Rivers of change

AS families contemplate a riverside stroll to walk off the excesses of the festive season, it is, perhaps, worth reflecting on the fact that the 'noughties' has been the best decade for rivers since the Industrial Revolution.

Otters and salmon are among the species that have been making a welcome comeback across Britain, and serious pollution incidents have been more than halved, following a concerted effort to make the natural environment an integral part of those riverside redevelopments that have become a feature of so many Yorkshire towns and cities. Yet the transformation is far from complete. Despite the improvements to rivers which, until recently, were blighted by raw sewage, conservationists warn that almost three-quarters of these waterways fall below tough new European standards. And, while the EU is frequently decried in these parts – and with every justification – it is this relentless focus on water quality, and targets, that is helping turn Britain's once neglected waterways into popular leisure attractions and havens for wildlife.

Long may this continue.