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North Yorkshire river project aims to combat climate change

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image copyrightNational Trust
image captionThe project aims to prevent flooding and improve the habitat for wildlife around Fountains Abbey

A £2.5m project to protect a river valley from the effects of climate change has been approved.

Improvements to the River Skell in North Yorkshire aim to protect properties - including the historic Fountains Abbey - from flooding, and improve the habitat for wildlife.

A 12-mile stretch of river will have trees planted and meadows and ponds created to slow the flow of water.

Work is expected to start in March and will last four years.

The National Trust, which looks after the 12th Century ruined abbey and gardens, warned they are at risk of being irreparably damaged by flooding, which has worsened in northern England in the past 50 years as the climate warms.

There have been several instances in recent years when the popular tourist attraction, which is a World Heritage Site, has been inundated by water. In 2007, a significant flood caused substantial damage to the abbey, the water garden and nearby Ripon.

Harry Bowell, from the National Trust, said the work was "an important moment".

"Climate change is eroding away nature and heritage and only by working across our boundaries, with local people and partners, and with nature, will we be able to make a real difference," he said.

image copyrightDS Pugh / Geograph
image captionFountains Abbey suffered from severe flooding in 2007

Wildlife in the Skell Valley is also threatened by poor water quality driven by an increase in sediment washed into the river.

It is hoped the plans will boost rare wildlife such as curlew, white-clawed crayfish and golden plover as well as reducing the risk of flooding.

Farmers will be rewarded for delivering conservation measures as part of the scheme, there are plans to open up the wider Skell Valley with new walking trails, and local people will have the chance to learn drystone walling, wildlife and river monitoring and hedge laying.

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