A total of £540,000 has now been identified for the next three years to pay for work on farms to reduce pollution and improve the river for wildlife.
Eden Rivers Trust has just completed the latest phase in this long term plan to help the Petteril, spending £180,000 over the last eight months. Much of this has been spent on measures to reduce the amount of animal waste being washed into rivers.
Examples of work undertaken include improving drainage and guttering around farm yards and buildings and putting roofs over manure stores and yards. This prevents rain water from mixing with animal manures and then washing into the nearest river. Farmers have worked with the Trust to make these improvements and all have contributed financially to the projects.
In addition, 2,200 trees have been planted along the River Petteril to stabilise the banks and allow more wildlife to feed and breed in the river. Not only do trees provide shade over the river but insects and leaves fall into the water and are a source of food for fish and other animals.
An uncovered manure heap on a farmyard before work…Over 5.3 km of river bank has been fenced as part of the project to prevent farm animals from reaching the river. Fencing and tree planting both help to reduce erosion – something which leads to too much soil ending up in the river and preventing insects and fish from laying their eggs amongst the river’s stones.
The project came about as a result of a study – called the Evidence and Measures Project – which was undertaken to identify the problems with the river, the possible causes and what could be done about them. This involved the Environment Agency, Eden Rivers Trust, Natural England and the Highways Agency. It looked at all the available information on the River Petteril and led to agreement on what action was needed.
Pollution was identified as a major problem, arising from various sources such as farms, roads, inadequate sewage systems and domestic septic tanks. This has caused problems for the wildlife which the project aims to address. The priority areas to tackle were identified as being high up the river near Newton Reigny, just outside Penrith.
Jeremy Westgarth, Environment Manager at the Environment Agency in Penrith said:
“We are delighted to be providing further funding for this landmark project. It uses what we know about the river and enables Eden Rivers Trust and farmers in the area to come up with practical solutions to any problems. It is a template which could be applied to other rivers across the country.”
Alison Reed from Eden Rivers Trust said:
“This is a fantastic initiative which will make a huge difference to the River Petteril. It will help all those concerned with the river and its surroundings to work together to make it a better place for people and wildlife.”
The money for the project has come from the government’s Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The government’s aim is to make sure the river meets the strict requirements of the European legislation known as the Water Framework Directive. The Petteril is currently failing to meet the criteria of this Directive and is classed as ‘poor’ in terms of water quality and its fish populations.