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River cattle crossing built in Upper Wharfe to protect fish

A cattle crossing has been created to protect fish spawning ground in the upper River Wharfe as part of a wider two-year project to improve the river’s aquatic habitat.

The work is being led by the Yorkshire Dales River Trust with the new cattle crossing controlling where cows can cross the river in order to protect the fragile river ecosystem.

It has been built at Cray Gill Beck, which is a tributary of the River Wharfe near Buckden. Several other river system improvements have also been made including the installation of fencing, bankside woodland planting and natural river bank walls.

Financial support for the project has come from the National Rivers Trust, the EU and Yorkshire Water have contributed £45,000.

Dan Turner, project officer at the Yorkshire Dales River Trust said: “The donation from Yorkshire Water is greatly appreciated as this has enabled us to work with farmers and landowners to manage the impact of livestock farming on the local river eco-system. We’d also like to thank volunteers who have helped carry out this work on the river which has enhanced its status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.”

Since the project began in April, local community volunteers have helped create a cleaner and healthier tributary that supports a diverse range of fish such as brown trout, grayling and bullhead.

Volunteer work has stabilised an eroding section of river bank by creating a natural living willow fence that will reduce the amount of soil seeping into the water course.

A 400-metre stretch of bank-side fencing has also been fitted to control where cattle can access the river for drinking water. 

Ben Aston, biodiversity advisor at Yorkshire Water said: “We’ve supported this project because as well as improving the river habitat, it will help to make water quality improvements to the River Wharfe, a source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. We are committed to working with partners such as the Trust, to help look after wildlife and habitats across the region, and ensure we continue to deliver an excellent service for our customers without compromising the natural environment."

The River Wharfe is one of just 40 rivers in England protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSi).

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