News: April 2023

Swallow's nest on the Two Dales Bakery nest-cam

Ancient trees and woodland pasture; Coronation Big Help Out event at Hudson House 8 May; Farming and nature on film; Have your say on YDNPA housing development plans; Natural flood management at Heggs Castle Cluster; Plan for water; Polluted rivers; Swift boxes; Two Dales Bakery swallows in residence; UK bird numbers continue to crash; Zero emissions house planned for Middleton Tyas.

Ancient trees and woodland pasture

The Radio 4 programme Start the Week on 24th April was on ancient trees. Interviewees include Jill Butler, an ancient tree specialist talking about the Ancient Tree Inventory, run by the Woodland Trust and Peter Wohlleben, a German forester who  explains the significance of leaving ancient forests untouched, and is scathing about the failures in forestry management and the planting of non-native trees for profit. Catch the programme on BBC Sounds.

Wood pasture is discussed on the programme and was very much present in Swaledale in the past. Find out about the history of Swaledale woodland over the centuries in a series of articles called ‘If Trees could talk’ by Rob Macdonald, in the Reeth Gazette.   Parts 1 and 2 appeared in the March Gazette,  part 3 in the April Gazette with later parts to appear from May to August. The articles are accompanied by illustrations of Swaledale trees by Jocelyn Campbell.

Coronation Big Help Out event at Hudson House 8 May

Please come and see us at our stall in the garden between 11 am and 3pm and find out about volunteering opportunities for our projects.

Farming and nature on film

Neil Heseltine, who farms at Malham and is Chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), appeared in the David Attenborough/BBC  Saving our Wild Isles programme, focusing on people trying to restore nature to the British Isles. The programme is only available on the BBC IPlayer.

Upland hill farmers Stephen Bostock and Dave Fullerton, based in Coverdale,  star in a YDNPA film called Farming through the Seasons. The film takes you through the farming year and looks at the projects that the farmers are undertaking to enhance nature.

Have your say on YDNPA housing development plans

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has released Consultation No 6:  Land for housing development, seeking views on potential housing development sites in the dales. Reeth is the only local location being considered. The deadline for responses is 12 May.

Natural flood management at Heggs Castle Cluster

The work on leaky dams as part of the Arkengarthdale Natural Flood Management (NFM) project is the focus for an article in the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust Spring Newsletter. Project Officer Rhiannon is hopeful that the project will continue to expand, saying: “We have been really lucky to find an opportunity to work with a cluster of farmers during the early stages of this project. They have enthusiastically taken on a landscape scale approach to both renaturing and NFM, working with the National Park Authority and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. Though not all components of the work are complete, we have been able to use the work we have achieved so far to demonstrate to other landowners what the different NFM interventions look and act like. We have been really excited to see an increased interest since working with Sustainable Swaledale, we’re now looking to secure further funding to continue this landscape scale approach throughout the dale. If you are interested in having your land assessed for NFM potential email me at

Plan for Water

The Government has released its policy paper: ‘Plan for Water‘. Policies include designing new homes to be more efficient with water usage; tackling run-off from fields and roads; banning plastic-containing wet wipes (responsible for 93% of sewage blockages); and working with farmers to  ensure water supplies for crops while protecting wildlife.

Polluted rivers

The Rivers Trust has a handy website called “Is my river safe to swim in?”. A map shows where the sewerage network discharges treated sewage and overflows of untreated sewage and storm water into rivers. Gunnerside and Reeth treatment works are monitored, and in 2022 the Gunnerside sewer storm overflow spilled 50 times into the Swale for a total of 181 hours. At Reeth, the sewer storm overflow spilled 46 times for a total of 50.5 hours, into the Arkle Beck. The Rivers Trust advises that you should avoid the water immediately downstream of discharges and avoid storm overflows after rain.

Recent research shows that sewage outflows are also the main source of increasing levels of microplastics in rivers. This has detrimental effects on wildlife and wider implications as 80% of the plastic litter in the sea is carried there by rivers. Source: BBC news.

Additionally Swaledale and Arkengarthdale rivers also have high levels of metals due to former lead mining activity. Details of the water environment around Reeth and Swaledale can be found on the DEFRA website.

There was a serious pollution incident on 14th April with Holme Beck, Gilling Beck and Skeeby Beck affected by a slurry discharge with the pollution flowing into the Swale.  Hundreds of fish have been killed. The Yorkshire Post claims that the slurry escape is a result of vandals causing damage to a farm in Hutton Magna. Coverage also in the Northern Echo and Richmondshire Today. The Yorkshire Dales River Trust CEO was on Tyne Tees TV talking about the incident and how it has undone all the good work that  the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust has been doing supporting local landowners and farmers in the area through the Mid Swale Tribs Project

Swift boxes

Swift boxes have been put up onto properties in the two dales as part of the ‘Wing It’ project, giving a helping hand to the swifts, swallows and house martins of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. Many thanks to the installation team for putting up the boxes. Owners will be playing swift song in the next few weeks to alert swifts to the box’s presence and hopefully entice the swifts into the boxes.

UK bird numbers continue to crash

The Guardian reports that recently released government data shows that bird populations continue to decline in the long and short term.  On average, the abundance of 130 breeding species was 12% below its 1970 value. A steep decline in the late 70s and 80s has been matched by a 5% decrease between 2015 and 2020. Experts agree that the major cause of the decline is habitat loss.  The Government set a target of reducing species decline by 2030 under the Environment Act 2021, which most experts believe will not be achieved, although the Government claims to have helped improve the conservation status of 96 priority species including the curlew and bittern. The Wild Bird Populations in the UK data which looks at annual trends was last updated 23 April 2023.

Two Dales Bakery Swallows back in residence

A solar powered webcam has been set up to view the resident swallows at the Two Dales Bakery in Reeth.  The swallows have been nesting at the bakery over the past few years, raising two broods a season and have now returned for this season. The  swallows can be viewed on a screen in the café and there will be a QR code which people can scan to find out more about swallows.

Zero emissions house planned for Middleton Tyas

Richmond-based sustainable design expert Timothy David Crawshaw aims to build the first net zero property of its kind in the region at Middleton Tyas.  While most buildings aim to be carbon neutral in operation, this house seeks to achieve net zero emissions including the emissions of producing and transporting the building materials and construction. Source: Richmondshire Today article

Core Group Meeting

The May meeting will take place at the Two Dales Bakery on 4 May at  7.00pm.  Please get in touch if you’d like to join us.

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