Paul, one of our volunteers, hard at work
Tuesday 27th July saw the conservation group head out to Pateley Bridge in North Yorkshire to tackle some unruly undergrowth in the yard of St Cuthbert’s church. Weaving between ancient gravestones, our team raked up cut grass and lopped overhanging low branches to help make the church yard easier to maintain.
The idea is that by raking up old grass, we remove it before it rots and provides nutrients for even more weeds and grass, thereby keeping the undergrowth in check. Important little jobs like this help keep community spaces well-maintained and the countryside accessible.
Our journey began with an unidentified moth found by David in the basement of Open Country HQ at the Harrogate Volunteer Centre. The moth was about an inch long, brown, furry and had long wings. We tried to work out exactly what species of moth it was, but all was made clear when Open Country member Ross concluded it was a new form of “moth fruit bat.”
We managed to get the church yard clean and tidy in time for lunch, shortly before rain clouds descended over Nidderdale, threatening to give us all a good soaking. It takes more than looming weather to deter our conservation work though, in fact Open Country member Charlotte was an example to us all – heaving fork-loads of grass despite recent illness. Charlotte has been coming out with Open Country since she was 16 years old.
After lunch we headed up to Wath to tackle some pesky Himalayan Balsam, a shallow rooted weed which threatens native plant species through aggressive seed spreading. Sometimes called ‘balsam bashing’ we singled out the invasive plant and pulled it out by the roots, which means other native plants have a better chance of success.
While in Wath we took in a few sights, including a Buzzard flying overhead (an actual Buzzard this time, rather than Ross ’spotting’ it) and an old Methodist chapel reputed to be one of the smallest in England with five unequal sides. We weren’t too far away from the old Nidd Valley Light Railway either, so we took a look at the old track bed and a house which used to be a station on the line.
On the return journey back to Harrogate, we took the scenic route over the dales via Skipton Road and passed by Greenhow Hill near a conservation project that Open Country helped lend a hand with some time ago. The Rotary Club of Harrogate have a ‘carbon offsetting’ scheme which means travellers can offset emissions from the aircraft they travel on by planting trees on the dales. Open Country helped plant some of these carbon-offset trees so we took a drive past to check on their progress. We felt proud to see some of the saplings now poking their leaves above the top of their protective planter tubes.
It was a busy day for the Tuesday conservation team, peppered with some interesting sights for our members to enjoy, along with some productive activities to strengthen our ongoing mission to help people with disabilities to access the countryside.