A NEW grant scheme administered by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority aims to improve the natural environment in the 13 parishes around Swinden Quarry near Cracoe. The authority’s senior wildlife conservation officer, Tony Serjeant, tells us more .

THE Swinden Quarry Natural Environment Fund (NEF) has £30,000 each and every year until 2040 to allocate to projects that improve biodiversity and the natural environment within the locality of Swinden Quarry.

Community groups and individuals with a project aimed at improving the environment where they live have until the end of the month to get in touch and find out if they are eligible for a grant.

The money is primarily intended to benefit the parishes of Burnsall, Conistone with Kilnsey, Cracoe, Embsay with Eastby, and Flasby with Winterburn. Also, Grassington, Hebden, Hetton Cum Bordley, Linton, Rylstone, Stirton with Thorlby, Thorpe and Threshfield.

The NEF is very much focussed on projects around Swinden Quarry because the money has been obtained via a ‘section 106’ planning agreement with the quarry firm, Tarmac, to offset the impacts of quarrying.

The legal agreement, completed on December 20, 2019, was a condition of the planning permission granted to Tarmac for the deepening of Swinden Quarry and the extension until 2039 of the time allowed for the winning and working of limestone from the quarry.

Plans have been agreed that will see the quarry restored by 2041. This will yield some environmental benefits in terms of the creation of new potential wildlife habitats.

However, as these benefits will be delayed as a result of the decision to extend the life of the quarry - they were due to come to fruition earlier under the old permission - it has been decided to obtain some additional improvements to the local landscape through establishment of the Natural Environment Fund.

Successful applications to the Swinden Quarry NEF will be those that enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, promote tranquillity and improve the quality of air and of the riverine environment within the locality.

In the last round of bids, £2,000 was awarded to Cracoe School for an outdoors community environmental area.

A further £4,000 was granted to Appletreewick, Barden and Burnsall Angling Club for tree planting and other work beside the River Wharfe near Hebden .

The angling club aims to protect a section of river bank from erosion and to provide shade to cool the river waters so they are better able to support a range of aquatic wildlife.

The natural environment within the Craven district is already a rich one. The district encompasses the upper reaches of the rivers Aire, Wharfe and Ribble – teeming with wildlife such as otters, dippers and brown trout.

The rivers are fed by becks arising amidst the moors, vivid purple with heather in the summer or speckled white with bog cotton. Here may be heard the plaintive cries of curlew, golden plover and lapwing.

In the valleys there are still examples of fine, flower-rich hay meadows and pastures that still buzz with insects. There have been habitat losses and deterioration in wildlife, but the precious sites that remain can be made better be more joined up and extensive, a task that can be helped along by communities with funding to add to their undoubted enthusiasm – groups like Appletreewick, Barden and Burnsall Angling Club, that has been doing its best to conserve Wharfedale’s rivers and streams since its foundation in 1873.

Applications are now being invited for the next round of funding with a deadline for submissions of July 31.

The Swinden Quarry NEF will be a good source of small to medium-sized grants to help local people realise projects that improve their local environment.

If you have a project that needs a bit of support, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Contact Tony on 01756 75167 or e-mail wildlifeconservation@yorkshiredales.org.uk.