National Apprenticeship Week

Apprenticeships are a great way to gain qualifications whilst you work, earn money, and gain the skills you need to work in your chosen sector. Plus the combination of knowledge and experience means apprentices stand out from the crowd, which is really important in industries such as conservation, where gaining experience and getting paid work can sometimes be difficult.

Our current apprentices Amelia, Rob, and Ryan were recruited through the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s Green Futures programme and are all working towards formal qualifications at Craven College, Skipton. When they aren’t studying they’re out with us as well as gaining practical skills and attending extra courses which give them the certificates they need to operate machinery such as ATVs and chainsaws, as well as permission to use chemicals and pesticides.

Some of the tasks our apprentices plan, organise, and attend include fencing, tree planting, fish pass maintenance, and litter clean ups. They also help plan and take part in activities that inform, engage, and inspire people to be more actively involved in looking after their local environment such as guided walks, shows, and school visits.

Our apprentices Rob, Amelia and Ryan

Michelle, our first apprentice, joined us in 2017, quickly learning how the Trust worked, and leading up to planning and running her own volunteer days. After Michelle gained her qualifications, she left the Trust to progress her career- you can read about her success here.

All our apprentices have interests and skill sets which are already proving to be a huge advantage to the Trust. We’re helping them to develop these skills so that whether they choose to stay with us, or follow a different career path like Michelle, they’ll be well equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to help our environment flourish.

Trout in the Classroom- inspiring children across our catchment

Our first trout eggs of the school year have now been delivered safely to schools Balderstone and Accrington, with more eggs due to be delivered over the coming week.

Education and engagement are some of the most important parts of our work, and our Trout in the Classroom sessions have been a hit with primary schools across our catchment year after year. By raising the trout from eggs, watching them change and grow, before releasing them into the river young people learn about a range of subjects in a fun and rewarding way.

Our sessions are carefully planned to involve multiple aspects of the curriculum, such as science, English, geography, and art. By taking pupils out of the classroom and delivering interactive activities our sessions also provide benefits to pupil’s education and help broaden their horizons; taking part in new activities and visiting new places.

The Trust’s education and engagement staff have years of experience in delivering education sessions for young people, helping schools meet their targets whilst teaching the children the importance of rivers, nature, and wildlife and giving them the knowledge, tools, and passion they need to inspire them to respect and protect their local rivers and wider environment.

In the last 5 years we have delivered educational river focused sessions to over 7,000 pupils at over 90 schools. Our targets going forward are to expand this even further, with our new Lancashire Woodland Connect campaign aiming to give 5,000 children the opportunity to plant a tree.

If you have knowledge, experience, and skills in the education sector we’d love to hear from you, as we’re always looking for a spare pair of hands to help us with our work in schools. You can contact us at https://ribbletrust.org.uk/contact/.

If you’d like to help us to inspire a passion for the outdoors you can donate to our Lancashire Woodland Connect project; £15.00 will buy a tree and cover the costs associated with planting.

Some of the work done by schools in previous years

Some of the work done by schools in previous years

Cuthbert Hill wetland

This wetland project is located at Cuthbert Hill, near Chipping. This area lies in the River Loud catchment, which connects to the Hodder catchment, and eventually the Ribble catchment.

The Loud has some significant water quality issues which are exacerbated by local land use and land management practices. Additionally there are also a large number of land drains in the area. These land drains collect water which has run off agricultural land and channels it into streams and rivers. As the land drains are mostly straight this water is fast flowing, which accelerates the rate of water runoff, increasing soil erosion and the amount of pollutants and sediments entering rivers and streams. This has caused serious habitat loss and damage.

By turning one of the old river channels on the farm into a wetland we will be able to improve water quality, slow the flow of excess rainwater, and create some excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife.

The wetland has now been finished and apprentices have been adding some finishing touches, such as planting aquatic plant species.

 

Tosside Weir Removal

Tosside Weir is a small weir which runs under a road crossing over Tosside Beck. The main weir is 4m upstream of the bridge and has a head height of 0.6m and a width of 3m. There is also a smaller step which is downstream of the bridge. Although the smaller, downstream weir is passable the larger, upstream weir poses a barrier to fish migration.

This is the last remaining barrier to fish migration on Tosside weir, the habitat above the weir is of a good quality. Although we do not regularly electrofish upstream of this weir, we do survey below and the results show that there is a population of brown trout below the weir, with salmon also present further downstream. Other then this bullhead are the only species found to be present at the site, although the stream does support eels, loach, and minnow. It is hoped that by removing the weir we will encourage fish to move upstream and hopefully thrive

The weir itself will be remodelled into a combination of an embedded rock ramp on the upstream weir and a loose fill rock ramp on the lower weir. Modelling showed this to be the safest option when considering a combination of flood risk, the bridge, and the road which runs parallel to the beck.

Work on Tosside weir is due to start later this summer, and it is hoped that next years electrofishing will show that fish have made their way upstream.

Smithies Brook weir removal

We’re happy to announce Dam Removal Europe have awarded Ribble Rivers Trust funding after a Europe-wide crowd funding appeal.

The capital is for the removal of a weir across Smithies Brook near Clitheroe, Lancashire. The weir is currently a barrier to fish migration, by removing it we will reconnect a 12km stretch of river, providing access to spawning grounds upstream as well as creating a new area of riffle habitat. Riffles help to aerate our rivers and streams, attracting important invertebrate populations; the base of our riverine food chains.

The work is due to take place at the end of June; not long to wait! Before the physical works can start the fisheries team here at Ribble Trust will be carrying out a fish rescue above and below the weir. This involves trained staff netting off a section of the brook, then catching and relocating any fish within the nets upstream of the weir.

Our wonderful volunteers will then be on hand to help to put sediment traps in place to catch any silt disturbed during the work. Together our volunteers and staff will the work to remove the weir by hand to reduce the impact that using heavy machinery might have on the site. Once the work is complete the sediment traps and nets will be removed, and the rivers natural recovery will begin. Monitoring of the site will continue in the following years to provide evidence of the effectiveness of the works for future projects.

For more information about Smithies Brook and Dam Removal Europe visit the Dam Removal Europe website damremoval.eu

Work commences on Dunkenhalgh Weir

Ribble Rivers Trust are pleased to announce that work has started on Dunkenhalgh Weir.

Dunkenhalgh Weir is a large concave, vertical stone-built weir that lies on Hyndburn Brook. As with all weirs Dunkenhalgh is posing a barrier to the migration of fish.

The weir is close to a public footpath and easily accessible through pasture fields, making it a popular recreation spot for walking, swimming, and picnicking. On the other side of the weir is a disused industrial site. This is the site of Holt Corn Mill, and it is thought that the weir once provided water for this mill to help power the machines. More recently the weir provided water for the Rishton Paper Mill.

Our pool and traverse fish pass will be constructed along the right-hand corner of the weir. This will provide the duel benefit of making the weir passable to fish and reinforcing the structure as there is some erosion damage in this area.

As the site is so well used consideration has been given to public safety and aesthetics and the opportunity will be taken to include additional public engagement features, such as interpretation boards.

Fish Pass Fact File: West Bradford

River: West Bradford Brook

Length connected: 7.2 km

Area connected: 1.6 Ha

Completed: September 2018

Contractor: Bailey Contracts Ltd


West Bradford Weir was a concrete clad stone structure which lies in the heart of the village of West Bradford, where it runs through a wall lined channel. On the left-hand side of the weir there are gardens and houses running down towards the brook, and the main road runs along the right side.

Despite these constraints and the village location there is some excellent habitat upstream of the weir, and the weir itself is close to the confluence with the main River Ribble, making it a valuable spawning stream. The weir was only small at 0.5 metres high, but the lower step made it almost impossible for fish to make the jump.

Because of the location of the weir and the surrounding houses and other infrastructure it was decided that a rock ramp built over the existing weir would be the safest option and would cause the least amount of disruption to the village.

However, during the pre-construction fish rescue a white clawed crayfish was 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 were carefully caught and relocated upstream whilst the work was carried out. By locating the crayfish to an upstream location, we can ensure that the crayfish is able to easily migrate back down stream when the work was completed. This only caused a minor delay and, in this case, it was a delay caused by a welcome discovery!

Fish Pass Fact File: Cow Hey

River: Cow Hey Brook

Length connected: 6.2 km

Area connected: 1.5 Ha

Completed: June 2018

Contractor: Bailey Contracts Ltd

Cow Hey Weir was a weir on Cow Hey Brook, near its confluence with Bashall Brook in the historic Forest of Bowland. This weir was built to provide water for a mill which was once located downstream of the weir, next to the brook. There is now little evidence of this mill, with even the mill race having almost completely disappeared.

This weir is located come distance away from any other houses or infrastructure, which made it an ideal spot for a full weir removal. In place of the weir a rock ramp easement was constructed. This will ensure that fish can move up Bashall Brook unhindered and will return the Brook to a more natural state in terms of river hydrogeomorphology whilst limiting lateral erosion and scour.

Fish Pass Fact File: Old Laund

River: Old Laund Clough

Length connected: 3.5 km

Area connected: 0.1 Ha

Completed: June 2018

Contractor: Bailey Contracts Ltd

Old Laund Clough is a potentially valuable nursery stream, particularly for salmonids. However, a 1.5m weir was blocking fish migration. The weir is part of the historic Old Laund Hall Farm, and it is thought that the weir was created in the early 1900s to supply water to a local mill, although no direct link to any mill can be found.

The weir is also next to a well-used public footpath, close to the Pendle Way and the Old Laund Booth circular walk.

Removal wasn’t possible as the weir supported the upstream man-made channel, so a rock ramp was created, enabling fish migration and supporting the upstream channel, and existing structures. Natural rock was used to create a close-to-nature cascade feature is in keeping with the surroundings.

Fish Pass Fact File: Hoghton Bottoms

River: River Darwen

Length connected: 14 km

Area connected: 11.2 Ha

Completed: July 2018

Contractor: Wade Group Ltd

Of the many barriers to fish migration in the River Darwen, Hoghton Bottoms was the largest, and of all the weirs being tackles through the Ribble Life Together project the alterations to this weir will re-connect the greatest amount of habitat.

Hoghton Bottoms weir once provided water to Higher Mill, as well as Livesey’s Cotton Factory. The mill leat (channel that carried water collected behind the weir to the mill or factory) is now largely dilapidated but is still visible along its entire length from the weir to the viaduct over the river.

The weir itself at the top of a picturesque sandstone gorge which is the only feature of its type in the Ribble catchment. Additionally, there is a well-used footpath running alongside the left hand bank of the river which has meant that the weir itself has become a well known and often photographed local landmark.

It is due to this historic importance and it’s attraction to residents and visitors large changes to the structure of the weir were not possible. The most feasible option for this was a rock-ramp fish easement (by reducing the steepness of the weir’s gradient, fish will have a better chance of getting up shorter stretches and pools to rest in on the way up). The bedrock outcrop forms part of the channel, over which fish are able to swim.

Subsequent fish radio tagging study has found that brown trout can successfully use the fish pass to traverse the weir.