Progress on the Owler Beck restoration project

A project to improve water quality and biodiversity along Owler Beck has made some major strides!

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s river restoration project to improve water ways across the Owler Beck catchment has made major strides in just a few months. With funding from Veolia Environmental Trust and the Tesco Bags of Help Program along with the help of numerous partners, stakeholders, local community groups and fantastic volunteers, almost 2km of waterways have been improved in the catchment. The major project sites have been at Kettlethorpe Hall Lake, Newmillerdam Country Park and Seckar Wood.

Working in partnership with Wakefield Council and the Wakefield Angling Club, the project has completed a programme of works at Kettlethorpe Hall Lake. This work, funded by the Groundwork/Tesco Bags of Help Programme, was a multifaceted approach to improve the area’s water quality and wildlife. Banks and paths that had eroded into the pond have been stabilised and a small reed bed was planted near the outflow of the pond to help filter water from the pond reaching into Owler Beck. Further to the south on the beck, the invasive and damaging plant Himalayan balsam has been cleared, along with several hundred square metres of snowberry which was then replanted with over 300 native trees.

More river restoration works have taken place at Newmillerdam Country Park as part of our Veolia Environmental Trust funded project. Over 130 metres of eroding river banks have been stabilised by planting large rolls of native plants increasing the diversity of the site. Also on the site woody debris structures have been introduced into another section of the beck. These structures provide numerous benefits including creating habitat for breeding fish and insects by adding diversity to the flow and removing silt from the riverbed.

Alec Boyd, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Project Assistant said: “Many animals including fish and aquatic insects have difficultly surviving in water that is too silty as they lay their eggs on clean gravels. By stabilising the banks with new plants we can help reduce the amount of pollution reaching the water which will help these aquatic creatures survive.”

In December, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust organised a training session for water quality survey volunteers hosted at the RSPB Old Moor Wetland Centre. The training was delivered by the Angler’s Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) trainers and taught citizen science volunteers how to check water quality by identifying and counting various small invertebrates. This survey information goes directly to the Environment Agency and allows them to better monitor the catchment for negative changes to the water course.

Alec continued: “The best part of working in this project is getting to know the community when we are working on site. It is amazing how much support locals have for the environment and I think this enthusiasm will last long into the future.”

 Cllr Maureen Cummings, Cabinet Member for Environment and Communities at Wakefield Council, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, other partners and members of the local community to support this important initiative. It’s great these improvements to banks and paths will help local wildlife to flourish.”

 The Owler Beck catchment covers villages in the Wakefield area including Newmillerdam, Havercroft, Notton, and Ryhill. Specific sites where work will take place as part of Veolia project include Newmillerdam Country Park, Seckar Woods, and Notton Wood. The Veolia project began in May 2017 and work will continue for 18 months. There will continue to be task days throughout and water quality monitoring will hopefully continue into the future, with the help of local volunteers.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is a charity that relies on the support of its members, volunteers and funders to continue restoring wildlife for the benefit of everyone in generations to come. If you would like to get involved with the Owler Beck project, please contact