The Skell Valley Project


What is the Skell Valley Project?

The National Trust and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are the lead partners of sixteen organisations who have come together to deliver the Skell Valley scheme, which will create a sustainable future for the Skell Valley. Over the last five years partners, farmers, landowners and communities living, working and visiting the valley have worked together to develop and shape the scheme.

Where is the Skell Valley?

The scheme focusses on the 12 short but glorious miles of the River Skell, descending from the wild remote moorland of Dallowgill Moor to the Vale of York and the historic City of Ripon, while traversing at least six millennia of human history. Some of the most ancient human objects in this living landscape are the names of the rivers, the Skell name may have come with the Vikings and their word skjallr, meaning ‘resounding’ from its swift and noisy course.

The upper and middle stretches of the river lie wholly within Nidderdale AONB and include the National Trust’s Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal estate, inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1986. The lower stretches flow through  farmland and the open grasslands and wooded banks of Hell Wath before reaching the bustling historic city of Ripon.

Map of the Skell Valley

Why is the scheme so important?

The Valley and its unique cultural and natural heritage are under threat from a number of forces.

Climate change is causing extreme weather conditions around the world. Extreme flooding events have caused irreparable damage to Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal and the high level of silt that is deposited in the river is threatening its ecology. Silt is also affecting the water features at Grantley Hall, Eavestone Lake and Ripon Canal. If a different approach to looking after the land and the water that flows through it can’t be found, then the heritage of the valley could disappear forever.

Due to neglect there is a significant risk of loss of heritage along the Skell Valley. At Eavestone Lake maturing trees and silt in the lake are closing in on the designed landscape and obscuring views. Poor condition of built and landscape features in the Chinese Garden, at Aldfield Spa and the WW1 heritage in Ripon means we risk losing part of our heritage forever.

Throughout the valley there is a decline in nature. Poor water quality due to the amount of sedimentation in the river threatens wildlife and there is an increase in invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam and Signal Crayfish.

When we undertook research for the project it was clear that there were significant barriers to people accessing nature, heritage and the outdoors. Some groups were less likely to use the natural environment for recreation and barriers include money, access to travel, lack of information and confidence about going to the countryside.

The story so far

In 2019 the National Lottery Heritage Fund gave us stage one funding to help develop our plan for the project. We worked with farmers, landowners and communities to make sure that the Scheme reflected the views and needs of a wide range of people living and working in the Skell Valley. Over 1000 people either attended an event, workshop or presentation about the project and offered us their views. From this, we submitted our stage two application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a further grant of £1.4 million in autumn 2020.

In December 2020 we were given confirmation that our stage two bid was successful! The delivery of the projects will start from 2021 and run to 2024 and will cost approximately £2.5 million. The rest of the Scheme will be funded by contributions from project partners and a fundraising appeal.

What is the Skell Valley Scheme going to do?

The project is made up of fifteen individual projects which all fit together to form a clear and ambitious vision for the river and the landscape. These projects are set out under four key themes:

Landscape is resilient

Projects: Healthy Land Healthy River, Enterprising Landscape, Tourism development in the Skell Valley

We’ll help tackle the threats of climate change and ensure we play our part in a ‘green’ recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic- making the landscape, its people and the local economy more resilient

Nature Thrives

Projects: Native & Ancient Woods of the Skell Valley, Hug an Ancient Tree, Hell Wath- Green gateway to the Skell Valley

We’ll reverse the decline in nature, conserve ancient trees and woodlands and the wildlife they support and create nature-rich spaces where people live.

People are empowered

Projects: Skell Valley Task Force, Digging Deep in the Archives, Volunteering City of Ripon, Nature on Your Doorstep Watery Wildlife

We’ll empower people to deliver projects for nature, heritage and landscape by supporting them in learning the skills they need and removing current barriers that stop people accessing the outdoors and nature around them.

Heritage is celebrated

Projects: Revealing the Serpent Valley & Chinese Garden, Sulphur, Springs and Spas, Exploring the Skell Valley, Enhancing Eavestone’s Lakes

We’ll save our heritage from the threats of climate change and general neglect and create new and exciting opportunities for people to explore the nature and history of the Skell Valley and be involved in its care

Latest updates

14 May 21

Meet the new Skell Valley team

We're pleased to say that the Skell Valley team is now in place and working hard on the delivery of the project! The team will be led by the project manager; Nabil Abbas who has been doing conservation work for around 20 years in South Yorkshire and the Peak District, both with NT and the Wildlife Trusts. Most recently Nabil has been working with farmers to deliver natural flood management (NFM) and wetland habitat improvements in the Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership. Jess Darwin is the new area ranger for the project and has been recruited from the National Trust Lake District ranger team. Jess has a huge passion for nature, conservation and the outside world and is looking forward to getting stuck in and meeting members of the Skell community.

Skell Valley project team: Josie Campbell, Nabil Abbas and Jess Darwin (l-r)

05 Mar 21

"This is a treasure for all humanity... we cannot stand by and let it be damaged"

"This is a treasure for all humanity... we cannot stand by and let it be damaged" - our GM Justin Scully speaking to chief correspondent for channel 4 news Alex Thompson about the rising threat to this World Heritage Site. This week the teams at Fountains and Nidderdale AONB were delighted to welcome crews from channel 4 news and sky news to speak about the impact of climate change to the area and the way in which the Skell Valley Project will tackle these issues. You can catch up on the Channel 4 website here.

Alex Thompson from channel 4 news visits Fountains Abbey

13 Jan 21

Our stage-two bid has been successful!

We’re delighted to announce that, in partnership with Nidderdale AONB our stage-two bid has been successful and we've been awarded a £1.4m grant from the National lottery Heritage Fund for the Skell Valley project. Thank you to all the farmers, landowners and communities who have worked with us to make sure that the Scheme reflected the views and needs of a wide range of people living and working here in the Skell Valley. We’re thrilled to be able to share this good news, start delivering the projects and seeing the benefits to our community. Delivery of the £2.5 million scheme will start later in 2021 and run to 2024. We’re excited to get started on this four year, £2.5m scheme later this year!

a snowy tree stump at Fountains Abbey