River Aire

River Aire Upper Catchment

The Upper Aire Catchment covers a surprisingly large area of North and West Yorkshire, from Malham on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales in the north across to Earby on the Lancashire border in the west and down to Keighley near Bradford. Of the 20 waterbodies encompassed by the catchment, over half are failing to meet good ecological status as defined by the EU-driven Water Framework Directive.

In 2011 the Upper Aire Land Management Project, a collaboration between Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and the Yorkshire Farming and Wildlife Partnership (YFWP), was set up with the aim of addressing watercourse failures along the Aire.

Key Aims

The project works with landowners and others to improve agricultural practices, manage diffuse agricultural pollution and restore habitats for wildlife.

What we are doing

Surveys & Landowner Engagement                           

Initially, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust undertook a series of detailed walkover surveys along 95 km of watercourse, over a dozen waterbodies, pinpointing problem locations. We have engaged landowners with our partners, carrying out whole farm appraisals and infrastructure audits, highlighting key opportunities for beneficial action and offering practical advice on nutrient management planning.

Work on the Ground                                         

Over the last 6 years we have targetted practical land based interventions across the catchment. Working with over 70 different landowners, across almost 9000 ha of land, we have to date:  installed 30 km of fencing and 18 livestock drinking bays, constructed 1500m of living willow and log/brash revetment and planted over 100 ha of woodland and 1500m of hedgerow. We have also managed 15 ha of woodland through coppicing, thinning and pollarding and restored 400m of hedgerow through re-planting and laying.                                                       

Natural Flood Management                      

An additional and complementary impact of the practical work we have carried out has been using techniques to hold back potentially damaging flood waters in the upper catchment and slowing the flow into the main river channel. We are hoping that in the wake of the devastating Boxing Day floods of 2015 that our contribution of natural flood management  techniques will help us to develop and improve these approaches on the Upper Aire, helping protect downstream communities such as Gargrave, Bingley and Leeds.            

How you can help

Although the scale and nature of the works on the Upper Aire Project may not be particularly suitable for individual volunteers we are always keen to involve groups such as corporate teams that can provide their own transport to site. If you know of, or have, a group that are interested then contact neilan.mylvaganam@ywt.org.uk.


Over the last 6 years funding and support from a range of organisations include: Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, SITA Trust, Biffa Award, Natural England, the Wild Trout Trust, Aire Rivers Trust and Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

We won two national awards for this work: The Wild Trout Trust large project Award in 2015 and the Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice in 2016.