Natural history society members get tour of Dales Quaker land

Photo by Pip Pointon: Jennie White (second from left) chatting with some members of Yoredale Natural History Society outside Bainbridge Meeting House.

Members of Yoredale Natural History Society saw recently how the biodiversity of land owned by the Wensleydale and Swaledale Quaker Trust (W&SQT) in Bainbridge has been greatly increased in the past four years.

Their guide when they visited the Quaker Burial Ground and adjourning woodland was one of the  W&SQT trustees, Jennie White.

As a member of the Yoredale Natural History Society (YNHS) she had first taken them on a tour of Ballowfield, a local nature reserve between Carperby and Askrigg.

There they studied how some plants such as spring sandwort, alpine penny cress and scurvy grass had adapted to cope with the lead in the spoil from the old mines.

They walked through the coppiced Haw Bank where bluebells and primroses were still flowering to reach the scar higher up where there were rock roses and a scattering of mountain pansy. At Ballowfield they saw 36 species of flowers.

At Bainbridge Mrs White explained that the Quaker Local Meeting had enthusiastically supported the `meadow project being included in the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s (YDMT) celebration of ten years of hay time restoration work.

For that the YDMT had sought ten groups in the Yorkshire Dales who would create a flagship upland or lowland wild flower meadow in their own community space. She added that the Bainbridge Burial Ground meadow was the only one of those in Wensleydale.

She was delighted with the assistance and advice they had received from the YDMT at that time. This had included the provision of locally-sourced wild flower seeds and plug plants – many of which had then been sown and planted by pupils from Askrigg school.

She described to YNHS members the hard work involved in developing the meadow: cutting and raking the growth so as to reduce the fertility of the soil, and then seeding. “We are just beginning to see progress with wood cranesbill, pignut, sweet vernal grass, betony and meadow buttercup becoming established.”

She also spoke of her disappointment that there weren’t even more wildflowers, especially yellow rattle.

She explained: “It’s a semi parasitic annual which grows on the grass and reduces the fertility so that you don’t get the dense sward that we have. It will be much lower which allows your meadow plants to come through the grass.

“We have raked down to bare earth, sown the yellow rattle seeds, stamped them in and hoped for a frost because they need that to germinate. Last year was perfect. For one year we had some but that was all. We will continue!”

Some of the YNHS members, however, pointed out that there was a beautiful array of grasses in the Burial Ground.

“They were just so supportive. It was a good day out with much sharing of our wealth of knowledge and experience,” Mrs White said.

The group ate their picnic lunches beside the Meeting House and then went to have a look at the woodland along the River Bain owned by the W&QST.

“We have taken out a couple of trees and raised canopies as well so as to let more light in and that should increase the biodiversity,” Mrs White said. This was in accordance with the advice of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Tree Officer.

Mrs White and another W&SQT trustee, Robert Glaze, are also working on increasing the biodiversity of Low Ellington Burial Ground near Masham.