NOW THE water has started to subside following the Boxing Day floods, the hard task of clearing up the debris has begun.

Teams of volunteers from East Riddlesden Hall have been joined by a group of countryside volunteers from Marsden Moor.

The levels which the River Aire reached had not been seen by staff at the property for over 20 years and the floods not only deposited a significant amount of rubbish and tyres, but also damaged 800 metres of fencing, washed away three picnic benches and caused a significant amount of erosion to the river meaning a section of the river walk has been washed away.

Perhaps most surprising are the several hundred tonnes of sand and cobbles which have been strewn across the fields.

Hundreds of bags of plastic and rubbish have been collected from the meadows surrounding the hall, but more worryingly, to date over 60 tyres have been recovered together with several shopping trollies and other similar large items.

All of them had had been ‘dumped’ in the River Aire and its tributaries at some point before finding their way downstream.

The total clean-up costs and repairs will probably reach £10,000, however as the flooding is becoming more regular, it probably isn’t a sustainable option to simply replace the fences.

Therefore, rather than reinstate the current infrastructure for grazing and just remove the sand, gravel and cobbles, we are investigating how to change the grazing from sheep to the possibility of introducing rare breed cattle such as long horn cattle and/or Exmoor ponies or similar breeds.

This change to cattle will mean that the grasslands would encourage improved wildlife habitats.

The introduction of different breeds would mean that vegetation would be created at different heights which in turn will benefit a wide range of birds and wild flowers.

The sound and cobbles will create an important open habitat for invertebrates and hopefully the area will re-vegetate over time.

Whilst the erosion on the river bank may look devastating it is a natural process and the new steep-sided banks create fantastic nesting opportunities for the local sand martin population.

We are currently diverting the footpath away from the ‘new’ part of the river created by the floods so that access is maintained.

At the same time we are working to improve access to the wet and boggy sections by installing a board walk as well as creating a number of wild play installations for everyone to enjoy.

Long-term, we are hoping to maintain one of the meadows in its current state with large areas underwater in order to attract wading birds, aquatic plants and invertebrates.

Allowing the fields to store water and for the river to erode the banks will play a small but important part for slowing the flow and helping to reduce flooding downstream.

• Have you missed any of our previous Hall of Fame articles revealing what goes on at East Riddlesden Hall? Simply visit, click on What’s On then Days Out.