Move to return nature to the Dales

Langstrothdale in the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire.
Langstrothdale in the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire.
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Threatened species including the red squirrel and black grouse are set to benefit from a major fundraising campaign launched by the National Trust to restore large areas of the Yorkshire Dales back to its natural state.

Over the next twelve months the Trust hopes to raise £250,000 for its ambitious conservation project to ensure the treasured Dales landscape is diverse place where nature can thrive.

It says centuries of heavy grazing and woodland clearance has left the land bare and uniform, with fewer habitats for birds, smalls mammals and others to flourish. While work also needs to be done to combat flooding and to repair blanket bogs.

Six threatened species desperately need help - birds, twite, ring ouzel and black grouse, alongside the plant juniper, the northern brown argus butterfly and one of the UK’s rarest native species the red squirrel.

Martin Davies, National Trust Yorkshire Dales general manager, said: “This is a great opportunity to retain the best of the area and improve it by creating a more natural habitat for birds and animals.

“Nature just needs a bit of help to get things going.”

Cash raised from the appeal will be focused around Fountains and Darnbrook Fells, Horse Head Moor and the wider Upper Wharfedale estate to support the future survival of these six species and their habitat in the Dales.

National Trust will be working together with its hill farming tenants, who themselves have for many years now, been working to change the way they manage the landscape.

The work will involve establishing major areas of native trees and shrubs, repairing blanket bogs, restoring more natural drainage systems to the rivers and hillsides and working with tenant farmers to look into and support different farming models.

The work will include producing taller vegetation with patchy tree and shrub cover that will be of real benefit to ring ouzel, while taller grassland and areas of scrub will help the Northern brown argus butterfly, which is already starting to make a recovery in the Dales. Work will also help a red squirrel reserve close to the land the Trust protects.

“Increased tree cover, healthier blanket bogs, improved river systems and a much more diverse countryside will give a richer and more stable flora and fauna, will store carbon (reducing greenhouse gases), significantly reduce the scale of floods, provide more consistent water flow during droughts - and provide a more attractive landscape for visitors and businesses,” a Trust spokeswoman said.