Developing the Natural Aire

The Aire, like many other city rivers has suffered from over 200 years of industry. Until the 1600s the river was used as a source of drinking water by the people of Leeds and Bradford. The growth of factories and cities soon made this a hazardous pursuit.

At the turn of the 1800s, Atlantic salmon could still be caught in the Aire below Bradford. However by 1825 the river here was nearly devoid of life and remained so for over 100 years.

It wasn’t just pollution that drove salmon from our rivers. Weirs that powered the mills blocked their migration from the sea to spawning grounds in the upper parts of our river.

Returning salmon to Skipton

Developing the Natural Aire (DNAire) was a partnership project between the Aire Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency from 2019 to 2022. Together we set out to enable the return Atlantic salmon to the river and to connect local communities to their river to safeguard its future. Our river, the green and blue ribbon, that connects communities as it flows through the Aire valley can once again be the jewel in its crown.


To connect the ecology of the river

The ideal way to reconnect rivers is to remove weirs. However all four weirs in this project are listed and form part of our historic landscape. DNAire's fish passes allowed fish to pass the four largest weirs left on the river. These are at Armley, Kirkstall Abbey, Newlay and Saltaire.

Each new fish pass is a Larinier fish pass. In the base of these sit baffles that slow the flow of water through the pass. Larger fish are able to swim up the pass. Smaller fish are able to rest behind each baffle before they jump over the next one. The size of each weir means that resting pools are needed half way up.

Click the fish to find out more about fish passes

Through DNAire, our project partners the Environment Agency, we have reconnected 60km of river making habitat for fish to breed, feed and shelter. This is important for all fish species, including coarse fish like barbel and roach. For Atlantic salmon, this is especially important as it means being able to swim upstream to spawning grounds in the shallow streams and rivers near Skipton. Their return demonstrates the outstanding quality of our river and signals a bright future for the Aire.


To connect diverse communities and organisations together

Volunteers have made a huge difference to the Aire. Their work helps helped ensure it is a pleasant place to visit by removing litter and caring for riverside paths to ensure access for all. Creates habitat makes space for nature and reduces flood risk through tree planting. Riverfly sampling helps us understand the health of the river.

This was made possible due to funding from the Environment Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Craven Council and Yorkshire Water.

Click on the bird to hear from our volunteers.


Providing opportunities to get ahead in the environmental sector

Developing the Natural Aire provided five young people with the an opportunity to get qualifications and experience in the conservation sector. Of these two have returned to university for further study and have gone onto careers in countryside management and community engagement.

Click the bee to read a blog piece by one of the trainees.


And to connect all of us to the wider world

Just as Atlantic salmon leave our river to start a vast migration to Greenland and back, we are connected to the wider world. We delivered a huge variety of community engagement and outreach during the project including an environmental theatre piece travelling the length of the valley by boat; school visits; a riverside artwork in Gargrave and have a go fishing sessions for young people.

Your actions in Yorkshire can have global benefits. Click the globe to find out how by taking our quiz.

© Copyright Aire Rivers Trust 2020
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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