FROM its source in the hills near Queensbury to the River Calder in Brighouse, Clifton Beck weaves it way through several communities.

The tributary runs for more than ten miles, passing through south Bradford into Calderdale, taking in areas including Wyke, Buttershaw and Bailiff Bridge.

For almost two years the watercourse has been the focus of a project, Improving Clifton Beck’s Water, spearheaded by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT).

The £75,000 project - which has been extended from its original 20 months - was established with the aims of improving the quality of the water, providing a better habitat for wildlife and making the beck a safe, pleasant attraction for local people to enjoy.

When the project began in 2016 the waterway had a ‘moderate’ classification, placing it among some of the ‘poorest functioning rivers in the country, said the Trust. It was given a target of achieving a ‘good’ ecological condition by 2017, and has been successful.

“We have been working at three different sites - at the top of the catchment near Booby Green Farm in Queensbury, at Judy Woods and at Wellholme Park in Brighouse,” says Ellie Barham, YWT’s projects team leader (west).

“At each we have gone and looked at any issues at the sites, which vary. All our actions have been small scale interventions which improve habitat and the environment around the beck. The knock-on effects improve water quality.

“We have also been working at Judy Woods with the Friends of Judy Woods group who are fantastic, they are really active.”

Activities to improve the beck include willow spiling - using living willow in places where unnatural erosion has taken place, for example where the banks have suffered due to bankside footpaths. Live willow rods are woven between live willow uprights and the area behind is filled with soil into which plants can root.

“Spiling not only stabilises the bank but improves and creates habitats for fish, birds and wildlife,” says Ellie. Already, the amount of sediment finding its way into the water has decreased.

At Bobby Green Farm 520 trees have been planted on either side of the beck, reducing surface water run-off to prevent erosion and diffuse pollution along the waterway.

Footpath stabilisation has been carried out in Wellholme Park in Brighouse. “We have created access points to the beck so people can get to it at defined rather than random places,” says Ellie. “We want people to enjoy the beck and its wildlife - that is an important element. The project is to benefit both.”

Many native broadleaf trees and wildflowers have been planted, and plants reseeded. Work has also been carried out to improve woodland and create green corridors for wildlife.

Funded in the main by the Heritage Lottery, the project has also received cash from the Environment Agency and the Calder & Colne Rivers Trust.

Communities have taken the project to their hearts, with more than 100 volunteers helping out. “There are some very active groups, such as the Friends of Judy Woods,” says Ellie, “Some people come along on their own or with friends, some come regularly, others as a one-off. Their help has been invaluable.”

The beech woodland at Judy Woods has been thinned out and the whips - very young trees - cut back.

As part of the project – which is also supported by Bradford and Calderdale councils – swathes of Himalayan Balsam have been removed from the beck’s banks to stop the invasive species from setting seed and spreading. Left unchecked, it can cause soil erosion which changes the shape of river banks and causes rivers to silt up.

Volunteers have collected water samples to record the number and type of species present - valuable data which will help to shape conservation work in the future.

The beck project has also involved working with local land managers to raise awareness of sensitive land management practices, and working with local primary school children to raise awareness about water quality issues.

Sarah Goldsmith, YWT’s Inspiring People Officer, says: “The project met its targets and the condition of the beck has improved, We are very pleased about the results especially the community engagement side of it.”

Some areas along the course of the beck have had issues with anti-social behaviour.

“At Wellholme Park the trees we planted were pulled up by vandals. Several people reported it, and a volunteer went along immediately and replanted them,” says Ellie. "He did it off his own bat."

A site that has recently been added to the project, Blackshaw Beck, a natural green park which runs along the border between Bradford and Calderdale, has been a target, with fires deliberately started and rubbish dumped.

Efforts are being made to address this, with a meeting organised by Bradford Council’s Neighbourhood Service, between members of the fire service, Bradford police, YWT and residents.

And on Saturday a community action day will be held at the park when volunteers will be equipped to help clean up the area and also learn about the diverse species living there.

“We are also hoping in the coming weeks to be able to carry out some landscaping work and widen the beck, as at present it is canalised and quite thin,” says Ellie, “It will then attract more wildlife. The efforts being made by the different partners will reassure the community that people do care.”

Councillor Angela Tait (Lab, Royds), says: “The partnership work we are doing is so important to show the area is loved and cared for. Blackshaw Beck is a site that has been a bit neglected, and is a beautiful resource. If looked after it will become a real asset to the community. ”

The work on each stretch of beck is providing opportunities for local people to play a part in the recovery of their local becks

“It is reinvigorating the becks and the communities,” says Ellie.

*To help at the community action day, meet at 10.30 am on Saturday August 18 at the Farfield Avenue entrance to the park.