A LONGSTANDING project to regenerate the River Ribble and is tributaries has reached the finals of a prestigious environmental competition.

Environmental crusaders at the Ribble Rivers Trust have been behind 14 new fish passes, including installations benefitting weirs at Lower Darwen, Dunkenhalgh, Hoghton Bottoms, Sabden and Bluebell Wood in Burnley.

And wetland areas from Agden Beck, near the Forest of Bowland, down to Showley Brook and Woodnook Water, have been given a new lease of life under the Ribble Life Together Initiative.

Now the project has been named as a finalist for the UK River Prize and campaigners couldn't be happier.

Jack Spees, rivers trust chief executive, said: "Fingers crossed that after eight years of hard graft we can land this prestigious award."

No fewer than 26 woodland areas, surrounding Hyndburn Brook, the River Calder and Sabden Brook, to Stock Beck in Barnoldswick and Bashall Brook have also been created through planting.

Judges were told that Ribble Life Together had brought together a range of stakeholders, interest groups and local communities.

The aims were to improve the natural river heritage of the Ribble catchment for people and wildlife in an inclusive and integrated way.

This could cover simple goals like improving water quality, to wider work, reducing the risk of flooding and droughts and increasing river connectivity and biodiversity.

Some of the technical work alone required patient thought - with everything from partial weir removals to rock ramp fish passes and bypass channels deployed to meet particular river conditions.

Work on leaky dams, peat restoration, wildlife ponds and riparian woodlands, fashioning wildlife corridors and strengthening habitats, were out key drivers.

An official added: "Alongside the improvements to our rivers, Ribble Life Together aimed to connect people to their rivers and our work on a scale never achieved before, it aimed to reach new audiences and grow awareness throughout the catchment about the issues our rivers face.

"This included a catchment wide farm advice programme, working with farmers and landowners to increase knowledge about soil and water resource management, build trust and develop new environment friendly farm improvement and habitat creation projects.

"We would increase engagement with rivers through our education programme, volunteering, apprenticeships, public events. And we would make our rivers more accessible through art projects, guided walks and by creating digital, online content such as short films that would allow people, who otherwise would not be able to visit their local river, to experience and learn about the riverscapes around them.

"We wanted people to explore and celebrate the rich heritage of the river and encouraging more people to discover the wonder of the river for themselves."

The winner of the river prize, awarded by the River Restoration Centre in Warwickshire, will be announced at a dinner on June 28.