Fish Too Will Pass

Salmon and trout can swim in a stretch of Lancashire river where they’ve not been seen for 200 years, thanks to an ambitious Ribble Rivers Trust project.

Work has just been completed on a fish pass at Dunkenhalgh Weir, allowing salmon and trout to swim as far as Accrington for the first time in two centuries and increasing their breeding habitats.

The £160,000 scheme is the Trust’s 14th new fish pass delivered through the Ribble Life Together project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Dunkenhalgh Weir fish pass has taken more than five years to plan, design, fund and build and was constructed in tandem with a similar project completed at Oakenshaw Weir in 2017.

“Identifying sites that will maximise benefits for the river and delivering fish pass projects has been one of our specialities over the last ten years,” said Harvey Hamilton-Thorpe, RRT’s programme manager.

“This latest fish pass is one of our biggest and most expensive because it was a major civil engineering project installed on a very large weir. These projects make a huge difference in improving the river and they’re also fascinating for local people. We’ve had groups of school children down to visit the site and lots of interest from residents and people using the public footpath.”

The Dunkenhalgh Weir is a popular recreation spot on Hyndburn Brook between Rishton and Clayton-le-Moors, a site chosen for a pass because the weir was preventing fish from migrating naturally.

Rivers, like those on the Ribble catchment, can become fragmented when structures in their channels prevent natural movement of river wildlife.

These structures can include weirs, culverts and dams, mostly built during the Industrial Revolution to power mills or divert watercourses. On one side of Dunkenhalgh Weir is the disused Holt Corn Mill and more recently, the weir provided water for Rishton Paper Mill.

The Ribble Life Together project has delivered the fish passes to modify some of these structures, enabling wildlife to move more freely.

Dunkenhalgh Weir required a ‘pool and traverse’  fish pass with small ‘steps’ and resting pools for the fish to ‘climb the ladder’ between the river downstream and upstream of the weir.

“This fish pass was quite challenging in terms of construction because of the large excavation involved, the issue of stability of the weir and preserving the historic structure of the river but the work went smoothly,” said Adam Walmsley, RRT’s capital works officer.

Dunkenhalgh Weir is 2.2m high and 16.5m wide and the new fish pass has enabled 2.1km of river to be opened up.

Once the fish passes are completed, scientific monitoring continues to gauge how much the river environment improves as a result.

More details about the Ribble Life Together project, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, can be accessed via RRT’s Facebook page: or visit or contact Ribble Rivers Trust on 01200 444452.

Wish You Were Here! – Ribble Life through the lens

A new project encouraging people to share their favourite places along the River Ribble and its tributaries has been launched.

Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT) want people to photograph the beauty and variety of the Ribble catchment for their Wish You Were Here project.

With people spending more time at home and exercising in their local area, there are more chances to take pictures of favourite spots along our beautiful Lancashire rivers.

But it’s not only new photographs that can be submitted. The Trust also welcomes images of the catchment in years gone by which bring back memories of happier times.

“We know that people love taking pictures of the river. In these difficult times, Wish You Were Here is a great opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty that’s nearby,” said RRT Programme Manager, Harvey Hamilton-Thorpe.

“We want people to share with us their favourite locations, especially those which hold happy memories. It could be a place where they played as a child, the site of a marriage proposal, or a family picnic spot by the river.”

Anyone of any age can submit photographs of anything that’s river-related such as the rivers themselves, wildlife or people enjoying the rivers.

The photographs must have been taken within the Ribble catchment which covers more than 700 square miles and, as well as the Ribble, also includes the Rivers Calder, Hodder, Darwen and Douglas.

If you are planning to take any new photos, please ensure you always follow current government guidance to ensure you and others remain safe and always stay safe when close to rivers.

Wish You Were Here will run throughout the spring and summer. Submit as many photographs as you like to where you can also see those images already shared.

Wish You Were Here is part of the Trust’s Ribble Life Together project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which can be accessed via RRT’s Facebook page:

For further information about  Ribble Life Together, visit or contact Ribble Rivers Trust on 01200 444452 or via

Trout In The Classroom 2020 press release

There’s been something fishy going on in local schools recently, thanks to the Ribble Rivers Trust.

Hundreds of schoolchildren have been hooked on Trout In The Classroom, part of the Trust’s Ribble Life Together project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Since December, Key Stage 2 pupils at Worsthorne, St Stephen’s CE, Springfield Community Primary  and Ightenhill Schools in Burnley; Balderstone School in Blackburn; Oswaldtwistle’s White Ash School,  and Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall have been following the progress of trout from when they were delivered to their schools as eggs until their release into local rivers.

“At the age of 10 and 11, children are more receptive to environmental messages and take them home so the learning is extended to their families,” said education officer, Neil Ashworth who was a firefighter for 27 years before joining the Trust six years ago.

Neil delivers about 100 fish eggs to each school which also receives a tank, chiller and filter to keep the water clean.

He talks to the children about the project which involves learning about river habitats and food chains and then he leaves the eggs for them to watch develop over the weeks ahead.

Once the eggs hatch out, the trout start looking for food and the children are able to feed them.

“Trout can develop personalities,” said Neil.  “This year, Springfield School had a trout they named Tina who was a real bully and ate so much, including some of the other fish, that she nearly outgrew the tank!”

The children can get so attached to the fish that they talk to them, sing them songs and read them poems.

One year, at Stonyhurst, the school gave a blessing for the trout and toasted them with lemonade when they were released.

Unfortunately, owing to the Coronavirus outbreak which led to school closures, the children were unable to watch the trout being released recently but the process was filmed and videos will be sent to the schools.

It’s hoped that once the pandemic is over, the children can visit the river and participate in pop up labs to learn about sampling and water safety as they would have done under normal circumstances.

The Trout In The Classroom programme began several years ago and is growing in popularity thanks to its links with many subjects in the school curriculum including science, literacy, geography and art.

The activities have worked particularly well for autistic children attending Oswaldtwistle’s White Ash School where the programme was sponsored by the town’s Rotary Club.

The environmental aspect of the project has also inspired children in Burnley to take part in a littler pick in Towneley Park and change their attitude towards dropping litter there.

Now word about Trout In The Classroom is spreading from the Trust’s immediate area with schools from Lancaster and Bolton already booked in for the 2021 cycle.

Since the Ribble Rivers Trust began their river education programme, more than 7,000 pupils have participated and enjoyed sessions which are interactive, educational and fun.



A Year on the Ribble

Capturing the beauty of the River Ribble on camera over the course of a year is the focus of a new community photography project.

A Year on the Ribble is an art installation by Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT) as part of Ribble Life Together, a project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Photography stands designed and produced by Lancashire designer, Philippe Handford, have been installed along the river at Stainforth near Settle; Edisford in Clitheroe; Avenham Park in Preston, and Lytham Green near the windmill.

A snapshot taken at the Avenham Park photography stand

RRT hope that locals and visitors alike will take a photograph of the view every time they pass the stands which are in situ until April 2021.

The images will capture the changing views along the river throughout the seasons and people will be encouraged to share the photographs with RRT via social media.

This kind of art installation is a first for RRT and is a celebration of the final year of Ribble Life Together which began in 2017 with the aim of delivering a healthier river system for the benefit and enjoyment of local communities and local wildlife.

It’s hoped that by photographing the river during the year, more people will discover its beauty.

RRT Programme Manager, Harvey Hamilton-Thorpe, said: “For this community photography project, we’ve tried to span the Ribble from the top to its estuary and choose places along the river which a lot of people pass. We hope they will enjoy taking pictures throughout the year and sharing them with the world.”

“We want to encourage people to use the river and become more aware of the many other RRT activities and events which they can be involved with all year round.”

Photographs can be shared via social media #ayearontheribble on the Ribble Rivers Trust Facebook, Twitter: @RibbleTrust and Instagram: ribbleriverstrust. Pictures can also be emailed to

For further information about Ribble Life Together, visit or contact the Ribble Rivers Trust on 01200 444452 or via

Phoebe’s work experience blog

Week 1

When I arrived, I was met by Helen who showed me around the office, introduced me to the other members of staff and went through my induction. We then visited Balderstones primary school to check on the tank, which is part of Trout in the Classroom. We then had a site visit to two recently completed fish passes: Dunkenhalgh and Oakenshaw. Towards the end of the day, I researched the Trust and found out more about what they do.

On Tuesday I tested a walk route at Park Brook with Amelia to see if the directions made sense, this was a lot of fun. I then visited Stonyhurst to check their tanks and monitor the progress of their alevins.

On my third day at the Trust, I went with Jonny and Ryan to plant hedges and trees with volunteers at Cuthbert Hill in Chipping. The other volunteers were really friendly, and we managed to plant all the hedges and trees we needed to.

Phoebe attending a careers fair at Myerscough College whilst on a work experience placement with Ribble Rivers Trust.

Phoebe and Helen attending the Myerscough College careers fair.

Kathryn, Helen and I went to Myerscough College for the careers fair, which gave me a chance to have a look at Myerscough. We had a lot of students come and visit us and ask lots of question to find out more about what the Trust does.

Jonny, Amelia Ryan, Helen, Marco and I went to Lower Darwen to install an interpretation panel near the fish pass. We also laid some flags leading up to the board, to make it easier for people to access, which I think is a great idea.

Week 2

At the start of my second week, I went to Whalley to help people who were flooded by the storm with Jonny, Rob, Amelia, Ellie and Kathryn. Thankfully there wasn’t much water left from the flood and residents just needed help cleaning up.

On Tuesday, I went with Jonny, Amelia, Ryan and Helen to put an interpretation board at Whalley Arches. The board informs people using the footpath about the trees planted last year. I then went back to Lower Darwen to check on the board and flags after the weekend’s stormy weather.

On Wednesday I did a site visit with Helen and Ellie for tree planting with a primary school and did a risk assessment. Then Helen and I went to Lytham to decide on a location for an art installation.

I accompanied Neil and Helen to the eight different primary schools taking part in Trout in the Classroom to check on their fish and install automatic feeders. With half term approaching, the feeders will allow the schools to feed the fish twice a day without anyone having to be in school. The difference in the development of the fish was interesting, two of the school’s fish were at the top, swimming, and had lost their yolk sacks. Other schools’ fish were still (just!) in the alevin stage.

This was my last day at the Trust, and Helen and I tested a walk route in Ribchester for an upcoming leaflet which is due to be published later this year. We were testing the route to write the directions and check whether there were any problems along the route such as broken stiles which might need replacing.

I had a very enjoyable time at Ribble Rivers Trust. I had a varied two weeks and saw lots of different aspects of the work the Trust does. Thank you to all the very welcoming staff, I’m glad I chose to do my work experience here.

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

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