MIDDLETOWN orchard and wildflower meadow is a delightful transformation of Middletown rec and has blossomed over lockdown, providing an oasis for both humans and wildlife.

Regular visitor Joolze Arnold said its open space has been a lifesaver this year, particularly for those who have been shielding. She said meadow, new trees and even the little paths mown in around the hill top have made a nice space into a really super one.”

Another lifesaver has been coffee house Steep & Filter, in Otley Street. By adapting to become a greengrocer’s over lockdown and extending its range of dry food refills, it managed to keep Skipton supplied with fresh fruit and veg, yeast, flour and brown sugar when the main supermarket chains were struggling with stock. The owners have since doubled their shop-size to keep the grocery store going whilst also being able to re-open their café. And most importantly, they’re helping local residents to shop sustainably and reduce their waste by avoiding plastic packaging where possible.

Unfortunately, the need for face coverings and the regular cleaning of surfaces is creating a new stream of single-use waste items. Discarded face masks and wipes are becoming the new poo bags, littering our paths and pavements, but this doesn’t need to be the case. Re-usable face masks are readily available from local vendors, including From the Source and Cool! Cards and Gifts in Coach Street. And the Oxfam shop in Swadford Street has put in place its own system for avoiding single-use wipes.

Oxfam volunteer, Sarah Webb said : “Our manager Naomi Dodgson came up with the idea of cutting up large reusable cloths into manageable squares which are then used to wipe down all the surfaces in the shop and the back room, keeping staff and customers safe. The cloths are collected in a cotton bag and taken home each day for washing. The shop itself sells a wide range of products that focus on reducing waste, including keep cups and plastic-free Christmas cards. This year’s Christmas wrapping paper is both recycled and recyclable. And of course, buying second-hand from any charity shop is a great way to reduce, re-use and recycle.”

Maintaining momentum on tackling the climate emergency has been a key concern for many local groups. Instead of cancelling events, the use of online platforms such as Zoom have opened up discussions to a wider audience. Friends of the Dales and North Craven Heritage Trust held a free two-day conference in October, entitled ‘A Green New Dales’. A range of expert speakers presented on key themes such as a net-zero National Park and using a ‘circular economy’ to help businesses improve resilience and profit.

On Saturday, November 14, Settle-based group ACE – Action on Climate Emergency – planned to hold its own Zoom conference entitled ‘Making the Most of the Green Recovery’, looking at how to achieve a sustainable, resilient and healthy post Covid-19 world.

Craven District Council continues to work towards its net zero carbon target by 2030. In addition to planting 9,000 trees across Skipton, it is progressing a £1.2 million project to install solar panels and other energy efficiency measures in Council buildings. There are also exciting development projects in the pipeline, including the Skipton Triangle Masterplan which has the potential to make the town a greener, cleaner place to live by integrating safer cycle and pedestrian access to the town’s sporting and shopping facilities.

As lockdown took its hold in March, and does so again this month, a wonderful group of volunteers has stepped into action across Skipton and the surrounding area to ensure people aren’t without food or prescriptions. As well as helping and supporting vulnerable people in the community, Skipton Step Into Action (SSIA) has also run a regular litter pick since May 2020.

SSIA volunteer Trevor Lund organised litter grabbers, donated by the council and Skipton Building Society, and bags so that anyone could join in. The group met every Tuesday, at 6.30pm for an hour or so and welcomed up to 20 people on each pick. Trevor also spoke with the big supermarkets about them helping to clear the litter on their grounds and raise awareness about the problems of litter locally. His initiative brought people together for a common cause and made a difference to the town.

The group has finished for winter though there is some information litter collections taking place. The group hopes to start again in earnest in spring. Meanwhile, SSIA’s positive message of hope and help is now on display in Morrisons.