THE valuable wildlife corridor that is the Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve is the latest area to receive a grant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park's Sustainable Development Fund (SDF). The almost £1,000 has been used to pay for the upgrading of paths in the reserve so visitors no longer stray off , causing potential damage. Lesley Tate reports.

A SPECIAL area of Embsay with Eastby has been given additional protection, thanks to the hard work of volunteers, students, and a grant of almost £1,000 from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The £975 Sustainable Development Fund grant has been used to carry out work to the paths at Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve,which it is hoped will make walking through the area easier, while at the same time protecting sensitive areas.

The grass paths through the reserve had become unclear, with visitors inadvertently wandering off and damaging the natural habitat.

Now, thanks to the grant, and the work of the friends group, together with Craven College students, the paths have been upgraded and re-routed with limestone gravel placed on top of a membrane.

The nature reserve was opened in 1991 and over the years has become a popular place to visit and to walk. Its paths however have a tendency to become water-logged, prompting volunteers to come up with a n improvement plan.

John Oldfield, lead volunteer with the Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve said the paths improvement project meant people could enjoy the reserve, without damaging it.

“This Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority-funded project of paths improvement for the Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve has proved a great success.,” he said.

“It has enhanced a valuable community asset in the Skipton area; provided valuable fieldwork for Craven College students; and enabled easy access for visitors to observe the natural habitat, without adversely affecting it.”

Andrea Burden, the park authority’s SDF officer, said the nature reserve played a key role in contributing to the Embsay-Skipton-Bradley wildlife corridor.

“ It helps people connect with the natural environment. The small SDF grant for path improvement works fits in with the National Park Management Plan vision for making the Park a friendly, open and welcoming place with outstanding opportunities to enjoy its special qualities.”

In his short history of the reserve, Mr Oldfield explains how in 1900, Embsay had seven mills, each with its own pond. Today, just one remains.

“ With the eclipse of water power, the rest had been filled in with building rubble as factory alterations took place. For a nominal price, one of these areas was bought by Embsay with Eastby Parish Council in 1989.”

Following public consultation, and the approval of the then planning authority, villagers set about converting the land into a nature reserve.

Mr Oldfield says: “This was no mean feat. It took over two years to fundraise; clear scrub and rubble; construct a new public path and staircase up a bank; create a pond and wetland; landscape the area; and then plant trees and shrubbery.”

By September, 1991, it was finished and it was opened as the ‘Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve’.

Over the years, the reserve has developed and matured, the trees developed into woodland, and the grass and shrubbery became lush.

“With pruning, clear space in the central meadow areas was maintained, and these areas were traversed by grass paths, which needed frequent mowing to keep them accessible and distinct. This was necessary so that visitors would not wander off and damage the natural habitat. “

He added: “As the paths could also become water-logged, volunteers in Friends of Embsay with Eastby Nature Reserve decided upon an improvement plan. This was to gravel the paths, which would both improve the conditions underfoot and remove the need for mowing.

This required a large amount of material to be shipped in, which would be expensive."

So, with the money from the path authority, and with the help of college students, using it as ‘field work’, the plan has now been achieved.

Mr Oldfield adds: “A more managed approach which has included formal routing of paths away from sensitive areas should mean that this special area will be retained. Botanical and species recordings have taken place at the reserve since its origins and continue to be gathered by volunteers following the recent management changes.”

Mr Oldfield has been nominated by the national park authority in the Greener Craven category of Craven District Council’s Community Champion Awards. He has since been shortlisted, and is due to find out on February 21 whether he has won.

To find out more about the Sustainable Development Fund, telephone 01969 652337, email:, or visit: