Clifton Beck Project

Improving Clifton Beck's Water

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust worked with the Friends of Judy Woods from January 2017 to June 2018 to improve the water quality of Clifton Beck. The beck runs from Shelf, through the woods, to Bailiffe Bridge then joins the River Calder in Brighouse. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust worked to give the beck some much needed assistance.
As with many of Yorkshire’s becks, Clifton Beck has been under a lot of pressure due to human activity. In rural areas cattle can churn up riversides and cause sediment to run into the beck. In Judy Woods the large, charismatic beech trees prevent other species growing underneath them leaving the steep slopes vulnerable to erosion. Through Brighouse the beck has been heavily modified and still suffers with litter and pollution due to misconnections.
Working in three key areas, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have been trying to alleviate the pressures faced by Clifton Beck. At the top of the catchment we have been working with Bobby Green Farm to create buffer zones free of livestock. Fenced off areas will be able to recover and grow new ‘tussocky’ grass to slow water running from the fields, the 870 newly planted trees will also help with this and their roots will provide stability to the riverbanks and habitat for local species.

Clifton Beck

Trees planted on Bobby Green Farm alongside Blackshaw Beck (as it’s known at the top of the catchment).

As you will know, the Beech in Judy Woods is ubiquitous. Working with the Friends of Judy Woods, the beech has been thinned along Low Wood Beck. Dedicated volunteers have spent winter pulling and felling beech, then re-planting the area with native broadleaves. The increased diversity of tree species will provide habitats for more insects in the area, and allow grasses and flowers to grow.

The felled beech have not gone to waste. Stumps have been “roughened up” to provide habitat for hoverflies and speed up colonisation by fungus. The trunks have been used to create habitat piles, gradually decaying down and providing homes for insects, amphibians and small mammals.

Cleared Beech

An area cleared of beech and planted up with native broadleaved tree species alongside Low Wood Beck.

Beck dam

Leaky dams are planted to slow the flow and encourage sediment to drop out of the water.

Wellholme Park is heavily used by dog walkers, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have reinforced banksides with steps and fenced of designated areas to control and channel footfall. This is a great place to see brown trout, kingfishers and dippers!


Our volunteers on some newly constructed steps.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Judy Woods both work hard to control Himalayan Balsam along Clifton Beck. This invasive non-native species outcompetes native plants and reduces habitat available for species such as the brightly coloured Tansy Beetle. When it dies back in winter it leaves bare banks which are vulnerable to erosion. Controlling balsam involves pulling it out of the ground before it goes to seed and allowing it to dry out, this is something anyone can get involved in.

Himalayan Balsam

A Himalayan Balsam in flower. It’s important to pull the plant before it goes to seed to prevent helping it spread.

The Improving Clifton Beck’s Water project worked along 3.6km of Clifton Beck and made lasting impacts to the water quality in the area. The easiest ways to continue these improvements are to report and pull Himalayan Balsam and get involved in local litter picks.