Expert to give talk on healthy rivers after north Richmondshire pollution incident

A dead fish in Skeeby Beck after a pollution incident last year.

A talk on what constitutes a healthy river will place next week following a pollution incident last year.

Hundreds of fish and other wildlife are thought to have died after slurry got into the stream which runs through Gilling West and Skeeby in April last year.

The waste got into the watercourse from tanks at a site near Hutton Magna, with farm bosses saying vandals were to blame for the release.

Since then a group, Holmedale Community Nature group, has been formed to help look after the watercourses.

The group has organised a talk from Charlotte Simmons, from the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, about what aspects are considered when a river is thought to be healthy or not.

Martha McBarron, from the Holmedale group, said: “When the Holme to Skeeby Beck in north Richmondshire ran black for 15 hours from pollution last April, residents and anglers mobilised to alert the authorities to investigate while clean up began.

“A crowd funding campaign set up for restoration of the beck raised nearly £6,000 and by August, under a separate initiative, a new team of volunteers had been trained to undertake river fly monitoring at 11 sites across the catchment to monitor the beck recovery and identify future pollution.

Matha said the incident reminded people how important healthy watercourses are to our local wildlife.

“Around the same time, work was starting to form a new nature improvement initiative in Holmedale, started by Lizzie Rumble and Sally Zaranko of Whashton.

“When residents of Whashton, Ravensworth, Kirby Hill, Dalton, Gayles, Newsham and Barningham were consulted about what types of nature boosting activities they would like to prioritise, improved management of local rivers, streams and adjacent land came top of the list.

“Although many would agree with this activity as a priority, it may not be obvious where to start or even how to tell whether our watercourses are healthy.”

Martha said the Holmedale group invited staff from the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust to meet with them and visit some of their local becks.

“It was quickly apparent that the wealth of experience at the Rivers Trust would be important to furthering the Holmedale project objectives.

“Consequently, the group is pleased to be welcoming Charlotte Simmons, senior catchment partnership officer, to speak on the topic of healthy rivers.”

Charlotte will be covering the aspects of a river that are considered when deciding on whether a river is healthy or not from the perspective of the water framework Directive, as well as what to look for in a healthy natural river.

Charlotte has worked for over 30 years in conservation from agri-environment work on the ground to project management.

In her current role at the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, she hosts the Dales to Vale Rivers Network, a partnership of people and organisations working together across the Swale, Ure, Nidd, Ous, Wiske, Foss and Wharfe river catchments.

What is a Healthy River, a talk by Charlotte Simmons, will be held at Dalton and Gayles Village Hall on Monday, January 22 at 7.30pm.

There is a £2 donation to include refreshments.

Further talks and activities are planned, organisers say.

For further information about the Holmedale nature project and to get involved, email