PEOPLE are being invited to take part in a clean up of the River Ribble near Settle on Sunday (April 22) as part of Earth Day celebrations.

Earth Day is the world's largest environmental movement which every year is marked by a variety of events.

And, this weekend, a number of Settle based voluntary groups will be getting together for a mass litter-pick to clear rubbish from a section of the Ribble.

The river slows down as it passes through Settle, leaving litter on the banks between the town and Long Preston.

The flat, and often water-logged, area of land can easily be seen off the A65 and from the train on the approach to Settle.

Known as ‘The Deeps’, the Long Preston Floodplain area is managed by farmers and landowners for livestock and wildlife.

In 2004 a number of charities and conservation groups, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), formed the Long Preston Floodplain Project.

Part of its purpose is to re-create and enhance the rare wet grassland habitat found on The Deeps, together with restoring the river Ribble and reducing flood risk downstream.

The area attracts a lot of interest from local and national conservation bodies including Natural England and the Environment Agency because it is an important haven for wildlife.

A significant part of the area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and many nesting and migratory birds rely on the unique floodplain habitat.

Adrian Shepherd, Long Preston Floodplain Project Officer at YDMT, said

The Ribble is fast flowing and carries all sorts of rubbish downstream until it reaches The Deeps, at which point the flow slowed and began to meander.

"When this happens rubbish is deposited along the river bank, and it is particularly bad just south of Settle, where the Ribble passes under the A65," he said.

"Unfortunately litter has built up over a number of years, which is not just unsightly, but also poses a real hazard to wildlife and to farm animals that graze nearby."

He added that the floodplain is important to many different groups, including farmers, landowners, local businesses, conservationists, bird watchers, anglers and walkers.

"I am pleased that this event will bring the local community together to help restore a unique Yorkshire habitat," he said.

Jack Spees, chief executive of the Ribble Rivers Trust, one of the project’s key sponsors, has worked with Adrian and other groups to organise the clean up. “Rivers are the conduit along which not just water flows but, sadly, much of our pollution too, including litter and plastic," he said.

"Clean-ups are a great way to improve our rivers and make them a more enjoyable place to visit, but also to protect our seas which are becoming increasing clogged with plastic. This event allows the community to take an active part in improving their environment and we are pleased to be a part of it.”

Ensuring that the river continues to support healthy fish populations is central to the conservation work of the Settle Anglers Association, which owns the fishing rights over much of the Ribble in Settle.

Its chairman, Steve Rhodes said the association was delighted to be involved in the initiative.

"Fishing clubs, anglers and other associated organisations do a huge amount of work, monitoring, maintaining and improving the health and well being of rivers and streams which not only benefits fish and other aquatic life but wildlife and the environment generally," he said.

"Anglers are very often the first to alert the Environment Agency to potential problems or pollution incidents. Litter, especially plastic, is just another form of pollution.”

The association has stopped stocking the river with trout.

Steve said: "This has had a significant effect on improving the number of wild trout and especially grayling which have seriously declined in the majority of the dales rivers over the last 30 years.”

Naturalists, the Craven Conservation Group, is strongly behind the Earth Day litter pick.

Melanie Fryer, the group's secretary, said: "CCG fully supports local conservation and environmental initiatives. This event brings together different interest groups in order to benefit our local environment and the wildlife that inhabits it. We would like to mark Earth Day in the future, by supporting habitat restoration projects like this.”

Anyone who wants to take part in the litter pick on Sunday, should meet under Runley Bridge, where the A65 passes over the Ribble, at 1.30pm. Gloves, rubbish bags and pick sticks will be provided by Craven District Council. People should go suitably dressed with sturdy, water proof boots and with refreshments. Children are welcome, if accompanied by an adult.