FROM its 100 nature reserves and peat and marine restoration programmes to community projects, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) is proud to be at the frontline of conservation in Yorkshire thanks to the help of its thousands of members and supporters.

Here, YWT reveals its highlights from a year of wild wonders as the charity cares for nature and wild places across the region.

*The Reviving Calderdale’s Rivers project removed several tonnes of rubbish from Hebble Brook, Halifax, and willow spiling (a living willow wall) was installed along two farmers’ fields to prevent erosion.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Willow spiling to help Calderdale's rivers. Picture: Connor ByersWillow spiling to help Calderdale's rivers. Picture: Connor Byers

*New owl boxes at Stirley, near Huddersfield, this year heralded a parliament of baby barn owlets. These owlets have been ringed, allowing the British Trust of Ornithology to keep an eye on regional barn owl numbers.

*Visitors were very excited to spot water rails at Adel Dam nature reserve for the first time. Smaller and distinctly slimmer than the moorhen, water rails are very secretive wetland birds, rarely spotted, although they are becoming increasingly common in Yorkshire.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A ringed barn owl chick at Stirley. Picture: Karen McDiarmidA ringed barn owl chick at Stirley. Picture: Karen McDiarmid

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A water rail. Picture: Gillian DayA water rail. Picture: Gillian Day

*A large programme of works to make Hetchell Wood nature reserve east of Leeds, was completed thanks to a generous donation. Nearly 200m of public footpath was resurfaced, a brand new 57m handrail installed, a new retaining wall built for a spring, and around 140 brash bundles were installed across the craggy slope to combat erosion.

*There have been some unusual avian visitors to Ripon City Wetlands nature reserve this year. The trust erected an osprey platform to encourage osprey to visit and the platform had its first osprey visitor in mid-May, from the Lake District. It is hoped that they will breed here in future. A hen harrier was also spotted on the reserve in November, one of our rarest birds of prey.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The osprey platform, Ripon City WetlandsThe osprey platform, Ripon City Wetlands

*Rare water germander plants were successfully reintroduced to Bolton-on-Swale nature reserve in the summer. Water germander was last found in Yorkshire in 1863 and until recently its British population was limited to two sites in Devon and one in Cambridgeshire.

*YWT opened two new nature reserves, Ashes Shaw and Bellfield’s Pasture, in the shadow of Ingleborough. They are managing these to encourage more spectacular wildflower displays, which are an important feature of the reserves’ rare limestone grasslands and iconic limestone pavements in late spring.

*The Better Estuaries and Coastal Habitats (BEACH) Esk project improved water quality in the Esk, from the river’s source to the sea at Whitby. The Trust worked with local farmers and landowners to minimise agricultural pollution by restoring grassland and wetland, planting trees and hedges and creating sturdier fencing.

*Yorkshire Peat Partnership, co-managed by YWT, works across northern England and advises other peat projects on their restoration of peatland soils for habitat, atmospheric carbon reduction and slowing the movement of water.

Cumulatively, 42,868 hectares of peat have now been restored, which is an area the size of Bradford.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Peatland restoration. Picture: Beth ThomasPeatland restoration. Picture: Beth Thomas

*Almost 750,000 cottongrass, crowberry and sphagnum plants were planted, and the programme slowed the flow of water through 157 km of eroding channels, the near-equivalent length of the entire river Aire. *

Yorkshire Peat Partnership was also awarded funding from Natural England as part of the Species Recovery Programme to investigate the potential for reintroducing white-faced darter dragonflies back into lowland peat bogs.

*Breeding otters were spotted for the first time in 60 years at Wheldrake Ings nature reserve near York, where there were several sightings of a mother otter with cubs.

*Pink grasshoppers, wasp spider - a species moving north as our climate changes - and a pine marten were spotted at Spurn Point nature reserve. The pine marten, Two Dots, was discovered to have come all the way from Dalby Forest.

*A rare water beetle (Berosus luridus) was found at Carr Lodge nature reserve, South Yorkshire, in November. This is about a mile from the last local record in 1937 at what is now Potteric Carr nature reserve, and only the second record in the whole of Yorkshire this century.

More than 10,000 people attended a programme of 485 events throughout 2023 to enjoy and watch wildlife.

Rachael Bice, Chief Executive of YWT, said: “We are incredibly proud of everything we have achieved for Yorkshire’s wildlife, and there is certainly a great deal to celebrate. Our landscape-scale projects are making a difference at a significant scale, and we are helping new life to flourish through of species reintroductions and breeding successes.”

The trust has incredible support from volunteers: over 1000 people gave more than 46,000 hours of their time last year to help care for the reserves and the trust’s wild places.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A foraging and wildlife workshop with Emma SmithA foraging and wildlife workshop with Emma Smith

A new guide, Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife, includes a wealth of information including spotters guides, best-for guides for families, accessibility, birdwatching, reserve guides, seasonal walks and information about YWT’s broader approach to nature conservation. It’s available in YWT’s online shop and included in its membership pack to anyone joining the trust as a member on direct debit.