Natural icon of the Yorkshire Dales will be saved forever!

Ashes - Charlotte Bickler

Staff at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are celebrating this week after receiving the news that a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund has been successful. Thanks to National Lottery players, a grant of £59,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund was the final piece in a funding jigsaw to secure Ashes Pasture, in Ribblesdale.

The Trust has raised over £200,000 in the last six months to ensure it can buy this important upland hay meadow site. Only a handful of fragments of wildlife-rich meadow remain in the Yorkshire Dales and saving this patch was of uppermost importance.

“We have been bowled over by the response by members of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the wider public to our fundraising campaign”, said Jono Leadley, Northern Regional Manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

“Then to receive the news that The Garfield Weston Foundation had granted £20,000 and the Heritage Lottery Fund had offered £59,800 had us jumping for joy.”

Ashes Pasture is close to the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct, which conveys people travelling along the famous Settle to Carlisle railway line. Tucked away on the eastern slope of the mighty Ingleborough, Ashes Pasture is a window back in time, offering a glimpse of the wildlife which would have once thrived in throughout the Dales landscape. The funding will enable the Trust to increase its current small nature reserve of eight hectares to twenty hectares, including the remaining section of the Site of Special Scientific Interest and surrounding land. This will give the Trust the chance to enhance the much larger site for wildlife and to improve public access to this site.

David Renwick, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Few people realise that every National lottery ticket has the potential to save the UK’s important species and habitats. The purchase of Ashes will safeguard the nature reserve and provide homes for wonderful wildlife.”

The Trust has worked closely with Natural England staff who manage the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve to ensure the access improvements will be conducted in a way that ensures the fragile wildlife of the site is protected whilst giving people the chance to enjoy it. Both Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park put in letters of support for the project, demonstrating the importance of this site in the winder context.

With the funds assembled, the Trust will now move to purchase the land and hopes to start work on access and habitat improvements in the New Year.

“Purchasing the land surrounding the current nature reserve will give the wildlife that calls Ashes Pasture a home a much brighter future. Small, isolated sites are very vulnerable to external pressures and once wildlife is lost there can be no way that species can return.”

“Bigger sites with better conservation management are more robust and better able to withstand the impacts of bad weather, unintentional damage and so on,” commented Jono.

Ashes Pasture is renowned among naturalists for its incredible array of wild flowers, including several species of orchids such as the exquisite greater butterfly orchid and very rare small white orchid. Improvements to the traditional stone barn will hopefully encourage the barn owls and kestrels that use the site to stay and breed, while better meadow management should help ground-nesting birds such as curlews.

Jono continued: “If we get the management right, then with time we should be able to help the wildlife spread out from the SSSI into the adjoining areas. We hope lots of people will get involved with our work in the area and help us shape the future of this superb natural icon of the Yorkshire Dales.”

Find out more about the work of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in the Dales and North Yorkshire.