Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve Win Award

Following developments in the nature reserve, notably path improvements, the Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve (FEENR) were recently nominated by Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for the Craven Community Champions Awards, in the Greener Craven category.

The awards are provided by Craven District Council, supported by the Craven Herald and sponsored by local businesses.  Our award was sponsored by Smart Solutions, who specialise in providing staff to other organisations.  Craven District Council’s Partnership Officer, Kate Senior then informed us we had been short listed for the finals at the Awards Evening at Coniston Hall on February 21st. together with an invite for three delegates.

Sarah Copeland, Tom Lovatt and John Oldfield attended and are very pleased to report they had a really good night and to their surprise, scooped the award! 

Although FEENR had already been in the Craven Herald as short-listed nominees two weeks previously, we didn't think we were likely to win, but what do we know?  Of course, it must have been all the wishes of good luck from villagers that did it!

As well as rewarding, it was an inspiring occasion, being among so many friendly and positive people.  It's  humbling, but also reassuring, to discover how many people are helping to make the world a better place.

But now of course, our group is recognised to be up there with them!  So thanks and congratulations are due to our volunteer Friends, the hard work has really paid off.  Thanks are also due to Yorkshire Dales National Park, to Craven College and our Parish Council for invaluable assistance in our endeavours.  And we’re sincerely grateful to Andrea Burden of the National Park for nominating us.

Proud winners group photo

Sarah, Tom, Shona & John with trophy.

The number of attending group members is limited to three, but as you can see, we have four in the photo

That’s because another of our Friends, Shona Watson was also there with the Skipton and Craven Parents Group

They won the Best Community Group award, so congratulations are also due to them.

FEENR has a good relationship with Yorkshire Dales National Park, and their Sustainable Development Fund financed our recent path upgrade project in the nature reserve.   Andrea Burden is their Officer of that fund and has been instrumental in the grant and assistance that we received.   So an account of that project is shown below.   Some information on the fund is also provided, with web links, that others may find useful.

For further details of the fund, please see the information below

The Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) is an annual fund of £140,000 that supports projects that promote a more sustainable way of living and working in and visiting the National Park, whilst conserving and enhancing our local culture, wildlife, landscape and communities.

Facts and Figures

The Sustainable Development Fund:

• is now in its 15th year of operation

• has given out nearly £2.3 million to 272 projects so far

• is open to everyone including community groups, businesses and individuals and offers money either to kick-start a project or to develop it for the good of the local community and the National Park

• gave out just over £140,000 in 2015-16, supporting 32 projects

What types of project are given grants?

Projects can be far-ranging. They could include recycling, low carbon and renewable energy schemes, green tourism projects, promotion of public accessibility and educational opportunities, or local craft, heritage and wildlife initiatives. Grants can be used to support community, voluntary and business projects alike.

For more details, please go to www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/sdf

People wishing to enquire about the SDF can get in touch by phone - 01969 652337 or by using the SDF email address – SDF@yorkshiredales.org.uk.

An application form and a set of guidance notes can also be downloaded online:

http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/living-and-working/sdf

The fund is open to individuals, community groups, businesses and the voluntary sector.

For further information about the nature reserve, please contact as below

Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve

John Oldfield, Lead Volunteer,  

Tel   01756 794416     Email    john_debbie_oldfield@talktalk.net  

Sarah Copeland Deputy Lead Volunteer

Tel   01756 794862

Please see the following for the before and after photos

Before 1

After 1

Before 2

After 2

Before 3

After 3

Background to Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve and its Path Upgrade Project

In 1900 Embsay had seven mills, each with a mill pond, but at the present day only one remains.  With the eclipse of water power by steam and electric power, the ponds became obsolete.  Consequently, six of them were filled in with scrap and building rubble as factory alterations took place.

When the mills started to go out of business, a group of villagers consulted one of them, Courtaulds, with proposals to adopt and convert their redundant pond area into a natural habitat.  This led to Embsay with Eastby Parish Council buying that site for a nominal price in 1989.

Following public consultations by the Parish Council and receipt of planning permission from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), the villagers rolled their sleeves up, and began converting it into a nature reserve.

This was no mean feat and understandably took over two years.  They first needed to fund-raise.  A £500 grant came from the Shell Better Britain Campaign, followed by more from other companies and organisations, including the Nature Conservancy Council.  Individuals contributed as well and there were many village events which all added to the pot.

Physically they had to clear scrub and rubble, construct a new public path with staircase up a bank, build a new dry stone wall, land-scape the area, then plant natural trees and shrubbery. They also created wetland and a new pond, which was filled by the local fire brigade!  On completion it was opened as the “Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve” in September 1991.

With further tending, over the years the reserve developed nicely and matured.  The trees became woodland and the grass and shrubbery became well established.  And with pruning, some clear space in the centre was maintained for natural meadow areas to flourish.

These meadow areas were traversed by grass paths which were also natural, but needed frequent mowing to keep them navigable and distinct.   This distinction was necessary so that visitors would recognise them and not wander off into the natural habitat, causing damage.

The above maintenance work was carried out by village volunteers, including founder members, ably led by John and Monika Butler who live just outside the nature reserve entrance.  But time moves on and in 2014 they decided it was time to retire.  They then kindly mentored a new group of volunteers which was set up, called the Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve, or FEENR for short.

This group gradually became experienced in maintaining the reserve, including the mowing of the paths, which was done by scythe and strimmer.  As the paths could easily become water-logged in wet weather (after all, it used to be a mill pond!) they decided upon an improvement plan.  This was to gravel the paths, which would both improve the conditions underfoot and remove the need for mowing.

This required a large amount of material to be shipped in, which would be expensive. YDNPA Area Ranger Phil Richards was consulted, who recognised it had possibilities as a suitable project.  He revealed they had a Sustainable Development Fund and put them in touch with Andrea Burden, the fund's officer.  Andrea provided encouragement and helpful advice on the procedures and requirements to qualify for a grant from the fund.

Additionally, Dr Simon Midgley of Craven College, was consulted on the professional aspects in carrying out the work.  He was of great assistance and kindly offered the services of their staff and students to construct the paths, as a useful part of their external fieldwork, of which more will appear in a future article.

This then enabled a plan to be made and costs to be worked out.  Doing this was challenging, owing to poor site access for bulk delivery of gravel.  In the end FEENR volunteers decided to construct a delivery chute down a bank, again more of which to appear in a future article.

The resulting costings came to £1,576-61.  Of this, £600 was for FEENR volunteers for "in-kind donated labour", which was counted as "match-funding" required by the rules of the fund - not that the FEENR volunteers actually got paid!   Craven College staff and students were also not paid, as they were involved in their own instructional operations.  The remaining £976-61 was for materials which were kindly financed by YDNPA's above mentioned Sustainable Development Fund.

At the end of this article, some accompanying photos of a few locations illustrate the conditions before and after the path upgrade.   More photos will be available in future articles concerning the construction of paths and delivery chute, as mentioned above.