An ambitious programme to restore and improve rivers in the Lake District has beaten competition from across Europe to win the prestigious European Riverprize.

The work of the Environment Agency, Natural England and partners was announced as the winner this week for efforts across Cumbria to reinstate natural river processes that benefit both people and wildlife.

The Cumbrian River Restoration partnerships programme has improved almost 100k of river length and restored over 150 hectares of floodplain across the catchments of the Rivers Eden, Derwent and Kent. It has also reduced flood risk, removed plastic from rivers and boosted biodiversity in the region.

Partners on the project include National Trust, RSPB, Ullswater CIC, United Utilities, Eden Rivers Trust, West Cumbria Rivers Trust and South Cumbria Rivers Trust.

Olly Southgate, Cumbria River Restoration Programme Manager at the Environment Agency, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the work of the Cumbria River Restoration programme being recognised on an international scale. River restoration work can provide a wide range of benefits, creating better natural habitats for wildlife and reducing flood risk through innovative nature-based solutions.

“In an ever-changing climate it’s work like this that will help to improve our environment for generations to come.

“We would like to thank all partners, stakeholders, local communities and private landowners involved in bringing this programme to fruition.”

The rivers of the Lake District have been impacted by changing patterns of farming and land management over many centuries. All the watercourses within Cumbria have at some point been modified or altered to create space for farming practices.

This has exacerbated the effects of several severe flood events in recent years, with the area also suffering degradation of designated protected areas and a severe decline in biodiversity.

The Cumbria River Restoration partnerships programme has carried out more than 100 separate projects including reintroducing meanders, removing weirs and planting trees.

Practical work was also accompanied by engagement, training and educational initiatives including community events, volunteer days, internal and external training, conference and workshop presentations.

First awarded in 2013, the European Riverprize celebrates excellence in the management, conservation and development of Europe’s rivers, wetlands and surrounding communities. Historically, the prize is award in conjunction with the European River Symposium, which attracts an audience of Europe’s leading advocates for environment and river protection, including the European Commissioner for Environment.

This year, the European Riverprize was awarded during the Gala Dinner of the 25th International Riversymposium in Vienna.

The other two finalists were a campaign to save one of Europe’s last wild rivers, the Vjosa in Albania, and a project covering the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers in central Europe.

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