Renowned for its conservation work under the custodianship of the Roberts family, Kilnsey Park has been reconnecting people with nature for decades.

Only here can you see the rare lady’s slipper orchid, once a common sight throughout the Dales, whose delicate blooms now only flower in a handful of locations, including the Park’s nature reserve.

Kilnsey Park also manages one of the UK’s Red Squirrel Captive Breeding Programmes.

It is a scheme which works to ensure that the gene pool of the critically endangered UK red squirrels is as large as possible.

Whilst the Park’s gates have been closed during lockdown, Jamie Roberts has had an opportunity to re-asses how Kilnsey Park can further protect and enhance some of the natural species and habitats of the Yorkshire Dales, as well as safely sharing them with the public.

The invasion of the Welsh town by goats providing unlikely inspiration.

“The story of the goats venturing down from the hills to take over Llandudno last March reminded some of the older residents of Kilnsey of the wild goats that used to live up on the moors above the Crag,” said Jamie, adding: “They’d probably lived here for hundreds of years, and although records confirm there were 21 goats in the early 1900s, by 1972 they’d completely disappeared.”

Almost certainly a British Primitive Goat, a hardy species with short legs and a long shaggy coat, these feral goats were once a common sight not only in Upper Wharfedale, but throughout the rural north, although locally they were known as the ‘Craven chamois’ (after the rugged mountain goats of the Alps).

Smallholders and farmers traditionally kept a ‘nanny’ for the milk, which they’d then send up onto the moors to mate with the wild males, a practice which assured the continued hardiness of the breed.

Despite still existing in pockets throughout the UK, such as the Cheviot Hills and The Valley of the Rocks in Devon, the goats of Craven have gone, something which has inspired Jamie to reintroduce them onto the Estate.

Jamie added: “The British Primitive Goats will make a fitting addition to our existing small herd of Angora goats and alpacas both of which are an important part of the Roberts family heritage, as their fleeces were used for wool production at Salts Mill which was owned and run by my great, great grandfather, James Roberts, between 1892 and 1918.”

The return of the native goats to Kilnsey Park this summer coincides with the visitor attraction’s re-opening on Monday, March 29 - goats being just one of the new additions alongside some rare breed pigs and an upgraded family fishing pond.

“We’ve cleaned out the pond and made it much deeper which will greatly enhance the family fishing experience at Kilnsey.

“We’ve also added a new bank to accommodate a larger number of socially distanced families at any one time,” said Jamie.

With a history of fishing dating back to the monks of Fountains Abbey who passed through the valley with their great flocks en route to the grazing moorlands around Malham, Kilnsey Park has become renowned for its two spring-fed lakes, part of its TroutMaster accredited fly fishery.

The Estate is also home to the 180 year old Kilnsey Angling Club.

Jamie added: “The family fishing pond is a great place for families of all ages to get out into the fresh air and have fun together.

“Fishing has seen a stratospheric rise in popularity throughout the pandemic, mainly because of its proximity to nature and abundant fresh air and the fact that it is naturally socially distanced.

“As well as Mortimer and Whitehouse, A-lister anglers like David Beckham, Liam Neeson, Zac Efron and Rita Ora have opened the pastime up to a more diverse audience.”

As well as a new ‘Gone Fishing in the Yorkshire Dales’ experience for families, further developments to look out for at Kilnsey Park include the addition of a wildlife pond aimed at boosting the amphibian life in the Park, along with a new sensory trail.

The Park’s new look signage also highlights its renewed focus on fishing, weddings and family fun in the Yorkshire Dales.

Jamie concluded: “We have so much to offer at Kilnsey Park from our natural woodlands with wild fauna and flora, to our fresh water springs and menagerie of farm and wild animals, birds and bees.

“It’s the perfect escape and antidote to today’s chaos and uncertainty.”