Restoring Ullswater's Rivers

Hartsop in Ullswater

The rivers in Ullswater flow through hill farms, wood pasture, alongside roads and through busy tourist villages, feeding the landscape as they go. Unfortunately the valley’s rivers are in trouble and consequently so are many of the roads, communities and habitats that surround them.

These waterways respond rapidly to rainfall, and pose a flood risk to settlements downstream. The valley has suffered three major storm events in the last ten years and the catastrophic impact of Storm Desmond in 2015 got us thinking that little bit harder about how we can work with nature to make the valley more resilient.

What’s the plan?

We have developed plans for a new Ullswater Rivers Scheme. The scheme will work to slow the flow of these rivers by reconnecting them with the floodplain - allowing the wider landscape to absorb the effects of the weather. Creating rivers and floodplains which are governed by natural processes will result in improved flood resilience, water quality and habitats.

Across the Lake District it is common to see rivers running in straight, walled channels, having been historically modified. The rivers throughout the Ullswater valley are no exception. In the first phase of this scheme our plan is to work with partners, including the Eden Catchment Management Group, the Environment Agency, Natural England and Cumbria County Council to restore Goldrill Beck to a more natural course where it currently follows the A592 between Cow Bridge and Menneting Bridge. This will move the river away from the road, allowing it to spill onto surrounding land belonging to Howe Green and Beckstones farms during periods of high rainfall.

This approach will:

  • Increase the flood resilience of communities further downstream.
  • Provide an environmentally sustainable means of reducing risk from heavy rainfall to key infrastructure in the valley, including the A592. The road adjacent to Goldrill Beck, one of the few access routes in and out of the valley, was seriously undermined during Storm Desmond. The Ullswater Rivers Scheme would significantly reduce the risks to this important road from future high levels of rainfall.
  • This is an opportunity to restore Ullswater’s declining wildlife population by allowing new opportunities for a diverse range of nature to flourish. Specifically, the scheme will increase the quality and quantity of habitat to support Atlantic salmon, a species that is in decline across the North West.       

Watch this space

Keep checking back below for regular updates from the project team on how the scheme is progressing. We're looking forward to sharing this exciting project with you as each stage unfolds. For more detailed information you can take a look at our FAQs (PDF / 0.1MB) download

We’re also keen to hear your thoughts; you can get in touch with any questions via email on:

Latest updates

16 Apr 19

Exciting news - we've secured funding

This week we received confirmation that the National Trust has been awarded a Water Environment Grant of £1.7 million to improve the health of two river catchments in the north-west and east of Cumbria – the Derwent and Ullswater. The Water Environment Grant, administered by Natural England, provides funding for organisations and land managers to improve the water environment in rural England. This is great news for the Ullswater Rivers Scheme as money from the grant will cover 84% of the overall cost of the Goldrill Beck project.

22 Mar 19

Clearing the way

This week we have begun our work thinning out trees in Dub How wood at Goldrill to make way for the new river channel to meander through when work starts in May. We are taking care to leave as many trees in place as possible and the felled birch, alder and willow trees will be left as valuable deadwood habitat, which is great for invertebrates. As part of the project we will plant new trees across the site, planting one tree for every one felled. Once the project is complete this area will become a wet woodland, storing water in times of high flow and providing a great habitat for wildlife such as otter, curlew, snipe and lapwings.

Woodland Ranger felling a tree in Ullswater

21 Feb 19

The bigger picture

Our work at Goldrill Beck is just one element of a larger sustainable land management plan that we have for Ullswater. Another part of the plan is Glencoyne Farm, where we are working with our farm tenants to do things differently; reducing sheep numbers and introducing cattle and horses to develop a more resilient landscape, favouring natural processes and tree regeneration. Home to almost 300 veteran trees, Glencoyne Park has a long history of grazing that goes back at least 800 years. Once part of a hunting estate owned by the Dukes of Norfolk, this land has been home to deer, sheep, cattle and horses for centuries. Today this tradition is continued by the farmers at Glencoyne Farm, who look after the sheep and cattle on this land, working to regenerate the native wood pasture. Shorthorn cattle have replaced sheep in some areas, as their selective grazing allows young trees to flourish, as well as longer grass and more dense vegetation to grow. This can act as a sponge to slow the flow of water across the land and reduce the risk of flooding. Maintaining the wood pasture will also help ensure wildlife habitats for generations to come.

Horses grazing in Glencoyne Park woodpasture in Ullswater