Clair Shields – Small Scale Enhancements Scheme Co-ordinator
As we’re entering the final year of the LEADER funded Small Scale Enhancements (SSE) Scheme in the North York Moors I thought it would be good to highlight some of the great projects the Scheme has supported.
The habitats and wildlife of the National Park are one of its most valuable aspects, and consequently projects which look to enhance areas for the benefit of birds, bees and insects can only be a good thing. The Honeybee Conservation project involved the purchase of 30 nucleus hives providing new beekeepers with the equipment needed to set-up new hives to help increase our local bee population. Local bees have a high tolerance to the Varroa Virus, derived from 15 years of hard work by our local Beekeepers’ Associations.
The SSE has also funded a monitoring programme to continually assess the health of the River Esk. Known as the River Esk Monitoring Initiative, twelve local anglers have been trained to assess the biological health of the river which will feed into the data collected by the Environment Agency who can then take action should the water quality drop below expected levels. The River Esk is home to a number of protected species, including the nationally important Fresh Water Pearl Mussel.
Other environmental projects supported include the Rosedale Church Conservation Area project which is enhancing a “wild” area of the churchyard using wildflower seed gathered from a local farmer’s hay meadow; and St Matthew’s Church Habitat Improvements linking children with their local wildlife havens and sustaining the wildlife populations in area by making bird and bat boxes and bug hotels. The SSE has also supported projects to encourage local communities to start up small growing initiatives, re-connecting communities to their environment. An example is the Doorways Project which involved young people (not working or in education) constructing 20 wooden containers, which were then placed within the public realm and are used by the local residents of Easington and Charlton in the far north of the National Park to grow their own vegetables.
Local history and cultural heritage has been the most popular of the SSE’s themes and I can only mention a few of the projects facilitated. The North York Moors Association‘s History Tree at Danby Moors Centre was one of the first projects supported – a metal plate was fitted to the stump of the iconic copper beech tree (which had to be felled in 2007) displaying a timeline of historical events which occurred during the lifespan of the tree (c. 200 years), and now forms a popular teaching tool for the education team at the Centre. The conservation and promotion of our history and cultural heritage is important to give a grounding for people, which is why those involved with the Egton Mortuary Chapel wanted to erect a plaque to raise awareness and appreciation of the Chapel’s history. Sited in a secluded location outside Egton village, many locals and visitors to the area will have been unaware of the listed Chapel’s story; however the plaque will now illuminate those passing by. Similarly the new Beggar’s Bridge Interpretation Board tells the tale of the local legend behind the building of the bridge involving an endurance swim and a happy ending. It doesn’t matter if it is true or false, it adds an interesting layer to its history, so visit the site to see what you think!
The final theme has been improvements to community buildings, not only village halls but cricket pavilions, football clubs, recreation fields, churches… Conserving a sustainable functioning community of people is as valuable to the North York Moors as populations of wildlife. The SSE assisted Danby Village Hall with their A Warm and Welcoming Village Hall Project, funding loft and cavity wall insulation. The cost savings made from these works will feed into the Danby Village Hall and Esk Valley Community Energy websites to help share useful information with other communities.
Quite often it is the hidden benefits which are the most worthwhile, as with the Fylingthorpe Methodist Chapel. The funding simply provided a new cooker for the Chapel, and one of the resulting benefits was it allowed the community to set up a ‘luncheon club’ for the elderly residents of Fylingthorpe.
Overall there has been some great projects (too many to mention in this post) and it is hoped that this enthusiasm and interest can be carried forward using future grant schemes.