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Trainee Conservationists Working To Protect River Banks And Wildlife Across Yorkshire
Willow spiling - photo by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
A team of five Yorkshire Wildlife Trust trainees from the 'Tomorrow's Natural Leaders' project, based at Stirley Farm, Huddersfield have been working to install 'willow spiling' along the River Aire catchment.

This natural alternative to expensive man-made river bank defences will enhance river habitat for wildlife along the Eller Beck, near Skipton, and Wyke Beck in Leeds.

Tomorrow's Natural Leaders is one of 31 projects that make up the Our Bright Future portfolio, funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Aided by the Forest of Bradford volunteers to source and coppice local, sustainable willow to use for the project, the team have been planting the living willow into the banks of the river; weaving it around stakes to create a barrier that will one day protect the bank from erosion by flood waters.

Tomorrow's Natural Leader Nicole Brophy said:

"I've really enjoyed the work we've been doing on the Eller and Wyke Beck, seeing the process through from start to finish has given me a valuable insight into natural flood management and the sustainable ways we can protect against flooding."

The finished work looks something like a giant basket, with the willow neatly woven into the bank, then backfilled with soil to allow the trees to grow and strengthen the bank.

As the living flood defences grow over time they will look like an entirely natural feature of the river bank, which is perfect for use in sensitive locations where man-made flood defences would look out of place. The growing willow also helps to create new bankside habitats for a broad range of riverside species.

Tomorrow's Natural Leader Callum Wrest said:,

"I've really enjoyed the hands on aspect of our willow spiling work, getting to work in beautiful locations and see the difference we're making has been great fun. The willow will grow and send out roots which will help to stabilise the bank and protect the river for years to come with minimal maintenance required."

Protecting river banks from erosion helps to prevent the build of silt that in turn enhances the river for a number of threatened native species including endangered white clawed crayfish and trout. This also helps to reduce flood risk as river channels are kept clear of mud and debris.

The natural flood management work is being funded by the Environment Agency and delivered by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Friends of Wyke Beck Woods and Forest of Bradford.

If you'd like to find out more about how you can get involved with the Tomorrow's Natural Leaders project, visit the Trust's website for further information www.ywt.org.uk/Tomorrows-Natural-Leaders

Trainee Conservationists Working To Protect River Banks And Wildlife Across Yorkshire, 5th April 2017, 15:44 PM