News: November 2023

Newly laid hedge at Low Houses, Swaledale

Award success – North Yorkshire Community Awards 2023 – Caring for the Environment Award; Battle grounds: culture wars in the countryside; Hedge laying at Low Houses; Litter blighting UK footpaths; Snaizeholme tree study launched; Substantial light woodland and open vegetation characterized the temperate forest biome before Homo sapiens; Swift and Swallows data; Tree and hedge planting; Tree nursery box built at Reeth Surgery; Wildlife Trusts publish list of the UK’s Government’s broken promises to nature

Award success - North Yorkshire Community Awards 2023 - Caring for the Environment Award

Sustainable Swaledale volunteers won the ‘Caring for the Environment Award’ for work done for four projects: a tree-planting project that has expanded to include a tree nursery and woodland monitoring; a swift, swallows and martins project erecting bird boxes and collecting population data; a meadow and wildflower restoration project and a fourth project addressing local food growing and sharing. 

Rachel, Olivia and Naomi went to Harrogate to a local partnership conference where the awards were announced and received a certificate, a glass plaque and £1,000. There were approximately 150 nominees across the 3 awards (team, environment and outstanding volunteer). It was very clear that North Yorkshire does rely very much on volunteers especially in the social services sphere. 

Congratulations to Richmond School Eco Club which was runner up for the Environment award and to Reeth and District Community Transport which was runner up for the best community group award. We are grateful to Jill who encouraged  us to enter.  Check out coverage on the North Yorkshire Council website and Richmondshire Today.

Battle Grounds: Culture Wars in the Countryside

Thanks to Charlotte who has recommend this Radio 4 series.

Farmer’s daughter and rural affairs journalist Anna Jones uncovers the personal stories of individuals caught up in the culture wars raging under the surface of British rural life

. There are 5 programmes just under 15 minutes in length looking at different issues such as the culture wars around trees; birds of preys; right to roam; veganism and the rural/urban divide.  All can be accessed on BBC Sounds at

Hedge laying at Low Houses

Last week, eight of us went hedge laying along Low Lane on the Swale Trail, under expert guidance from Stephen Lord, a pro from near Kirkby Stephen. There were two days with a mixture of Sustainable Swaledale members and  Tees-Swale: naturally connected staff and volunteers.

Because we haven’t completed power tool training, we had to do it the hard way and use bow saws, axes and billhooks rather than use an electric chainsaw as generally used these days by the professionals. The trick is to always lay the hedge up hill. One saws into the tree at 45 degrees and then uses a billhook or axe to force the crack apart so that the tree can be bent with an intact hinge, which allows sap to continue reaching the now almost horizontal tree.  We were taught the Westmoreland style which meant that every now and then a stake was hammered into the ground and a nail hammered into the stake and then bent over the branches to keep them down and in place.   

The plan is to do a bit every year and re-introduce this traditional practice and the wildlife and environmental benefits it brings as we do, so that we’re ready to lay the hedges we’ve been planting in due course.  We would like to thank Steve and John who were the instructors, Christa at Tees-Swale: naturally connected who sponsored our places and Martin Wood-Weatherill whose hedge along the Swale Trail we worked on.  Discussions are in place to see whether we could do another day or two ourselves over winter to join the two sections that were worked on.

Litter blighting UK footpaths with Lucozade bottles most often found, says study

Guardian article on the ‘State of Our Trails’ report, conducted by Trash Free Trails, which is the first UK study that aims to establish a scientific understanding of the environmental consequences of the tonnes of litter in our landscapes. Based on  more than 1,600 submissions by 4,500 volunteers, the authors have estimated as many as 9.1m individual pieces of litter could be found across the UK’s 220,000km of public rights of way, equating to an average of 41 pieces per kilometre.  The surveys took place between July 2020 and August 2023 and the most popular brands found included Lucozade (most frequently found), Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Monster and Walkers. A total of 26,106 of the 216,466 items of single-use plastics found in the report were drinks containers that would be eligible for inclusion in proposed deposit return schemes. Read the full report.

Snaizeholme tree study launched

BBC article on a 20 year study of the new woodland being planted at Snaizeholme near Hawes. It is hoped that the study will be able to assess the flood protection benefits to be accrued by the planting of a sizeable area of new woodland in what is said to be the wettest place in Yorkshire as well as benefits derived from carbon storage and nature recovery.  The benefits of established woodland are well known but this will be a chance to measure the benefits of newly planted woodland.

Substantial light woodland and open vegetation characterized the temperate forest biome before Homo sapiens

Thanks to Liz who posted about this article from Science Advances in which the authors challenge the belief that the temperate forest biome was dense, closed-canopy forest. The authors argue that light woodland and open vegetation accounted for more than half the woodland cover in the period just before the emergence of homo sapiens. This probably equates to the wood pasture that was very much part of the two dales until recent times.

Swifts and Swallows data

Last call for any final swift/swallow/martin sightings or nest records you may have collected over the summer.  You can submit them on the form on our website or email the data or even a photograph of your notes to  The deadline to include data in this year’s report is 15th December otherwise it will be saved for next year. 

Future plans include a chance for recorders to meet and look at the gathered data as well as looking for new sites and making and installing new next boxes. Get in touch if you would like to be involved.

Tree and hedge planting

The new season for planting trees and hedges has started. A total of eight sites will be planted in Arkengarthdale and Swaledale with four tasks scheduled before Christmas and four afterwards. One task will involve removal of redundant tree guards from a mature woodland site in Arkengarthdale.

Our summer survey of sites planted last year revealed that where planting took place after Christmas on more exposed/drier sites, the trees had less time to properly  establish themselves before the dry summer weather and consequently suffered more in the dry weather than those planted earlier. As a result we will be planting the more exposed sites before Christmas to allow longer for the seedlings to get established. We are also trialling different guards as we think that the tight spirals contributed to some plants over-heating last summer and also experimenting adding more drought tolerant gorse and juniper to our planting mixes where appropriate.

A return visit to some of the sites in the autumn has revealed new growth emerging on seedlings that has turned brown so we are hopeful that a wet winter might help restore many of the seedlings to full health.

The booking sheet for the tasks has been distributed to the volunteers email list and posted on the group Facebook page. If you want more details, please email

Tree nursery box built at Reeth Surgery

One tree nursery box has been put up on the back lawn of the Reeth Surgery.  We used the same style pallet collars used for the garden beds already there.  The pallet collars were placed on a pallet with rodent proof mesh at bottom and mesh cover at the top to provide maximum protection for the seedlings.  More collars have been ordered to be shared with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s other Tree Nursery projects.  Additional boxes will be added to the surgery in due course and at other locations.  The need for access to water and the requirement for regular watering in the summer  are all matters to be taken into consideration when looking at sites. We are looking to increase the water storage provision at the Surgery.

We are grateful to Stacey for supplying the pallet collars and Carol at the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust for funding the purchases. Carol is looking for two more groups to get involved in establishing tree nurseries. The groups must be based in or near the Yorkshire Dales National Park area. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please email  

Wildlife Trusts publish list of the UK’s Government’s broken promises to nature

The Wildlife Trusts published an article written on 3rd November, before the King’s Speech, indicating that the government needs to up its game if it is to meet its manifesto pledge “to make ours the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”. The article identifies issues indicative of a nature-negative agenda including repeated attempts to water-down environmental protections through ditching nutrient neutrality rules, the recent announcement not to prioritise species reintroduction, and the passing of the Retained EU Law Act which allows the UK Government to revoke or weaken environmental legislation without parliamentary scrutiny.

The only energy and environmental issues included in the King’s Speech were a reference to licences for oil and gas projects in the North Sea to be awarded annually, under the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill and an Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill which will ban the export of cattle from Great Britain for fattening and slaughter. Check out an article by Friends of the Earth on What the King’s speech should have said as well as what Greenpeace was hoping for and their response to what was delivered.

Since then we have had a government reshuffle with Steve Barclay replacing Therese Coffey as the Environment Secretary. Check out this Independent article identifying what their journalists believe should be the priorities for the new incumbent.

Core Group Meeting

The December  meeting will take place at the Two Dales Bakery on 7 December at 7.00pm. Please get in touch if you’d like to join us.

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