A project to create ‘nature-rich’ corridors along nearly 22km of river and tributaries and revive endangered species along the River Holme in Huddersfield has been given the green light by the Government.

Nature’s Holme, led and managed by South Pennines Park, will be supported by cross sector partners including River Holme Connections, Palladium, the University of Huddersfield, landowners and farmers. It covers an area of 2,800 hectares.

South Pennines Park, situated between the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, is the largest non-statutory national landscape in the UK and home to rare birds such as merlin, short-eared owl and twite.

The scheme, based in the south-east corner of South Pennines Park, will improve the River Holme – flowing from Holme village through towns including Holmfirth, Honley and Meltham, to Huddersfield town centre.

The pilot, one of 22 across the country to receive Government funding through the Landscape Recovery scheme, and backed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will involve groups of farmers and land managers working together to deliver environmental benefits across farmed and rural landscapes – improving soils, flood alleviation and water retention, increasing biodiversity carbon storage, and improved water quality.

With its high rainfall and local geology, South Pennines Park is a key area for water supply, with many reservoirs supplying water to nearby towns.

The River Holme in all its glory. Pic by: SEAN DOYLE

The two-year project development phase of landscape recovery will commence in winter 2022-23, which will determine the scope of work and deliverables. This will be met by a mixture of public and private investment.

Engagement with communities, farmers, landowners and key stakeholders will form a key part of the process – stimulating discussions, sharing knowledge and forming plans.

The project will also be supported by a PhD student from the University of Huddersfield who will be assisting with measurement and research.

Simon Hirst, river steward with River Holme Connections, which is providing ‘boots on the ground’ support, said: “The environment has suffered historically due to industrialisation. The weirs and urbanisation of the river channel have meant the river has been heavily modified.

“There is an opportunity to make it more natural by creating biodiversity-rich corridors to benefit people and wildlife.

“We didn’t want to narrow the scope of work. Although we were successful with our bid for river and stream restoration, we can do a lot of work that will bring benefits to the watercourse – like planting and providing habits for wildlife.”

The scheme will focus on: fish migration centred on old industrial weirs; hedgerows and planting; wildflower meadows; peat restoration; natural flood management; endangered species such as water voles and white-clawed crayfish; the eradication of non-native invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam; and sustainable financing.

Helen Noble, chief executive of South Pennines Park, said: “The landscape recovery scheme is being hailed by land managers and conservationists as the most exciting and important step in a generation to restore lost biodiversity.

“To halt the loss of habitats and species we need to act at a landscape scale, and pilots like Nature’s Holme are a crucial opportunity to get this right and prove a scalable business model.

“These projects will deliver hectares of nature rich habitats, as well as a significant range of public goods including carbon sequestration, reduced flood risk and biodiversity.

“It is our aim that by 2038 the River Holme catchment will be resilient to climate change, a place where nature and wildlife is connected and thriving and communities, visitors, and business value, enjoy and care.”