Going with the flow: The Ribble Rivers Trust, guardians of Lancashire’s wonderful waterways

More than 3,479 miles (5,600km) of watercourses snake their way across the vast River Ribble catchment area.

It covers a vast area of over 750 square miles, stretching from the rural hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the source of the River Ribble to major urban areas of Lancashire including Blackburn, Burnley, and Preston.

Containing myriad and varied landscapes, habitats, and ecosystems, the land drained by the River Ribble and its major tributaries - including the Hodder, Calder, Darwen and Douglas rivers is of major environmental value to Lancashire, playing a vital role in keeping the county green and attractive for its locals.

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And the people tasked with its upkeep and health are the members and employees of the Clitheroe-based Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT).

Ribble Rivers Trust employees

A local environmental organisation established in 1997 in order to create a body to protect and restore local rivers, streams and watercourses whilst also raising public awareness of the importance of their work, the trust started life as a group of just six volunteers but has today grown into an expert team of employees and volunteers led by its 10 trustees.

The Ribble Rivers Trust’s conservationist remit is funded by the government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which was itself developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to look after notable green spaces up and down the UK. The RRT also operates in tandem with Natural England, the Environment Agency, and the Forestry Commission.

After successfully completing training with the trust, Lancaster-born Bethany Ryan has kickstarted her own career in conservation. Landing a job in an industry she has long dreamed of working in but one in which she previously found opportunities few and far between, Bethany is relishing the opportunity.

“I thought their projects were really interesting,” says Bethany, 22, who graduated from Lancaster University before starting a six-month placement with RRT. “I thought that it would be amazing to work for [the Ribble Rivbers Trust], but never thought I’d have the opportunity!”

Bethany Ryan of the Ribble Rivers Trust

But get the opportunity she did. One of three new employees taken on under a government-backed Kickstart scheme launched in response to an expected surge in youth unemployment resulting from the pandemic, Bethany impressed immediately, eventually leading to her being offered a full-time job with the organisation.

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Having joined the trust’s Health & Environmental Action Lancashire (HEAL) project, she was thrown in at the proverbial deep end straight away, helping to plant trees in order to create new woodland and leading educational sessions at local schools. Through HEAL, the RRT manages over 20 hectares of heathland, wildflower meadows, and woodland.

“The Kickstart scheme has been an important part of our Green Recovery Challenge funded programme, helping us to create jobs for young people keen to get into conservation,” says Harvey Hamilton-Thorpe, Ribble Rivers Trust’s deputy chief executive. “Ribble Rivers Trust is growing and developing.

“It’s been great to offer opportunities for people to develop new skills and gain work experience, and to showcase ourselves as a good place to work and make a difference for our environment and the communities.”

Ribble Rivers Trust volunteers