The Skell Valley Project

Following a successful bid for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the National Trust and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have embarked on the first stage of the Skell Valley Project.

Along with people from the local community, landowners and farmers from the river catchment, the project will explore ways of celebrating the distinct heritage of the area. It will involve restoring habitats, conserving historic features, introducing natural flood management and improving access to hidden corners of the Skell Valley's landscape. 

What is the Skell Valley Project?

What started as an idea to reduce the damage caused by flooding and siltation at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal has evolved into a project encompassing the whole River Skell catchment. Flooding has caused untold damage to the abbey and water garden; heritage that is treasured not only by the local area but on the world stage. Hailed as one of the 1000 most important places in the world, the site gained World Heritage Status in 1986 and with that comes a huge responsibility of care.

" The River Skell flows through the heart of the landscape, but historic sites and homes have been hit by serious flooding several times in recent years, and if we don’t find a different way to look after the valley, its irreplaceable heritage could disappear for ever. Unfortunately floods like these are not one-offs - we estimate that the National Trust has spent around £2.5 million dealing with the issue since it acquired the Fountains estate in 1983."
- Sarah France, World Heritage Site Co-ordinator and Conservation Manager, National Trust, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

When the rain comes it's not just the team at Fountains Abbey that starts to get nervous but also in the City of Ripon where residents have watched the water levels rise with increasing concern. After the last significant flood in 2007 Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal suffered damage but the river burst its banks in Ripon too, with some residents being evacuated from their homes. 

The source of the river is part of the vast rugged expanse of Dallowgill
Dallowgill is the source of the Skell
The source of the river is part of the vast rugged expanse of Dallowgill

What is the Skell Valley Project going to do?

Restore our lost heritage treasures

We want to research, record and repair heritage features surrounding the River Skell that have been hidden from public view for decades so that people can enjoy them once again.

Create better habitats for wildlife

We want to reduce the amount of soil loss and run-off into the river so that wildlife can thrive in a better quality of water.

Reduce soil loss and flooding

We want to use sustainable solutions such as native woodland planting, re-introduction of sphagnum moss on moorland and run-off ponds to reduce flood risk and soil loss so that we can lessen the damage caused to historic buildings and water features along the river.

Inspire people with the Skell Valley’s story

We want more people to enjoy what the Skell Valley has to offer by making it more accessible. This might include improving footpaths, adding signs, and developing trails and exhibitions so that certain areas are easier to get to and even more fun to visit.

Involve people in looking after their local area

We’d like to involve people in improving their surrounding heritage and wildlife by providing opportunities for people to learn new skills and take an active role in managing the local area. This could include monitoring wildlife, recording historic buildings and creating exhibitions amongst many others.

" Fountains is Nidderdale’s crown jewel, a place rich in wildlife in a landscape that is renowned across the world for its historic environment. It is also in an Area if Outstanding Natural Beauty and we have been delighted to work in close partnership with the Trust on a bid that highlights treasured and precious corners of the AONB outside the ownership of the National Trust. Wildlife doesn’t respect boundaries and there is a wealth of overlooked heritage features on the outside too. "
- Sarah Kettlewell, Nidderdale AONB Manager
The grassland at Hell Wath is home to many species of butterfly, including Meadow Brown
Hell Wath local nature reserve
The grassland at Hell Wath is home to many species of butterfly, including Meadow Brown

The funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund means we can appoint a Project Manager and Community Participation Officer, who will develop the project ready for a second round application for funding to deliver the project in June 2020.

'All in it together'

This has been the guiding principle for this project from the very beginning and will see it through to the end. It's only by working all together that we'll be able to achieve a long-term future for the Skell Valley, so keep an eye out for news of events and workshops where we'll be gathering ideas and making plans.

" Recognition of its special qualities by the National Lottery Heritage Fund at a time of intense competition for its funding is a great accolade and we are looking forward to developing and refining the project with the Trust, farmers and landowners in the valley and the wider community."
- Sarah Kettlewell, Nidderdale AONB Manager


We want to take the opportunity to say a big thank-you to all those who have been involved in making this project possible, including the National Lottery heritage Fund, Nidderdale AONB and the local people and organisations. This wouldn't be happening without you - thank-you.