Two rivers flow through the town, the Brun and the Calder, and their channels consist of artificial cobbled culverts that carry the rivers out of sight behind walls and buildings. The parts of the rivers that can be seen are widely disregarded and often perceived to be drains rather than rivers. This project aims to improve the habitat of the hidden rivers to attract more wildlife and at the same time, engage the local communities to alter people’s attitudes towards their rivers.
During the Industrial Revolution, cobbled culverts were constructed in Burnley’s rivers to remove smelly, heavily polluted water from the town centre more quickly. Now that the water is cleaner, the idea of the Urban River Enhancement Scheme is to return the river to a more natural state to encourage a greater diversity of wildlife.
Along with physical improvements to the river channels, the project has also engaged extensively with the local communities, equipping them with new skills to help deliver aspects of the project such as habitat improvements, litter removal and eradicating invasive non-native plants. Communities have brought Burnley’s rivers to life through artwork, photography, oral history, theatrical performances and education in schools. At the heart of the project is a drive to highlight the rivers’ rich heritage and help people understand the need to bring river wildlife back to the town. It has brought communities together and helped them to improve and care for a neglected natural asset.
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