Progress with the 2014 Hebden Royd River Stewardship programme

The Town Council continues to support local organisations taking responsibility for their own environments.

The Town Council has awarded £3750.00 to Calder Future to further develop their River Stewardship Scheme that continues to support the work of the Environment Agency and Calderdale Council on the River Calder and its tributaries. Chair of Community Funding, Cllr James Fearon said "the time and effort put into projects like this must be commended and we are happy to continue to support Calder Future like we have on a number of different projects over the last 9 years."

An outline of the objectives and achievements of the River Stewardship Scheme follows, summarised by the Chair Anthony Rae.

At the request of Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency Calder Future is implementing a 'river stewardship' programme in Hebden Royd to reduce flood risk, by removing vegetation which would impede river flow during a high water event. This has now received a grant from the Town Council. You can read more about the basis of river stewardship here. Vegetation management by volunteers on a systematic basis, over a wide area and within a limited timeframe (e.g before the Himalayan Balsam starts to seed in August) is new to both Calder Future and Calderdale so this first year's programme is a learning exercise.

Activity: This is focussed in Mytholmroyd at the moment because we have available the Environment Agency modelling which defines what is the preferred technical intervention at this location; that for Hebden Bridge will be available shortly. Five volunteer work parties have been organised so far: 30th March (shoal opposite the petrol station): half day, 10 volunteers including from Calder High School; 26th April (Moderna Business Park): half day, 20 volunteers from Calder Valley Search & Rescue; 3rd June (centre of town): half day, 15 volunteers from Lloyds Banking Group 'Make a Difference'; 9th July (shoal opposite the petrol station): half day, 15 volunteers from Thomson Reuters 'Green Team' and Calder High School; and 11th July (centre of town): whole day, 30 volunteers from Lloyds Banking Group 'Make a Difference'. A further large team from Lloyds BG has now offered to participate on 12th August for a whole day. Together these six events will have contributed around 550 hours of volunteer time to the Myththolmroyd river bank location. An article about some of these events can be read here.

Effectiveness: A very considerable quantity of dense vegetation has been removed from sites above and in the centre of town, consisting mostly of Himalayan Balsam (up to 8 feet tall) and grass but intermixed with brambles and nettles. This means that the work has proved to be quite a challenge and not all town centre banks have yet been cleared (and of course there is more vegetation both up and downstream the removal of which might also reduce flood risk to the town). Having cleared this year's main summer growth the next stage of the exercise is to prepare for the more permanent suppression of vegetation by removing saplings from walls and turfs from the sediment shoals. Before and After photographs of sites are available but the best way for councillors to judge progress and effectiveness 'on the ground' is to periodically inspect the town centre riverbank. The clearance of the town centre sites has also meant that this aspect of Calderdale Council's flood resilience Pathfinder (funded by DEFRA), provided in response to the 2012 floods, is now highly visible to the local community. At the same time Calder Future is investigating with the Environment Agency the possibility of mechanically cutting the vegetation back – either with a mower or a strimmer – but this will not be possible on many sites.

Engagement: The response from both corporate and youth volunteer teams has been excellent and the thanks from the Town Council for their efforts would be appropriate in the circumstances. That from the local community has been slower – although one local resident (Roger Barr) has been exceptionally helpful - but it is to be hoped that the demonstration effect of what particularly the large teams from Lloyds Banking Group have been able to achieve will encourage more participation by local people. However if the Town Council and the likes of Royd Regeneration are able to take any action to further this process, that would be very helpful to put the project on a more certain basis, in that it requires an annual cycle of regular and planned activity. The principle of this programme is that, by volunteering some time and effort in advance, the community itself is able to better protect its interests and property in the future.

Anthony Rae
Calder Future

Added: Thursday, 24 July 2014

Photos from Hebden Royd