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Young Rangers at work at Malham Tarn By Emily

Young Rangers go wild at Malham Tarn

Wednesday 23 September, 2020, by Emily

On Saturday 19 September I went with my sister to meet up with the rest of the Dales Young Rangers group at Malham Tarn to do conservation work at the fen and wetland areas there.

We removed seed heads of reeds and cut them back to reduce growth and stop the reeds from spreading too much. This was quite gentle work and it was good to be outside as the sun was out and it is a really nice place.

Reedbeds are an important habitat for wildlife, especially for birds, and have been in decline in Britain so they need looking after. Sometimes they have to be cut back to reduce their spread in order to maintain the rare plants that are also growing under the reeds, and to encourage more diversity of plants.

Fen and wetland area at Malham Tarn
Fen and wetland area at Malham Tarn

There are no bitterns (very rare birds) living in the reeds at Malham so that makes it also fine to reduce/manage the reeds. We just worked on one area of the reeds, where it was accessible, and where they had got out of control a little.

Also, they need cutting by hand because the Malham ponies – that would normally help manage the reed growth – avoid the boardwalks. They’re too unstable for them to walk on with all the squishy wetland underneath. At some point, while we worked on the reeds, I could see the Malham ponies in the distance. These are Exmoor ponies, more usually seen in Devon. There are only two there at the moment, but there is talk that some more might be arriving, which will be good as they help manage the site, as well as being cute.

We also removed part of a long wire fence that was there. This was taken down so the ponies can have more access to the site to help with their management duties. About half of the fence was removed by the time we needed to pack up and go home.

Image of the fen and wetland area at Malham Tarn with the fence removed by Young Rangers.
Fence removed

Initially, we were split into two groups of about six rangers, with one group working on the reeds and the other the fence, and then we swapped over. I worked on the reeds in the morning and, after lunch, the fencing. We were there for about four hours in total.

At lunchtime we spread out on the boards, and after my lunch I went for a stroll around the boards to see what I could see. There were lots of dragonflies, which I took some photos of. There were red ones, I think they are common darter dragonflies. I was hoping to see some more wildlife while I was there, especially some lizards, but unfortunately they were hiding. I did see a frog, though.

Image of a Common Darter Dragonfly on the boardwalk at Malham Tarn
Common darter dragonfly

The Dales Young Rangers group is for ages 11 to 16 and we meet across the Yorkshire Dales to do conservation work and learn about the landscape and local ecology.

My mum told me about the Young Rangers to begin with. I have been to quite a few events now, such as tree planting, helping out with the peatbog, and butterfly counting (a peacock butterfly landed on my identification chart which was very helpful!).

We have also visited eco farms where we learned about sustainable farming, including things like the importance of having healthy soil and wildflowers. We could also pet the goats and play with the farmer’s border collies, which was great – especially the border collies. (I like these so much I have one at home!).

I’m not sure what the next meet up will be, but it’s always something different which makes it interesting.

Young Rangers removing the seed heads of reeds, and cutting them back to manage growth.
Young Rangers removing the seed heads of reeds, and cutting them back to manage growth.

Find out more about Dales Young Rangers by following our Facebook page.

Get in touch

If you would like to come along to any of the meetings please get in touch with:

The new North and West Young Rangers groups are funded by BIG Lottery Fund through the Green Futures partnership programme led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. Green Futures aims to empower and support young people in the Yorkshire Dales and the surrounding area to become more involved, aware and connected to the fantastic natural environment that’s right on their doorstep.

Green Futures is part of Our Bright Future, a £33 million programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and run by a consortium of eight organisations which is led by The Wildlife Trusts. Our Bright Future aims to tackle three big challenges facing society today – a lack of social cohesion, a lack of opportunities for young people and vulnerability to climate change.

The Young Rangers group based in the South of the National Park is being part-funded through Stories in Stone, an ambitious four-year programme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership. The scheme is led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Picture of Emily


Emily, 13, has been attending Young Rangers events since May 2019. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, geography and creative writing.

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