East Keswick Wildlife Trust is a village-based charity, founded in the early 1990’s, which owns and manages considerable tracts of lands within the parish boundary. EKWT was set up with the aim of safeguarding the remaining wildlife and natural habitats in the parish by acquiring and managing sites of local, regional and national importance and by encouraging landowners to include conservation as a criterion in land management.
One of the first campaigns was to purchase Ox Close Wood, a thirty-five acre woodland close to the River Wharfe. Ox Close wood has many plants indicative of ancient woodland and is one of the most important deciduous woodlands in the region. The next was Keswick Marsh, a six-acre area of wet pasture, owned by East Keswick Parish Council. It was a type of habitat becoming increasingly uncommon as almost all wet pasture in surrounding countryside was drained , treated with herbicides and re-seeded to increase agricultural productivity. The Trust approached the Parish Council with the offer to manage the area and the request for a small grant towards its care. The area became Keswick Marsh Nature Reserve and display boards were erected to inform visitors what flora and fauna to look out for. It is now one of the few examples left locally of a semi-natural wet pasture with accompanying rich flora and fauna.
The third piece of land that the Trust took responsibility for was a small redundant limestone quarry and associated field. Known as Frank Shire’s quarry, the land was also in the ownership of the Parish Council and, as with Keswick Marsh, the Trust agreed terms with the council for its management. The meadow is one of the few uncultivated pastures left in the parish.Since these early years, the Trust has acquired additional areas of land to develop into reserves. In 2003/4 two purchases were made. Elliker Field (0.72ha, 1.8ac) was purchased mainly through donations from the community and Elliker Wood (1.1ha, 2.75ac) was purchased with the aid of a grant. These two areas are just to the east of The Paddock in East Keswick. Elliker Field is a south facing meadow the upper half of which is lying over Magnesian Limestone. Adjoining Elliker Field, Elliker Wood has been managed by creating wide rides to let more light into the wood to attract more plant and animal wildlife. Both these reserves have been fenced and Elliker Field will benefit enormously from conservation grazing during the appropriate time of year.
The Wildlife Trust runs an extensive programme of Friday working parties, Mini beast mornings in the Village Hall, pond dipping at Keswick Marsh, evening discussions and lectures, dormouse and river surveys, bird and bat box making days, tree identification days, fungi hunts, orienteering, treasure hunts, animal tracks and signs recognition, dawn chorus walks and other national initiatives. It works with schools and young person groups, conservation volunteers and others.And all villagers can buy the charcoal the Trust has produced from trees felled in the wood for effective conservation management.
The group is funded through membership fees and a grant from East Keswick Parish Council. You can read more about the group and its current programme at www.ekwt.org.uk