The Countryside Life column with the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership

Two of our volunteers with The Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton at this years NiddFest. Photo: Mike de Horsey.
Two of our volunteers with The Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton at this years NiddFest. Photo: Mike de Horsey.

The Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership is drawing near to completion. But we’re far from finished yet, and as well as taking a backward glance at what we’ve achieved, we want to give you a glimpse of the many ways in which our work will go on.

A run-through of everything we’ve done since we started in July 2014 would take up more space than we have here, but there’s room to mention some favourites.

Pride of place has to go to the work we’ve done to safeguard Nidderdale’s wonderful landscape. We’ve restored or enhanced over 60 hectares of meadowland so that future generations can enjoy the marvellous spectacle of the wildflowers in bloom.

We’ve improved habitats for some of our most endangered species.

Nidderdale’s woodland is its crowning glory. No other dale in Yorkshire has quite the same quality or degree of tree cover. We’ve added to this tally – over 10 hectares so far.

At Fishpond Wood we’ve helped to restore not just woodland but an entire historic landscape, including a 19th Century icehouse that hardly anyone had seen for decades.

As with our three other Flagship Heritage Sites – the settlements of Lodge and Scar at the top of the dale, Wath Mill, and Prosperous Lead Mine and Smelt Mill – we’ve upgraded paths, improve access, installed interpretation, published information and invited the public to visit.

Nidderdale’s cultural landscape heritage is not only in a better state than when we started, it’s better known. Our volunteers have surveyed 1,080 hectares of farmland, meticulously recording archaeological and historic features. If you know what you’ve got, it’s much easier to protect it.

We’re especially proud of the opportunities for young people we’ve helped develop. Our Heritage Skills Foundation Programme pairs school leavers up with local businesses to provide invaluable vocational training, encourage young people to stay and work in the area and keep traditional skills alive.

Looking farther afield, we’ve done some great work with the Cardigan Centre, a community organisation in Leeds.

Hundreds of inner-city primary school children have been on farm visits in Nidderdale and gone away enchanted with the countryside. Many of them had never left the city before.

What else? We’ve published an online guide to the Nidderdale Way, which will really help to put this marvellous long-distance route back on the map.

Miles of footpaths and bridleways have been improved and stiles, gates and signs upgraded.

The important thing to add, though, is that we couldn’t have done any of this without our endlessly enthusiastic and committed volunteers. Local people have really turned out for us. We wouldn’t like to put a figure on the number of volunteer hours we’ve been gifted, but it’s surely in the region of 5,000 and counting.

Our volunteers will be keeping a watchful eye on the meadows, the old buildings, the archaeology, the wildlife, to ensure a lasting legacy. A really big thank you to them, and to everyone else who has supported us, come to our events, helped us out and read this column.

There’s just time to mention our end-of-scheme conference on 12–14 September, which will feature site visits and guided walks and will be a chance to mark the end of the story… so far. You’re all welcome.