The Malhamdale Environmental Group (MEG) was set up in the early months of 2019 by a few of local inhabitants concerned about environmental issues. Its subsequently became the environmental sub-committee of the Kirkby Malhamdale Parish Council. Since environmental change knows no administrative boundaries, however, the Group tries to take account of the views and interests of all those who live in Malhamdale and its surrounds and offers an open invitation for any local person to join in our efforts. We have no formal membership concept, no management hierarchy, no funding, nor any resources other than the enthusiasm of those who volunteer their time to enable the Group to function.
The main village, Malham, is situated 12 miles north of Skipton and the whole Dale is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The mainstay of the community is sheep and cattle rearing but because of the famous Malham Cove and the surrounding exceptional geology and scenery, tourism is also a significant source of income for inns, guest houses, cafés, and holiday home owners.
Overall, we have 46 volunteers/supporters. Some ten usually attend our monthly meetings and four or five (not necessarily those who attend the meetings) do voluntary work with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and the National Trust. MEG supplies the volunteers but all the work is organised, and is under the insurance and financial arrangements offered by, the above organisations. The work we have mainly done over the past four years has been tree planting in winter and tree maintenance in summer. In association with YDMT we are now setting up our own local tree nursery with the aim of being able to provide a wide range of locally grown saplings as and when they are needed locally. Since the restrictions caused by CoVid were lifted we have contributed some 1500 volunteer hours to these activities.
We have started to work with the Yorkshire Tree Partnership by providing volunteers for the “Eyes on the Bog” programme. This involves training for and the actual monitoring of peat bogs in our locality as part of a national programme to halt peat bog decline and encourage their expansion as natural carbon sinks.
Last year, we carried out our first curlew monitoring survey, inspired by the work done by Clapham Sustainability Group (to which some of our supporters also belong). The efforts we were making raised awareness in the Dale about the plight of the curlew and similar waders. This has encouraged us to continue this work in 2024 on a much larger scale with more volunteers and with the input and support of such organisations as the BTO.
Last year also, some of our Group attended a meadow flower identification course and subsequently monitored wild flowers in our area. An interest is now being taken in Plantlife’s NPMS (National Plant Monitoring Scheme). We plan to follow through with these activities as from summer 2024 onwards.
We contribute regularly to our Parish News magazine by supplying articles about our activities and explaining a whole range of climate related issues.
Our group can only be as effective as the experience, skills, and inclinations of our supporters and volunteers allow. The natural tendency at present is to do physical activities that contribute to understanding currently levels of biodiversity locally and that encourage the successful planting of trees.
We do, however, have aspirations should the right kind of talent join the Group. None of us has any background in engineering. If there were, we would undoubtedly become involved in energy generation as solar, hydro, and wind power could play a very significant role in replacing the Dale’s heavy reliance on fuel oil and portable gas.
Neither do we have anyone skilled enough to take a lead in encouraging home retrofits, something which is arguably urgent and necessary for the aged and draughty housing stock typical of so many dales villages.
Frequent and reliable methods of transport other than the private car are also a matter which we are starting to take more interest in, based on the Malhamdale Visitor Traffic Management Plan issued in 2017 but whose implementation was held up by the CoVid era.