A river restoration scheme in the Lake District has scooped a major award in recognition for its contribution to creating new fish habitat.
The Swindale Beck Restoration Project at Haweswater beat off stiff competition to win this year’s Wild Trout Trust Award for Best Large-Scale Habitat Enhancement scheme, which was presented at a glittering ceremony in London last week (Tuesday 17 October).
Over the past three years the RSPB, who run two farms at Haweswater, has been carrying out nature conservation work in Swindale Valley, in partnership with landowner United Utilities for the benefit of wildlife and people.
The jewel in the project’s crown has been the restoration of a stretch of Swindale Beck, the river that runs through the valley.
A few hundred years ago, part of Swindale Beck was straightened to create more farmland. While this modification benefitted local farmers at the time, it made life difficult for wildlife including fish such as salmon and trout.
Last summer, the RSPB and United Utilities - working in partnership with the Environment Agency and Natural England - restored the natural bends to the straightened section of the Beck. This has slowed down the flow of the river and has already benefited wildlife, with salmon spawning in the new stretch.
In addition to the river restoration, conservation work in Swindale Valley has included a fish pass to allow migrating salmon and trout access the restored section of the beck.
Lee Schofield, RSPB Site Manager at Haweswater, said: “The restoration of Swindale Beck has been a fantastic partnership effort and wouldn’t have happened without the skills and expertise from many committed and passionate individuals. Winning this award will help us show even more people the different ways we can look after land in the Lake District to help wildlife and improve water management.”
Oliver Southgate, the Environment Agency’s River Restoration Project Manager for Cumbria and Lancashire, said: “This ambitious project has returned Cumbria's Swindale Beck to its original, meandering course, not only providing a boost for spawning fish but also slowing the flow of water through the valley. This project is a great example of partnership working in action and one which will deliver multiple benefits – some of which have already been seen, for example salmon and trout returning. We hope to do more projects like this with the RSPB and others in the future.”
Paul Phillips, United Utilities North Area Catchment Manager, said: “We knew from the outset that this was an audacious project and it has come together beautifully thanks to some great teamwork. The results in such a short space of time have been astonishing and it’s wonderful to see the scheme recognised in this way. We hope it will inspire others to see what can be achieved with a natural approach to land and water management.”
Natural England Lead Adviser, Jean Johnston, said: “It’s great to see the work at Swindale Beck getting this recognition. Putting the bends back in the beck has created the just the right habitat for trout and a number of other species. What’s really great is that this is part of a wider landscape scale project delivering a host of benefits for people to enjoy. This excellent partnership has really put the special in Site of Special Scientific Interest.”
The Swindale Valley Restoration Project has been delivered under the Cumbria River Restoration Programme. This programme aims to restore many watercourses across Cumbria back to their natural former glory.
The Wild Trout Award is the second accolade the Swindale Valley Restoration project has won in 2017. In May it received the ENDS Environmental Impact Award for Natural Environment Project of the Year.
More information about the Wild Trout Trust can be found at www.wildtrout.org.