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Window of opportunity to save ancient hay meadow

Monday 3rd July 2017

Ashes Pasture Nature Reserve Planned Extension. Credit: Charlotte BicklerAshes Pasture Nature Reserve Planned Extension. Credit: Charlotte Bickler

Ashes Pasture, a small, yet exceptionally beautiful upland hay meadow in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the focus of a campaign by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to raise £175,000. If successful, the future of one of the rarest grassland sites in the UK will be secured.

Without the help of supporters we won't be able to save this site. Every pound really does help.

The funds will enable Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to more than triple the size of the existing nature reserve to conserve and extend its rich diversity, and open up access to the site without damaging it, inspiring visitors with its views and the wealth of wildlife which currently flourishes there.

A loan from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK, has currently enabled Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to step in and purchase the land. The loan must be paid back in full to prevent the land being resold on the open market.

On the back of a strong track record in securing funds to support its work, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust plans to raise the bulk of the monies needed from charitable trusts and related funders, but an identified shortfall of £39,000 needs to be raised.

Bernie Higgins, the Trust’s Living Landscapes Manager for North Yorkshire said: "Esmée Fairburn have handed us a lifeline for Ashes Pasture and we need to repay them. If the land is allowed to hit the open market the future of this stunning site is precarious and potentially lost to wildlife forever. Expanding this nature reserve helps us to create a network of wildlife refuges in this area of the Dales, improving the future for many important plants and animals.“

The plight of England's few remaining hay meadows is highlighted nationally. A devastating 97 per cent are reported to have been lost since the end of the Second World War; an area equivalent to one and half times the size of Wales.

Ashes Pasture's idyllic location in stunning Ribblesdale, nestled between the iconic peaks of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough, adds to the charm of this diverse grassland nature reserve.

CurlewComing into its own in summer months, the grassland is dotted with orchids and other flowering plants and buzzing with bees. The area has become an important breeding site for birds such as curlews and meadow pipits. Black grouse are occasionally reported nearby and management of the reserve by the Trust includes boosting potential black grouse habitat by creating a mosaic of tall and short vegetation and providing a range of food sources to feed chicks. The area of gully woodland on the eastern boundary follows a stream and adds further diversity. Current management includes grazing by cattle and sheep in autumn and winter which helps to maintain its diverse flora.

Miss Higgins continued: “We've had a heart-warming response from our membership – raising more than £17,000 within the opening days of the appeal. Without the help of supporters we won't be able to save this site and we urge anyone who is in a position to do so to give generously. Every pound really does help."

Visit our Ashes Pasture JustGiving page to donate or contact Yorkshire Wildlife Trust on 01904 659570.