The River Skerne

The Ancient River Skerne starts near the Trimdons via Hurworth Burn Reservoir then flows south near Fishburn, Bishop Middleham, Sedgefield, Newton Aycliffe and through Darlington.
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The Ancient River Skerne starts near the Trimdons via Hurworth Burn Reservoir then flows south near Fishburn, Bishop Middleham, Sedgefield, Newton Aycliffe and through Darlington.

We think originally that the name of the river Skerne comes from an old Norse word, “skirr”, meaning ‘bright and shining’ which is known to be the origin of other similar place names. It captures the magic of the light dancing on the surface of what was once a vast wetland area.  


Any visitor to the restored parts of the Skerne can see at a glance that this poetic Viking name is entirely appropriate as it captures the unique quality of light of our area. It’s our ambition – to restore, reveal and celebrate that ‘bright and clear’ Bright Water Landscape.

The purpose of the Brightwater River and Wetland Restoration Project is to improve the health of the water environment in the Skerne catchment by providing a ribbon of restored river and wetland habitat. Our project will restore floodplain grazing marsh, fen* and reedbed habitats.

The River Skerne catchment has been progressively modified for Flood Defence, Land Drainage and Water Level Management since the 1700s but most significantly since 1950 by private and public bodies. 

The surrounding area was once rich in wetlands, especially fens and marshes, with your help we want to restore wetland features within the catchment that have been lost due to changing land use and management over the centuries. 

The vast majority of watercourses in the catchment have been straightened, widened and deepened into artificial channels with much-reduced connectivity to the floodplain.

Back in the 1970s the Skerne was classified as Europe’s 7th most polluted river due to the agricultural, mining and industrial waste which poured into it and many species of animals and fish disappeared from the area). 

Much has been done to raise the water quality through a range of activities along the river.  Did you know that trout, otters and water voles are all returning to the Skerne?!

We hope this project will attract other like-minded people ready to big up and brighten up the Skerne. If that’s you please get involved as we have a wide range of opportunities to work with partners and volunteers.

We’ll be adding regular updates about our river-refurb project so make sure you pop-back to find our more.

*A fen is a marshy area — a damp, grassy area of ground.


Click below for our latest project updates

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Bright Water Landscape
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