New walkway step in right direction for hidden wetland

A widely forgotten ancient wetland on the broader outskirts of York and Harrogate is ready to be rediscovered after months of hard work by staff and volunteers at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, fuelled by funding from the Two Ridings Community Foundation.

Earlier this year the wildlife charity successfully applied to the community foundation for £47,000 from the Allerton Waste Recovery Park Landscape and Cultural Heritage Fund to boost public access to its little known Upper Dunsforth Carrs Nature Reserve. The grant has enabled the installation of a renewed and extended walkway, essential for improving visitor access whilst protecting its fragile wetland ecology.

The 10.21 hectare nature reserve is at the heart of Upper Dunsforth village, nestled between Aldborough and Great Ouseburn. Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), those responsible for its care liken the reserve to a hidden time capsule holding increasingly rare examples of habitat and wildlife that were once widespread across the low-lying Vale of York.

Carr is a northern word for a waterlogged woodland derived from Old Norse ‘kjarr’, meaning swamp. An existing wooden boardwalk, constructed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust over a decade ago, had been closed off to the public for safety reasons having deteriorated rapidly as it traversed woodland wet for much of the year.

In total the reserve now boasts 230m of new walkway made from recycled plastic, offering significant benefits over timber for the damp environment, including a predicted lifespan four to five times that of treated softwoods. Importantly the plastic is also chemically inert, removing the risk of soil contamination and subsequent impacts on plants and other wildlife as has been the case with treated timbers.

Project lead James Searle from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said: “Quite rightly waste plastic continues to hit the headlines as a serious form of pollution. It’s an added bonus for this project that we’ve been able to utilise such material in a really positive way.”

The recycled plastic used is sourced exclusively from UK materials, such as milk bottles and other plastic containers which would otherwise be destined for landfill. It’s estimated that the new boardwalk could contain between 50,000 and 60,000 recycled milk bottles.

James continued: “Whilst to some a walkway may seem mundane, it’s a really important addition to this reserve. Upper Dunsforth Carrs offers specialist wildlife interest for nature enthusiasts. In the absence of other visitor facilities the improved boardwalk enhances the area’s cultural heritage by allowing people to experience an otherwise inaccessible landscape. It’s also great news for the wildlife by keeping visitors to the designated nature trail and reducing the risk of trampling on a vulnerable ecosystem.”

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust additionally plans to use a portion of the grant to re-fence areas of the nature reserve which are currently grazed as an important part of its management regime, ensuring the safety and security of livestock, visitors and habitats alike.

Plan a visit to Upper Dunsforth Carrs Nature Reserve