Fish back in Bradford beck

electrofishingThe Environment Agency recently did an electrofishing survey on Bradford Beck – here are the (encouraging) results:

Bradford Beck at Cemetery Road = 51 Brown Trout and 50+ Bullheads

Bradford Beck near A657 Road Bridge (upstream of gauging station) = 15 Brown Trout, 8 Bullhead and 14 Stone Loach (plus there were three other Brown Trout seen but not caught)

Clayton Beck at Leaventhorpe Lane Stables = 16 Brown Trout and 44 Bullhead

It appears the beck has made a full recovery following the almost total wipe out below Bradford four or five years ago.

(PS The photo is NOT from Bradford Beck, it’s a generic electrofishing photo I had)

More new fish passes – at Burley Mills Weir and St Ann’s Mills Weir

St Anns Mills fish passTwo new fish passes have been opened at Burley Mills Weir and St Ann’s Mills Weir on the River Aire alongside Commercial Road in Kirkstall, Leeds.

The passes have been built by the Aire Rivers Trust in partnership with Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency.

The Burley Mills Fish Pass, located in attractive surroundings, can be seen from the public viewing point at the weir.

The £400,000 Kirkstall project was funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund which is administered by the Environment Agency. Leeds City Council will be taking ownership of the two fish passes.

The fish passes will enable the current fish populations of brown trout and coarse fish to move freely past the weirs to find the best places to feed, shelter, spawn and grow.

In the longer term the two fish passes will be a part of a chain which will allow salmon and sea trout to reach their historic spawning grounds upstream in Leeds, Bradford and the Craven District of North Yorkshire.

The weirs at Kirkstall have been a barrier to upstream movement of fish for around 200 years and the fish passes will not only improve fish stocks but will also improve the general ecology of the river.

Kevin Sunderland, Chairman of the Aire Rivers Trust, said that water quality improvements over the last 40 years have led to improved fish populations and this has meant that fish passes have become necessary to allow the river to reach its full potential. He also paid tribute to the help and co-operation which the Trust had received from various departments within Leeds Council and thanked the Environment Agency for providing the necessary funding and technical advice.

Neil Trudgill, Fisheries Technical Specialist at the Environment Agency said: “We are delighted to have worked with the Aire Rivers Trust on this project and congratulate the Trust on completing the project early and under budget.

“Angling is very popular in Leeds city centre and these passes will help improve our fish populations to benefit people and the environment. When fish are able to move freely up and down rivers, they are also less vulnerable to the occasional accidental pollution incidents that still occur in our rivers.”

[Environment Agency Press releases, this Press Release]

Fish in the River Aire

River Aire Fish 2012

Kevin Sunderland, our Chairman, had been busy. He has produced an excellent paper on fish populations in the River Aire. The latter part relates to each species of fish and where it can be found. The first part is a bit more general and may be of interest to those who aren’t particularly fish people.

An edited version of this report appeared in The Naturalist  No 138 (2013).

River restoration wiki

The RESTORE partnership has a site documenting the case studies of river restoration project studies at The link also gets you to the same site

More specifically the Rodley and Kirkstall projects case studies can be seen at

Information about the rivers wiki can be found at the River Management Blog website and background information about the wiki can be found at European Centre for River Restoration (

Rodley fish pass in the Yorkshire Post

Promises of a new wealth of fish in our waterways

The Yorkshire Post carried a nice piece about the Rodley Fish pass, here is the text…

Rodley Fish PassUntil recently the possibility of salmon and sea trout swimming in the Aire seemed as likely as pigs flying in the sky. It has been almost two centuries since the people of Leeds, Bradford and the surrounding countryside have had the pleasure of observing, or indeed catching, such creatures. But this is about to change.

The Aire Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency now agree that salmon and sea trout, along with eels and brook lamprey, will begin repopulating the Aire within the next five years.

It is the region’s industrial legacy, in the form of a series of more than 20 weirs coupled with poor water quality that has prevented migratory fish from reaching the upper river. During the industrial revolution, the Aire was pumped with waste from factories and urban centres, and as recently as the late 20th century, outdated sewage treatment plants prolonged its water pollution problems.

But now, thanks to better regulation and de-industrialisation, water quality has improved and is no longer a limiting factor for fish. Even in urban centres like Leeds, grayling, a fish which seeks out the cleanest water, have been spotted.

Freshwater trout now breed throughout the Aire catchment area, right up to where the river rises at Malham. Downstream, the Environment Agency has caught sea trout weighing up to 8lbs, and recorded up to 25 salmon an hour at Knottingley weir.

As fish have returned, so have otters and heron. Otters have been caught on CCTV at Granary Wharfe in Leeds city centre and are increasingly common in the upper catchment area.

The return of salmon and sea trout to the upper river is now prevented only by a handful of man-made weirs. Pete Turner, fisheries officer at the Environment Agency, says: “Ten years ago you might have looked at it and had your head in your hands, but actually it’s happening. Structures and passes are being built.

“The River Aire’s my river. It has its issues, but we’re putting in place what we think is the right thing.”

Kevin Sunderland, chairman of the Aire Rivers Trust, is equally passionate about the river’s fisheries. He says the possibilities for salmon and sea trout will change after the biggest remaining challenge, the weir near Knostrop sewage treatment works in South Leeds, has been developed.

At both Knostrop and Crown Point, a smaller weir between Knostrop and Leeds Railway Station, new moving weirs will be built as part of the £50m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. Construction is due to begin this year and is scheduled to be completed next year. It means that if the rains are favourable, salmon and trout will be able to reach West Yorkshire’s great cities.

“Knostrop is the killer,” says Mr Sunderland.

“I’ve seen salmon and trout there trying to get up. It’s the shape of it. It projects out at the bottom, which make it very hard for the fish to climb.”

Beneath Leeds Railway Station itself, the river flows under the Dark Arches, a complex of massive underground channels, roads and walkways belonging to Network Rail, which is working with the Environment Agency to ensure fish can get through.

Mr Sunderland believes minimal intervention will be required. “It might just be a matter of bolting in some boulders to slow the current and give the fish somewhere to rest.”

A couple of miles up the river, the Aire Rivers Trust has been building two fish passes in Kirkstall with support from Leeds City Council and Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund. Its weir at St Anns is now operational and work is underway at Burley Mills.

Last year the Environment Agency completed a new fish pass at Rodley, between Leeds and Shipley which is owned and maintained by Yorkshire Water. Between 2015 and 2020, Yorkshire Water will be investing £10m on a further 20 barriers to fish passage on Yorkshire rivers and their tributaries.

Neil Trudgill of the Environment Agency says: “The fish bypass at Rodley is an essential step in the recovery of the river’s fish populations.

“The naturalised design will provide a passage around the weir as well as a habitat in which fish and other aquatic life can actually live, feed and grow.”

Further upstream, at Hirst Weir in Shipley, members of Bradford Amateur Rowing Club are working with the Environment Agency to raise money for repairs to the weir. Work on designs for a fish pass, which will be installed as part of the project, is underway.

But although progress has exceeded expectations, there’s still work to do. For example at Chapel Haddlesey, the tidal limit of the Aire, and Armley Mills, next to Leeds Industrial Museum, the building of fish passes has stalled due to interest in hydro energy projects.

The Environment Agency has already produced a design for a fish pass at Armley Mills, but the scheme is on hold while Leeds City Council evaluates the site. There is no completion date for the project yet, and currently no schedule for construction.

However, at Armley, Chapel Haddlesey and elsewhere, developers of hydro projects are obliged to build fish passage into their plans.

Knottingley Weir remains one of the biggest barriers to fish passage on the Aire and Calder river system. Migratory fish are able to ascend the weir when it floods in periods of heavy rainfall, but their progress upstream can be delayed for months in dry summers. A new fish pass has been mooted.

More work on our waterways can be expected. Under the Water Framework Directive, the Government is committed to a self-sustaining population of migratory fish in the Aire and other Yorkshire rivers by 2021.

Kevin Sunderland, chairman of the Aire Rivers Trust, says it is on track to beat that target. “The river’s set to impro ve to a standard which couldn’t have previously been considered possible.”


Leeds flood defence work starts

Construction has begun on a £50M flood defence scheme in Leeds.

Gates will be built to control the flow of the river Aire; an island between the river and a canal will be removed; and raised defences will be created.

The project will protect more than 150 businesses and reduce the potential disruption of flooding for 3,000 city centre flats.

Leeds City Council and the private sector have contributed to the cost of the scheme, alongside £35M from central government.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “In addition to protecting existing homes and businesses we expect to see a substantial number of new jobs created in Leeds over the next 10 years so it is vital we invest in infrastructure to protect the area.

“We are spending more than ever before to protect our economy from the risk of flooding and this new defence will do exactly that.”

More information

DEFRA/Ministerial Press Release (Owen Paterson) 24-Apr-2014

Flood Alleviation Scheme including visualisation images and a YouTube flythrough visualisation video (2:48) (n.b. travelling upstream)

Scheme leaflet (PDF 3.5MB)

Invasive Species – Law Commission report

11 February 2014, Today the Law Commission published its final report on the control of invasive non-native species. See the Law Commission Wildlife Law project pages

Reference number: LC342


Law Commission wildlife project and the species control report

In July 2011, the Law Commission began a project on wildlife law. Its terms of reference were: to review the law on the protection, management, usage and welfare of wildlife in England and Wales, and to make recommendations for its simplification and modernisation.

Barbel stocking in the Aire…

Fisheries experts will be stocking 6,000 barbel at several locations in Yorkshire this week as part of the Environment Agency’s ongoing plans to develop and restore rivers in the region.

All reared at the Environment Agency’s fish farm, 3,000 barbel will be stocked into the  River Aire at six locations between Kildwick and Thwaites Mill.

These rivers have suffered from poor water quality and habitat loss in the past, but a concerted effort by Yorkshire Water, industry and the Environment Agency has helped turn these watercourses around.

More information here on the EA website.

Project should open up waterways to migrating fish

A NEW fish pass in Leeds will form part of a wider plan to help migratory fish and wildlife swimming back to repopulate waterways.

Yorkshire Water, which owns land forming part of Rodley Nature Reserve and one side of a weir at the site, hopes a new fish pass at the site will help salmon, sea trout and eels to ascend to the River Aire.

Kathryn Turner, Biodiversity Advisor at Yorkshire Water, said they are committed to improving the water and bring back freshwater wildlife. She said: “I had a male otter chattering at me from the undergrowth on the bank and saw dippers and grey wagtails already making it their home.”

Now four more fish passes on the River Aire are at the planning stage with two – Knostrop Weir and Crown Point Weir in Leeds – expected to have new moving weirs built as part of Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, aimed at preventing flooding during extreme weather conditions, at a cost of just over £50 million.

Two further passes, at Ann’s Mills Weir and Burley Mills Weir in Kirkstall, are planned by the Aire Rivers Trust and would be financed with funds obtained by DEFRA.

Kevin Sunderland, Chairman of the Aire Rivers Trust said: “A pass was installed in Castleford Weir in 2007. But further fish passes are necessary at Chapel Haddlesey and Knottingley, downstream of Leeds to improve fish passage.”

The River Aire was full of migrating fish until the Industrial Revolution polluted many rivers – but according to Mr Sunderland they are now back to 1830s conditions.

The work should be completed by March 2015.

From The Yorkshire Post

Becknik 2

The next Becknic is at 2pm on Sunday 13th Oct towards the beginning of the Beck in a rural spot near Thornton.  Eddie has arranged singing and story-telling.  The site is nice and clean so no litter pick needed!  Bring your picnic blanket or folding chair  and of course your picnic.  a flyer is attached – pass on to your friends and family.

Becknic 2