In a couple of weeks’ time the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership celebrates its second birthday.
The Partnership was launched on July 1 2014, which means we’re already halfway through our four-year programme.
One of the pleasures of reaching the grand old age of two is that we’re really starting to see the results of our efforts in the landscape around us.
On June 11 there’s a chance to see for yourself. We’re holding an open day in Fishpond Wood, near Bewerley. It effectively marks the completion of our work there, although it goes without saying that the job of managing the wood for posterity will go on.
For the last two years we’ve been helping the owner, Peter Brambleby, to rescue Fishpond Wood from decline. You’d hardly know it to look at the wood this spring but only a few years ago it was suffering badly from neglect.
Peter remembers well the state Fishpond Wood was in when he bought it in 2012.
“The rhododendrons and sycamores were taking over,” he said. “The pond was silting up to the point of being lost entirely in a few more years. Biodiversity was down, litter and dog mess were everywhere, and access was heavily restricted.”
A few years later, the change is dramatic. Renewed management – planting and coppicing of trees, clearing of brambles, bracken and rhododendrons – has brought a marvellous burgeoning of the wood’s wildflowers.
“There are definitely more bluebells this year,’ said Peter. “They’re just later coming out because of the weather. The wild garlic and dog’s mercury are more prolific, too, which is great – both of them are indicator species of healthy ancient woodland.”
The fishpond itself is also in rude health, having been dredged and cleared of weeds. Peter was delighted recently to discover that a nesting moorhen had laid a clutch of six eggs.
“In the last few weeks I’ve also seen duck, geese, a grebe and a heron on the pond. It would be great if they had a chance to settle.”
To add the finishing touches to the wood’s renaissance, we’ve installed ‘welcome’ panels at the two main entrances, which together with the improved path network will help to make the wood accessible to all comers.
We’d be delighted if you’d join us on June 11 and see what we’ve been doing. There’s no better time of year to visit. Besides the wildflowers, there are tadpoles in the pond, woodcocks and willow warblers, and a resident pair of roe deer to look out for.
Kids can try their hands at being Time Spies and Nature Detectives. Entrance is free. You’ll find more information on our website.
While we’re on the subject of forthcoming events, the next few weeks see the launch of our Big Dig 2016.
We’re looking for volunteers to help us unravel the story of the abandoned village of Lodge, on the shores of Scar House reservoir. You might not have heard of Lodge, though you may unwittingly have stopped to rest your legs on one of its tumbled walls.
It survives as a name on the map and some ghostly stumps of buildings at the side of Carle Fell Road as it begins its climb over the shoulder of Dead Man’s Hill into Coverdale.
This once thriving farming hamlet was abandoned in the 1920s to make way for the reservoir. Its history goes back to the Middle Ages, when it was a grange farm of Byland Abbey.
It first figures on maps at the end of the 16th century, and shortly afterwards the first names appear fleetingly, tantalisingly, in the historical record: a Thomas Smith bequeathing his property to his son, ‘named after my own name,’ in 1623; Ann Horner of Lodge in 1656 willing 10s to be paid ‘yearly to the poor for ever.’ (Are those 10 shillings still paid?).
We hope to dig our way into their world. As Jim Brightman from Solstice Heritage, who are leading the dig, says: “The last days of Lodge are only now slipping out of living memory, so there is still something very real and tangible about the stories we’re aiming to uncover.
Investigating a deserted settlement is exciting because it means engaging intimately with the forgotten stories of ordinary people.” The excavations at Lodge take place between 12 and 23 July.
If your archaeological skills need honing, don’t worry – we’ll be holding training sessions before the dig. Again, see our website for details.
Before you close your diary, you might like to take note of another event. Our long-running project celebrating Nidderdale’s haymeadows culminates in an exhibition by local artist Gill Kirk at Number Six Gallery in Pateley Bridge to June 12.