The Rivers Trust Movement, comprised of more than 60 local Rivers Trusts, has had eight successful applications to the Green Recovery Fund. This unprecedented financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, Forestry Commission, and the Environment Agency will help to improve river environments for people and wildlife across England.

The second round of awards in the fund, announced yesterday, represents a total of £40 million to be distributed to 90 projects across the country. It will support a range of nature conservation and recovery and nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards the Government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments.

Eight projects delivered by Trusts across England and the Welsh border region will use the funding to deliver a range of vital benefits, including restoring river biodiversity, bettering canoe access on a precious chalk steam, and a host of community health and wellbeing initiatives.

The successful Trusts from the Rivers Trust movement were:

  • Bristol Avon Rivers Trust
  • Don Catchment Rivers Trust
  • Mersey Rivers Trust
  • Norfolk Rivers Trust
  • Ribble Rivers Trust
  • River Waveney Trust
  • Welsh Dee Trust
  • Tees Rivers Trust

Further details about these initiatives is provided below.

Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “As The Rivers Trust movement, our great strength is an ability to deliver real river improvements at scale. This funding is invaluable in helping our incredible local Trusts to do exactly that, and I can’t wait to see the results.”

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust Simon Hunter, Chief Executive Officer said: “The Green Recovery Challenge Fund will enable us to deliver suite of nature-based solutions in the Chew Valley, including planting of riverside trees and raising awareness of the actions local communities can take to improve the health of our local rivers. This project will deliver towards the wider River Chew Reconnected plan that aspires to create a healthy and resilient river and catchment; where nature thrives and which communities can access and enjoy, both now and in the future.”

David Diggens, CEO of Norfolk Rivers Trust, said: “Together with our partners, we’re more than delighted to receive this magnificent grant which will enable us to deliver an ambitious and significant landscape-scale restoration project to enhance these two river catchment areas in North Norfolk as part of the Green Recovery. This funding comes at a crucial time when our water environments have been overwhelmed by a number of threats including pollution, development, climate change and biodiversity loss.”

Martha Meek, River Waveney Trust Development Manager, said: “This is fantastic news for the River Waveney Trust. We are a small organisation and this will make a huge difference to what we can achieve. We are delighted to have received funding for a project that has multiple benefits to many river users, as well as our local environment. Our thanks go to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund for choosing our project and we very much look forward to recruiting our third member of staff.”

Rachel Walker, Operations Director at Don Catchment Rivers Trust, added: “We are so pleased the fund chose to invest in our Trust. We focused on community wellbeing throughout the pandemic, and now we are thrilled to be able to offer new jobs and opportunities in the Rivers Trust and expand our work for the benefit of the people living in the Don Catchment.” 

Don Catchment Rivers Trust’s Green Recovery Fund scheme will see the Trust working at the top and bottom of the catchment. On the river Rother the fund will pay for phase II of the Trust’s ‘Slow the Flow to the Calow’ Natural Flood Management project at Grassmoor Country Park near Chesterfield. This will include community engagement in citizen science, and provide a Kick Start post for a young conservationist. In the lower Don the Trust will expand its popular volunteering scheme and engage with landowners to implement a programme of community based NFM along streams leading to the Don. The project will provide an opportunity for a new project officer to lead on community engagement and volunteering.

Other Rivers Trust projects:

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) will receive £97,700 for its ‘River Chew Re-connected’ project, which will deliver two river habitat enhancement schemes. 500m of riparian enhancements will improve aquatic, marginal and terrestrial habitat. This includes the planting of approximately 2,000 riparian trees and shrubs, and the creation of several seasonal ponds across two sites to reduce surface water runoff from agricultural fields and increase floodplain habitat diversity. Alongside physical works on the ground, BART will deliver a community Sustainable Water Usage project that will engage local communities and schools to also take action to protect our rivers, delivered with a new part-time Community Engagement Officer.

Mersey Rivers Trust is delighted to announce that its ‘Bollin Biodiversity’ project is to receive £109,000. Working in partnership with the River Bollin Environmental Action and Conservation (BEACON) group, Cheshire East Council, Tatton Estates, National Trust and Natural England, the funding will help bring the biodiversity of the River Bollin back to health. It will also engage more people with their local river for health, wellbeing and recreation. Local volunteers will help reverse the decline of native plant species along the River Bollin, planting native trees and wildflowers to improve river valley habitats. We will also restore river reaches prone to erosion or siltation. The funding will create new reedbeds to tackle diffuse pollution and improve the condition of the internationally important Tatton Mere wetland site.

Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Norfolk Coast (AONB) Partnership will receive £885,400 for the ‘Norfolk’s Two Chalk Rivers – Restored, Revitalised, Resilient’ project to deliver 20km of river restoration on the Hun and Stiffkey – two chalk rivers of international importance. The project will implement a range of nature-based solutions to improve water quality, biodiversity and habitat connectivity with the added benefit of capturing carbon and mitigating the impacts of climate change. A comprehensive community plan has been created which includes a variety of training workshops including filmmaking, species identification surveys and riverfly monitoring. Along with many opportunities for volunteers, the project will provide 6 jobs and 4 kickstart placements for 16–24-year-olds.

Ribble Rivers Trust will use their funding as part of the Health & Environmental Action Lancashire partnership to build on their developing evidence base on health and wellbeing to to inspire communities, safeguard jobs, & connect people with nature through education, training, recreation & volunteering.

The River Waveney Trust’s ‘Canoe Access and Biodiversity’ project will improve 22.5 miles of public canoe and paddle access on the River Waveney, one of only 12 rivers in the UK with a public access arrangement. This will involve a long-term ‘River Wardens’ volunteer citizen science programme, which will survey the river for obstacles and restoration opportunities. Biodiversity will be enhanced along the river by restoring the channel and planting trees to create river corridors and buffers. Not only will this project fund one new full-time role at the River Waveney Trust, bringing the team of staff to three members, it will bring paddlers and conservation into partnership, empowering volunteers to take action for nature.

Welsh Dee Trust will use the funding for their ‘Dee Blue Recovery’ project.

Tees Rivers Trust will receive £1,088,100 for the ‘Fish for Tees’ project, a source to sea conservation project which will deliver better green connectivity between uplands and estuarine projects. It will create intertidal habitat and improve fish passage along the river.  It will increase at-risk habitat and species, complementing similar innovative projects in the region to build a resilient mosaic of sea grass meadows and native oyster reefs. It will also directly deliver new methods of carbon capture, reduced flood risk and functioning river estuarine and marine ecosystems.

Matt & Ava’s Birdbox Project

At the beginning of April, we put up 7 bird boxes in an area along the River Rother where we had been doing litter picks. It is known as the ‘Rother Rec’, AKA ‘Rother Washlands’, on Storforth Lane in Chesterfield. Some of the bird boxes our volunteers had built using kits and others we found scattered around on the site where we were working but after a bit of a spruce-up they were good to go!

Putting up a robin box on the banks of the River Rother

Ava, one of our volunteers mentioned we would be able to monitor them as she has a bird ringing licence. So, after a week we popped back to have a look inside and to our surprise 4 out of 7 of the boxes had evidence of nests already being built. Each week we visited the boxes noting how far along the nest building is and of what material it is made out of.

Great Tit eggs
Blue Tit eggs

Once the nests were completed, we had found a number of eggs had been laid.

Brooding Blue Tit

And after a bit of brooding from the prospective parents, their eggs hatched!

But unfortunately it was not all plain sailing for our project….

We visited the site one day to find that two of our occupied nest boxes had been vandalised and nests destroyed. It’s a sad part of nature conservation, particularly in urban areas. It’s hard to understand why this happens but I think as we connect more with local communities with the nature that’s on their doorstep we can hopefully change people’s behaviour and relationship with the natural world.

We also had a blue tit nest fail after finding an abandoned nest with multiple dead chicks. It was a common theme amongst many blue tit nests across the country this year due to a cold, wet May as mentioned on Springwatch. Read more about this here.

But it was not all bad news!

Our pair of great tits successfully raised three chicks that managed to fledge but not before we were able to ring them.

All the information collected will go to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to help contribute to giving a better understanding of bird nesting behaviour and general bird ecology.

We will continue to monitor these boxes in future years and will make bird box building a regular part of our volunteer days from now on. Ava and I have also discussed future plans to build a number of dipper/wagtail boxes along the Hipper/Rother.

If you have any suggestions or are interested in getting involved with our bird box project, please email me at matt.duffy@dcrt.org.uk.


In this blog we hear from Anthony Cox, DCRT’s Project Assistant, on how you can help hedgehogs.

Earlier this month I was travelling home from a volunteer day in Chesterfield. That week a road was closed near my home so I took a different route home. As I was passing the former entrance to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park I saw a hedgehog in the road. It was unusual as Hedgehogs are nocturnal so shouldn’t be out in the daytime. I stopped down the street and ran back to look at the poor guy.

Anthony holding the rescued Hedgehog when he found her.

By the time I got back to the hedgehog it had gotten across the road and was sitting still. I immediately called Sally Hyslop (Community Engagement Officer) as I thought she would know what to do. I picked up the Hedgehog and carried it back to the car while Sally did some research on where we could take her. Sally called me back after a little while with an address for a rescue centre I could take the Hedgehog to.

River once she had arrived at the rescue centre. (Credit Annali Crawford Hog Hostel)

When I arrived at the Hog Hostel I was met by a lady called Annie who told me the Hedgehog was a female. She also asked me if I had a name in mind for the Hedgehog but I had none. We had talked a little about my job so Annie came up with the idea of calling her River. River was found to have Round Worm and Flukes and was given a treatment for them. She was nursed back to health and monitored to make sure she was putting on weight. River was released back into the wild on the 22nd June in Auckley. Most hedgehogs are released where they are found but as I found River on a busy road she was released elsewhere.

River just before she was released. (Credit Annali Crawford Hog Hostel)

Recently I discovered I have a hedgehog living in my front garden. It was extremely exciting to see it foraging in the grass. To help my hedgehog I bought a little shallow dish to put water in. Over the weekend my sister captured a picture of it drinking from the dish which was amazing to see but also made me really happy that I had helped it out.

The hedgehog that lives in Anthony’s front garden drinking from the dish he put out. Credit Emily Cox

What should you do to help Hedgehogs?

The best thing you can do if there is a hedgehog in your garden is put out a shallow bowl of water out in the garden for them to drink. Dehydration is one of the second biggest killer of Hedgehogs. You can also put out food for the hedgehogs. This can be cat or dog food that does not contain fish. Don’t dig around for worms to feed to them as they only feed on insects that live on the surface. It is a common misconception that we should give milk to hedgehogs. This is a fiction as Hedgehogs are extremely lactose intolerant so milk can make them very ill and cause them to die. The idea that hedgehogs like milk came from Tudor era where people believed they drank the milk from cow’s udders during the night. If you have pets they cannot catch fleas from the hedgehog as the two animals have different parasites that live on them. However it is still best to keep them away from any pets and keep them in a cold place (a shed or garage).

Why is it important to protect and rescue Hedgehogs? Hedgehogs are the declining at an extraordinary rate. Since the millennium hedgehogs have decreased by 30% in urban areas and 50% in rural areas. This is due to the increase in cars which has increased the amount of hedgehogs that are killed on the road. Also there has been a significant reduction in their habitat in rural areas due to the mechanisation and increase in the production of crops. We have to protect them as they have been classified as vulnerable to extinction in the UK. To try to prevent us loosing another of our native species it is best to nurse them back to health and release them.

How do I encourage hedgehogs to visit my garden?

The best way to encourage hedgehogs is by making a hole in your fence for them to pass through. You have to discuss it with your neighbours first but a small hole would allow a hedgehog to have the amount of territory it needs to forage for food. You can also plant bushes and hedges to allow them to have cover to nest in during the winter and when they sleep in the day time. You can also encourage hedgehogs by encouraging their prey into your garden. You can do this by creating areas of wildflower meadow and leaving sections of grass to go wild. This encourages insects to your garden which Hedgehogs love to snack on. Hedgehog houses are good if you want a resident to live in your garden. They provide a hedgehog with a solid structure to nest in which will protect them during the winter months. Please note that houses must be cleaned out once a year to reduce the risk of your hedgehog getting any diseases. It is best to do this between the breeding season and hibernation season – early September.

Anthony Cox has not been the only DCRT-er to rescue a hog this month. This next section is by our volunteer Antony Meadows, who built a hedgehog feeder out of bricks found on our volunteer days!

“About a month ago I noticed a hedgehog in full sunshine on my lawn. A hedgehog “sunbathing” like this is likely to be unwell. He was not reacting at all to my presence and was somewhat inert. 
I knew I had to do something, so I discovered online a local hedgehog rescue in Retford. I arranged with the lady there to take my hedgehog along. We discovered it was a male and I left him in her capable hands. She thought he probably had not been able to get enough food.
After about 3 weeks she rang to say I could bring him “home”. He had put on about 200 grams and was ready to leave! I hadn’t fed a hedgehog before, but as he had been struggling to get natural food, I decided to build him a feeding station. The bricks I’ve found while volunteering with DCRT finally came in handy! I’ve made it as cat proof as possible.
Since he’s returned I’ve seen him a couple of times at dusk inside his feeding station, and the food has been eaten. I have plenty of cover in my garden, so hopefully he will do ok now.”

Arthur the Hedgehog (credit Antony Meadows).