River Ribble

The River and a significant area of the floodplain are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). SSSI’s are the country’s very best wildlife and geological sites. They include some of our most spectacular and beautiful habitats. Natural England work with land owners and managers to help manage and protect these important sites.


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Long Preston Floodplain Project Trail

Download our map which shows two walks in the area and the locations of the 6 Long Preston interpretations boards.

All routes are Public Rights of Way, please respect the marked paths and follow the countryside code.


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Southwards from Settle the Ribble flows across a broad and flat floodplain that stretches as far downstream as Cow Bridge on the Wigglesworth to Long Preston Road. The floodplain is about 6 kilometres in length but the river channel is nearly 10 kilometres long.

A floodplain is an area that would naturally flood when there is too much water in the river. Following periods of heavy rainfall when the river is high, the Ribble spills over its banks across the floodplain. Historically, for farmers this was a good thing as fresh silt made the pastures more productive, but it also put the fields out of use until the water level had dropped and the soil was dry enough to put sheep and cattle back.

Until about 200 years ago local farmers had to live with this regular flooding but in 1799 an Enclosure Act was passed. This allowed the enclosure of parts of the floodplain, the drainage of lower riverside meadows and pastures and the embanking of the River Ribble and streams.

The Back Cut

back cutIn 1815 a main drainage ditch was dug by hand from The Crook to below Cow Bridge, called the Back Cut. It is 3 kilometres in length and has smaller ditches feeding in which dry out the floodplain.

It was originally cut as an open ditch but in 1858 a decision was made to raise the river embankments and to improve the Back Cut as the earlier attempt to control flooding had not worked.

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