Tales of hope for nature highlighted by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in a year which will be remembered for the pandemic

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

The reserve is described by Sir David Attenborough as a "cathedral of nature conservation".

We’ve faced lockdowns, uncertainty, anxiety, isolation... but there have also been heart-warming 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.

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Saving Askham Bog

The journey to protect Askham Bog, our oldest nature reserve and described by Sir David Attenborough as a “cathedral of nature conservation”, from insensitive development has been long and arduous. But, finally and very happily, in May last year the appeal against the rejection of development next to Askham Bog was dismissed, and Askham Bog is now 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 again offer our huge thanks to our amazing members and supporters; 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. We would not have been able to do this without you.

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

Bringing people together to protect wildlife on our doorsteps

With most people at home, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust wanted to find a way that we could all encounter and appreciate wildlife from our own doorsteps. We decided to ask people all over Yorkshire to count the creatures in their gardens, yards and out of 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. The Great Yorkshire Creature Count will be back this summer. Sign up for our emails at ywt.org.uk.

Magical moments on our Yorkshire peatlands

Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) is an umbrella organisation comprising Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Natural England, North York Moors National Park Authority, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency. YPP is restoring peatlands in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, and we had a bumper year for protecting and restoring our incredible peatlands in 2020.

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. And we’ve started off 2021 with similar peatland success, with the great news that we have received a grant for £312,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation to continue our vital restoration work on Fleet Moss, the most eroded area of blanket bog in Yorkshire.

Celebrating 20 years of North Cave Wetlands nature reserve

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

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 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. North Cave Wetlands is continuing to expand as we prepare to open three new sections in spring 2021.

Recording 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 nature reserve in Doncaster. This is really exciting 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.

More whales, returned more oysters and replanted more seagrass

There was a 30 per cent jump in the minke whale and porpoise surveys carried out in Yorkshire in 2020.

During the summer, 162 surveys were completed, up from 124 in 2019, and these were observed by shore-based onlookers. Jono Leadley, our North regional manager, also captured an incredible sight on film: a magnificent humpback whale breaching in the water off the coast of Flamborough.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust also received £237,400 from the Government’s green recovery fund to return 100,000 native oysters and replant dwarf seagrass habitats in the Humber estuary.

Human impacts have caused degradation to Yorkshire’s seascapes and expanding the projects which are bringing these important species back will help to form habitats which encourage greater biodiversity and long-term sustainability across the estuary.

Looking back, we are so proud of what we achieved during such a difficult year – but none of it would have been possible without the support of our amazing members. Become part of the movement and join us in protecting and restoring wildlife and wild places in Yorkshire by becoming a member today. Go to ywt.org.uk/membership.