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New collaboration and funding protects heritage and landscape

New collaboration and funding protects heritage and landscape

We spoke to Iain Mann, Manager of Nidderdale AONB, about an exciting project that will be bring benefits to the Skell Valley for generations.

Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to important landscapes, rich in heritage and wildlife. One of its jewels is Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, the country’s largest monastic ruin, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Cared for by the National Trust, it routinely tops the top ten lists of Britain’s favourite historical attractions, thanks to its landscaped gardens, deer park, ancient oaks, follies and vistas in a spectacular setting by the River Skell.

Photo credit: National Trust Images_Chris Lacey

In 2007, the River Skell burst its banks causing devastating damage to the Abbey, water garden and homes and businesses downstream in Ripon. Last week, Storm Christoph was a timely reminder of how urgent action is needed.

Photo credit: National Trust Images_Chris Lacey

Together with the National Trust, we consulted with farmers, landowners and the local community to look at ways to create natural flood management and rejuvenate the 12-mile river, improve the landscape’s resilience, and safeguard this irreplaceable beauty spot.

Photo credit: National Trust Images_Chris Lacey

The result is our and the National Trust’s Skell Valley Project, an innovative four-year scheme, estimated to cost £2.5m.  Thanks to a £1.4 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and support for other funders, including the European Regional Development Fund, the project will start this spring.

From 2021 until 2024, we’ll work with local volunteers, landowners and farmers, on this epic green recovery project.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Tree Planting, meadow creation and new ponds; to help reduce soil run-off and slow the flow of water.
  • Better access for visitors to the Skell Valley, with new walking trails and improvements to signs and information.
  • Boost in local wildlife, with hopefully increases in populations of rare species; including curlew, white-clawed crayfish and golden plover.
  • Bringing to life ‘lost’ heritage sites along the river; including a sulphur spa used by visitors 200 years ago and restoring the landscape at Eavestone Lakes, another stop on the 19th-century tourist trail.

As we recover from Covid-19, we’ll need the restorative power of nature. Prior to the pandemic, 600,000 visitors came to see Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. The Skell Valley Project will empower even more to discover the valley’s hidden gems and to explore and enjoy its incredibly diverse scenery, wildlife and heritage.

Find out more about the project on the Nidderdale AONB website

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