Wildflower planting programme launched at Ripon nature reserve
Last updated Jan 6, 2023
Speedwell wildflowers at Hell Wath
Speedwell is one of the species of wildflower that can be seen at Hell Wath. Picture: Ripon Photographic Society

The Skell Valley Project is inviting people to help restore wildlife habitats at Ripon’s Hell Wath nature reserve.

The £2.5 million project aims to provide a sustainable future for 12 miles of the River Skell through Dallowgill Moor and Ripon an on to the vale of York.

Throughout January, the project team will be working with the Friends of Hell Wath and Harrogate Borough Council to carry out habitat improvements by restoring areas of grassland and continuing to remove areas of scrub.

The areas for clearance have been selected with the aim of creating a rich environment for a wide range of animal and plant species.

The conservation work is part of the Friends’ management plan for the site developed in liaison with the four-year Skell project, which is led by the National Trust and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

On Saturday January 14, members of the community can find out more about the wildflower planting programme and how they can become involved by meeting at the Ripon City Panthers clubhouse at Hell Wath, where a drop-in session will be held between 10am and 3pm.

Following the public event, scrub clearance will continue throughout the week with various volunteer groups. Information boards and maps throughout the site are being put in place to provide details of what’s happening.

Red Admiral is one variety of butterfly playing a key role in pollination at Hell Wath. Picture: Ripon Photographic Society

Hell Wath is a designated local nature reserve important for its grassland and contains species such as the common spotted orchid and adder’s-tongue fern.

Work so far has helped wildflowers recover and rare bee orchids have reappeared in key areas. This month’s work will ensure these wildflowers are not swamped by the encroaching scrub and woodland, which will create more feeding opportunities for pollinating insects.

The project’s area ranger Gabby Crisp said:

“We’d love the local community to come and give Hell Wath a hand by joining us on Saturday January 14 at a drop-in practical session we’ll be holding on site.

“We’ll be hand-cutting some scrub to allow space for the grassland and the wildlife it supports to thrive. It’ll be a great way to kick off the new year with some fresh air and a chance to burn off some Christmas calories too!’.

Jeremy Dunford, secretary of the Friends, added:

“Growing the wildflower population of the large grassland meadows is a key part of the management plan for Hell Wath. This will increase the range and number of butterflies and other insects in this area which will in turn see a larger variety of birds and small mammals at the nature reserve.

“Those unable to make the public event can still get involved in helping nature thrive in this special place from the comfort of home. Friends of Hell Wath are asking the local community to help by cultivating wildflower plugs to plant on Hell Wath in the autumn.”

For a £5 donation, the Friends will provide a pack of wildflower seeds, a tray of 12 biodegradable seeds pots, peat free compost to fill the trays and an instruction leaflet for cultivating the seeds provided.

  • The first AGM to be held by the Friends of Hell Wath since it gained charitable status will be held at South Lodge, from 7pm on January 19. All are welcome to attend, although voting is open only to members of the charity. For more information click here.

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