Our highlights of 2020

Our highlights of 2020

2020 has been a year that none of us will soon forget.

We've faced lockdowns, uncertainty, anxiety, isolation... but there have also been heartwarming stories and tales of hope. We've witnessed glimmers of a better future where our wildlife and wild places are valued and protected at the heart of our lives.

Some of our highlights this year have been unexpected, but all prove that joy can be found even in the hardest of times. We hope you enjoy remembering them!

Grey seal

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus). Donna Nook National Nature Reserve, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. December 2009. - Neil Aldridge

We adapted to a global pandemic

As with so many other organisations, the first lockdown created total upheaval practically overnight. Dealing with working from home and furloughed staff, we had to figure out how to continue our work for wildlife in these new and uncertain surroundings.

But we managed. From mastering new technologies to running virtual events, to ensuring our visitor centres and offices are safe and welcoming for all and wearing PPE on our nature reserves, we adapted, innovated and persevered.

In a year where not much feels positive, we take our hats off to everyone who has simply managed to keep going, despite it all. It may not feel like a big achievement, but for us, that's a reason to be proud.

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Sunlight over Askham Bog

Credit: Daniel Malone

We saved Askham Bog

In May, we found out the appeal against the rejection of development next to Askham Bog was dismissed, meaning that Askham Bog is protected for the future. After years of campaigning, from engaging our supporters to behind-the-scenes advocacy, and council meetings to a public inquiry, this news was absolutely joyous to receive.

We can’t thank our members and supporters enough for their continued and unwavering support of Askham Bog. You raised an incredible £39,000, allowing us to make the strongest possible case at the public inquiry, while over 7,000 people stood with us in objecting to the proposals.

Our collective voices and passion saved Askham Bog - a true victory for the natural world.

Read Askham's story
Hedgehog with red GYCC logo

We brought people together to protect wildlife on our doorsteps

With most people at home, we wanted to find a way that we could all encounter and appreciate wildlife. We decided to ask people all over Yorkshire to count the creatures in their gardens, yards and out their windows over 24 hours in June. And so the Great Yorkshire Creature Count was born! 

Over 4,500 people signed up to take part, with an incredible 13,500 observations and an astonishing 1,400 species observed over the weekend! With tips, advice and inspiration shared all weekend, we hope we inspired all our participants to take action for wildlife in their own little patch and beyond!

Jenny on peatlands

We saw magical moments on our Yorkshire peatlands

Yorkshire Peat Partnership had a bumper year for protecting and restoring our incredible peatlands!

We surveyed an amazing 3,755 hectares of peatlands and completed restoration works on 3,113 hectares - that's over 4,000 football pitches! We also completed restoration plans for 7,711 hectares of peatlands across 20 sites..

Earlier in the year, our colleague Jenny was out filming some of our restoration work when she experienced a magical moment with a short-eared owl soaring around her - she's captured it on video. This is why we do what we do!

Watch the video
North Cave, Credit: Jess Bersey

Credit: Jess Bersley

We celebrated 20 years of North Cave Wetlands

North Cave Wetlands is a truly 21st century nature reserve. From working quarry to thriving wetland, this oasis for wildlife turned 20 this year!

Once part of ancient fenland, the area was drained for agriculture and then transformed into a quarry. Areas around North Cave are still actively quarried today. We acquired the reserve in 2000 and began to transform the area into a wetland, returning it to the habitat that it once was.

For the first time in years, we started to see wildlife return to the area in larger numbers, and were overjoyed to see rarer species like bearded tits and redshanks successfully breed on the reserve. And North Cave Wetlands is continuing to expand as we prepare to open three new sections in spring 2021. 

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Bio-D products

We developed new partnerships

We'll only achieve our vision for Yorkshire's wildlife and wild places by working with others around us. We're pleased to be working with some amazing partner organisations, who are generously supporting us through their work.

From the sustainable cleaning products produced by Hull-based Bio-D, to the incredible wildlife photography from Andrew Bennett Wildlife Photography and so many more, our work and mission is being shared far and wide.

Our partners
male Marsh Harrier © Malcolm Cook 2020

male Marsh Harrier © Malcolm Cook 2020

We recorded the 'big three' at Potteric Carr

For the very first time, we discovered that the 'big three' - marsh harrier, bearded tit and bittern - had all bred at Potteric Carr. We've been working for this since we created Huxterwell Marsh all the way back in 2006! This is great news as it demonstrates that the reedbeds across Huxterwell have matured sufficiently to attract a full range of bird species.

It also means that Potteric Carr is becoming an established habitat within the wider landscape. It's part of a network of nature reserves and protected areas which support many amazing species and provide the habitat they need to thrive. In the future, we hope the small colony of bearded tits will grow further, both at Potteric Carr and beyond!

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Ana at Flamborough

We brought the sea to you

Many of us weren't able to visit the seaside this summer, so our Living Seas team decided to bring the wonders of the Yorkshire coast to you! We wanted to continue to inspire ocean lovers, and those who have yet to discover our amazing coast, during the pandemic.

We've created a huge number of free resources, from activities to do at home and an all new online education package, to monthly Living Seas Live talks with fantastic special guests.

You can still access all of our content and sign up for our upcoming talks, so have a look and let the magic of Yorkshire's marine wildlife amaze you!

Browse our resources
Entertaining the Wildlife on Loversall Delph at Potteric Carr by Sheila Bury

Painting and Drawings Runner Up Entertaining the Wildlife on Loversall Delph at Potteric Carr by Sheila Bury


We celebrated our incredible volunteers

Our volunteers help us to achieve so much for wildlife and for people. From putting in the hard graft on cold, miserable winter days to speaking passionately about wildlife to people all across Yorkshire, we could not do what we do without them.

Despite our volunteering programme being severely disrupted this year, our volunteers have still managed to clock a huge 19,233 hours for wildlife!

We celebrated our volunteers with a virtual Volunteers' Week this year, with competitions, videos, quizzes and more! This beautiful painting was submitted by volunteer Sheila Bury - isn't it wonderful?

Watch the video
Sunset at the seaside

(c) Maria Tamarit

We kept (almost) all of our nature reserves open

So many of us have found solace in and reconnected with our natural world this year, but we're all too aware that access to nature is not equal to all, with people living in urban areas the worst affected.

During the second lockdown, we wanted to make the wildlife and relaxing surroundings of Potteric Carr's wild, outside spaces accessible to all Doncaster residents. We gifted complimentary access to the reserve during November and were thrilled that so many local people safely took up the offer.

Whether you've been visiting your local nature reserve for years or you've discovered new wild places on your doorstep, we're so pleased we've been able to keep nature open to all!

Treating giant hogweed Derwent

We tackled invasive non-native species

Invasive non-native species (INNS) pose a real threat. They overwhelm the habitats where they grow and outcompete our native species, causing lasting damage to the environment, our health and the economy. As part of the Yorkshire Invasive Species Forum, we're tackling INNS all across Yorkshire. This year alone, we managed to treat 54.8km of riverbank for Japanese knotweed, complete surveys along 49km of rivers and worked with an amazing 64 landowners!

We've also successfully secured funding from Yorkshire Waters' Biodiversity Enhancement Programme to help us protect our native white-clawed crayfish, who are at threat from crayfish plague spread by the American signal crayfish!

Yorkshire Invasive Species Forum
Little ringed plover credit Andy Morffew

We experienced the joy of new fledglings

Little ringed plover bred at Bolton-on-Swale Lake nature reserve for the first time in 30 years! Two chicks fledged - a truly joyous moment! 

At the reserve, we've also created a sand martin bank and an osprey post, but it'll be a number of years before any ospreys move in. Currently they breed in Scotland and the Lake District (with a few pairs in Rutland), but as the species moves north we are likely to see more ospreys looking for nesting sites. Bolton on Swale Lake is part of a commonly used migration route for these birds. Let's hope it's one of our highlights in a few years time!

More about the nature reserve

It's all thanks to you.

Your support has meant that despite the adversity we have faced this year, we have been able to continue protecting, restoring and enhancing Yorkshire's wildlife and wild places, and for that we are truly grateful. You are helping to protect our wildlife and landscapes and inspiring people across Yorkshire to take action for nature. Whether you've given your money, your time or your words of support - we're so grateful. Thank you.

We're hoping that 2021 brings calm and a chance to move forward after the turmoil of this year. But whatever happens, we know that we are resilient, committed and passionate about wildlife.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!