A RIVER trust is celebrating the success of a two-year educational project.

The River Gaunless For People, For Wildlife Project has worked with more than a dozen schools to enhance young peoples understanding of the ecological and historical importance of the River Gaunless.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Northern Heartlands and Greggs Community Fund, the project aimed to unite local communities from different backgrounds and cultures to celebrate the history of the River Gaunless and how it has influenced people’s lives since the early years.

A total of nine primary schools, one college and seven community groups from the Bishop Auckland catchment area were involved in researching, monitoring, managing and celebrating the health of the river through a total of 221 educational activities involving more than 3,000 participants.

These included school projects, river safety training, river surveys, practical habitat management, theatrical shows, outdoor adventures and fly-fishing lessons.

Nova Talbot, of Cockton Hill Junior School said: "Before the project started, the pupils had very little experience or knowledge of the River Gaunless however since getting involved, children and their families have been exploring the amazing river which they weren’t aware even existed on their doorstep which for us has been a real bonus."

An event to celebrate the work of the River Gaunless Local Management Group was held this week, attended by the Wear Rivers Trust, Lancaster University, Groundwork North-East and Cumbria, the Friends of Stockton and Darlington railway and the Environment Agency.

Wear Rivers Trust director Peter Nailon said: "The event was very well attended, a highlight for me was when Brigit Kinsey, deputy headteacher for St Wilfrid's RC Primary School, explained how the children had responded to being outdoors and working on the project.

"Work begins now to secure funding to deliver projects like this one in the future."