THE river that gives Ryedale its name is to be the subject of a four-year project to improve water quality and restore wildlife.

A partnership led by the North York Moors National Park Authority has secured nearly £2 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a project focused on the River Rye and its tributaries.

The Ryevitalise project will cover a huge area of 413km2, spanning from the Cleveland Hills in the west of the North York Moors to the area around Hovingham.

This region also encompasses the rivers Seph and Riccal, meaning these too will benefit from work to reduce diffuse pollution, control invasive species, restore ancient woodland and establish wildlife corridors.

Of particular interest are species including the rare and mysterious Alcathoe bat, which makes its home in woodland around the Rye, and the white-clawed crayfish, threatened by reduced water quality and aggressive, non-native species.

Briony Fox, director of conservation at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “We are absolutely delighted with this news and would like to thank players of the National Lottery who have made it possible.

“The funding will allow us to work with local people, farmers and community groups to help them take ownership of the region’s rivers, ensuring these rich ecosystems teem with life for many generations to come.

“We’ll also be creating lots of opportunities for volunteer involvement, enabling people to learn practical conservation skills, and the project will employ six core members of staff, along with a graduate trainee and two apprentices.”

Ryevitalise is a partnership scheme, meaning it is supported by the North York Moors National Park and other collaborators. The total project value is £3.4 million.