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.
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,
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.
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.