Haweswater scoops major nature conservation award

A partnership involving the RSPB, United Utilities, the Environment Agency and Natural England has won a major nature conservation award for a valley restoration project at Haweswater.The Swindale Valley Restoration Project beat off stiff competition to win this year’s ENDS Environmental Impact Award for Natural Environment Project of the Year, which was presented at a ceremony in London last week (Thursday 4 May). It also received a commendation in the Partnership of the Year category.For the past three years, the RSPB who manage two farms at Haweswater have been restoring Swindale Valley in partnership with landowner United Utilities for the benefit of nature and people.

The centrepiece of the project has been the restoration of a stretch of Swindale Beck, the river that runs through the valley.

Around two centuries ago, part of Swindale Beck was straightened, in order to create more farmland. Unfortunately, this modification made life difficult for wildlife, increased downstream flood risk and reduced the quality of drinking water.

Last summer, the RSPB and United Utilities - working in partnership with the Environment Agency and Natural England - restored the natural bends to the straightened section of the Beck. This has slowed down the flow of the river and has already benefited wildlife, with salmon spawning in the new stretch. The slower, meandering flow will also provide more habitat for a range of other wildlife and plants, as well as improve water quality before it arrives in Haweswater reservoir, and help reduce the risk of downstream flooding.

In addition to the river restoration, conservation work in Swindale Valley has also including tree planting, hay meadow restoration and blocking drains to make the peat soils wetter and healthier. United Utilities’ redevelopment of the drinking water intake on Swindale Beck was another key element of the project, ensuring the health of the river downstream, as well as incorporating a pass to allow migrating salmon and other fish access the restored section of the beck.

Lee Schofield, RSPB Site Manager at Haweswater, said: “We are delighted to have won this award and would like to say a big thanks to all our dedicated volunteers and partners who have played a massive role in making this valley restoration project a success.”  

“Our work in Swindale Valley is a major part of our overall plan to farm in harmony with nature at Haweswater, managing the land in a way that provides many benefits for people and nature alongside the agricultural business.”

John Gorst, Catchment Partnership Officer from United Utilities said: “This award is a fantastic achievement and has resulted from the great partnership working between United Utilities, the RSPB, Natural England and the Environment Agency. The river restoration, alongside the wider catchment improvements, will help to deliver a wide range of improvements for nature, water quality and a number of other public benefits.

“As these improvements to the Swindale valley develop, we look forward to learning more about sustainable catchment management and the benefits it can provide.”

The ENDS Environmental Impact Awards is a new award scheme celebrating sustainability achievement across the broad environmental profession. It aims to showcase the positive impacts that environmental professionals and organisations have on the environment, for society, for customers, and for their staff.