Christians Aware and Biodiversity – from Farming in the Yorks Dales, to Lichens, to UN Conferences

Parcevall Hall is the Leeds Diocese Retreat Centre, set at the eastern limit of the Craven Fault which stretches 30 miles from Stump Cross Caverns to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales. What did the group study on this course? Judith Allinson was invited to run two botany sessions and also a session on Green Christian at the Mon-Friday Course organised by Christians Aware.

Who are Christians Aware?

Christians Aware is an organisation that organises events, resources and holidays to enable Christians to -as their name says – become more aware – of the issues in the world around us. They organise holidays abroad meeting local people and issues.

I arrived on the Monday. The group had heard a talk about “Wild Ingleborough” in the morning given by Ellie Parker.


I was delighted to have the opportunity to run a session on Lichens. ( Lichens are made out of fungi and algae.) We went outside – the sun came out – and using the hand lenses I had brought – looked at the beautiful patterns on the lichens on the wall just outside the conference room and dining room – The gardens are on a steep slope and terraced. Here in the picture the group are showing their hand lenses – and sitting on the lichens we have just been looking at!

One participant said “I had not realised that the marks on grave stones are living things.”

I hope they have remembered that there are 2000 species of lichen in the UK (each with its own fungus). I explained that lichenologists look at the lichens growing on the trees and rocks and can see how much Nitrogen-oxide air pollution we have in Yorkshire. (Nitrogen is the third most serious planetary boundary being broken after Biodiversity and Climate Change. It comes from fertilizers on fields, from slurry, from chickens and pig farms and traffic pollution)

The picture above of two lichens growing on the sandstone capping slabs of the terrace wall shows Crab’s-eye lichen (Ochrolechia parella) and a pale grey one growing in profusion under the tree I was intrigued by – Petrusaria albescens – it usually grows on trees, not walls.

Green Christian

After afternoon tea most people came back for a short discussion on Green Christian. I showed them some resources – leaflets and magazines. I explained (from my point of view .. and as we have nearly 1000 members there may be 999 other points of view) – that a main function of Green Christian is enabling Christians concerned about the environment to connect, and encourage each other in caring for God’s World / the environment for future generations. We had also run many projects in the past some of which had become independent projects such as Operation Noah.

We had some useful discussions as participants about what we are doing and what should be done etc – We heard some people are attending churches that are doing Eco Church (or Living Simply – the Catholic equivalent). That is REALLY encouraging. One participant from Leeds said forcefully that the church should be much more active and prophetic. Many of the Eco Church Activities are pretty minor in comparison to what needs to be done to prevent global warming. He said that the Festival of Michaelmas is an opportunity for this (I may follow this up in a different post)

United Nations and Biodiversity

In the evening Ellen Teague who is a journalist and works for the Columbans gave a talk on The Biodiversity COP. We all know about the Climate Change COPs (Confernece Of the Parties) given every year, but there are also “Biodiversity” COPs held every two years. Except this last one was postponed several years due to Covid, and finally held in Canada last year, though still hosted by China.

There is much I could write about what she said. However what struck me was

a) We were privileged to have a journalist talking to us in this remote corner of the Yorks Dales- who had been involved with this international event

b) She was concerned that more notice should be taken of these events, expecially by the leadership of the countries.

c) It reminded me that the UK had promised along with many other countries to Protect 30% of its land for wildlife and conservation.


On the Tuesday afternoon the group was scheduled to come and visit John Dawson’s farm at Bleak Bank., two miles from Clapham. This sheep and family small dairy farm lies at the foot of Ingleborough, with views across to the Lune Valley. I drove up with a friend of mine, Doris, so we could learn too.

John makes us all a cup of tea. We are sitting in the shed where the wool is stored after shearing last week.

John shows us pictures of his farm. A separate post would be needed to explain how the sheep system works. and another for the cattle. His Dalesbred sheep are hefted on the part of Ingleborough above his farm. It is common land. – That means it is land used by the people who have grazing rights to use the land in common.

UK farm animals have much higher health standards than imported meat. He encouraged us to support British farmers and take pride in our products.

His animals mostly go to Bentham Market on Thursdays. I realised he is lucky he lives relatively close to Bentham. His cows milk goes to ARLA (we have an ARLA plant in Settle) and he gets a penny extra for his milk because the animals are grass fed. So I worked out that maybe I should buy “Cravendale” milk that ARLA produces

Doris looks at the calves:

Here’s a short video that was made 3 years ago.

At 4.30 we had to leave- the Christians Aware Group had to drive back to Parcevall Hall ready for supper.

Local Products

I am preparing a book “Local Products in Settle” ready for the “Let’s talk Local” Day our Settle Methodist church is holding on the afternoon of Sunday 17 September 2023. I am going round all the shops in Settle saying “Please can you tell me three local products that you sell”.

Clapham -whilst at Clapham – I wanted to call in at a shop in the village called Glencroft. This shop used to be in Scotland but had moved down to Clapham (Yorks). I had seen in the paper the previous month that they use wool from Bleak Bank and a few neighbouring farmers’ farms and have made a limited edition of a jumper with this local wool – There was a photo of John’s son William modelling it.

The owner said that there are now only two places in UK where you can send fleeces off to get it washed and prepared. There were some hanks of wool for sale and he told me I can also buy these in Settle in Cottontails sewing shop in Settle. That is useful knowledge for me –


I have met John and his family occasionally at meetings of the Methodist Circuit ( including Settle & Bentham and Newby chapels). Also at Ecumenical events – e.g. the 150th Anniversary celebration walk from Keasden Church to Newby Methodist Chapel last month, quarterly “services in the pub” at Clapham, to Local Meetings about protecting Curlews. He will be coming speak at our event organised by Settle Methodist “Lets Talk Local” in September.

Putting it into context: July 2023:

It is also the week when on the news we hear of

  • The fires in Rhodes sending two thousand holiday makers home: and over 40 people killed in Mediterranean fires most of them in Algeria (Will people take note of Climate Change now?
  • When BBC journalist George Alagiah died
  • The last week we can write in about Train Ticket offices at Railways stations being closed
  • When Christian Aid stopped banking with Barclays
  • When Russia bombed Odessa Cathedral and other places in this grain port.
  • When changed its name from Twitter to X.

Part 2:/ Post Script –

written on Fri 28 July

I returned to Parcevall Hall on the Thursday, and led a visit to the internationally important Malham Tarn Bog. This 12 miles away as the crow flies, (following the Craven Fault) but 20 miles away via road through beautiful scenery via Grassington, Kilnsey Crag, and Arncliffe.

  1. Ellen Teague a journalist who works for the Columbans – a Catholic Organisation was there and delivered three talks. She has reported on international issues such as the last Climate COP. email:
  2. Parcevall Hall makes a special effort to supply exactly the right amount of food for the group (rather than having lots of food waste as happens at many big conference institutions) – thereby reducing its ecological footprint
  3. The visit to Malham Tarn bog was run during the Week which contained International Bog Day (Fourth Sunday in July).

Bogs are
a) a store of peat – a store of carbon, but 80 percent of bogs are losing their carbon because of government funded drainage in the past and to the after effects of pollution from the industrial revolution
b) could again store more carbon if the drains were blocked up
c) a store for water – they can hold water release it slowly and reduce flooding in the lowlands
d) have special plants – 34 species of Sphagnum (Bogmoss) can be found in the UK. Carnivorous plants such as Sundew can be found on bogs.
e) Malham Tarn – is a brilliant place to visit (a National Nature Reserve, a Ramsar site (i.e. an internationally important wetland site – It shows the succession of plants from open water through sedges, rich fen, poor fen, willow carr and birch carr to peat bog – In nearly all bogs in England, agriculture has expanded so that the agricultural fields go right up to the bog, and the ” sedges, rich fen, poor fen, willow carr and birch carr” communities” have been lost.



Author: Editor 1 | Date: 26 July, 2023 | Category: Biodiversity Food | Comments: 1

Comments on "Christians Aware and Biodiversity – from Farming in the Yorks Dales, to Lichens, to UN Conferences"


July 28, 2023

Thank you for this, a really interesting read

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