A PIONEERING project to revive an historic river valley and protect a significant cultural landmark from flooding has been given the green light following a £1.4m grant.

Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, North Yorkshire is at risk of being irreparably damaged by flooding, with several instances in recent years when the 12th-century ruins and water garden have been deluged by water.

Nearby homes and businesses have also been affected and the area’s wildlife is under threat from poor water quality driven by an increase in sediment in the river.

Work to protect the valley will soon get underway as part of the Skell Valley Scheme, spearheaded by the National Trust and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

It has been made possible thanks to £1.4m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund along with other funders, including the European Regional Development Fund.

The scheme aims to rejuvenate 12-miles of the River Skell via a range of works such as tree planting, meadow creation and new ponds, which will reduce soil run-off and slow the flow of water.

The Northern Echo: Eavestone Lake from the stone bridge Picture: National Trust/Chris LaceyEavestone Lake from the stone bridge Picture: National Trust/Chris Lacey

Farmers will be rewarded for delivering conservation measures and support will be offered to local businesses to invest in and influence how land is managed.

The plans will boost wildlife in the valley, and it is hoped that populations of rare species such as curlew, white-clawed crayfish and golden plover will increase.

Harry Bowell, director of land and nature at the National Trust, said: “This is a significant marker in the history of this fascinating valley – and an important moment for the Trust.

"Climate change is eroding away nature and heritage and only by working across our boundaries, with local people and partners, and with nature, will we be able to make a real difference.

“We’re incredibly grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

"It’s fantastic to have their support, especially at a time when local economies have been hit so badly by the pandemic and access to green space has never felt more urgent.”

Communities will be invited to take an active role in the scheme, with opportunities to learn conservation skills and undertake archive research.

The Northern Echo: Studley Royal Water Garden from surprise view Picture: National Trust/Chris LaceyStudley Royal Water Garden from surprise view Picture: National Trust/Chris Lacey

Other priorities of the project include bringing to life ‘lost’ heritage sites along the river, including researching a sulphur spa used by visitors 200-years-ago.

Plans are also in place to open up the wider Skell Valley and address the barriers people face in accessing the countryside.

Organisers will create new walking trails and improve signs and information while local people will have a chance to learn drystone walling, wildlife and river monitoring and hedge laying.

Much of this work will take place in Nidderdale AONB.

The nationally protected landscape is home to important habitats and rich in wildlife, with many sites designated for their local, regional or international importance.

Councillor Nigel Simms, Chair of the Nidderdale AONB Joint Advisory Committee, said: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Heritage Fund has given us this support.

"Through the Skell Valley Project, we’ll be able to trial innovative approaches to pressing issues such as climate change, flooding and land management.

"We’ll work closely with local farmers and landowners across the Skell Valley to put in place nature-based solutions that will reduce flooding and improve biodiversity in and around the river.

“We’re looking forward to working with the sixteen organisations that make up the Skell Valley Partnership."

Work is due to start on the scheme in March