THE National Trust has been successful in its bid to pursue an ambitious landscape recovery project for the Yorkshire Dales.

The bid – to be known as the Heart of the Dales project – was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as part of the second round of the national Landscape Recovery scheme.

Heart of the Dales, which is based at Tarn House, Malham Tarn, will focus on delivering significant gains for habitats and farming in partnership with tenant farmers and landowners across the area – including large areas of the landscapes of Malham Tarn and Upper Wharfedale.

The initial phase will focus on planning how landscape recovery can be delivered within the challenging terrain while delivering for nature, climate resilience and carbon sequestration, with a bespoke approach for each farm. Eventually, Heart of the Dales could see more trees in the landscape, improvements to water quality and associated habitats, alongside other steps to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve biodiversity such as peatland restoration and species reintroductions.

Alongside its landscape recovery work, the National Trust is looking at changing land management practices to improve Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve to further protect and promote its status as a wetland site of international significance.

Gwen Potter, project manager for the National Trust in the Yorkshire Dales, said: “We’re so thrilled to have yet more support for the National Trust’s work to make our iconic Yorkshire landscapes fit for a rapidly changing climate.

“Having this part of the bid approved is a significant milestone in what will be a long-term project for the Dales – working with farmers, other local landowners, and many different communities along the way.

“Nature-based solutions are an essential component in the fight for climate resilience, but of course this is equally about ushering in an exciting new era for farming and wildlife too, ensuring financial and environmental sustainability for the long term for our farming communities. It’s as much about ensuring economic resilience for the area as it is about climate.”

Malham Farmer Neil Heseltine, whose Hill Top Farm will be included in the Trust’s Landscape Recovery scheme, said: “I’m delighted that the Heart of the Dales scheme is progressing to the next stage, and I’m particularly pleased to see that local farmers will be at the forefront of the design and planning process.

“No two farms are the same in the Dales, so it’s essential that we’re able to work collaboratively with landowners like the National Trust to find nature-based solutions for the challenges brought about by climate change.

“Landscape recovery is essentially about creating a more sustainable environment for everyone – ensuring that our farms are thriving, not just surviving, for generations to come.”

The news comes after the Trust national report on climate change – A Climate for Change – highlighted an alarming forecast that 71 per cent of places cared for by the charity could be at medium or high risk of climate hazards by 2060. The report specifically highlighted Darnbrook Farm – which is situated on National Trust land near Arncliffe – as being a good example of best practice when it comes to adapting to challenges presented by climate change.

The Heart of the Dales project team will now begin planning a number of public engagement and consultation events in 2024.

National Trust staff and volunteers working in Malhamdale moved to refurbished offices and workshops at Tarn House in November. 

12 full and part time staff – including rangers, ecologists, and visitor experience specialists – are now based in the refurbished North Wing of the historic house which was gifted to the charity in 1946. The offices will also serve as a base for the trust’s local volunteers, who previously had to work out of a much smaller workshop with limited facilities.

For many decades, the mansion on the shore of Malham Tarn was home to the national Field Studies Council, which vacated the site earlier this year. Alongside the refurbishment of North Wing, remedial works have also taken place on Tarn House itself while the trust considers long-term uses.

The trust’s new Malhamdale base can also better facilitate events, meetings, and opportunities for better engagement with the wider community.

Martin Davies, the trust's general manager for the Yorkshire Dales, said: “As longstanding custodians of Tarn House and the wider natural landscape around Malham and Wharfedale, I’m delighted that the National Trust is investing significantly in protecting and preserving an important part of the area’s heritage.

Alongside our day-to-day work to ensure that our part of the Dales is well cared for and accessible to all, we have important plans for the future too as we all grapple with issues around climate and changes to farming practices.

Improved facilities at Malham Tarn will enable our growing team to work collaboratively on these plans with the wider community, while finding a sustainable use for a much-loved local landmark.”

The team will continue consulting local and national stakeholders on potential uses for other parts of the property, which remains inaccessible to the general public.