Yorkshire Derwent | Humber
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Kate Bailey, River Derwent Partnership Officer
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:
The Partnership works towards these aims through a wide range of collaborative projects with our partners. We have determined a number of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) targets, which sit underneath our five aims. 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 Laura Carmichael, 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.
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.
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.
The Derwent Upland Streams Project, funded by the Environment Agency’s Water Environment Improvement Fund (WEIF) has been working with landowners to address pollution and sediment issues since 2021. Only 14% of English rivers are classified as meeting good ecological status, without increased efforts to tackle water quality it is predicted this figure will drop to 7% of rivers by 2027. Pollution is a major factor in driving this decline. In 2022 the team conducted over 26km of walkover surveys across 8 priority waterbodies to identify sediment issues and engage with land managers.
Following agreement with a number of land managers, a suite of measures were delivered, to improve farm infrastructure and tackle sediment input into these watercourses. Over 1km of new fence lines were installed, restricting cattle access to rivers. The pressure of cattle in these areas can erode riverbanks, regularly releasing soil and other organic pollutants into waterbodies. 85 new trees were planted between the fence line and the river, enhancing a new buffer strip. The buffer strip performs a crucial function, stabilising riverbanks, capturing fine sediment which is washed off the surface of the field in heavy rainfall, preventing it from reaching the river channel and improving habitat availability and connectivity along the riparian corridor.
We worked with landowners, including the North York Moors National Park, to install two new solar powered cattle drinking troughs at separate farms. This innovative technology uses solar power to pump water from existing waterbodies into a drinking trough without the need for mains water. This provides safe drinking water for cattle in remote locations, without the need for livestock to drink directly from the river. Two new piped culverts were created, and three badly eroded gateways were reinforced with stone at the Hole of Horcum to reduce sedimentation into Levisham beck. In total over 4km of watercourse was enhanced by measures delivered in year 2 of the project and a number of recommendations made for delivery in future years.
From April 2023 we will be delivering, in partnership with the Environment Agency, a two-year NFM project across the River Dove catchment in North Yorkshire. Urban areas within the catchment such as Kirkbymoorside, Keldholme and Kirkby Mills have a history of flooding, with many properties effected by a combination of surface water run-off and high river levels. The River Dove NFM project builds on feasibility reports commissioned by North Yorkshire County Council and Kirkbymoorside Town Council and aims to reduce flood risk to 10 of the worst affected properties in Keldholme and Kirkby Mills.
We will do this by working with land managers and key stakeholders across the wider catchment area to co-design features which work with natural processes to reduce surface run-off, slow the flow of water and store floodwater during high rainfall events. In practice this could include a wide range of features which have been proven to reduce flood peaks in existing NFM schemes, including, but not limited to, ponds, scrapes, swales, hedge & tree planting, leaky barriers, run-off features, new livestock fencing and floodplain storage areas. It is important that we ensure that any features that are introduced are delivered in the right place, and align with existing rural businesses and communities. Many of the measures delivered will have multiple benefits, creating new, and enhancing existing habitats, improving water quality and increasing carbon sequestration. We have started engaging with major landowners in the area to identify initial opportunities for working together, to reduce flood risk to the local communities within the Dove catchment.
In April 2022, we secured funding from Yorkshire Water’s Biodiversity Enhancement Programme for an exciting project focusing on four important species: tansy beetle, greater water parsnip, willow tit and narrow leaved water dropwort. We hope to strengthen the resilience of these species from the risks and effects of climate change and wider habitat loss. The project is being delivered by mixture of hands-on conservation with local volunteers and mapping and research.
The tansy plant is the food plant of the tansy beetle, a rare insect found on only two sites in England. We will plant tansy at two sites in the Lower Derwent Valley (Wheldrake Ings and Barmby on the Marsh) and assess the feasibility of potentially translocating the tansy beetle from the river Ouse. These ark sites located on higher ground will secure additional populations which will be protected in times of summer flooding.
Greater water parsnip is a native wetland plant, once widespread, it now only exists in a small number of isolated wetland sites in England. We will translocate plants and monitor the success of this translocation in the hope that it can be replicated on other sites in the future.
There are breeding willow tit on Wheldrake Ings, a species that has declined by 94% between 1970 and 2012. Volunteers will survey and identify exactly where the birds are breeding and identify gaps in the habitat that could be linked up either through habitat management (coppicing old willow) or through planting additional scrub. The breeding territories were mapped during summer 2022 and habitat works (coppicing, standing deadwood) was completed in winter 2022.
The rare narrow leaved water dropwort is only recorded at Wheldrake Ings in Yorkshire, which makes it particularly vulnerable from the increasing unseasonal flooding in recent years. The project will see seed harvested and grown on, with potential sites identified to translocate the plants to help bolster the population.
Our volunteers are busy planting greater water parsnip along some of the ditches at Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve. 69 plants were planted in October 2022.
Our volunteers are constructing 12 enclosures at Barmby on the Marsh ready for tansy plants to be planted in summer 2023. The enclosures will protect the plants from grazing sheep and hopefully create an ideal habitat for a future tansy beetle translocation.
Five new tansy plots (approx. 120 tansy plants in total) were planted at Wheldrake Ings in September 2022 and seed collected for planting in summer 2023.
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;
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.
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
Barmby Marsh, a 3.17ha Site of Special Scientific Interest, is currently classed as being in ‘unfavourable’ condition. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, with funding from the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water began work in 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. The exsisting scrapes were then de-vegetation in 2021 with funding from Yorkshire Water’s Biodiversity Enhancement Programme.
Access to the reserve is limited, with no public access or viewing areas. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
These structures replicate natural processses that reduce the flow of water during high flows.
We have installed cameras to be able to monitor the effects of our leaky dams and understand the waterflow on our rivers.
This flexible wood banded together helps support river banks and prevent erosion.
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