Looking forward to woodlands

Trees at Beckfoot, one of last years planting sites

Our 2018/2019 winter tree planting season is almost upon us!

This year we have nine woodlands which are being planted as part of Ribble Life Together, and a further three being planted as part of our work on the Forest of Bowland AONB’s Pendle Winns project.

The Ribble Life Together woodlands will be planted with Jonny, and the Pendle Winns woodlands will be planted with Richard, Michelle, and Ellie. This means that throughout much of the season we’ll be planting two separate sites at the same time, so there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities!

Ribble Life Together woodlands:
Withgill Farm- Mid Nov
Moor Head- (hedges) early Dec
Hillside Farm, Sabden- mid Dec
Parson Lee Farm, Wycoller- early Jan

February onwards-
Dairy Barn
Braddup House
Thornley Hall
Spring Head
Moor Head (woodland)

The Pendle Winns woodlands:
Swardean- mid November

Map showing the location of this seasons new woodlands

Map showing the location of this seasons new woodlands

Bat walks and workshops

Children discovered more about bats and made bat boxes during one of our workshops this half-term

This autumn we’ve been talking about bats! As part of our engagement activities we have run two bat walks along the river side next to our office, both of which were fully booked. In total the walks attracted 39 adults and children, many of whom have never been to a Ribble Trust event before. The weather was fine to us on both nights and the bats were out in force. There really was an abundance of bats!

There has also been a half term bat box workshop. This gave the 27 children that attended the opportunity to learn about bats and rivers and make bat boxes, bat badges and origami bats. Plus the parents seemed to enjoy it as much as the children.

One of the bat boxes the children created and decorated

The activities have been organised with the help of Pat from Ecology Services UK Ltd, who is a local bat expert. Pat’s passion for bats has really helped us to engage with the adults and children taking part in the activities.

Together we’ve helped a whole new audience learn more about the types of bats that we get in the UK. They’ve also discovered background information about bats, and why rivers (particularly tree-lined rivers) are important habitat for bats.

Annual Photography Competition Winners

The results of this year’s annual photo competition have been announced.

The standard of photos was very high again this year and with 75 entries it has proved even more popular than last year. With the high numbers and high standards, it took some deliberation and debates before the judges agreed on the winners!

To view the shortlisted entries visit our competitions page. 

First Place: 'Where's me mum" taken by Pat Mansfield

First Place: ‘Where’s me mum” taken by Pat Mansfield


Second Place: 'Feeding time' taken by Stephen Root

Second Place: ‘Feeding time’ taken by Stephen Root


Third Place: 'River Hyndburn' taken by Gary Britland

Third Place: ‘River Hyndburn’ taken by Gary Britland

Monitoring for success in the Ribble Catchment

The survey and fisheries science teams preparing to tag one of the trout caught at Houghton Bottoms

Monitoring is an important part of our work. It helps us to gauge river and habitat health and to discover what species are inhabiting areas of our catchment. It also helps us to determine whether the river’s health is improving.

Following our fish passage schemes at Hoghton Bottoms, Oakenshaw, and Lower Darwen we’re using radio tracking studies to monitor the movement of fish up the fish passes we have created. The weirs which we carried out work on were known to be posing a barrier to fish migration, with our studies prior to work being carried out showing that few, if any, fish were migrating upstream of these barriers.


A healthy fish caught at Hoghton Bottoms being returned to the water

Although monitoring is still ongoing we already have some positive results. At Lower Darwen 16 of the 20 trout that were tagged have moved upstream through the fish pass, with 3 of 16 having moved successfully up Hoghton Bottoms fish pass.

At Oakenshaw, which was completed last year, 3 of 19 tagged trout have moved upstream. Additionally, a juvenile salmon, also known as a parr, has been found upstream. This indicates that the fish pass had been used last year.

What is radio tracking?

All the fish we captured are weighed and measured, before being returned safely to the area of river in which they were caught

There are many methods of monitoring fish. In the case of these sites manual tracking was agreed to be the best option for tracking based on location, accessibility, and stream size.

The fish used in the study were first captured via electrofishing and then tagged with radio transmitters. Each transmitter was set at a different frequency range and pulse rate which helps to identify individual fish. The fish were then tracked on foot from the bankside using a receiver.

Heritage Open Day success!

Visitors are given a taste of the ways we use science to underpin our work

Visitors are given a taste of the ways we use science to underpin our work

Our Ribble Rivers Trust Heritage Open Day on Saturday 14th September was a great success, attracting hundreds of visitors who took part in fun family activities whilst learning more about the work we have done over the past 20 years.

Displays included our technology themed tent, where our GIS Officer Ellie, Fisheries Officer Adam, and Catchment Science Co-ordinator Mike showcased equipment including our drone and electrofishing kit. Our staff gave demonstrations to visitors showing how the equipment works, and how science is applied to our projects. This science and research helps to ensure the work we carry out is targeting the right places and can test how beneficial our physical river improvements are.

Families are shown our river table- a fun way of demonstrating how rivers work

Families are shown our river table- a fun way of demonstrating how rivers work

The  trailers we bought and decorated thanks to the Greggs Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund also featured on the day. In one trailer we had our Education Officer Emily and Capital Works Officer Adam who ran our river table- much to the delight of our younger visitors! The river table is designed to imitate a river’s natural geomorphology and the effects of human influences on river processes, both good and bad.

Our volunteer trailer was occupied by our Volunteer Supervisor Jonny and Apprentices Michelle and Ryan. Together they were on hand to demonstrate the various activities our volunteers undertake, as well as running activities such as the litter pick relay race, which  brought out the competitive side in our staff.

The SuDs house gave visitors ideas on how to make the homes water friendly

The SuDs house gave visitors ideas on how to make the homes water friendly

The Trust were also lucky enough to have borrowed a Sustainable Drainage (SuDs) house from the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust. The model house demonstrates the small differences houses can make to help reduce household pollution and save water. The SuDs house was operated by our Communities and Engagement Officer Helen, who also took charge of the ever-popular badge maker for the day.

Our Senior Farm Advisor Nick showcases our soil experiment

Our Senior Farm Advisor Nick showcases our soil experiment

Alongside the volunteer trailer our Farm  Advisors Matt and Nick carried out some soil demonstrations. These demonstrations were designed to illustrate the way that three different soil types react to rainfall, and how these reactions affect rivers. The demonstration successfully showed that healthy soils retain more water and more vital nutrients then unhealthy soils- good news for rivers, soils, and farmer’s wallets!

Throughout the day our CEO Jack, Ribble Life Together Project Manager Harvey, and Office Administrator Charlotte answered questions from visitors and promoted the Trust’s activities.

Our volunteer trailer, event programme and litter pick relay race

Our volunteer trailer, event programme and litter pick relay race

Six fish passes completed this year!

There are over 1000 barriers to fish migration in the Ribble catchment. Most of these are weirs, built at some time over the past three centuries, and now largely redundant. Artificial barriers to migration break up the river habitat, fragmenting it into segments. This severely disrupts the lifecycle of migratory fish such as salmon and eels, and reduces the quantity of habitat available to them. Barriers to migration are known to negatively affect fish populations and are one of the main reasons for failing to achieve ‘good ecological status’.

So far this year we have completed six fish passes, making us well ahead of our planned schedule!

Dean Brook weir’s state of disrepair was contributing to erosion on the brook and limiting fish migration. The weirs purpose is unknown and feasibility studies showed that removal could increase erosion and flood risk. Therefore, a rock ramp was created to increase accessibility for migratory fish without removing the structure.

Hoghton Bottoms weir is one Houghton Bottoms weir before and after of many barriers on the River Darwen. This weir is important culturally as a well visited beauty spot, and historically having once provided water to local mills. In order to ensure that this weir retained its distinctive features a rock ramp fish pass was created up the left-hand side of the weir.

Old Laund weir before and after Old Laund Clough is a potentially valuable nursery stream. However, a 1.5m weir, thought to have been built for a local mill in the 1900s, was blocking fish migration. Removal wasn’t possible as the weir supports the upstream constructed channel, so a rock ramp was created, enabling fish migration and supporting the upstream channel.

Cow Hey weir lies on Cow Hey Brook, near Cow Hey weir before and after its confluence with Bashall Brook. The weir originally provided water for a nearby mill, although there is little remaining evidence of the mill other than the remains of the leat. As the weir is not in use it was possible to totally remove it and replace it with a rock ramp which will limit erosion, return the brook to a more natural state, and encourage natural river processes.

Lower Darwen weir before and after

Lower Darwen weir dates back to the mid-1800s when it supported the local mills. Due to the weir’s proximity to businesses and homes, and the potential for issues caused by altering the rivers flow, a bypass channel was constructed around the left-hand side of the weir to enable fish passage and protect the existing weir structure.

West Bradford Brook runs through West Bradford weir before and after West Bradford, with a weir located in a stone lined channel in the village centre. The weir is close to the main Ribble and the habitat above the weir is good potential spawning habitat. The weir is only 70cm high, but the lower step makes it impossible for fish to make the jump and so a rock ramp was created which will enable the fish to pass over the weir.

Say hello to our new apprentices

Three new apprentices have joined us at the Trust this September to help us with our projects, whilst working towards gaining qualifications through Craven College.

The Trust have been able to recruit the Amelia, Rob, and Ryan thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s Green Futures programme. The apprentices will join our existing River ConservationApprentice Michelle and Volunteer Supervisor Jonny. Together they will be involved in physical conservation projects such as fencing, tree planting, and fish passage maintenance, as well as engagement activities such as guided walks, talks, and events.

In addition to this there will also be the opportunity to take part in specialist training such as the use of chainsaws, pesticides, off road vehicles, and habitat surveying techniques. Not only will this help the apprentices get onto the career ladder in the conservation industry, it will also improve their education and personal development, helping them to learn new skills that will benefit them for life.

You can follow their journey through the blogs that will feature on this site, and via social media where they will be showcasing their work.

To find our more about the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s Green Futures programme please visit their website- www.ydmt.org

Our Apprentice team Amelia, Ryan, Rob, and Michelle

Our Apprentice team Amelia, Ryan, Rob, and Michelle

Holiday Family Fun

Burnley U3A and NCS taking part in a guided walk organised by Ribble Rivers Trust

Burnley U3A and NCS taking part in a guided walk organised by Ribble Rivers Trust

Engaging with families is an important part of our work. By talking to young people about the environment and conservation we can help to ensure that they grow up with an interest in the natural world and that they respect and protect their rivers.

This is why we have organised a range of family fun events during this years summer holidays, including a bat walk in Clitheroe on the 29th August, a family fun day at Avenham Park, Preston on the 29th August, and a family fun day at Witton Park, Blackburn on the 30th August.

Our annual photography competition is also running until the 9th September, the theme this year is river wildlife and there are prizes for the competition winners.

Our stand at one of our most recent events, the Clitheroe Food Festival

Our stand at one of our most recent events, the Clitheroe Food Festival

Staff from the Trust can also be found at many of the areas agricultural shows, where we are happy to answer any of your questions and have a good chat about rivers and the Ribble catchment. There are also fun activities for children, including our hugely popular badge maker! Show season is almost coming to an end but you can still find us at the Chipping Show on Saturday 25th August, the Hodder Show on Saturday 8th September, and the Hanson Cement Open Day on Saturday 29th September.

We also have our own Heritage Open Day planned at Edisford Park, Clitheroe on the 15th September. Here we will be showcasing our work and giving visitors the chance to learn more about the Ribble’s wildlife and heritage. There will also be demonstrations using our river table and a model sustainable home, micro-safaris with river invertebrates, the chance to try your hand at fishing, as well as arts and craft activities.

White clawed crayfish in West Bradford

A white clawed crayfish female carrying her eggs. Adam Wheeler/Ribble Rivers Trust

A white clawed crayfish female carrying her eggs. Adam Wheeler/Ribble Rivers Trust

West Bradford Brook weir is one of the many weirs in the catchment that have been identified as potentially preventing successful fish migration and subsequent spawning. As such planned work was due to be carried out on the weir in June, however during the pre-work fish rescue that was carried out white clawed crayfish were discovered in the brook.

These endangered species have not previously been known to live in the brook, and the crayfish found was a female carrying hundreds of eggs. White clawed crayfish are a relatively rare sight in the Ribble catchment, and the overall European population has declined by 50-80% in the last 10 years.

This is largely due to the invasive American signal crayfish which carries a disease known as crayfish plague, this doesn’t affect American signal crayfish, but is fatal to the native white clawed crayfish. American signal crayfish are also larger and more aggressive and can outcompete white clawed crayfish for food and habitat, and have even been known to predate the white clawed crayfish.

All crayfish in the area around the planned fish passage site will now be carefully caught and relocated to a suitable upstream habitat so that they are not harmed during work, which will recommence on Tuesday 28th August.

The stepped weir at West Bradford.

The stepped weir at West Bradford.

Why are we making a fish passage?

West Bradford Brook weir is located in the village of West Bradford, near Clitheroe. The stone stepped weir is clad in concrete and runs through a wall-lined channel. Although the weir is relatively small at approximately 0.7 meters high the lower step makes it almost impossible for fish to jump the upper step.

The brook upstream of the weir is a potentially valuable spawning habitat, and the weir itself is very close to the brooks confluence with the Ribble. By making the weir passable it is hoped migrating fish will be able to reach this promising spawning site.

Removal is out of the question at this due to the close proximity of the road, houses and gardens. A fish passage options appraisal has identified that an embedded rock ramp is the most suitable solution at this location, providing an efficient fish pass with no increase in flood or erosion risk.

To find out more about white clawed crayfish please visit the Buglife website.

Ribble Life Together Heritage Open Day

The Ribble Rivers Trust are hosting a Heritage Open Day event on the 15th September at Edisford Park, Clitheroe.

Every September over 5,000 events are held across England. These events are designed to help members of the public to learn more about the hidden history of their communities, find about their area’s heritage, and engage with the people who manage these important places.

Our Heritage Open Day is celebrating the natural river heritage of the Ribble and the wider catchment. The Ribble Rivers Trust event will include the chance to try your hand at fishing, river table demonstrations, micro-safaris with river invertebrates, arts and craft activities, and information displays about our work.

For more information about Heritage Open Days please visit the Heritage Open Days website.