News: April 2024

Buttercup meadow image by Steve Bidmead from Pixabay

This month: Butterfly numbers; Dark skies in Yorkshire Dales: lighting advice; Membership numbers set new record; No Mow May and verge cutting; Nature officially becomes a musician; Nature recovery should be a top priority for the YDNPA; North Yorkshire Council Climate Change Strategy 2023-2030; Reeth Surgery veg plots – location for next meeting; Save our Swale speaker at 4 July meeting; Swaledale Farmer podcasts;  Tree Nursery seedlings; Water pollution;  Website volunteer sought; WingIT boxes installed on the Low Row Institute

Butterfly numbers

The BBC reports that the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UBMS) recorded the lowest count ever for some species in Britain in 2023. The UBMS recorded a mixed picture for 58 types of butterflies with increases in numbers of Chequered Skippers, Brimstones and Large Blues but a decline for the Small Tortoiseshell and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Scientists say that human activity, including habitat destruction and climate change, are behind the change in numbers. Statistics available on the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme website.

Having already seen my first tortoiseshell butterfly this year, I’m now looking out for my first sighting of orange tip butterflies which The Woodland Trust is asking people to log as a seasonal indicator, to help build a pattern of changing climate.

Dark skies in Yorkshire Dales: lighting advice

Permanent light meters at locations across the dales and one-off readings at a further 46 locations in 2023 consistently produced sky quality meter readings of above 21 indicating that the Yorkshire Dales National Park offers good opportunities for stargazing.

Swaledale is within an internationally recognised Dark Sky Reserve and advice on how you can reduce light pollution at your property can be found on the Yorkshire Dales National Park website. We have sourced some printed leaflets from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) on the Park’s dark skies status and how it can be preserved so if you know of a business or building that would benefit from a leaflet, let us know and we can get one to them.

Membership numbers sets new record

Revd. Canon Caroline Hewlett is the 50th paid up Sustainable Swaledale member for 2024 which is an increase on last year when we had 38 paid up members.  Of the 50 members, 27 paid in 2023 and 23 are paying for the first time. Membership fees allow us to cover costs which are not covered by projects and allows us to support a project while seeking funding.

No Mow May and verge cutting

Plantlife is encouraging people to stop mowing their lawn in May to enable wild flowers to support more pollinators.  Resources supporting No Mow May including  how to increase wild flowers can be found on the Plantlife website. Rob has designed a poster using Plantlife graphics to advertise the Plantlife campaign and Sharon, Alison, Rachel and Rob have placed the posters on community noticeboards and other public points.

The Friends of the Dales are trying to encourage parish councils to reduce the amount of cutting of verges that is done. They have recommended contacting Iain Summerson, Asset Management Engineer at North Yorkshire Council who is keen to work with parish councils and local environmental groups to try and improve the biodiversity of roadside verges with more sensitive cutting regimes. We have contacted him so watch this space.

Nature officially becomes a musician

The BBC has reported that a new initiative will allow artists appearing on major streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music to list “Nature” as a featured artist  when they use natural sounds. This means that  a share of their profits will be distributed to environmental causes.

Nature recovery should be a top priority for the YDNPA

The YDNPA in January asked people to indicate what the six top priorities should be for the YDNPA as part of the new five year management plan from April 2025. The results are in and show that out of the 18 potential priorities, the top choice was ‘help nature to recover by creating, restoring and connecting important habitats’ followed by “protecting rare and threatened species” and “improving river water quality”. For those living in the Park, helping younger people to access housing and jobs and getting more of the housing stock into permanent residential use are key issues. Check out the YDNPA summary

The YDNPA will publish reports later this spring with a stakeholder engagement event for local organisations planned for May with a final version of the management plan published towards the end of the year.

Source: Richmondshire Today article

North Yorkshire Council Climate Change Strategy 2023-2030

North Yorkshire Council (NYC) has issued a document setting out how North Yorkshire Council is proposing to respond to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing for the changing climate and supporting nature to thrive. NYC plans to work with partners to achieve the ambition to be a carbon negative region by 2040 and encourage residents, businesses and visitors to take climate responsible actions.

Reeth Surgery veg plots – location for May meeting

The May meeting will be at the Reeth Surgery beds and will include some practical tasks such as tidying up the site and also some work on the Tree Nursery enclosures.  A hand grafted pear cordon has been donated by John McCoy and is starting to bud. Delyth and Gail have added fresh compost (donated by Ric and Heather) to the beds and Gail has been speaking to Reeth School to see if we could get some of the pupils interested in a raised bed. A 1000L water tank is now installed behind the surgery for watering which can be filled at the meeting.

We already have a Tree Nursery box ready so if you have any seedlings already in trainers, please bring them with you.

We are still to arrange our June meeting – please let us know if you have any ideas about a theme or location and would like to run a meeting.

Save our Swale speaker at 4th July meeting

A Save our Swale speaker will be coming to speak at our meeting on 4 July. We plan to advertise the meeting as a public meeting because we think that water pollution is an issue that will interest a wider public. We have booked Gunnerside Village Hall for the event.  We are hoping to use this as a fund raiser by selling cakes etc so volunteers will be wanted to bake cakes. Look out for publicity. 

Swaledale Farmer podcasts

Listen to Swaledale Farmer: six 15-minute podcasts on sheep farming and farming with nature in Swaledale and Teesdale. Produced with support of Tees-Swale: naturally connected, the podcasts feature Swaledale sheep breeders Christine Clarkson, from Muker, Sue and Ray Ridley, from Kexwith, near Marske, and Michael Watson from Harwood in Upper Teesdale. Available via podcast services or on the Dales Countryside Museum’s  website

Tree Nursery seedlings

Some of us are reporting the emergence of seedlings in our boxes. Please update the Tree Nursery spreadsheet with any sightings of fresh growth which is not weeds! As we will soon have access to water at the surgery, please bring any seedlings in trainers to the May meeting for placing in the Tree Nursery enclosure.  A workshop to transfer seedlings from seed boxes to trainers is in the process of being planned for the summer.

Water pollution

Northern Echo article dated 28th March on the work of Save our Swale. The group has been testing water quality monthly at points along the Swale and has found potentially pathogenic coliform bacteria, like E. Coli, exceeded the recommended levels in 56% of samples taken, and that phosphate levels (from detergents and fertilisers) were higher than recommended in over half the samples. There was an increase in levels in samples taken below the Richmond Sewage works over those upstream from the works. You can check out the Save our Swale activities on their facebook page

The Environment Agency published storm overflow spill data for 2023 at the end of March. The data for 2023 shows a 54% increase in the number of sewage spills compared to 2022, and a 13% increase compared to 2020. The increase is partly due to 2023 being so wet (6th wettest year since Met Office records began in 1836). Environment Agency data is  available on their website as is a press release issued 27 March 2024

Website volunteer sought

We are looking for someone to help refresh and support the Sustainable Swaledale website. If anyone interested, please let me know via

WingIt boxes installed on the Low Row Institute

Sustainable Swaledale WingIt volunteers have installed a swift box and two sparrow terraces (2x 3 nesting boxes)  on the refurbished Low Row and Feetham Institute. Mud baths will be installed outside the Institute to allow returning house martins to collect mud to repair the 20 nests located on the south side of the building. The team will monitor bird numbers over the summer.

The swift box is a special design by Stewart for Swaledale with extra protection against elements.  The WingIt volunteers – Rachel/Olivia/Charlotte/Stewart cleaned out the swift boxes put up last year on the 4th April so all is ready for our returning swifts. Data for all the sites is being stored centrally and many of the sites will have QR codes installed this summer giving information on the site. We hope to have an improved swallow cam set-up at the Two Dales Bakery.

The WingIt group may also consider artificial nesting cups as last year, nests either got washed away early in the year or dried up later when we had the very hot weather. We are looking to have a nest box/nest cup building workshop this summer so if anyone would like to volunteer to help us, please let us know. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is bidding for funding for a bird box project so if the funding comes through, Sustainable Swaledale might join them as a partner meaning that we would support a wider range of birds.

There were 20 data collectors gathering information last year with 200 data points – representing either nest sites and fledging birds. The WingIt group will be working with more public buildings this year.

Volunteers putting up boxes at the Low Row Institute

Core Group Meeting

The May meeting will take place on 2 May at the Reeth Surgery veg beds (unless wet). Please get in touch if you’d like to join us.

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