EPIKS are taking action for wildlife along the River Colne in Huddersfield. Viewers of David Attenborough’s latest series of Wild Isles will be both encouraged and dismayed to see that, while the UK has some of the richest and most diverse habitats on earth,  over half of insect populations and 80% of our meadows have been depleted since 1960.

Huddersfield is a densely populated town, but we have huge tracts of woodland and miles of riverbanks. Kirklees Council have a biodiversity action plan and aims to plant 30,000 hectares of trees each year by 2025,but have little control over river habitats and private land.

Here at Environmental Projects Kirklees (EPIKS) we have been working for over 20 years to improve the habitats along the River Colne but also to give people access to these greenspaces, so that people can be close to wildlife on their doorstep. We do this with the help of grant funding, sponsorship from the business community and the help of a team of dedicated volunteers.

In the last year alone, we have cleared, created and maintained 3km of riverside paths; transformed 1/3 hectare of commercial grounds to woodland and wildflower meadow and provided educational and training opportunities for 150 young people. By creating glades along footpaths, clearing invasive plants and managing wildflower meadows we have created breeding grounds for insects and the bird and mammal life that feed on them. A recent project to capture still photos of animals on the River Colne at Cummins Turbo Technologies revealed an amazing array of life both day and night: deer, sparrowhawks, kingfishers and even badgers are thriving along the River Colne. Jeff Keenlyside, volunteer director and passionate advocate for wildlife in our town said, ‘The rivers and greenspaces in Huddersfield are fantastic for wildlife. Just minutes from Huddersfield Town Centre you can get to the River Colne and see kingfishers, herons, and dippers all year round. The remaining oak woodlands along the river valley and the Bradley Greenway are home to bluebells and wildflowers, butterflies and bats you would not expect to see in such a built-up area. The River Colne itself supports wild brown trout, grayling and underwater life, which did not exist 20 years ago – indicators of  more healthy river system. This is why we now have dippers as they need underwater insects for food.

In 2022 our volunteers took part in 80 days-worth of river clean-ups, path and habitat improvements. With this kind of collective effort, it’s conceivable that we will see more wildlife return to the River Colne – maybe even the iconic Atlantic salmon in the next few years as weirs are removed and fish passes built. In fact, we have commissioned exciting plans for habitat improvement works for the river and the woodlands around the John Smiths Stadium. So watch this space.

We’ve also been working hard to protect and highlight what we have, as there are still many threats to these ecosystems from pollution, invasive species and climate change. That’s why we’re creating the Huddersfield Nature Park – so that wildlife can thrive and people can continue to enjoy wildlife for generations to come. What drives me to keep volunteering past retirement is that we need to be in contact with nature for our own health, to recognise the importance of wildlife conservation so that we can understand what needs to be done to alleviate climate change. The fact that accessing nature on our doorstep is free of charge, is something we should cherish, in spite of the financial pressures we are facing.’ The government’s Environmental Improvement Plan, includes a commitment that the public should be able to access green space or water, such as woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers, within a 15-minute walk from their home.

At EPIKS we pride ourselves on working in partnership with other agencies – from community groups to landowners and businesses in Huddersfield, like ecosystems themselves, we need to work together to create the right conditions for nature to thrive. By enlisting the help of volunteers, the support of local councillors and grant funding, we can channel resources to make the environment in Huddersfield a better place to live and work – a place for both wildlife and people to thrive.

Our volunteer work parties take place on Wednesdays from 10-12noon; we host regular corporate work days and run guided walks to give people a chance to explore the hidden wildlife of our rivers and green spaces.

More information on volunteering with EPIKS.

Brochure about wildlife in Huddersfield Riverside Nature Park.