River Derwent (Cumbria) Catchment Wide Habitat Improvement

The last in our series of news items about the finalists for the WTT Conservation Awards

The Cumbrian Derwent is a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest, with important species of fish, invertebrates and plants. The river was subjected to huge and damaging flooding in 2009 and 2015, making enhancement of available habitat imperative.

The River Derwent Catchment-Wide Habitat Improvement Project is delivered under the umbrella of the River Corridor Group (RCG), a partnership of the Derwent Owners Association, the Environment Agency, Natural England, West Cumbria Rivers Trust, National Trust, Lake District National Park Authority and the Woodland Trust. The project is long-term and ongoing, with the key objectives of improving riparian habitat through stock-exclusion and riparian planting, tree management, improving in-river habitat for fish species through the introduction of large woody debris, providing spawning gravels, creating wildlife corridors through assisted natural recovery projects and contributing to natural flood management processes. 

The key to the success of the RCG is that all parties work together in a spirit of co-operation, openness and understanding to deliver the overall project aims. 

All decisions taken by the group are guided by these aims rather than by any individual party gain. Partners work together to secure funding, delivering a wide range of habitat improvement works, enhancing the conservation status of the SAC, contributing to natural flood management and engaging key stakeholders and the local community in this work.

Sandy Beck WTT workshop 2017 002
Chapel Beck summer 2019 comp
Oak field school tree planting day Lorton 1 005
WTT Workshop Lostrigg Beck 1 002

Since 2016, the RCG has contributed to:

• 38 habitat improvement projects;

• over 16 km of riverbank fencing 

• extensive willow spiling work and tree planting;

• large woody debris and gravel introductions;

• demonstration days and guided walks with local stakeholders;

• non-native species control, including Himalayan balsam rust trials and signal crayfish trapping

• another 3 years of electric fishing surveys;

• Yearl Mill Race bypass restoration;

• 6,000 hours of voluntary activities in the catchment.

All of this activity tops-up the extraordinary work of RCG in its previous seven years of existence since 2009. Surveys indicate improvements in the juvenile salmonid populations of the Derwent and many other plants and animals associated with RCG’s improvement works. WTT judges were impressed by the value for money of RCG’s work, the sheer number of the outputs from volunteers contributing to the project, their geographical reach, the planned approach to improvement projects and the undoubted open partnership of the group.