Healthy Land Healthy River

two persons performing survey sampling on a stream


As extreme weather events increase with climate change our cultural landscapes are under increased pressure, and appropriate adaption and mitigation strategies are urgently needed. Flooding and associated sediment erosion and deposition are a growing problem in the Skell Valley, North Yorkshire, increasing risks to the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Estate, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The upper and middle sections of the River Skell flow through the Nidderdale National Landscape, while the lower stretches run through farmland and open grassland into the city of Ripon. Flooding has already caused damage to the historic site, and increased sediment deposition is reducing ecological diversity across the catchment and affecting water features at Studley Royal, Grantley Hall and Eavestone Lake.


In 2019, funding was awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to the Skell Valley Project, co-led by the National Trust and Nidderdale National Landscape, to improve landscape resilience, increase wildlife habitat, empower communities to access the outdoors, and to reduce risk to heritage sites to ensure long-term sustainability of Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Estate.

In March 2023, Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) was awarded funding as part of the Skell Valley Project to:

  • Monitor sediment transport and water level through the Skell catchment
  • Map opportunities for Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to tackle flood and sediment pressures
  • Develop a prototype Payment by Results (PbR) scheme to fund landscape interventions.

Payment by Results (PbR) aims to compensate farmers and landowners for the Nature Based Solutions (NBS) they implement and maintain, based on the scientifically measured effectiveness of the features installed. To gather data on the effectiveness of NBS, iCASP has been monitoring sediment transport and water quality through the Skell valley at strategic sites where NBS has already been installed, or where baseline data is required prior to NBS installations. This data will enable better understanding of the catchment processes that control sediment erosion and deposition, and flooding. Using this data, and through a consultation workshop with the Natural Flood Management Community of Practice for Yorkshire in January 2024, a prototype banded PbR framework will be developed.

In addition to monitoring, iCASP has been working with farmers and landowners to improve understanding of NBS and to map NBS opportunities on their land. Following sediment erosion and overland flow risk mapping, opportunities for NBS were assessed on site for suitability acknowledging current farming practices, topography and level of risk versus reward. The National Trust will use these maps, alongside the monitoring data collected, to apply for funding with farming communities, so that recommended NBS can be installed.

In November 2023, a video was produced showcasing the project: Skell Valley Project YouTube video

Other projects related to the River Skell are: NFM opportunity mapping and payment by results and River Skell Monitoring

Hind house pond

Project Team

Nabil Abbas and Gabby Crisp – Skell Valley Project, National Trust

Iain Mann – North Yorkshire Council, Nidderdale Area Of Natural Beauty Manager

Prof Dave Hodgson, Dr Megan Klaar, Dr Gareth Kevil, Dr Stephanie Bond, Helena Brown – iCASP/University of Leeds


March 2023 – February 2025