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Embsay Nature Reserve made more accessible

Volunteers carrying out the path resurfacing at Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve last summer
Volunteers carrying out the path resurfacing at Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve last summer
Hand drawn map of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve showing the paths
Hand drawn map of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve showing the paths

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Bainbridge, 29 January, 2019

Craven College students and local volunteers have re-surfaced paths at Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve, creating a more accessible green space for the community, with support from the National Park Authority’s Area Ranger and the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

Grass paths through the reserve had become unclear and were causing visitors to inadvertently damage the natural habitat.  They have now been upgraded and re-routed with limestone gravel placed on top of a membrane.  A £975 SDF grant helped pay for the cost of the materials and a delivery chute.

The National Park Authority has since nominated John Oldfield, lead volunteer for The Friends of Embsay and Eastby Nature Reserve, in the Greener Craven category of the Craven Community Champions Awards.  He has been shortlisted by Craven District Council, which is holding the awards night on 21 February.  

SDF officer at the National Park Authority, Andrea Burden, said:  “Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve plays a key role in contributing to the Embsay-Skipton-Bradley wildlife corridor.  It helps people connect with the natural environment. The small SDF grant for path improvement works fits in with the National Park Management Plan vision for making the Park a friendly, open and welcoming place with outstanding opportunities to enjoy its special qualities.”

John Oldfield of Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve said: “This Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority-funded project of paths improvement for the Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve has proved a great success.  It has enhanced a valuable community asset in the Skipton area; provided valuable fieldwork for Craven College students; and enabled easy access for visitors to observe the natural habitat, without adversely affecting it.”

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.

John Oldfield’s short history of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve

In 1900 Embsay had seven mills, each with a pond, but at the present day only one remains.  With the eclipse of water power, the rest had been filled in with building rubble as factory alterations took place.   For a nominal price, one of these areas was bought by Embsay with Eastby Parish Council in 1989.  

Following public consultations and planning approval, local villagers set to and converted it into a nature reserve.

This was no mean feat.  It took over two years to fundraise; clear scrub and rubble; construct a new public path and staircase up a bank; create a pond and wetland; landscape the area; and then plant trees and shrubbery.  On completion it was opened as the “Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve” in September 1991.

Over the years the reserve developed and matured. The trees became woodland and the grass and shrubbery became lush.  But with pruning, clear space in the central meadow areas was maintained.  These areas were traversed by grass paths, which needed frequent mowing to keep them accessible and distinct.   This was necessary so that visitors would not wander off and damage the natural habitat.

As the paths could also become water-logged, volunteers in Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve 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. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority recognised it as a suitable project, and kindly offered a grant of just under £1,000 from its Sustainable Development Fund. Additionally, Craven College students kindly offered to construct the paths as part of their fieldwork.

A more managed approach which has included formal routing of paths away from sensitive areas should mean that this special area will be retained. Botanical and species recordings have taken place at the Reserve since its origins and continue to be gathered by volunteers following the recent management changes.

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