Looking after the river Skell

The National Trust is working with Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty and local groups to apply for some money to improve the landscape around the River Skell in North Yorkshire.

Looking after the river Skell

The River Skell and its surrounding area is at risk of losing the qualities that make it one of the most striking landscapes in North Yorkshire. From its source just north of Pateley Bridge, the river runs through Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal to Ripon. Its route is full of heritage treasures, natural scenery, diverse wildlife and colourful stories of its past which over time have become disjointed, neglected and hidden from view. If we do nothing, they could be lost forever.

Our heritage is disappearing from view

The historic landscape surrounding the river is a shadow of its former self. What was once a place designed to delight visitors, such as the spa building at Aldfield, has now fallen into disrepair and the dramatic heights of the sandstone cliffs at Eavestone have become overgrown with woodland.

We’re in danger of losing touch with our past

The people who have cared for this landscape before us experienced a very different place from the one we see today. Pathways and carriage drives which once linked the area together are now virtually impassable and some of the historic features along the way are now almost lost from view.

Our wildlife is under threat

Important species like brown trout, salmon, river lamprey and white-clawed crayfish are suffering as a result of poor water quality brought about by soil entering the water course from land upstream.

We have a limited number of harvests left

If we carry on as we are and soil continues to be washed into rivers, we’ll eventually run out of arable land to grow crops in. This continual loss of soil contributes to poor water quality for wildlife and clogs up water features along the river which have to be regularly dredged. The river catchment is also an area of high flood risk because the ground can’t cope with heavy or prolonged periods of rain. Flooding causes widespread damage to the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site and places downstream.

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

What can we do to make it great again?

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 from agricultural land 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 river’s story

We want more people to enjoy what the River Skell 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.

John Aislabie’s son, William, added to his father’s vision at Studley Royal by traversing the river in the Seven Bridges Valley with Chinese-style wooden bridges, which were later replaced with stone bridges
John Aislabie’s son, William, added to his father’s vision at Studley Royal by traversing the river in the Seven Bridges Valley with Chinese-style wooden bridges
John Aislabie’s son, William, added to his father’s vision at Studley Royal by traversing the river in the Seven Bridges Valley with Chinese-style wooden bridges, which were later replaced with stone bridges
The classical statues at Studley Royal water garden after restoration work

Our Conservation Work 

Managing the impact of flooding, adapting to climate change, conservation work, sharing the stories of this amazing place are all key priorities in the work we do. Here are some of the projects that have been going on.

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