The Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley (FoLDV) were set up in 2015 to help conserve the internationally important floodplain and surrounding area of the lower section of the River Derwent in Yorkshire. During extensive annual winter floods the area stores millions of gallons of water when up to 40,000 swans, ducks, geese and wading birds visit from around 28 different countries. In summer after the flood waters recede flower filled meadows 'buzz' with abundant insect life and the evocative and haunting sounds of displaying curlew and snipe fill the air above. The area is a haven for wildlife and people alike and has been recognised as such by being designated a National Nature Reserve.
In this project we are looking to provide 1km of easy 'access for all' pathway at one of the existing visitor hotspots in the valley linking it to an existing pathway to create a continuous 3km easy access route into the heart of this special landscape. Our aim is to make access more attractive to those who currently find it difficult to make the most of this special resource (inc wheelchair users, young families, elderly and partially sighted). The site currently receives around 20,000 visitors a year but many of the less able bodied are excluded from some areas, we wish to resolve this.
We will also be working with AdAstra York, an alternative education provider, using the National Nature Reserve, its landscape and wildlife to reconnect and re-engage young people with education - they will be helping shape, plan, design and deliver aspects of the project and in-doing so helping secure life long skills and interests. Many Ad Astra students struggle to fit into main stream education but have benefitted greatly from working in partnership with us. This project really does change lives and will help engage them in bringing about greater benefits for the environment and society more widely. Why not take a look at what they do in partnership with Natural England and the young people on the reserve in our video.
This isn't just about those people either - we've been working with companies across Yorkshire and beyond, including over 100 Aviva staff from York, who alongside our local community volunteers contributed over 5000 voluntary hours in helping look after and improve the reserve for the benefit of wildlife and people. This is your special place, home to thousands of birds and other wildlife, locking away flood water in high flows, filtering water as it passes through the valley, providing food and income in the local communities and offering exercise and relaxation to charge the batteries in nature.
We have a proven track record in delivering conservation projects ranging from planting reed beds, providing artificial Sand Martin nesting banks and Common Tern nesting platforms to restoring old hedgerows, running farmland bird feeding stations and setting up nest box schemes for Barn owls and Tree Sparrows. Moving forward the FoLDV have also recently completed purchase of a small area of land within the valley to secure it indefinitely for the benefit of wildlife and people.
We are passionate about underpinning our land management and conservation actions with research and science and especially in enabling local communities to engage with the area and its stunning and special wildlife through appropriately managed access provisions. The benefits to both physical and mental health of access, engagement and appreciation of the natural environment are well known - it is our "Natural Health Service". In these times of increased environmental awareness and concern for the future we believe that global change can happen and it starts here and now, on our local doorstep.