By David Wyles
At our online December meeting, Jeff Keenleyside of Greenstreams presented the ambitious proposals to create a nature park covering the enormous assets of the rivers Colne, Holme and Calder areas in Kirklees.
Combining the shared vision of Greenstreams, River Holme Connections, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and others, he outlined ideas for taking the Three Valleys Nature Park project forward and how it will benefit the whole community.
Covering an area from Dewsbury to Marsden and south to the edge of the Peak District, the project proposes many improvements to the valley environments and their inter-connecting links. Its realisation would offer enormous benefits for the health and wellbeing of residents, the economy and the environment.
The network of paths and tracks for walking and cycling, provides recreational and commuting opportunities. The restoration of waterside sites offers the potential for improving wildlife habitats and ecological diversity and the management of water. With tree planting, these measures all support climate change resilience.
The potential for improving sites to enhance these opportunities was illustrated by various projects, including gravel extraction sites at Ravensthorpe; local destinations such as Snow Island, off Kings Mill Lane, Huddersfield; and exemplar projects from the region such as the RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park in Leeds.
Equally challenging was the need to ensure adequate maintenance of paths and environments, illustrated by poor surfacing and encroachment of vegetation along many river and canal side paths. Of equal concern was the continuing problem of fly-tipping and plastic waste contamination of the river systems.
Moves to re-establish habitats through improvement of water quality and structural improvements, such as salmon ladders at weirs, are symbolic of what could be achieved through combined efforts.
Jeff paid tribute to the many hours of voluntary work that had helped to improve sections of the river corridors. The plan now required a vision to raise public awareness, secure contributions from the public, private and voluntary sectors, and to establish agreement with landowners and develop pilot projects.
To move the project forward, a development plan for the Colne Valley section of the park now needs resources, an essential step to mobilise public involvement, raise funding and establish robust agreements regarding future maintenance and management.
Dippers are becoming a familiar sight on the Colne. Picture by Ron Egon.
Plastics in our rivers, an increasing problem: the Calder in Wakefield.
Native brown trout in the River Colne, Kingsbridge. Picture by the Wild Trout Trust.