Following the River Lune: Green Lancaster’s Latest ECOWild Adventure
On Wednesday 22nd February, Lea and Joe from the Green Lancaster team led the third of our Lent Term ECOWild Adventures, a walk focused on the ecological, cultural and hydrological importance of rivers.
We began our walk in the village of Halton, only a bus ride from Lancaster, where we met a friendly horse before arriving at the riverside. Here we introduced the River Lune which begins about 40 miles away from Lancaster high up in the Cumbrian hills. The river is a county biological heritage site, home to many species of birds and mammals such as otters.
It was not long before we encountered one of the river's many important usages - a hydro-power station that converts the energy from flowing water into electricity. This was in fact Halton Lune Hydro station, England's largest community-owned hydropower station that produces enough electricity to power 300 homes and offset 500 tonnes of carbon per year; pretty impressive.
Further upstream we passed through some woodland where we took some time to consider the river's influence on biodiversity. We introduced the idea of a riparian zone which is the area of land directly next to the river that is influenced by the action of the flowing water. Here plants and animals must be specially adapted to cope with living so close to the water, something that is sadly becoming harder as river flooding and bank erosion events are becoming more frequent.
After crossing a small tributary stream, we discussed how we could use natural processes to protect rivers from flooding their banks. Naturally slowing down the flow of water into large rivers could be done by building natural dams from woody debris or introducing key species like beavers; who would do a much better job at this than we ever could!
After climbing slightly through the woods we were greeted by an impressive view of the river catchment which encompasses parts of the Yorkshire Dales including Ingleborough Mountain. This allowed us to consider the impact of farming activities on the health of the river as much of the Lune catchment is used for farming with half a million sheep grazing here. Many of the UK’s rivers have been modified to suit our needs, which we now realise is not healthy for them and the creatures that rely on them.
Finally, we embraced the well-being benefits of blue spaces like rivers with time spent by them being proven to help reduce anxiety and increase happiness. Also, with springtime fast approaching we all took time to reflect on something that we wanted to leave behind us and by attaching these thoughts to a twig or a leaf we used the river’s flow to help us say goodbye to it.
We hope that everyone who joined us on the walk enjoyed themselves and left feeling refreshed by the calming power of rivers. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for more ECOWild Adventures in summer term!
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