will have an accompanying walk guide and interpretation panels, other interpretation will include digital apps, geocaches, short films and audio recordings. In addition to this most of the walk routes will be designed to pass our other physical works such as woodlands, wetlands and fish passes.
The Ribble Life Together circular walks aim to help everyone to access the river and learn more about the hidden heritage: physical access improvements and exciting interpretation should ensure that these walks are accessible and appeal to all of the community.
More information will be coming soon!
Wetlands are a priority habitat in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan and can support over one hundred priority species. However due to urban development and changes in farming practise the amount of wetland has significantly reduced, with 80% of the remaining wetlands in a poor or very poor condition. This lack of habitat has had a devastating impact on the species that rely on wetlands leaving many endangered.
The Ribble Life Together project will enable us to restore and create new wetlands which will either permanently or periodically wet in order to reduce pressures on the catchment’s streams and rivers. Ponds, scrapes and water meadows are all important to rivers, as are upland peat bogs (blanket bogs) and bunds within ditches.
Each type of wetland has the potential to slow water run off rates and reduce the speed at which run-off enters streams and rivers as well as mitigating diffuse pollution by trapping and retaining sediment and nutrients.
The targeting and prioritisation has proved more challenging for wetlands than it has for woodlands and fish passage works and there are two main approaches that can be taken; the restoration and improvement of existing degraded wetlands and the creation of new wetlands.
When restoring and improving degraded wetlands there are again two main directions to follow; restoring and improving upland peat bogs and the removal of flood banks to reconnect rivers with their flood plains. If focusing on the creation of new wetlands we must look at suitable locations for wetlands and then look at the area they could potentially benefit, this was done using the extensive local knowledge of the Ribble Life Together Partnership.
One of the most important, but lesser talked about factors in conservation is habitat connectivity. In simple terms habitat connectivity refers to the way the landscape allows or prevents the movement of species between resources and habitats.
Rivers are not usually thought of as fragmented habitat as they flow continuously from source to sea, however they do become fragmented when structures in the river channel prevent the natural movement of river wildlife.
Within the Ribble Catchment there are over 1,000 structures which cause habitat fragmentation; some of these simply prevent fish migration whereas others are also hindering the movement of invertebrates and mammals.
During the Ribble Life Together project we will be delivering a range of fish passages which will modify some these structures and enable wildlife to move more freely through the catchment, these have been chosen based on two major factors.
How significant a barrier is the structure?
How much habitat is re-connected through intervention?
As part of the development phase a fish passage prioritisation tool was created which allows us to calculate the amount of habitat that could be reconnected through intervention for each weir based on numerous factors, largely the shape and size of the barrier.
This tool and other research has allowed us to identify the 15 of the most important structures and using the principle that ‘reconnecting habitat should permit migration for all species, of all ages, all of the time’ we will decide on the most suitable intervention for each of these individual weirs.
Healthy riparian woodlands are a key habitat, they influence and interact
with the water and help to regulate water, pollution, temperatures and other pressures river environments face. Woodlands themselves also provide valuable habitat for many of our threatened and endangered species and more woodland cover and better connectivity within these woodlands provides an even greater benefit to wildlife.
Help to stabilise river banks
Growth breaks up compacted soil
Canopies keep rivers shaded and cool
Help to prevent sediments and nutrients entering the water
Slow the rate of water run-off rates
The Ribble Catchment has approximately 13% woodland cover which is one of the lowest in the UK and most of the catchments 1,500 miles of rivers and streams lack riparian woodland.
In order to identify the areas that would benefit most from new woodlands the Ribble Rivers Trust worked with the University of Durham to produce a bespoke model that allowed us to identify sites across the catchment where the greatest water quality, water quantity, habitat and temperature benefits could be gained.
The resulting data allowed us to identify 30 locations where the Ribble Life Together project will focus woodland creation activities; we must then visit farmers and landowners to try and establish an interest in our schemes, identify the size of woodland that is appropriate to the to the farmers and landowners needs, and large enough to reduce effective results, develop and design the woodland and finally deliver the project!
Since it’s inception the Trust have been educating children about the importance of rivers. For the last ten years the Trust has been running the River in the Classroom scheme; initially we started with a small handful of schools but we’ve now expanded our reach across the whole catchment!
The River in the Classroom project is designed to teach children about rivers through fun, hands on experiences that have been tailored to the curriculum. By bringing the river into the classroom the children can see the world from a trout’s point of view, learn about river habitats, find out about the threats in the food chain and watch trout grow through it’s lifecycle from egg to fully grown trout when it will finally be released.
It is hoped that by sparking children’s interest in rivers and engaging with them we can teach them about the creatures living in rivers, pollution prevention and the importance of the environment and taking care of it.
Based on the success of the River in the Classroom, our education programme will be expanded under Ribble Life Together to help to educate more people than ever. Some of our key goals are listed below;
- Provide training programmes increasing knowledge and involvement of volunteers
- Opportunities to participate in monitoring, managing and improving local rivers
- Complete surveys, river walkovers, fish surveys, tree planting, fencing and more
- Run pollution identification courses for environment and agricultural professionals
- Build education programmes and activities across all ages and abilities
Click here to find out more about the River in the Classroom project!