LOCAL volunteers have celebrated the fifth anniversary of a community programme started to help protect 74km of waterways across the North-East.

Northumbrian Water’s Water Ranger initiative, the first of its kind within the UK water industry, has worked in partnership with volunteers to protect 56 of the region’s waterways more prone to pollution, with members of the public completing more than 8,500 patrols since the launch of the project in December 2014.

To mark the anniversary, the water board held a celebration event at Durham County Cricket Club’s Emirates Riverside stadium to praise the work of the volunteers.

Aaron Little, who patrols routes in Haltwhistle, Haydon Bridge and Allendale, was among the many volunteers at the event.

He said: “I feel passionate about doing my bit for the environment and being part of this community scheme. My four legged assistant, Sallie, loves it too.

“The programme is making a difference to the environment and is helping to improve our rivers for generations to come.”

Simon Cyhanko, head of wastewater networks at Northumbrian Water, was full of admiration to the volunteer water rangers.

He said: “Our community initiative has been hugely successful and reflects our commitment to looking after the environment.”