A passion for conservation at Kilnsey
Kilnsey Park and Trout Farm was established in Wharfedale in 1978 as a way of helping the 1,300 acre estate diversify from farming and become more self-sufficient. It has since developed to become a centre for conservation and one of the most sustainable businesses in the UK.
The 800-year-old estate, run by the Roberts family who in the late nineteenth century took over Salts Mill in Saltaire from Sir Titus Salt’s family, has long had an interest in sustainability. In the 1930s William Roberts, grandfather of current manager Jamie Roberts, installed a hydro turbine to generate electricity for the village of Kilnsey. And so a passion for conservation was born.
Harnessing water power
A new turbine was installed by Jamie’s father Anthony in 2001. A second turbine was added in 2012. Together they harness the power of Sykes Spring, which produces a million gallons of water a day. The two turbines can provide up to 40 kw of electricity, much more than the estate needs, so the surplus is sold to the National Grid.
Two water source heat pumps heat the Park’s shop, café and bunk barn and provide all their hot water, with solar panels generating additional electricity. All this helps to cut energy bills by at least £5,000 a year.
The pristine water from the natural spring is used to farm high quality fish and feeds the fishing lakes. “The mineral water is limestone filtered which is why our trout taste so good,” says Jamie. The fish farm produces 35 tonnes of rainbow trout a year which is sold either in the estate shop or to local pubs and restaurants.
“Our rainbow trout,” adds Jamie, “are a very sustainable and healthy source of protein. Accredited by the Marine Conservation Society, farming trout doesn’t have a huge impact on marine fish stocks. It’s a really efficient way of producing protein to feed the planet.”
Some of the fish is smoked at Kilnsey’s own artisan smokehouse, which is expanding its range of produce to include local smoked meats, cheese and game. Local produce is the flavour of the day on the menu in the estate’s café, which won Yorkshire Food Destination of the Year award in 2014.
A showcase for local wildlife
Visitors to the estate are attracted by more than the fish. It is one of only two sites to see the Lady’s Slipper Orchid, the UK’s rarest orchid. It was reintroduced by the estate in 2007 in partnership with Natural England. One of the orchids was taken to Chelsea Flower Show in its centenary year in 2013 where it helped Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden gain a Silver Gilt Award and the coveted People’s Choice Award.
The Lady’s Slipper is just one of the 150 different types of Yorkshire Dales wildflower on view on the nature reserve which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Another visitor attraction is the estate’s collection of red squirrels. They were introduced at Kilnsey by Jamie’s mother Vanessa in 1994 as part of a national captive breeding programme. They are sent to other sites, to encourage breeding elsewhere, particularly on islands such as the Scilly Isles where they can be safe from grey squirrels.
Kilnsey Park is also launching a new range of family bushcraft events. ‘We want to give children the chance to discover just how much fun they can have outdoors, while for adults it’s a chance to leave behind their everyday lives and rekindle those fun childhood memories.” There are also plans for a new bushcraft centre called The School of the Wild.
Going for gold
Not content with all this, the estate continues to burnish its green credentials. It is applying for a Green Tourism Scheme Award, and following Silver Gilt for the Lady’s Slipper at Chelsea, hopes for Green Gold this time.
Contact Kilnsey Park Estate on 01756 752150 or visit www.kilnseyestate.co.uk