Riverlands Bollin; restoring rivers and landscapes

by National Trust in Altrincham, England, United Kingdom

Riverlands Bollin; restoring rivers and landscapes

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Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 31st March 2025 at 12:00pm

Riverlands Bollin Project: Restoring rivers, building landscape resilience, and engaging people in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

by National Trust in Altrincham, England, United Kingdom

Who are we, where are we and what do we do?

The Riverlands Bollin project is the National Trust’s flagship water project in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, part of the wider Riverlands programme https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/binaries/content/assets/website/national/pdf/the-riverlands-project.pdf

The River Bollin flows for over 29 miles, from Macclesfield Forest in the east, to the Manchester Ship Canal near Lymm in the west. As the River Bollin meanders through Cheshire, it flows though some iconic National Trust properties, including Quarry Bank, Tatton Park, Dunham Massey, Alderley Edge, Hare Hill, and Lyme. The River Bollin catchment extends to around 111 square miles and is located within the wider Upper Mersey River catchment. 


Map of Bollin catchment. 

The River Bollin catchment supports the fast-growing conurbations of south Manchester and  includes  Manchester Airport. Nearly three million people live within a ten-mile radius of the river. Although largely rural and agricultural in nature, continued urbanisation of this river catchment, with associated increases in visitor pressure and the impacts of climate change, pose significant risks to both heritage assets and the ecosystem along the river corridor. 

The river faces significant problems and is of poor and moderate ecological status due to diffuse water pollution from agriculture, urban and rural road runoff, barriers to fish migration, sewage discharges and non-native invasive species, including Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed and signal crayfish. This creates an urgent challenge for us all. 

Rising to that challenge, Riverlands Bollin is all about building resilience; improving water quality, creating land that is more resilient to extreme weather events and ensuring our landscape is loved and cared for by generations to come. 

We know we will have succeeded when:

 The River Bollin and its catchment are healthy, clean, and rich in wildlife. 

  • The River Bollin and its catchment are easily accessed, valued, and loved for their heritage and beauty.
  • There is sustainable long-term care for the Bollin river catchment that has a national impact.


An aerial of the river Bollin meandering through the Dunham Massey estate | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

What does Riverlands deliver?

We deliver reduced flood risk and improved biodiversity through the deployment of nature-based solutions – the sustainable use of natural features and processes that occur in the environment – to tackle our problems along the River Bollin. Nature-based solutions include:

  • tree and hedgerow planting
  • pond restoration and creation
  • brook restoration
  • wetland improvement and creation
  • peatland habitat improvement and restoration
  • leaky dam installation

These natural interventions help to create cleaner waterbodies, slow the flow of water and sink carbon to help tackle the climate crisis. Nature-based solutions naturally improve the health and resilience of the River Bollin and its surrounding catchment.

Nature-based solutions may look small scale but looks can be deceiving. By delivering across a large landscape and taking a catchment-based approach, we will be able to make big impacts and significant changes to how the catchment functions, looks, and feels. 

The beauty of nature-based solutions is that we can physically work together on the ground with others - our tenants, neighbours, volunteers, and strategic partners. Best practice is easily transferred and extended throughout the catchment, either through direct delivery, supporting partnerships or via skills and knowledge transfer. This means we can keep building momentum and creating positive changes across the catchment and beyond our boundaries.

We’ve been operating since 2018 and, with support from a variety of funders, have so far planted over 20,000 trees, improved 40 hectares of grassland, and developed 4 km of hedges to capture carbon and make room for wildlife.  This video shows some of the work we've done with this fundinghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_HQ9tCsyS8

 What we want to do next:


 Help us to locate lost 'ghost' ponds | © National Trust Images / Robert Morris

We now want to move our project onto the next stage.

With your support, we will be able to undertake enhanced nature-based solutions and engage with people, including:

  •  Pond Restoration - ponds hold water, prevent flooding, and improve biodiversity. 

We have mapped 294 ponds on National Trust land within the River Bollin catchment. We know where historic ponds need reinstating, where current ponds are failing and need restoring and where we ought to create new ponds. 

  • Brook Restoration – historically, our ancestors straightened and dredged water courses for the benefit of house building and agriculture. These straightened courses are now more prone to flooding. 15 watercourses have been surveyed to date and would benefit from a range of nature-based solutions to counteract historical modifications.  
  • Lyme Moorland Restoration – 2.4 kilometres of watercourse has been culverted or undergrounded on the 175-hectare site. This needs to be de-culverted or daylighted so the water can interact with the riparian corridor. This is important on the moorland site – as increased wet habitat will improve grassland species as well as slow the flow. 
  • Leaky Dams - We intend to put in over 60 leaky dams (a natural flood prevention measure) up on the moorland at Lyme to slow the flow of water and create habitat for wildlife. 
  •  Dunham Massey Peatland Restoration – Three woodland areas – c.10 hectares - have been identified as having peat that needs restoring. Peat provides a terrific habitat to rare plants, purifies polluted water and is a valuable carbon sink.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – with the powerful Manchester economy on the River Bollin’s doorstep, and big businesses increasingly acknowledging their role in mitigating climate change, we are keen to host corporate volunteering groups on National Trust Cheshire properties. Local businesses can physically give back to their local river in a hugely enjoyable and sustainable way, joining us for one-off bespoke work events or regular corporate volunteering sessions.


Volunteer collecting samples from the river at Lyme , Cheshire, ©National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Riverlands Bollin contributes to many local and national strategies, including:

  • National 25 Year Environment Plan and Environmental Improvement Plan, including ‘30x30’, protecting 30% of land for nature and improving adaptation to climate change, 
  • UK Government’s 2030 Strategic Framework for International Climate and Nature Action
  • Cheshire Landscapes Partnership Strategy (emerging)
  • Cheshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy
  • Cheshire Local Nature Partnership
  • Upper Mersey Catchment Partnership
  • Upper Mersey Place Based Planning

Our strategy at the National Trust is clear and states that we need to play our part in restoring a healthy, beautiful, and natural environment by: 

  • Improving our habitats, soils, and water to a good condition for nature on our estates. 
  • Working with others to conserve and renew the nation’s most important landscapes. 
  • Developing and sharing new economic models for land use that support nature. 
  • Championing the importance of nature in our lives today. 

        Our strategy to 2025

What are we seeking funding for?

To fund our physical, on-the-ground, nature-based solutions work:

Pond Restoration – at three of our Cheshire properties we would like to create/restore 60 ponds, 20 at each site:


  •           1x pond     =     £3,000.
  •           20x ponds    =   £60,000
  •           60x ponds    = £180,000

Brook Restoration at Dunham Massey - we have a number of brooks at Dunham that need restoration work. This can range from riparian tree planting to re-meandering the watercourse. We are looking for grants of up to £250,000.00 to undertake this work on each brook:

  • Stamford Farm brook
  • Stinky brook 
  • Agden brook 
  • Sinderland brook 
  • Caldwell brook

Lyme Moorland Restoration - de-culverting 2.4 kilometres of watercourse costs £130,000.

Leaky Dams – we would like to build 60 leaky dams up on the moorland above Lyme.


  • 1x dam    =        £     500
  •  60x dams  =        £30,000


Dunham Massey Peatland Restoration – We have 10 hectares of peatland at Dunham Massey that needs urgent attention.


  • 1x hectare    =        £  2000
  • 10x hectares  =        £20,000 

Additional Riverlands Bollin projects that require funding:

Two woodland restoration projects at Hare Hill:

  • Alderwood at a cost of £26,000; and
  • Daniel Hill Wood at a cost of £105,000.

Three watercourse restoration projects at Quarry Bank:

  • Oak Farm at a cost of £60,000;
  • Chapel Wood at a cost of £10,000; and
  • Giants Castle at a cost of £20,000.

1.2km of the River Bollin that flows through Quarry Bank:

  • Riparian restoration/wet woodland enhancement/river channel restoration at a cost of £100,000

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