By Andy Hirst
A plan has been unveiled to create a riverside nature park near Huddersfield town centre.
The scheme would transform a two-mile stretch of the rivers Holme and Colne into an accessible haven for wildlife where people can get right back to nature.
But for it to happen, businesses based along the river will have to support the project and volunteers will be needed to help do the work.
If all goes to plan, the stretch from Lockwood to the rear of the John Smith’s Stadium could be transformed by the end of this year.
The project has been devised by not-for-profit company EPIKS (Environmental Projects in Kirklees) that provides environmental schemes and used to be known as Greenstreams.
It’s already been supported by three of the largest organisations that back onto the river – Cummins Turbo Technologies, the University of Huddersfield and the John Smith’s Stadium.
EPIKS communication and engagement officer Kim Warren said: “The Huddersfield Riverside Nature Park is a culmination of over 20 years’ work improving habitats, river health and access around our local rivers. Our ultimate ambition is to make this stretch along the river as accessible as the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
“At the moment the river is accessible in parts but what we want to do is give people access to nature and traffic-free routes. Regeneration work is going into Huddersfield town centre but people forget the rivers on the fringes are beautiful and can be rich in wildlife.”
She said ownership of rivers can be complex but people who own businesses or properties on the riverbank are responsible for their section of riverbank’s upkeep along with half of the river.
Kim added: “We need to make this section less grotty in parts and more accessible and inviting but it needs people to be committed to the project to make it happen. There are already pockets of green space and woodland here that are massively important to wildlife and large patches of land that are traffic-free such as Snow Island.”
She revealed that the university is even looking at parts of the river for hydro-electric power generation, especially as it has fast-flowing weirs.
She added: “The only way this will succeed is if we work in partnership with businesses along this stretch as everyone will benefit from a cleaner, greener river.”
One hope is that parts will become ideal for outdoor learning about nature and EPIKS are keen to involve nearby schools in the scheme.
A similar project organised by the charity River Holme Connexions are working hard to maintain and improve the bridleway along the river in Spa Wood from Lockwood Scar to King’s Bridge … yet many people don’t even know it exists.
Kim said: “This area was once blighted by fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour. Now it’s a pristine haven for wildlife.
“Other northern towns and cities have made concerted efforts to regenerate their river and canal systems such as Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster, Newcastle, Hebden Bridge and Manchester.”
EPIKS will now be holding consultations with the public as to what they would like to happen in the park and running volunteering events to crack on with some of the practical work.
They have already had help from Good Gym volunteers in Huddersfield, keen runners who do community work as part of their work out.
The hope is that the success of this project will eventually lead to a huge and wide-ranging scheme called the Three Valleys Nature Park that would include the valleys of the Holme, Colne and Calder throughout Kirklees.
Anyone wanting to volunteer should email volunteer engagement officer Anne Merry at email@example.com
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.