CASTOR will explore how woodland along rivers and waterways can build a healthier and richer environmental landscape, fight climate change and protect cultural heritage.

Funding Amount:

£1.95 m

Duration of Project:

3 years

Trees on the bank of a flowing river

Project Summary:

There are 240,000 km of rivers and waterways in England with the potential for regrowing bankside woodlands and trees. Restoring these woodlands would have many benefits for the UK’s environment and society. For example, these woodlands can create new habitats for wildlife with a greater species richness than other habitats. In addition, they can reduce greenhouse gases and create flood prevention, which helps combat the risks of global warming.

Yet, with the Government planning to increase tree cover in the UK to 17% by 2050, more needs to be done to understand what this means for society. This new project, CASTOR, will explore and provide solutions to the potential challenges of this restoration. In addition, they will look at the natural and cultural heritage of these areas and how these benefit local communities. And finally, they will explore how these woodlands can help nature and the climate recover through wilder, better-connected landscapes.

“These outcomes will invigorate community engagement and recovery of riparian landscapes and ecosystems within a model that will be applicable throughout the UK.

– Dr Matthew Dennis, Project Lead


The team will map out the potential areas for riverside woodland expansion in the UK. They will also look at the historical, ecological and socio-economic connections of these riverside woodlands. Through computer modelling they will explore scenarios related to regeneration and rewilding. And they will assess the resilience of these woodlands and the landscapes and communities they connect to. Critically, to help successful regeneration, they will continually evaluate financial opportunities and will engage with the land managers in these rural areas.

Using art, they will also explore the perception of “wildness” of changing treescapes. They will also look at literary, historical and cultural heritage values to assess perceptions and motivations of riverside restoration. And they will explore their computer models through virtual reality, art installations and workshops with community groups.

STATUS: Ongoing

Project Lead

Dr Matthew Dennis, The University of Manchester


The University of Manchester, University of Cumbria, University of Leeds, University of Nottingham, University of Birmingham and University of Salford