Practical Conservation update January 2024

Gareth Muir
January 31, 2024

Project Officer Gareth Muir gives us an update about what the volunteers have been up to last month. 

Tool maintenance

After returning from the Christmas and New Year break, the practical volunteers got stuck into a spot of tool maintenance. Volunteers joined staff at our office in Greengates to sort, clean, sharpen and oil the tools used by the volunteers to carry out practical environmental conservation tasks. Without these tools, we could not carry out the work, so they must be in top condition! Staff and volunteers had the (un)enviable task of going through the Trust's protective equipment (PPE), ensuring it was safe, working and effective. Thankfully, everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion!

Coppicing at Druid's Altar, St Ives, Bingley

Volunteers undertook some coppicing at Druid's Altar hazel coppice on St Ives Estate, Bingley. Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management with roots going back hundreds if not thousands of years. Using hand tools including; loppers, bowsaws and the iconic billhook, volunteers cut hazel 'stools' to harvest 'rods' of various diameters for a range of uses. The main use was to produce hazel hedging stakes. These stakes were later used on sites within the catchment to lay hedges. In the process of producing these stakes, volunteers realised the perfect length for a stake was an 'Olivia' (our River Conservation Assistant) of 1.5 metres! Over the course of three work days, volunteers coppiced 21 stools and produced 112 stakes, some may say the stakes were...'high'.
Why not visit the National Coppicing association to find out more about this fascinating traditional craft?

National Coppice Federation - National Coppice Federation (

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Hedge maintenance at Trench Meadow, Baildon

The volunteers were busy trimming the holly hedgerow at Trench Meadow. A hedgerow, which in the past had been neglected was in need of some tender loving care. The volunteers provided this by cutting back the encroaching greenery onto the footpath, allowing footpath users to path through unmolested by errant pickily leaves! The volunteers also took the opportunity to remove encroaching bramble on the meadow, thus preventing it's natural succession into woodland. Trench Meadow is a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI) containing a variety of flora, which the Trust aims to safeguard for the future.
To find out about Trench Meadow, why not visit this interesting blog post by 'The Nature Guy' who contacted the Trust in summer 2023:

Meet your local SSSI (

Hedge laying at Ryeloaf Meadows, Bingley

Hedge-laying continues to be a firm favourite with the Trust's practical conservation volunteers. This month volunteers worked had to lay a predominantly hazel hedge at Ryeloaf Meadows, Bingley; a fantastically untouched site beneath the Bingley Relief Road. Accessed via Dowley Gap Waste centre, the site is managed by Bradford Council's Countryside and Rights of Way team with the Aire Rivers Trust carrying out environmental conservation tasks onsite on their behalf. The traditional countryside management craft of hedge laying is enjoying some what of a resurgence of late and as an organisation the Trust is keen to keep these traditional skills alive and use them to improve habitat in the catchment and beyond. If you'd like to find out more about hedge laying, why not visit the National Hedge laying Society website:

Home Page (

Willow Clearance at Ryeloaf Meadows, Bingley

Willow clearance on the riverside at Ryeloaf Meadows continues, with volunteers removing dense patches of willow near the water's edge. Large stands of willow deflect the flow of the river away from the site, which acts as a flood water overflow. The cut willow is stacked into dense brash piles, which will in time become a new habitat for invertebrates and potentially laying up spots for male otters in the summertime. The composition of the woodland at Ryeloaf Meadow is 'wet' woodland (predominantly common alder and crack willow), which is an under represented habitat in the Bradford area. Woodland management often includes thinning tree numbers and producing deadwood, so that multiple layers of habitat are present with a 'mosaic' of canopy, understory, shrub and herb layer.

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January was a busy month with a variety of tasks. The 'nature' (pardon the pun) of practical conservation dictates that the tasks performed by volunteers vary greatly. Moving ahead into the end of winter the volunteers will be continuing hedge laying, tree planting and gearing up to the river clean ups, once the flood waters have subsided.

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How To Get Involved

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The Aire Rivers Trust is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales No: 07464227 and a Registered Charity No: 1145609
Registered Office at: 38 Morton Lane, East Morton, Keighley BD20 5RS
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