Restoring rivers, helping to reduce flood risk and improving water quality and habitats - it’s all in a year’s work for us, despite the challenge of working during the pandemic.
We delivered more on-the-ground environmental improvements than ever before in 2020, including our biggest ever project – the £1.5 million removal of a 2.5-kilometre-long plastic liner from the River Keekle near Whitehaven. Elsewhere, three barriers to fish passage were removed, enabling migrating native salmon and trout to reach new upstream areas, and almost 100 metres of river previously running through underground culverts was brought to the surface and restored to a natural course.
Significant progress was made on several natural flood management projects which continue into 2021. These aim to help reduce flood risk to communities including Keswick, Cockermouth, Lorton, Flimby and Bootle as well as improving habitats and water quality. In 2020 we installed 155 leaky dams and woody debris features in becks which help slow the flow during storms, reducing peak flood levels downstream. Nine new large water storage ponds were created to hold water back during large flood events, with a further seven planned this year.
A new large pond at the Naddle that will hold water in the landscape and provides vital habitat for a range of flora and fauna including nesting birds
Three wetlands were created or restored, 23,500 trees planted over 32 hectares and 6.6 kilometres of hedgerow planted, to contribute to natural flood management efforts, improve water quality and provide vital habitat for wildlife.
Regular work includes removing invasive plant and animal species which threaten native species. In 2020 we controlled invasive plants such as Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed over an area of 36 hectares and removed 554 invasive crayfish.
Wildlife surveys are also a vital part of our work, used to inform future improvement works and monitor the environmental health of the area. 43 km of river were surveyed and fish populations surveyed at 203 sites.
Message from our Director, Jodie Mills:
2020 was an incredibly difficult year for everyone and we want to say a massive thank you to our staff, Trustees and volunteers, all the farmers and landowners we work with, and our fantastic partners and funders, without whom none of this would have been possible.
Fortunately much of our work involves individuals or small groups working outdoors, so we were able to bring in Covid-secure working and crack on. In some areas we had to quickly learn to work very differently though. We normally visit schools to run river education sessions so we created online learning resources instead which had over 1,500 views.
We’re really excited about 2021 and we’ll keep working to improve our rivers and lakes for both people and wildlife. We’ve got fantastic improvement projects underway across whole river catchments, we’re working to conserve endangered and threatened species such as the freshwater mussel and Atlantic salmon, and we can’t wait to run school and community events again when they become possible. We’ve also got a pipeline of fantastic new projects we can’t wait to get started on.
A previously culverted beck which has been restored to the surface and re-meandered.