A NORTH Yorkshire river has been transformed thanks to a three-year £230,000 programme of works. 

New wetland habitat, reduced pollution and a restored river bank are just some of the enhancements made during the project to improve water quality in the River Wiske.

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The wide-ranging ‘Wild Wiske Revival: Clean and Green’ scheme focused on restoration of the heavily-modified river that runs through Hambleton.

Over the years, land management has caused sediment and its associated nutrients and chemicals to enter the river, smothering the river bed and leaving few areas for fish to spawn.

The Northern Echo: Tree and wildflower planting beside the River WiskeTree and wildflower planting beside the River Wiske

This was exacerbated by livestock accessing the river and compounded by unstable river banks and erosion.

Working closely with landowners, the project – near Northallerton - started in April 2019 and centred on creating new habitat and reducing the amount of sediment and water run-off from land and farms entering the river.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust action included installing over 3.5 miles of fencing to prevent livestock going into the river, reducing sediment and allowing the river banks to recover.

More than 1,500 trees and 300m of new hedgerow was planted to stabilise the river banks, provide habitat for wildlife and increase shade to cool the water in summer.

Other works included reprofiling 1,300m of river bank to reduce erosion, uncovering a 500m culvert at South Otterington, creating 1.5ha of new wetland habitat and reducing flooding to farmland and farm buildings.

Allison Pierre, from the Environment Agency, said: “The River Wiske has a long history of intensive management for land drainage - historically it has been straightened, deepened and widened resulting in an unnatural channel with little value for wildlife.

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“This fantastic three-year project to improve conditions has made great strides in bringing the river to life.

Claire Burton, river restoration officer for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, led the work on the ground.

She said: “I really enjoyed the practical aspects of this project, which has allowed us to carry out significant changes to the watercourse and its tributaries, benefitting both wildlife and landowners.

“Daylighting the culvert was the largest part of the project, turning a fallow field edge which regularly flooded into a meandering watercourse and wetland.

The Northern Echo: The new channel created after the culvert was removedThe new channel created after the culvert was removed

“We have also fenced off sections of watercourse to prevent livestock poaching the river banks, installed drinking bays, reprofiled the collapsing river banks and planted trees.

"In all it’s a really beneficial project for the local area and environment.”

The project was carried out in partnership between the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

It was funded by the Water Environment Grant (WEG) through the Rural Development Programme for England.

The WEG team comprises the Environment Agency and Natural England, which decide which projects receive funding.

The 300m hedgerow was funded by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) ‘Close the Gap’ fund.


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