St. John’s Working Group


St John’s Beck is a key tributary of the River Greta. It flows from Thirlmere through St John’s in the Vale, and meets the River Glenderamackin south-west of Threlkeld.

The catchment contains Thirlmere Reservoir, a major source of drinking water for the North-West, owned and managed by United Utilities.

St John’s Beck is a protected site and supports a number of important habitats and species, including Atlantic Salmon and Lamprey which are sadly experiencing a rapid global decline. The area is a working rural landscape, supporting many farming families and businesses who already play a significant role in conserving and improving the valley. The catchment also contains significant areas of ancient woodland and blanket bogs amongst a range of other habitats.

Like many of our local rivers, areas of St John’s Beck suffer from historic physical modifications which have affected the ecology of the river. The changes have reduced in-river spawning areas, juvenile and adult fish habitat, and the abundance of food sources. The catchment also contributes to flood risk in Keswick town.

The working group:

United Utilities

West Cumbria Rivers Trust

Environment Agency

Natural England

Cumbria Woodlands

What’s happened so far?

Several projects are on-going in the St. John’s catchment.

The Thirlmere Resilience project is part of United Utilities Catchment Systems Thinking Approach to managing catchments in a holistic, integrated manner. The project aims to change land management and restore ecosystems upstream of the reservoir to improve resilience to flood events and reduce water sedimentation and coloration, whilst delivering benefits for biodiversity, carbon storage, access and farm businesses.  The project includes river restoration,  peat restoration, changes in grazing regimes and tree planting.

United Utilities and West Cumbria Rivers Trust have started delivering a series of habitat improvements across the catchment below the Thirlmere Reservoir. This project started in 2021 and so far has delivered a floodplain reconnection project, two river restoration projects, two new ponds and the addition of spawning gravels.

West Cumbria Rivers Trust’s Woodlands for Water project is contributing to habitat improvements by facilitating the planting of new native woodlands through Forestry Commission grant schemes.

Through the Thirlmere Woodland Restoration Project, Cumbria Woodlands are restoring areas of ancient woodland. More information is available here.

All of these projects include extensive monitoring to quantify the difference that is being made and inform future land management decisions.

United Utilities are also working with the Environment Agency and Keswick Flood Action group to explore the possibility of different management regimes for water levels in the reservoir to reduce the risk of it overtopping and contributing to flooding in Keswick during extreme rainfall events.