Yorkshire Derwent Catchment Partnership

Yorkshire Derwent | Humber

Contact Information

Catchment Host

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust


Partnership Officer





Aims of the Partnership

Our vision: ‘The Yorkshire Derwent will be a thriving river with a catchment abundant in wildlife, providing a better quality environment for people to live, work and visit’

The Yorkshire Derwent Catchment Partnership’s key aims are:

  1. Ensure a resilient catchment through community engagement and promoting integrated, sustainable land management which benefits the rural economy
  2. Improve water level management, reducing flood risk and preserving water resources
  3. Secure better soil conservation and water quality
  4. Create extensive habitat connectivity and species resilience
  5. Ensure good partnership governance and develop a robust evidence base

The Partnership works towards these aims through a wide range of collaborative projects with our partners. For more detailed information on our work please see our Catchment Management Plan, latest newsletter and Annual Report which are available to download below.

The Partnership Board, chaired by David Rooke, comprises representatives of Partner organisations responsible for setting strategy, providing oversight, governance (including signoff of documents and budget) and support to the Partnership and its projects. Members of the Board are responsible for advocacy within their organisations and other groups at a senior level. The Board meet three times per year.

The Delivery Group, chaired by Victoria Murray, comprises representatives of Partner organisations responsible for the implementation of the Catchment Management Plan and Project Delivery Plan, working towards the delivery of the shared aims. The Delivery Group develops YDCP’s strategy and approach, assesses risks and opportunities and highlights these to the Board as necessary for approval and then implements delivery. Members of the Delivery Group are responsible for engagement with wider stakeholders and communities. Members may be approached to form time-limited and task-based working groups, such as fundraising, when required. The Delivery Group also meet three times per year.

About the Catchment

The Yorkshire Derwent Catchment Partnership (YDCP) brings together organisations from across the catchment who have a common interest in improving the water environment of one of Britain’s best examples of a classic river profile.

Spanning the uplands to the lowland flood plain, the Yorkshire Derwent is the largest catchment in Yorkshire covering 2,057 square kilometres. The catchment includes several designated sites of international importance including the North York Moors National Park and the River Derwent itself in its middle and lower reaches.  Consequently, the Derwent catchment has some of the UK’s most beautiful and iconic landscapes teeming with rich and diverse wildlife.  The catchment is largely rural with a few urban areas and small market towns, with the seaside town of Scarborough being the largest urban area within the catchment.

The catchment has one of the highest number of designated areas in England and Wales, including areas of National, European and International conservation status. Its lowland river characteristics include assemblage of floating and submerged plants, river lamprey, sea lamprey, bullhead and otters. Towards the bottom of the catchment, the Lower Derwent Valley forms one of the most important examples of agriculturally-unimproved, species-rich alluvial flood meadow habitat remaining in the UK. It is also one of the few places where traditional methods of haymaking are still practised over a large area.

Aside from ecological importance, the Derwent catchment is of strategic importance as a major source of drinking water for the people of Yorkshire; particularly in Leeds, Hull, Scarborough, Sheffield and York. Abstractions from the River Derwent supply an average of 200 million litres of water per day to domestic and business customers across Yorkshire.

River Basin Management Plan (Humber): Challenges and Choices consultation

The Environment Agency have begun the process of updating the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) for 2021. The plans are designed to protect and improve the quality of our water environment, promoting ecosystem services and supporting wildlife. Following on from the ‘Working Together’ consultation at the end of 2018, the ‘Challenges and Choices’ consultation is seeking views from organisations, partnerships and members of the public on water related topics from water level issues to plastic pollution.

The Yorkshire Derwent Catchment Partnership, located in the Humber basin, responded to this consultation on a partnership level and our response is published on our website. We held a successful workshop for partners in February 2020 focusing on the 27 consultation questions, which enabled YRDCP to collate a true partnership response.  We also recommended that partners should respond separately to YDCP, to represent different aspects and priorities from their organisation compared to that on a larger catchment scale.

Projects in the Catchment

As a CaBA Partnership, YDCP is extremely ambitious. A key element of what we want to achieve is to take an integrated, whole catchment approach to resolving the environmental issues on the River Derwent and, where possible, scale up local initiatives to apply to the whole catchment. If you would like to keep updated with our projects please follow the links at the top of the page to our social media accounts.

Derwent Lowland Waders Project

We have been successful in securing £27,000 from Yorkshire Water’s Biodiversity Enhancmemnt Programme to deliver a project to improve habitat quality and connectivity for lowland waders at three locations in the catchment, ; Low Carr Farm south of Pickering, Wheldrake Ings SSSI and Barmby on the Marsh SSSI. We will be working in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley to deliver the work, with local contractors carrying out the practical work.

In 2021, we will be restoring scrapes at the three sites to create important wetland habitat for wading birds including lapwing, snipe and curlew. We will also be installing sluices at two of the sites which will aid with managing water levels and ensuring more water is retained on the land for longer periods of time.

Derwent Villages NFM Demonstration Project

Natural Flood Management (NFM) has gained a lot of ground in recent years as being an effective tool in tackling the increased risk of flooding to urban areas. This approach works by restoring natural processes, such as river flood plains and natural meandering river courses, that humans have removed in the past, to attempt to reduce flooding events and also improve water quality and biodiversity.

In July 2017, YDCP secured £50k of funding from the Environment Agency to deliver a multi-objective 3 year Natural Flood Management project  slowing the flow to reduce flood risk, improving in-channel and riparian biodiversity and addressing Water Framework Directive (WFD) issues, above four North Yorkshire village locations; Thornton le Dale, Sinnington, Hovingham and Gilling East.

The project has delivered a range of natural flood risk management techniques upstream of the four target villages from 2018 to 2021. Over the three years we have installed interventions such as leaky debris dams, riparian fencing coupled with arable reversion, felling and pining live trees to act as living in-stream structures, willow spiling to protect river banks and tree planting.

We have been using timelapse photos to monitor the effectiveness of a number of interventions and this data is being analysed throughout the project, working in partnership with the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) based at Leeds University.

Ultimately we want to deliver best practice in natural flood management right across the catchment not just in a few individual locations and this project has been a great way to trial some novel approaches and monitor their effectiveness.

Leaky Dams

These structures replicate natural processses that reduce the flow of water during high flows.

Time-lapse camera

We have installed cameras to be able to monitor the effects of our leaky dams and understand the waterflow on our rivers.

Willow Spiling

This flexible wood banded together helps support river banks and prevent erosion.

Jugger Howe Restoration Project

Towards the end of 2019, we were successful in securing £55,000 of European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) funding through the Water Environment Grant (WEG) scheme to restore an area of degraded upland habitat near the very top of the Derwent catchment.

During World War Two, this area of moorland known as Jugger Howe, was used as a training site for military tanks and has never really recovered; before the restoration work took place, the ground was badly eroded with little vegetation cover. Volunteers from the North York Moors National Park have done a great job by installed heather bales on the site to help reduce erosion but it needed a more concerted effort to really make a difference.

The restoration work took place in August to restore an area of 1.6 hectares by using the following techniques;

Slowing the flow- coir rolls

Over 400 coir rolls were installed into the landscape; the positioning of this natural material slows the flow of water off the moor and reduces erosion. The rolls will also trap fine sediment ensuring it does not get washed into nearby watercourses. The rolls were secured in place by being dug into the soil and backfilled to ensure any rainwater does not scour underneath or around the roll.

Slowing the flow- stone traps

16 stone traps were installed in the deeper gullies and act in the same way as the coir rolls, slowing the flow of water and allowing fine sediment to drop out of the water before it enters the watercourse.

Re-vegetation- spreading heather brash

Heather was harvested from several locations close to the site and then spread onto the bare areas. This brash will contain thousands of heather seeds which can remain viable in the seedbank for up to 80 years! The brash will also form a microclimate protecting the heather seeds as the germinate and grow.

Re-vegetation- plug plants and grass seed

Plug plants were planted directly into the soil; cotton grass behind the logs as it prefers wetter ground and heather plants in the drier areas. Contractors also spread a mix of upland grass seed, tailored specifically to the site following discussions with a local botanist.

Image left: stone trap      Image right: coir roll

Doing More for the Derwent

Doing More for the Derwent (DMFTD), an Environment Agency project, aims to improve the ecological health of the River Derwent Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which stretches 70km from its confluence with the River Rye down to Barmby Barrage where it meets the River Ouse. The SSSI is currently suffering from a range of pressures which are being addressed through the following project aims;

  • Structures – reduce the impact of structures in the SSSI, improve river morphology and habitat, re-naturalise the river.
  • Sediment – reduce input of sediment into the catchment and improve Water Quality.
  • Habitat – improve habitat within the SSSI, increase native species, reduce or remove INNS.
  • Flood Banks – where possible, re-naturalise and reconnect the river with floodplain.

YDCP work closely with DMFTD and have been involved in delivery of DMFTD aims since 2018 with key work including Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) control and sediment walkovers.

Invasive Non-Native Species

Around 10% of non-native species that become established in the UK become invasive. They can have a dramatic effect on environmental, economic and social factors, costing the UK around 1.7 billion per year.

Our strategic top-down control strategy, for the whole catchment, targets areas that have the potential to infect a large amount of watercourse downstream whilst also having a low chance of being re-infected from upstream, increasing the likelihood of eradication. Our latest Control Strategy, available to download below, gives detail on YDCP and partner organisations INNS work in the Derwent Catchment.

Through staff and dedicated volunteers, over 245km of watercourse have been surveyed across the Derwent Catchment, allowing us to identify areas of infection and develop a control strategy for giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, and other species. The data collected has been recorded on INNS Mapper, an open-source website, which collates the inputted data from variety of groups and individuals.

YDCP is working with Landowners in the catchment to eradicate giant hogweed. In 2021, the partnership engaged with over 46 landowners, working with them to treat giant hogweed along the River Derwent and its tributaries. Other minor infestations are also being tackled, such as Japanese knotweed, to ensure that they are controlled before spreading further in the catchment. Isolated patches of Himalayan balsam are being identified for treatment at tributary headwaters, to eradicate the invasive species from sub-catchments within the Derwent.

Good biosecurity is highly important in the catchment particularly in areas where we are protecting vulnerable species such as white-clawed crayfish. We adhere to strict biosecurity procedures when working in the catchment to protect what is there and prevent the spread of INNS and other harmful species between sites. Throughout all work undertaken, YDCP carried out biosecurity procedures based on Yorkshire Invasive Species Forum’s best practice guide.

Image: Staff member treating giant hogweed on the main River Derwent

Sediment Walkover Surveys

Sediment washing into watercourses is a natural process, however, when facilitated by livestock and human land practices, it can have a detrimental effect on the river channel, its ecology and surrounding land by increasing flood risk.

The aim of this work is to identify the key pathways of sediment and associated pollutants entering the watercourses. By working with local landowners to offer guidance and grants for improvement works, we can reduce the amount of sediment entering the catchment’s rivers and streams, improving the health of Derwent River SSSI and also helping to reduce flood risk.

Commissioned by the Environment Agency and Natural England, sediment walkover surveys were carried out in 2017. 60 sediment input sites were identified on water courses that drain into the River Derwent. 30 of these were discussed with 23 landowners including a workshop on improving health soil on farms.

In winter 2019, further sediment walkover surveys were carried out along eight watercourses which flow into the River Derwent SSSI. A number of sites were identified through these surveys and potential improvement works were discussed with the landowners. Following these discussions, over 600m of stock proof fencing has now been erected to protect the banks and reduce sediment inputs. We have also worked with a farmer to install a sediment trap and associated drainage in the farmyard, where fine sediment can settle out before it washes into the nearby watercourse.

Image left: Damaged fencing resulting in livestock poaching  Image right: Fencing installed with buffer strip

Barmby Marsh SSSI

The government aims to restore wildlife protected areas to favourable condition in their 2018 25 year environmental plan ‘Our Green Future’.

Barmby Marsh, a 3.17ha Site of Special Scientific Interest, is currently classed as being in ‘unfavourable’ condition. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, with funding from Environment Agency (EA) began work in Early 2019 to restore this site to its original wetland habitat.

The work has focused on removing encroaching scrub with help from volunteers,  Friends of the LDV and the local community.  Further work included mapping habitats and hydrology, and drawing up plans for de-vegetation of the existing scrapes which will be carried out in 2021.

Access to the reserve is limited, with no public access or viewing areas. One aspect of the project was to increase visitor engagement, as the site runs alongside the popular Trans-Pennine trail and is next to Barmby Barrage. Visitor experience panels were produced including an identification guide to wetland birds you may see. Viewing areas were also created to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of the site without creating disturbance to the wildlife.

The effects are already noticeable, with the reserve seeing a return of wetland species including common snipe, gadwalls and teal, with otter prints also spotted along the riverbank.

Partner Projects

Environment Agency- Derwent Sediment Mapping

Sediment is a key pressure within the Yorkshire Derwent Catchment. Throughout the catchment, sediment loss, erosion and its deposition are monitored and managed for flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM), water quality and extraction and environmental benefits. Multiple teams and agencies undertake this work and resultantly, there exists an extensive amount of sediment related research and data.

This project has collated all existing sediment data, across the catchment, onto one shared mapping portal accessible to all partners and wider stakeholders who have an interest in the Derwent Catchment.  Sharing of data on a catchment scale will help all partners better understand and manage the sediment flux, it will also run efficiencies in data collection and projects (with associated financial and time efficiencies), avoiding duplication of research, highlighting data ‘black hole’ areas and facilitating intelligent delivery of projects. The map will be the first project to provide a holistic view of sediment data in the Yorkshire Derwent Catchment. This work will help inform future projects for all partners, the data shared will reduce need for new research with associated financial savings.

Environment Agency- Thornton-le-Dale Sediment Study

This research study aims to identify the sources and causes of sedimentation and nutrient deposition in Thornton Beck catchment and the village of Thornton-le-Dale. The report provides recommendations of mitigation and NFM management of sediment in Thornton Beck catchment and the village of Thoronton-le-Dale. It focuses on the water body ‘Thornton/Dalby/Staindale from Source to the Syme’ (Water body ID: GB104027067950) and provides the independent scientific research required to inform residents, future capital delivery projects and sustainable management of issues in Thornton Beck. The research completed in April 2021 and the report is available below.

Image: Sediment, multiple channels and obstacles in Thornton Beck.


Ryevitalise is a four year, £3.4 million Landscape Partnership Scheme supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, North York Moors National Park Authority and partners, and inspired by local communities and helps deliver YDCP’s aims.

The project team work with volunteers and communities to conserve, enhance and restore the natural and cultural heritage of the area, enabling people to reconnect with the history, wildlife and landscapes of the River Rye and its tributaries. Ryevitalise is delivering a suite of projects across three delivery themes; water quality and the environment, water level management and reconnecting people.

The team is based within the North York Moors National Park Authority and Ryevitalise will be delivered by a partnership of over 15 organisations working together to reach their common goals across this part of the River Rye catchment. Works are wide ranging, covering areas such as habitat management and invasive species control, exploring local cultural and built heritage, improving public footpaths, wildlife surveying, promoting best practice between land managers and grant funding interventions to improve the water environment.

YDCP is one of the delivery partners where we will be helping to deliver/support two discrete projects within the four year programme, INNS and Water Level Management. The YDCP Officer has attended three meetings with the Ryevitalise team so far and sits on the Ryevitalise Steering Group.

Practical activity on the ground is now underway, and collaborative partnership meetings are progressing well.

For more information and how you can get involved, click here: www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/ryevitalise

Engagement and volunteering

Our aspiration is to re-establish a real sense of connection between people and the River Derwent. A significant number of people already volunteer their time to improve their local environment, often via well-established volunteering programmes that many of our partners have in place.

Volunteers are an integral part of many of our projects, with a total of 390 volunteer hours recorded in 2019/20. Our ‘River Project Volunteer’ provides opportunities to get involved in projects such as sediment walkovers and restoration work at Barmby on the Marsh wetlands. In addition to this, there are five ‘Invasive Species’ volunteers carrying out INNS surveys across the catchment, mapping their findings and reporting back to YDCP allowing us to update our Catchment Strategy and strategically plan treatment.

Other volunteer groups from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the local community help deliver key project work throughout the catchment, such as Himalayan balsam pulling and scrub removal. This also includes volunteers from the ‘Tomorrow’s Natural Leaders’ (TNL) National Lottery funded youth programme which ended in September 2019. The programme enabled young adults to build practical skills, conservation knowledge and employability in the conservation and environmental sector. The hard work and dedication from volunteers has increased the Partnership’s capacity, enabling more vital conservation work to be carry out across the catchment.

We are constantly aiming to improve and expand stakeholder engagement with having already engaged with over 50 landowners and land managers across our projects as well as improve access to our sites so everyone can enjoy the River Derwent’s natural beauty.

Research and Monitoring

YDCP has engaged with a number of universities on several projects in the Derwent Catchment.

We have worked with the Environment Agency and Leeds University (though the Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme – iCASP) to review and inform the EA’s Strategic Monitoring Review for water quality monitoring.  iCASP have been working with the EA and partners to review the evidence requirements on the Derwent and to explore better ways of sharing data.

York and Leeds University (through iCASP) have been assisting with monitoring the effectiveness of interventions on Derwent Villages NFM project

Throughout all our work, we keep a record of ‘kilometres/KM enhanced/protected’, which we report back to the Environment Agency. The metric acts as a meaningful indicator of the work we are doing to improve the water environment and complements the Water Framework Directive (WFD) classification status/potential of each waterbody we work on. The EA recognise that securing a change in the classification of a waterbody (e.g. from ‘Moderate’ to ‘Good’) is very difficult when only carrying out small scale interventions.

To be recorded as ‘KM enhanced’, the action taken must reduce a known pressure/Reason for Not Achieving Good Status (RNAGs) on the waterbody, for example the length of riparian fencing installed to prevent livestock accessing a watercourse or the length of INNS controlled.  ‘KM protected’ is recorded where the action will prevent deterioration of the WFD status, for example installing leaky dams can provide a reduction in sedimentation downstream.

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