[F]RESHWATER wildlife and surrounding habitat will receive a major boost in Cumbria, Somerset, Norfolk, Cheshire and North Wales as part of an ambitious project led by the National Trust working with the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales.
One of the five rivers to benefit from the ‘Riverlands Project’ is the River Derwent and its catchment in Cumbria. It has been selected because it is designated a Special Area of Conservation, important for plants and wildlife, and river flooding has caused problems for communities in recent years.
This long-term, £1.2million project is aimed at improving the health of the river and its natural processes. As well as increasing opportunities for people to access, enjoy and help to project it, it will improve water quality and habitats for species like the Atlantic salmon, otter, lamprey and the nationally rare fish, the vendace. It also forms part of wider work by other organisations like the Environment Agency, catchment management and flood action groups who are looking at initiatives to reduce flood risk to local communities.
The planning phase of the project has started, led by a National Trust Project Manager, Rebecca Powell. Feasibility studies and consultations will help to shape a plan of action for a healthy river and catchment, rich in wildlife, enjoyed and cared for by all.
This Riverlands Project is just one of the many ways that the National Trust in Cumbria and North Lancashire is tackling the conservation challenges it faces says Jeremy Barlow, the local director of operations.
“As a charity we are here for everyone, for ever. And we have been looking after the Lakes for over 120 years, alongside our tenant farmers. The issues associated with the River Derwent are indicative of the wider ones we face in doing this job. From flooding and drought to securing funding for nature friendly farming post Brexit.
“We’re entering a new chapter in the history of the Lakes and how this landscape is being managed, often taking a whole valley approach” said Jeremy.
“Nature underpins all of this but it is not in universal good health. There is clear evidence that we are losing soils, wildlife has declined and our rivers are in a pattern of repeat flooding.
“We need to address this by collaborating with those who know the landscape inside out and manage it with us, from our tenant farmers to the 25 organisation strong Lake District National Park Partnership. And we need the right funding in place to do this.
The project will be cited by the National Trust’s Director General Ms McGrady’s as a “pledge for nature” at the BBC’s Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace (Thurs 2 to Sun 5 August).
Ms McGrady who was in the Lakes earlier in the year will also say at Countryfile Live: “We now want to see the Government commit to putting enough money in the pot for nature friendly farming, not just for the next four years, but for the next ten or twenty. With the right support farmers can continue to innovate, becoming more profitable, sustainable and nature-friendly. A better future for the countryside, including our farmers, communities and a healthy and beautiful natural environment, is within our grasp.”