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Landscapes for Water

In the foreground, roles of material to be used for tree guards are stacked. The background is of the moors at Marsden Moor
Getting ready for tree planting on Marsden Moor | © National Trust

Learn about how we're restoring the uplands of West Yorkshire through this innovative and far-reaching partnership programme. By planting trees, restoring the peat and working with nature to reduce flood risk, this landscape-scale programme is dedicated to healing climate harm and preparing for the future

Working together for the South Pennines

Our work in the West Yorkshire is crucial to support the region’s nature, wildlife and people. Water is a key part of this landscape: peat bogs, rivers, streams and reservoirs have shaped the ecology, history and culture of the area and continue to have a direct influence.

Many of our uplands and watercourses have been damaged and degraded through centuries of industrialisation and the impacts of human activities, and this has resulted in flood and fire risk and a loss of habitat.

Now we're using our expertise - alongside that of partners including Yorkshire Water, the Woodland Trust, White Rose Forest, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Moors for the Future and the Environment Agency - to heal climate harm, reduce flood risk and plant trees on the moorland edge.

Landscapes for Water is a joint programme of work to improve upland habitats across the Upper Calder and Colne catchments, stretching from Marsden Moor in the south to Heptonstall Moor in the north, across five main areas, totalling 5,500 hectares.

A woman is leaning against a huge craggy rock with her back to the camera, admiring the view from Pule Hill on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire. Grey clouds cast shadows across the moor, which stretches for miles into the distance.
Pule Hill on Marsden Moor, where 6,000 trees are being planted as part of Landscapes for Water | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The woodlands of the future

Woodland creation is a central part of this programme: both the National Trust and Yorkshire Water have ambitious plans to plant more trees to benefit nature and capture carbon. Establishing new woodland requires careful planning and mapping to ensure that we plant the right trees in the right place. We are using advice from the Forestry Commission, Natural England, archaeologists, RSPB, upland specialists and the Woodland Trust.

Tree planting will focus on small valleys, called cloughs, where trees would naturally grow, but haven't due to past moorland management. In total, we'll plant 350 hectares of native trees including rowan, oak and birch which naturally thrive in harsh climates.

Many South Pennine uplands have been degraded by industrial pollution and fires, with the consequences being dry and exposed peat, soil erosion and water run-off. Reducing flood risk is a major aim of the Landscapes for Water programme.

We'll use natural flood management interventions such as gully blocking, leaky dams and pond creation. In total, we'll install 3,500 leaky dams to help slow the flow of water on the moors.

A peat bund which is a pool that holds water on peatland as a form of natural flood management, installed near Gorpley Reservoir.
A peat bund near Gorpley Reservoir | © National Trust/Rosie Holdsworth

Slowing the flow

Slowing the flow will keep water where it's needed, on the moorland, to allow peat - which is made of organic matter that hasn't fully decomposed - to develop and act as a carbon store. A boggy moorland can also reduce wildfire risk. Our work will have the additional benefit of improving water quality in nearby reservoirs, and restoring habitats for existing and new species of plants, animals and insects.

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A common cause

Established in 2019, the National Trust Yorkshire Water Common Cause partnership aims to make Yorkshire’s water catchments more resilient and more beautiful as well as delivering benefits for nature, climate and for people. Together, Yorkshire Water and the National Trust are the largest landowners in Yorkshire. We have a responsibility to the people and wildlife that live in our catchments. Our work focuses on habitat restoration, but also natural flood management and improving recreation sites for visitors.

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Landscapes for Water

Find out more about the Landscapes For Water project to restore the uplands of the South Pennine

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13th April 2024

First planting at Ryburn and Baitings

Community volunteers helped to plant trees at Ryburn reservoir near Ripponden this weekend. Along with Yorkshire Water rangers, they planted around 200 saplings – the first of 8,000 trees that will be planted at Ryburn and neighbouring Baitings reservoir. One of the volunteers told us: "I look forward to visiting the site in the future and seeing how the trees grow and transform the plot.”

Tree tubes in a grassy landscape on sunny day with reservoir in background
Trees planted by volunteers at Ryburn Reservoir | © National Trust/Sarah Warwick
A woman is leaning against a huge craggy rock with her back to the camera, admiring the view from Pule Hill on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire. Grey clouds cast shadows across the moor, which stretches for miles into the distance.

Discover more at Marsden Moor

Find out how to get to Marsden Moor, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

Our partners

Yorkshire Water

Yorkshire Water provides essential water and waste water services across Yorkshire.

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West Yorkshire Combined Authority

West Yorkshire Combined Authority works across West Yorkshire to develp and deliver policies, programmes and services which directly benefit the people of West Yorkshire.

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White Rose Forest

The White Rose Forest is the community forest for North and West Yorkshire, working in partnership with local authorities, landowners, businesses and communities to increase woodland across the region and improve our natural environment.

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Defra England Trees Action Plan

The England Trees Action Plan 2021 to 2024 sets out the government’s long-term vision for the treescape it wants to see in England by 2050 and beyond.

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