First a bit of background…

When rewilders come together in person there is a special ‘buzz’ that fills people with energy and hope.   The creation of rewilding ‘Hubs’ is a new idea that YRN is piloting to encourage rewilders to form local networks. This will allow people to come together to work for the benefit of their environment by sharing resources and skills, learning together and carrying out local action for nature. 

Each hub will help to form strong rewilding communities and encourage action for nature by holding a wide range of events, from the purely inspirational to the practical. These events will be tailored to the local area, responding to the needs of local people and wildlife.  Thus, we will increase our impact across the county, helping to promote rewilding in Yorkshire’s urban and rural landscapes and improve nature connection and accessibility to quality greenspaces.

The rewilding Hub launch event, and the first for the North Leeds Hub, took place at West Chevin Farm in Otley on Saturday 25th November 2024 – a beautiful crisp and sunny winter day but with nice soft ground, perfect for planting.  Around 40 people were there – families with children, individuals and friends came from around the north Leeds area and further afield. A mix of practical work, good food and entertainment made it a fun day for everyone.

YRN committee member Sarah Mason went along:  ‘It was my children’s first time tree planting and I wasn’t sure how they would manage but it was a great family friendly event.  We all had a fabulous day’. The host for the day was owner Anita Collins who has written a blog about the event…

Guest blog: Rewilding Hub Launch – Tree Planting Festival at West Chevin Farm

by Anita Collins

4th January, 2024

In February 2021 we moved into a farmhouse on Otley Chevin with 7 acres of upland grassland and a small copse of mixed deciduous woodland attached.  Over the last couple of years we have been busy renovating the house, stocking the garden and finding ways to manage the land in ways which support the diversification of flora and fauna. 

As part of this, we applied to The Woodland Trust’s More Woods scheme (Plant Trees on Your Land with MOREwoods – Woodland Trust)  which states ‘Where 500+ trees are planted on at least half a hectare, we will visit your site, help design your woodland, create a bespoke species mix, supply the agreed trees and tree protection, and cover up to 75% of costs.’

After a couple of visits by our Woodland Trust advisor and soil and archeological surveys, a suitable site was identified for 0.5 hectares of mixed deciduous trees and shrubs. This included a mix of 375 trees, mainly comprising of oak, rowan, silver and downy birch with some field maple, aspen and alder. 125 shrubs (Hawthorn, Holly, Hazel and Dog Rose) were also provided to soften the edges of the new wood.  As we did not qualify for contractor planting, we needed to find a way to get the plants into the ground within a week of their arrival on site in late November 2023. 

Having put out a request for help with this on the YRN forum, I was contacted by Sammy Mennell (YRN Trustee and Chair) who suggested we join forces to plan an event to get the trees into the ground.   We also liaised with Wildlife Friendly Otley and musical contacts, including Commoners Choir, for further support and entertainment for the day and advertised the event through the YRN network and social media. 

The day of the Tree Planting Festival dawned bright and clear and by 10am we had a tree planting team ready who set off down to the site.

River Six, from Wildlife Friendly Otley, gave a tree planting demonstration and explained where native tree species would be best planted and after that planting got underway. 

We focused initially on the wetter parts of the site and on planting trees which are well adapted to such locations – alder, downy and silver birch. Rowan, oak and field maple were planted in drier areas. 

We broke for lunch at 12 and headed back up to the farmhouse for vegan stew and musical entertainment – first from the Commoners Choir, who treated us to a programme of wildlife themed songs, including wild swimming and trespass.  The music continued over lunch with songs from singer songwriter Anna and from Anita and Jenny.

Anita and Jenny Cole.
The Commoners Choir performing at lunchtime.

The afternoon continued with further tree planting and then the shrub layer went in – these scrub plants form an important lower layer of growth and a different habitat along the edge of the taller trees.

By the time the sun was going down a new wood had been born!

A new wood!

Thank you to:

Yorkshire Rewilding Network

Wildlife Friendly Otley

Commoners Choir

Anna Howells

Jenny Cole

[Images: Mark Whyatt, Caitlin Buttery, Claire Blindell]