Meet our Catchment Champions

A key role for the ACCP is to engage people and groups from across the region to help improve our precious water environments. The ACCP Catchment Champions are a group of individuals already working hard throughout the catchment to do this. They represent the 7 operational catchments that make up the Aire and Calder. These are the Upper Aire, Middle Aire, Lower Aire, Upper Calder, Middle Calder, Lower Calder and the Colne and Holme.

The Catchment Champions will provide a valuable link to local groups within the Aire and Calder catchment. Their role will be an integral part of realising the partnerships vision:

“A healthy and wildlife rich water environment within the Aire and Calder that is valued and enjoyed, bringing increased social and economic benefits to all”

For the next couple of months we will profile a different Catchment Champion each week, so that you can get to know the person representing your area! This week focuses on the Colne & Holme Catchment Champions.

Colne & Holme Catchment Champion – Kim Warren

I have worked in the environmental sector for over 20 years. I currently work for River Holme Connections which is a Charity who work with a Catchment Based Approach, to improve the River Holme for people, businesses and wildlife. Established as a group of keen volunteers in 2014, we have engaged hundreds volunteers of all ages and backgrounds for over 3000 hours, transformed over 1mile of river access routes and engaged over 2000 people in education activities to improve their local riverside. With a firm commitment to ridding riverbanks of invasive species, we aspire to continue treatment and raising awareness of this threat to biodiversity in our area. Working with local groups and stakeholders, we create the opportunity for everyone to get involved in improving their local riverside and are delighted to be Catchment Champions for this stunning and varied river catchment.

The River Holme Connections team is comprised of three staff and a board of Trustees, with backgrounds in environmental management, practical conservation, engineering, education and the business sector.

A programme of events, more information and opportunities to get involved can be found on our website www.riverholmeconnections.org or via social media.

 

Colne & Holme Catchment Champion – Jeff Keenlyside

I’ve always had an affinity with water and much of my childhood was spent on the banks of (or in) the River Wear in Sunderland, fishing, cycling, swimming (not very sensible given the state of the river then!), bird-nesting and other things better not mentioned. Not exactly a good river steward but these ‘interests’ have continued into my later life, thankfully with a different slant so I am trying to make up for some of my earlier misdeeds.

My first piece of work after leaving university in the mid-nineties (as a mature student) was to put some proposals together for developing the River Colne in Huddersfield. Over the years some of these proposals have come to fruition. In particular, the non-existent public access to the river has been transformed, albeit there are still some gaps. Ultimately, the aim was a continuous network of connected greenspaces along the waterways corridor (as well as the river we have the Narrow and Broad Canals running through Huddersfield) linked by public access routes with related recreational and amenity opportunities. Essentially, a linear park of mainly informal open space.

Having access to the river is a vital step, as without this why would anyone be interested in it? That cultural disconnect between community and river, where the river’s only function was commercial to provide power and get rid of waste, is a barrier but things are changing and it’s great to see canoe facilities developed and anglers, some from afar, fishing for grayling and trout. Twenty years ago this would have been unimaginable but water quality has been transformed since then, even though more work is needed along with habitat improvements.

What we also need to do, if we are to make further inroads on that cultural shift, is to enhance the visitor experience to the river. The challenge we have always faced in that respect, is having the resources to maintain riverside access routes and greenspaces, so they are safe attractive areas to visit. This had been down to adhoc activity by local community groups and although this is an essential ingredient, it is not a long term solution for management, certainly in our case. Nor was or, is, public sector resourcing an option and it was with this in mind that we approached the business community along the river.

Back in 2015, we launched the Greenstreams Project Business Sponsorship scheme at the John Smiths Stadium, where businesses adopt and maintain specific areas of greenspace along the river corridor. Some enthusiastically took up the challenge (see www.greenstreams.org.uk ). Although modest in its achievements so far (and bearing in mind all of what has been achieved is without any dedicated paid staff), what we have done is establish that this model can and does work. It is also starting to gain traction and we now have more businesses taking up the sponsorship, which will add to our managed network of spaces.

We can achieve far more though if we work with others on a shared agenda. With the ACCP offering that wider strategic support and other initiatives such as those developed by River Holme Connections, partnership is key to future success. This includes developing improved river stewardship by all – businesses and residential communities – a must if we are to deal with some of the more difficult issues which cumulatively, have significant impacts. Not least of which is that of plastics in the marine environment, much of which comes from rivers. The latter, thanks to ‘Blue Planet 2’, has really captured public interest and outrage, asking, how did we get to this? Maybe the lesson is simple, the cumulative impact of 7 billion people using a technology without control, responsibility or accountability. The solution is more of those 7 billion people acting in a positive way, with responsibility and accountability. Hence the need for improved river stewardship. Following Blue Planet 2, the public mood is ripe for action and we should jump at the opportunity.

 

For more information

You can find out more about what’s going on in the Middle Calder Catchment by going to our Actionable Plan. Or if you have any queries, or want to find out how you can get involved in the area, then please get in touch – jeff.keenlyside@gmail.com or projectofficer@riverholmeconnections.org.