River walks in the Ribble catchment

A wonderful view of the Ribble from our Preston Docklands walk

A wonderful view of the Ribble from our Preston Docklands walk

Enjoying nature and being active often go hand in hand. Spending time outdoors in natural spaces is known to provide a range of benefits from increasing fitness and activity levels to improving mental wellbeing. This is one of the many reasons why we are producing a range of river walks across the Ribble catchment.

In total there will be 15 river walks which will take in a variety of locations; many which have benefited from our river restoration and habitat improvement work. The walks vary in length from 2 to 9 miles so there will be walks for everyone to enjoy.

The Park View 4U gates feature as a waypoint on the Ribble Estuary walk.

The Park View 4U gates feature as a waypoint on the Ribble Estuary walk.

Walk guides will be available on paper and as downloads on our website. Our Ribble Life app also contains a section for the walk guides which incorporates audio clips, photographs, short film clips, and animations to help users learn more about the catchment’s heritage and wildlife.

So far we have completed four circular walks,

  • Calder and Brun, Burnley
  • Rivers and Bridges, Preston
  • Ribble Estuary, Lytham
  • Riversway Docklands, Preston

The next routes to be created will focus on Hyndburn Brook, Sabden, Chipping, Slaidburn, and Barrowford.

Walk guides can be downloaded our website, and the Ribble Life app can be downloaded for free from the app store- simply search ‘Ribble Life’. Paper walk guides are also available at all of our public events and shows.

The Calder and Brun walk takes in the impressive raised straight mile of the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

The Calder and Brun walk takes in the impressive raised straight mile of the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

What’s in our rivers?

Our survey team searching for fish

Our survey team searching for fish

Over the summer the Trust have surveyed over 300 sites across the Ribble catchment. Our survey team do this to monitor fish numbers, particularly salmon and trout numbers. This helps us to gauge the health of our rivers and look for the areas which are doing well, and the areas which seem to be in poorer health.

This year’s summer has been extraordinarily warm and dry, leading to lower river levels and higher river temperatures. This caused problems both for our team (who are more used to summer rain!), and the catchments resident fish. 67 of our 333 sites had extremely low water levels and a further 6 were completely dry.

Fisheries Office Adam with his catch

Fisheries Office Adam with his catch

Despite this there has been a rise in the number of salmon found in the Ribble and Hodder, with the Hodder yielding the highest numbers of salmon. However, there has been a drop in their overall distribution. This drop has been attributed to the warmer weather, warmer river temperatures, and low water levels.

On the Calder trout appear to be thriving, with numbers doubling compared to last year. This is likely to be a sign of the species recovering following the Boxing Day floods, which decimated fish numbers in the Calder. However, salmon numbers here are still low here. Next year we are planning to survey more sites in this area and carry out further investigations into what could be preventing salmon from spawning here.

It’s not all about salmon and trout. There are many other species that we find and record across the catchment. One notable discovery this year is the number of sites supporting juvenile chub. The fisherman’s favourite has been found at another 20 sites this year!

To find out more look out for an extended report in our 2019 newsletter, or our official report which will be uploaded to the Ribble Rivers Trust website soon.

Sketching Workshops with Pat Southern-Pearce

We are hosting a series of 6 sketching workshops with local artist, Pat Southern-Pearce. So far two workshops have taken place, Horton in Ribblesdale in October and Padiham in November. Attended by a mixture of experienced sketchers and novices, the workshops cater for all abilities. Situated at various locations on the Ribble Catchment, the workshops aim to encourage an appreciation of our local watercourses and a engage with a wider audience.

Horton in Ribblesdale – based at the village hall, the first workshop took place towards the top of the catchment in the shadow of Pen-y-ghent. With the weather being a little wild during the morning, initial tuition took place indoors. In the afternoon, most participants were able to get outside to sketch or at least take photographs to sketch from indoors.

Padiham – located at the Town Hall, our second workshop featured the more urban setting of the River Calder. Dry weather allowed a couple of sessions sketching outdoors during the day. Participants were able to sketch right by the Calder, and the river features quite prominently in the finished.

Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive:
“Never sketched before! Enjoyed it so much.”
“Excellent day, enjoyable, interesting & informative.”
“Inspirational day. Learned lots of new things.” 

The remaining 4 workshops take place in 2019 at the venues below and are proving very popular, so please get in touch if you would like more details. Email: admin@ribbletrust.com

Baffito’s, Preston Docks
Slaidburn Village Hall
Downham Village Hall
Ribchester Village Hall

All workshops are £10, 10am-4pm, with lunch included. Workshops include some tuition indoors from Pat with the opportunity to sketch outdoors by the river if the weather permits.

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