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Report: Public Meeting – 16 Sep 2023

Danby Village Hall, 2-4pm

Approximately 30 people attended. Several apologies and ideas sent by email.


Meeting Notes

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Chairman (Marshall Best, Loftus Accord Walking Group) - intro and comments


Connections between Esk Valley and East Cleveland include the recent Community Earth Festival collaboration and historical links (Loftus provided goods, services and a market place for Esk Valley and rural hinterland). The CE Project and Loftus regeneration could help to restore links broken through county boundary reorganisation and industrialisation.


Nature Recovery in the Esk Valley could be a principal objective or a stepping stone for a regional objective or series of objectives. e.g. Loftus has ‘Walkers are Welcome’ accreditation, one of 100 towns/villages in UK making areas attractive to walkers to visit and enjoy; could the Esk Valley become a ‘Walkers are Welcome’ area?  Could the project bring together groups to develop a holistic view of nature recovery (dark skies, etc) and aim for the region to qualify as a UNESCO Biosphere (a region for integrating conservation and sustainable development) - like Newton Stewart, gateway town to the Galloway Hills, with its annual walking festival, etc.


East Cleveland and Esk Valley could develop a “ground up” community-led resource and activity group representing all community groups interested in collectively contributing to sustainable living and working. Such an initiative could attract funding to enable specialists to become part of a steering group.


The NYMNP recorded as driest of all English National Parks during 2023. Can the combined community groups be collectively involved in water retention and flood management strategies? New funding for NYMNP is allocated to strengthen sphagnum moss formation. Could this be a project which could engage community groups? The Pearl Mussel project along the Esk is still active. Would there be scope for community engagement?


Sharron (RCBC - Lloyds Bank Foundation) and Helen Kennedy (WoodsmithFoundation) would like to ascertain if there is common ground for joint engagement with the Community Earth Project.


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Project Ideas / Discussion


1. Community Earth Festival Organising Group ideas  (presented at the public meeting)

  • River Esk Restoration & ‘Walkers Are Welcome’ accreditation within Esk Valley

  • Nature Restoration Project

  • Local Food Production Project

  • Creating a Community ‘Earth Hub’

(Mark Barber & Eddie Thornton, EVCC; MarshallBest, LAWG; Nicola Chalton, Esk Valley News)


2. Ben Stone (Esk Fisheries Association, by email): water quality of River Esk a priority. Recent extreme summer lows have led to brown sludge and algae coating the river floor. Need for peat water catchment areas and slow release; dilution of effluent; possible reedbed secondary treatment.


3. George Winn-Darley (Spaunton Moor Estate, by email) - suggest cleaning up river in lower stretches near Whitby; local information campaigns re water quality, septic tank use, etc; use of NYMA land near Danby for benefit of nature conservation as a possible Nature Recovery Project; local food production website to sign post potential customers to local food products; online community earth hub or use one of many buildings available across the NP for community hub activities.


4. Maggie Rich (micro-bakery, Glaisdale, by email) - suggests community involvement in ARK campaign (Acts of Restorative Kindness): developing a global network of safe havens for Nature, including gardens, schools, public spaces, etc, to address the ‘silent killer that is biodiversity and habitat loss, which is happening at a staggering rate’.


5. Mike Hawtin (Head of Nature Recovery Projects, NYM National Park, by email) - keen to develop close links between Community Earth group and NP Esk Catchment project. Looking for more public and community engagement and involvement in steering future projects. Would like opportunity to discuss protecting dark skies for tranquillity, carbon reduction and protection of nocturnal habitats and connectivity.


6. Alan Ayres (forester)- concerns about loss of coastal habitats.


7. Joyce Stangoe (Whitby Community Network, by email): Whitby Community Network keen to hear from other Community Groups, landowners, businesses about what they can do and who to work with to promote green issues in their area of Whitby and District covering NYC wards - Whitby Streonshalh, Whitby West, Danby & Mulgrave & Esk Valley & Coast.


8. Nicola Woodfin (Cowbar Nature) -interest in linking nature corridors and connectivity between groups (like the Tees Valley Nature Partnership). See Buglife charity - ‘Bee Lines’ map - creating corridors of wildlife areas across the country to encourage insect life. Add our projects to the map.


9. David Bridge (retired farmer) - how to give children access to countryside and farms for education. Re-wilding locally has caused blown thistle seed etc. Marshall Best - any re-wilding by the group would be robust projects.


10. Andrea Brew - proposes education in balancing nature recovery with farming; ‘weeds’ - ragwort, thistles, nettles, dock, etc - all have a place in biodiverse habitats. Partner with existing groups and seek advice from experts, e.g. John Muir Trust helpful for buying land.


11. Carol Wilson - The Beaumonts at Danby have opened their land to Danby & Castleton school visits.


12. Richard Blindell (ornithologist) -Egton Estate has stopped shooting pheasants; identify local estates and landowners sympathetic to conservation and biodiversity who may wish to share land for a re-wilding project. Local farmland generally has poor biodiversity - work to do. His daughter works for Yorkshire Re-wilding Network and can provide contact to get things started.


13. Eddie - Robin Asquith at CVT interested in engaging with community and open to proposals for improving habitats within Botton Village.


14. Mike Haining (educationalist) -interested in developing educational projects alongside nature recovery. e.g. to make people aware of important plants, botanists have marked them with chalk along footpaths to protect from spraying/weed kill. Access to river bank must be respectful of nature.


15. Anne Press (botanist, guided walk leader) - two generations have not learned anything about plants. Education needed. Plant ID raises profile. ’Weeds’ are essential for wildlife -equivalent to rain forests. Need to preserve nature corridors by roads and tracks.


16. Jacqui Gabbitas (CVT)- recently recorded 300 species at Botton village; happy to help record locals species and keep a local database.


17. Stephen Larkin - storm run-off polluting river Esk - reduce run-off during heavy rain by having water butts. Share nature recordings with Whitby Naturalists, Yorkshire Botany Society and other groups.


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Action Points


Interest was shown in pursuing all directions identified in the presentation document (below)


Agreed priorities:


1. Identify land for nature recovery, food production, education and earth hub (discuss with National Park, Danby Court Leet, local landowners, John Muir Trust, etc)


2. Identify educational objectives with teachers, schools, after school clubs, agricultural students (e.g. Askham Bryan), etc


3. Identify possible projects connected with River Esk restoration - consult with National Park


4. Build objectives through consultation with existing network of conservation and community groups in Esk Valley and East Cleveland


5. Consider wider/longer term aims:  ’Walkers are Welcome’ accreditation for Esk Valley;  parts of East Cleveland becoming an AONB or extension of NYMNP (Glover Report);  Esk Valley/East Cleveland region becoming a UNESCO Biosphere -Marshall Best (former mentor to Dumfries and Galloway W.A.W.) could lead on this, consulting with Professor Martin Price (founder of Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College, University of Highlands & Islands and UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development, 2009). Professor Price focuses on Biosphere Reserves, played major roles in UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, which designates these special places, and had a key role in gaining UNESCO status for the Isle-of-Man. MB suggests inviting Professor Price to talk to the group about what would be involved in developing an application.


A number of people stepped up to join the Steering Group going forward. The group will meet in October to reflect on what the next steps might be and arrange a meeting with representatives of the National Park. A follow-up public meeting will be arranged (hopefully this side of Christmas), at which we hope to present more concrete proposals.


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Document Presented at Public Meeting
on 16th September 2023:


Community Earth Festival: Legacy

Public Meeting: Danby Village Hall, 16 September 2023

Presentation from Organising Group




The Community Earth Festival (April-July 2023) proved to be a highly successful collaboration of grassroots community groups in the Esk Valley and East Cleveland, working towards addressing the environmental crisis on cultural, social and practical levels. At the close of the festival, several dozen local people signed up to be part of a legacy project (still to be formulated).


A public meeting will take place on Saturday 16 September (2-4pm) in Danby Village Hall, aimed at developing what form such (a) legacy project(s) might take.


What follows is some initial thinking from the Organising Group, which we hope will stimulate a discussion. These ideas are offered humbly ahead of the public meeting, principally with the aim of stimulating discussion.



1. The River Esk


The River Esk featured heavily in the original programme of the Community Earth Festival, and is what links many of us. Its current environmental condition is concerning. This could form a focus for a project going forward.


Initial projects this might involve:

  • Clean-ups of the river

  • Local information campaigns to raise awarenessof threats to water quality.


More ambitious projects might evolve later, eg:

  • Securing community access to more stretches ofthe Esk

  • Path-building

  • Tree-planting /wetland restoration on the river’s banks

  • Creating a corridor of native woodland on both sides of the River Esk (thus restoring part of the historic woodland that once filled the Esk Valley), to support wildlife habitats and offer public access to a nature walk along the river.

  • Securing ‘Walkers are Welcome’ accreditation within the Esk Valley


2. Nature Restoration Project

During the Festival, there was some talk of following the lead of a growing number of local communities that are securing land (by acquisition or lease) for the purpose of creating nature recovery projects (sometimes termed ‘re-wilding’). Such a project could showcase what nature recovery looks like in the NY Moors and East Cleveland, and might serve to inspire others.

This could be done on a smaller or larger piece of land, but the latter would allow for the introduction of free-ranging herbivores (eg. Cattle, pigs). This in turn would allow for a dynamic, shifting mosaic of habitats, which would be of optimal benefit for biodiversity.


3. Local Food Production Project

This sort of project would have a number of benefits:

  •  Giving wider access to nutritious food

  • Reducing the environmental impact of the food we eat

  • Increasing local food security

  • Allowing people to reconnect with the natural world

This would again require leasing / acquiring land in the area - possibly in conjunction with points 2 and 4. It could involve creating a series of discrete allotments, or one common area. People could learn the art of food growing and preserving as part of an educational / social programme.


4. Creating a Community ‘Earth Hub’

Creatinga social / cultural ‘hub’would allow on-going community engagement, which could sustain and energise our other projects. This might be in conjunction with points 2 / 3.


A building would be required (eg. A purpose-built straw-bale structure, or an existing building).

The activities of the hub could be offered by a consortium of local groups / companies, to allow for greater diversity and exchange.
It might accommodate any of the following activities:

  • Environmental education (encouraging behavioural change)- eg. Talks, courses, films

  • Projects for disadvantaged / vulnerable people to reconnect in a healthy natural / social space

  • Environmental projects for children

  • Organic café

  • Showcasing of experimental agriculture /energy projects

  • Wellbeing therapies / activities

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