A local environmental charity is gearing up to enhance a historic pathway, enabling more people to enjoy the River Worth, thanks to a nearly £60,000 boost from the Keighley Towns Fund.

The Aire River Trust, backed by the Government-funded Towns Fund project, plans to allocate £56,312 towards the restoration of the Walk Mill path. This path links Low Mill Lane to Park Lane and runs parallel to the River Worth upstream from Keighley train station. The initiative is part of a broader project focusing on path improvements to promote exploration of the river and establish safe, green travel routes throughout the town.

Locally referred to as “The Walk,” this historical route was frequently used by textile workers travelling from town to the 19th-century Walk Mills complex. However, recent incidents of paving stone theft have left the alleyway surface in disarray, with a mix of mud, tarmac, and broken slabs.

Volunteers from the Aire River Trust charity and the local group, the River Worth Friends, have already taken steps to enhance the path. They have trimmed vegetation and resurfaced over 150 meters of the footpath along The Walk, extending upstream from Park Lane towards Ingrow.

Simon Watts, the Aire River Trust’s Operations Manager said, “The Worth Way is a delightful, 11-mile circular walk that connects Keighley and Oxenhope. It takes in some fabulous sections of the River Worth and offers the opportunity to glimpse a wealth of wildlife from otters to dippers. We’re delighted to have the support of the Keighley Towns Fund and Keighley Big Local to help us care for Keighley’s River Worth and to support local groups along the river. Thanks to them we have an exciting opportunity to restore wildlife to the river and tackle issues like litter and pollution.”

Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Transport and Planning Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw said: “The Keighley Towns Fund supports many projects across the area and all are varied and deserving. It is wonderful to see the towns unique heritage celebrated alongside the incredible wildlife of the river. We are so pleased to be able to support this crucial work which will ensure many more people can enjoy it for years to come.”

Ian Hayfield, Chairman of the Keighley Towns Fund said: “We are delighted to be able to support vital environmental projects like these through the Towns Fund. This work will make such a difference to what is a really special part of the town. The work of the volunteers at the Aire River Trust is incredible and we’ll look forward to seeing the finished results.”

Shaun O’Hare from Big Local, which has supported the project with £20,000 of funding, said: “Keighley Big Local receives funds from Local Trust to support communities in the Keighley Valley identify local needs and take action to meet them. We work with others to help communities in Keighley gain the skills and confidence to make a difference. The “River Worth restoration project” delivered by the Aire Rivers Trust is a great example of a grass roots project doing this. When the opportunity appeared, the Keighley Big Local Partnership did not hesitate to support the project conceived by the Trust and River Worth Friends.”

Volunteers from the Aire River Trust’s “River Worth Restoration” project convene twice a week to litter pick, improve footpaths, and care for natural spaces along the Rivers Aire and Worth.

The footpath enhancements along the River Worth will be followed in 2024 by new signage along the Worth Way and a handrail at Woodhouse Road.

This initiative is part of a broader program by the Trust to enhance access and habitats along the River Worth corridor. The Trust’s staff and volunteers are actively engaged in various activities, including searching for misconnected sewers, preparing to create new fish habitats at Damen’s Nature Reserve, and exploring river restoration opportunities along the valley. Local groups or landowners interested in improving their rivers are encouraged to get in touch.

Big Local, a National Lottery-funded program run by the Local Trust, has allocated £1 million to a specific area of Keighley to enhance the quality of life for local residents. All decisions about how this money is spent are made by individuals living, working, or playing in the area.