Excitement at Fountains Abbey as the Skell Valley Project is set to go ahead

Following a successful bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery fund (HLF), the Skell Valley Project has the go ahead. It will tackle flood management, habitat restoration and conservation and improved access for everyone to hidden corners of their local area by working with key partners such as the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the local community.

What is the Skell Valley Project?

What started as an idea to stop the damage done to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal by flooding and siltation has evolved into a project encompassing the National Trust, Nidderdale AONB and local community groups in Ripon. Flooding has caused untold damage to the abbey and water garden, heritage 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

Yet, when the rain comes it's not just the team here that starts to get nervous but further downstream in the city of Ripon, local residents start to watch the water levels rise with increasing concern. After the last significant flood in 2007 not only did the abbey and water garden suffer damage but the river burst its banks in Ripon itself seeing some residents evacuated.

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?

The Skell Valley Project aims to combat the effects of the River Skell on the landscape up and downstream from Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal and has been made possible by a successful first round funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The money from HLF will see the project working with local farmers upstream to tackle flood management and to improve the water quality of the river. It will work to restore natural habitats along the river to encourage wildlife back to live and thrive.

" 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

Connecting with the community

We hope that the project will help to connect the local community with unexplored heritage on their doorsteps. There's much more than the abbey along the banks of the river. There will be activity days for schools and community groups and there will be new walking and cycling trails to explore, too.  One such community project, developed alongside ‘Friends of Hell Wath Nature Reserve,’ will restore the reserve’s natural habitats, repairing the Fairy Steps in Ripon and improving access.

Eavestone, one of the undiscovered gems in the Skell Valley which the project will help uncover
Eavestone, one of the undiscovered gems in the Skell Valley which the project will help uncover
Eavestone, one of the undiscovered gems in the Skell Valley which the project will help uncover

The funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund also means we can appoint a Project Officer and Community Participation Officer, who will develop the project.

'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 Heritage Lottery 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 HLF, Nidderdale AONB and the local community groups. This wouldn't be happening without you - thank-you.