We’ve now completed our year-long community engagement project, funded by the Cummins Community Foundation. Focussing primarily on the River Holme in Lockwood and Spa Wood, the Our Holme project had a number of objectives: river environment improvements, training, education and community engagement.
Helped by teams of volunteers and other community organisations, including Greenstreams, we improved 855m of footpath in Spa Wood, cleared 314 bags worth of litter from paths and woodland, improved the seating areas and installed railings and revamped waymarkers at either end of the Spa Wood path. Together, we also cleaned up 5,530m of river removing 1 bed, 1 television, 5 scooters and bikes and 6 traffic cones, among other carelessly discarded items.
“Spa Wood is a hidden gem and a haven for wildlife. You can walk through woodland alongside the river, all the way from Scar Lane in Lockwood to Queen’s Mill Lane, yet so many people don’t even know that the path exists. By improving the paths and access, we hope to encourage more people to use Spa Wood for walking to work in the town centre and for leisure and recreation,” said Simon Hirst, River Steward, River Holme Connections.
The project has been about much more than litter picking and path improvements. We trained six volunteers, giving them a recognized qualification in the use of pesticides. This allowed us to spend 58 days treating invasive species including Japanese knotweed. The treated areas have since been replanted with almost 2,850 native plants grown by local volunteers.
Perhaps the most important benefit of the Our Holme project is the education and community engagement aspect.
“Clearing litter and invasive species is important but these are the symptoms. What the Cummins Foundation funding has allowed us to do is to start treating the cause, which is lack of knowledge and lack of care. We need to educate people about rivers: why they’re important to our lives, how people’s actions have an impact and what they can do to help keep our rivers and the wildlife they support healthy,” said Simon.
“It’s especially important to get the message across to young people who will become the future custodians of the river environment. That’s why a big part of the Our Holme project concentrated on education,” Simon added.
Over the year, we’ve delivered 14 school education days, giving almost 1,100 young people the opportunity to learn more about our rivers. For some of the young people it was the first time that they’d visited the river. Adult and family community events also took place in Lockwood and Spa Wood, while special river-themed events were held at Aden View and Norman Hudson Nursing Homes for their elderly residents.
The year-long project concluded with the Our Holme Festival, a two-day celebration of all things river related held at the University of Huddersfield. Day one saw around 165 people attend a series of talks by industry leading professionals. On the second day, 120 pupils from local schools visited the University to find out more about our rivers and why we need to look after them.
This is by no means the end. The project has provided a valuable legacy. It funded a student placement and Ryan Lloyd joined our team in April for five months. Helped by volunteers, Ryan spent the summer mapping the River Holme and tributaries. His work involved recording detailed information about wildlife habitats, invasive species, barriers to fish migration and more, giving us a true picture of the state of the River Holme catchment.
“Part of the education process involves understanding the scale of the challenges our rivers face, which is why Ryan’s work has provided such a valuable legacy for our charity. It will inform our future work, allowing us to target problem areas and work much more effectively. It will also provide a benchmark so that, in future, we can measure how successful our work has been in improving the health of our rivers and wildlife,” said Simon.
We’re now looking to secure funding to expand the education programme to include all 21 schools in the river catchment, for at least five-years, which will help to educate the next generation about how we can care for and improve our river environments.