Nationally as well as locally, there tends to be a bias towards geological RIGS, with few sites of geomorphological interest designated. In an attempt to redress the balance in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the Trust has completed a ‘Fluvial Sites Project’, aiming to identify sites which relate to the fluvial geomorphology (past and present) of the two counties. The reasons behind this focus on fluvial geomorphology are twofold: Firstly, rivers form a fundamental component of the British landscape and an understanding of landscape would thus be incomplete without at least some appreciation of fluvial geomorphology. Secondly, everyone has some experience of rivers. One of our primary goals is to encourage awareness and appreciation of Earth heritage, and rivers provide a potential ‘way in’ to Earth science which should be explored.

Herefordshire and Worcestershire lie almost entirely within the Severn-Wye drainage basin, and so we looked at sites to illustrate, or are instrumental in the understanding of, the development of the drainage basin and its present form. Thus geological controls, the influence of past glaciations and contemporary fluvial processes are all included. One advantage of this approach is that some ‘non-fluvial’ geomorphology sites were also highlighted in the process.

The project involved a desk-top study of solid and superficial geology and their influence on drainage patterns, and a literature search investigating the fluvial history and development of the two counties. This, combined with simple map work, provided some insight into the present-day geomorphology to be found in the counties. Any additional published information on the rivers was also gathered, and schools were contacted to find out which ‘river sites’ were already used for educational purposes. The result of this work is a list of sites or areas which warrant further investigation. Field visits to each of these enabled an initial assessment of which sites deserve consideration for RIGS designation. The final outcome of the project was specific fluvial (and other) geomorphology sites for designation as RIGS, with sufficient background information to place these sites within the context of the drainage basin. This project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, DETR and the British Geomorphological Research Group.

Tthe Trust is to develop this further. An assessment has been made of the potential of Herefordshire rivers to provide regionally important sites and to feature in public awareness programmes. The Rivers Wye, Lugg and Teme and their tributaries are to be surveyed to establish the extent of important geomorphological features both dynamic and ancient with a view to recording these scientific attributes and adding them to the Trust’s existing geoconservation database. This will further the knowledge of the fluvial systems in Herefordshire and enable the development of management programmes that address conservation and public use. A major outcome will be a better understanding of local dynamic river processes. All of the information accumulated in the first phase of the project will then be used to develop public awareness programmes aimed specifically at Earth heritage.

The Unitary Development Plan for Herefordshire requires the designation of Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGS). This work is carried out by the Trust and the information passed on to the County Council. Although progress has been good over the last 2 years there is a considerable lack of fluvial RIGS in the archive. This project seeks to address this shortfall in that a large number of river RIGS will be identified and designated (perhaps as many as 20). Furthermore there is a significant need to educate the public about the processes that lead to the formation of rivers and their associated landscape features. Such awareness proposals which will include schoolchildren, will enhance the understanding and sustainable use of these landscapes. Furthermore a sustainable tourist element will be introduced.

Such aspects as river valley topography, fluvial deposits, erosive processes and features, flood plain development, river hydrology, geological influences and ancient river landscapes will all be incorporated into the development of trails, site interpretation panels and publications for public use. The trails will follow public rights of way and will be chosen for impact and safety. Site interpretation panels will be located at prominent points. The publications will adopt the format successfully used by the Trust to date. The local community will be encouraged to participate in the production of the trails and to develop a watching brief for identified sites of importance. As well as the local community, schools will be encouraged to use the trails to assist in key stage 2 and 3 work. Marketing of the guides will help bring tourism to the areas in question – a process that has proved successful in other areas where trail guides have been produced by the Trust.