The Repot Project

Cogs Start Turning

Many of you will have experienced one of the Aire Rivers Trust’s river clean-ups yourself at one point or another. The range of items that we discover always surprises me, whether it’s a rusty bicycle or even ancient scuba gear. It was during our clean-up season this Spring that the opportunity came up to design and put in a bid for a project that focuses on promoting UK plants. I started thinking about what we could do to link the River Aire to plants. And then it hit me. Why not kill two birds with one stone? What if we could increase the number of UK flowers whilst also reducing the amount of rubbish that ends up in the river?

Some of the rubbish removed from Bull Greave Beck as part of the Our Clean River event
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Why the fuss about plants?

Plants underpin all aspects of nature. Without them, we wouldn’t see the extraordinary range of life that calls Earth home. In fact, we wouldn’t exist at all. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants make the energy of the sun available to the rest of the food chain. Humans have also found many other uses for them in clothing, medicine and building materials.

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Over millions of years, very finely tuned relationships have developed between the species that are found in the same area. Bees emerge from hibernation at the same time the first flowers are emerging in Spring, ensuring that there is a constant food supply for them throughout the Spring and Summer months. However, this delicate balance is under threat from multiple fronts.

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Climate change is causing important ecological events to happen at the wrong time due to unseasonable weather. The introduction of new plants that would not naturally be found in a particular area also disrupts the natural balance.

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Plants such as Himalayan balsam, rhododendron and Japanese knotweed have not evolved alongside the rest community they are now often found in. This creates a range of problems including being carriers of diseases that native species have no defence against This can lead to widespread loss of native species across an area. Invasive plants also often have the advantage over native plants as they are often not recognised as a food source. This means that the natural grazing pressures that would help prevent them from taking over an area in their home range no longer exist, allowing them to form dense monoculture stands. Examples of this can be seen across the UK and have a huge impact not only on our native plants but, like climate change, damages ecological synchronicity as areas covered by these monocultures do not have the sequence of different plants providing food at different times of the year.

Himalayan Balsam
Himalayan balsam
Japanese knotweed
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Alongside this, urbanisation and changes in farming practices have meant that there are fewer areas where plants are able to grow. The areas that do support them are becoming smaller and further apart, a process known as habitat fragmentation. These patches of flowers are of lower quality and therefore support smaller numbers of the associated animals that you would expect to find with them.

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But it is not all doom and gloom

Whilst that paints a very bleak picture, it is not a finished painting. As our understanding of where the threats to biodiversity are coming from increases, we can implement strategies to combat them. And it doesn’t have to start big!

The Repot Project is all about using your imagination and creativity to literally give new life to items that would otherwise be thrown away. Whether it’s a holey pair of wellies, empty bottles and cans or worn-out kitchen items, we want to challenge you to create a planter that can be used to boost biodiversity where you are!

Volunteers @ Baildon
Volunteers maintaining our wildflower meadow in Baildon
Pollinator on Meadow Cranesbill

Our finished planters...

Freddie the frog created from an old freezer draw and planted with foxgloves created at the Springfield Centre
You can even create a rabbit from old laundry products! This planter has been filled with Meadow Cranesbill!

It doesn't have to stop there...

 If you would like to find out more about any of the topics talked about in this blog here are some links to some really interesting resources:

Ecological Synchrony: Keeping All the Pieces in Place — Department of Ecosystem Science and Management (

(PDF) Vulnerability of phenological synchrony between plants and pollinators in an alpine ecosystem (

Habitat loss and fragmentation disrupt plant-pollinator networks – Conservation Corridor

How Invasive Species Threaten Our Woods - Woodland Trust

Or to find out more about what you can do to protect our plants go to:

Ideas on attracting wildlife to your garden; expert advice from the RHS / RHS GardeningTake action to protect plants and fungi | Kew

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Record Rivers

There are extraordinary rivers all across the world. But do you know which rivers are record holders?

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Two leaves sit in a graphic that divides text

How did you do? Share with your friends to compare results!

The Start of my ART Journey

I’m finding it difficult to believe that I have been working for the Aire Rivers Trust for three months now. Time really does fly when you're having fun! So much has already happened that I wanted to take a moment to share my favourite bits so far as well as all the things that I am still looking forward to doing as my placement goes on.

I think the best place to start has to be with our wonderful volunteers. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting you all. Thank you for making me feel so welcome and bearing with me as I find my feet. The amount that has been achieved even in this short period of time has blown me away. The range of work I have been able to participate in is huge, but my favourite bits have to include coppicing, wildflower meadow conservation, and in a very weird way, path laying. Although I am yet to master how to use a billhook properly, I am determined that by the time I have finished my placement I will be able to use one with some degree of success.

Our finished path at Aireworth Grove

Going out to help with Japanese Knotweed treatment has been something that I wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to do, but I have absolutely loved it! It makes me feel very privileged that I get to go out and explore new places, even if they aren’t always the most glamorous. I am also really enjoying getting out and about in nature on a more regular basis and seeing loads of amazing species. I had the wonderful opportunity of being able to go and see salmon jumping Stainforth Force, an experience I know I will never forget and a definite highlight of the year. But there is also something really special about seeing more humble species like kingfishers, herons, or even beetles when you least expect it that makes me smile.

Hedgelaying at North Bog

I am looking forward to getting stuck in with tree planting and litter picking later on in the year, as well as continuing to meet and talk with even more inspiring people from who I am constantly learning.

Removing thistles @ Baildon
Pulling thistles at Baildon floodable meadow

There have definitely been aspects that I have found challenging, but that is never a bad thing and I hope that over the next few months I will continue to surprise myself and gain more confidence in my abilities within the supportive ART community.

Lunch time!

I have already learnt so much and can’t wait to see what the next few months bring!