Floodplain conservation commitment celebrated

Partners, farmers and volunteers involved in the Long Preston Floodplain project at the opening of a new bird hide at Wigglesworth Hall Farm.

Partners, farmers and volunteers involved in the Long Preston Floodplain project at the opening of a new bird hide at Wigglesworth Hall Farm.

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A decade of conservation work alongside the River Ribble has been completed in the Yorkshire Dales.

Over the last ten years, the wet grassland habitat of the river’s floodplain between Long Preston and Settle has been improved to benefit wading birds, wildfowl and other wildlife.

Much of the area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest consisting of farmland and it is considered to be of national importance to wading birds and aquatic plants.

Access has been opened up for visitors and farmers have also benefited. Unlike in decades past, some 98 per cent of the project area - 459 acres - is now managed by farmers through Higher Level Stewardship or Organic Schemes, providing them with annual payments for restoring the wetland and other features in the floodplain.

Flood banks have been repositioned and restored, and river habitats improved. The river runs along a post-glacial lake bed and is an important habitat for salmon.

A new website gives visitors access to audio clips about the site and bird recordings, and information panels are displayed at local pubs and train stations, linked by a trails map.

Over the last ten years, around 900 people have been guided around the site and to mark the project’s milestone, a new bird hide was opened this week by the Ribble Way on Wigglesworth Hall Farm.

Dave Tayler, chairman of the floodplain project partnership at Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust which worked with various agencies to carry out the work, said: “The whole scheme has been completely dependent on farmers’ co-operation and they really embraced what was a change in how they have farmed for the last 50 years.”

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