Jon Traill (79-87) is the Regional Manager for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and has been working on Yorkshire’s newest nature reserve, Skerne Wetlands, near Driffield. Although not yet open to the public, the reserve is slowly taking shape and it aims to help people at risk of flooding as well as wildlife.
The beck running through the reserve is one of three chalk streams close to Driffield that are the UK’s most northerly, forming the headwaters of the River Hull, which rises in the Wolds and runs through 20 miles of farmland and into the city before joining the Humber.
Britain has 80 per cent of the world’s chalk streams, but all apart from these three are in the south, which makes this and the others close by key conservation sites. Looking after them goes hand-in-hand with deciding the best way forward for Skerne Wetlands as part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Crystal Clear project.
Jon has spent more than 20 years working for the trust, first as a volunteer and for the last 13 as a member of staff. He has been around the rivers and farmland of East Yorkshire all his life, but Skerne Wetlands is something new. “We’ve got a blank canvas here. We can decide what to do where. It’s not about changing everything or making a habitat something it doesn’t want to be. It’s about working with the site.
There is a lot of work to be done but the site is already alive with wildlife. Otter trails can be spotted here and there, and it is teeming with birdlife. It’s not yet certain when Skerne Wetlands can be opened to the public, and even then because of the nature of the site, with its quiet habitats for wildlife, access will have to be carefully controlled.
But Jon wants people to come here. “It’s not just about us, it’s about the people who live in the area, work in the area and make their living from the landscape, and it’s about the people who enjoy getting out and about and it’s also about education.”
And part of that education is about why it’s so important to look after these chalk streams that form a unique part of the Yorkshire landscape. Jon knows all the scientific reasons for that, but the one he likes best is the simplest. “Just because it is.”
To read more about the Skerne Wetlands project click here
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is seeking volunteers to help with work at Skerne Wetlands and the chalk streams. The trust can be found at www.ywt.org.uk
(Article edited from Andrew Vine’s report in the Yorkshire Post, 1/2/2014)