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Forty Years of the Ryenats

[notes by Jim Pewtress, from the Minutes of the Society]

cake At the meeting in January 2004 we celebrated forty years of the society, which was started (as the Kirkbymoorside, Ryedale & District Natural History Society) in 1963, the first meeting with 11 members being held in the White Horse in Kirkbymoorside on 2nd December and the first talk being given by Gordon Simpson on 13th January 1964 on the birds he had observed in his area. Gordon also led the first outdoor field meeting, to Newtondale on 10th May, which Miss Wyatt (a long-time member) also attended. Back in the sixties field meetings were often held on Sundays and we had more young members, including children. September’s meeting was attended by Mrs Denney – our present Secretary’s mother. Don Smith gave a talk on 13th December 1965 and became a committee member in 1967, helping with the very first newsletter which was produced from stencils. An appreciation of Don’s many contributions to the society appears elsewhere. From the early days we have had joint meetings with our friends the Ryedale Beekeepers.

We joined the YNU in 1965, and also moved the meetings to Beadlam School. At some of these (indoor) meetings films or recorded lectures were shown. One of the early campaigns was to try and prevent the roadside verges being cut too far in. The maintenance of verges is still an issue today, although now it is perhaps a case of too little rather than too much cutting damaging the wildlife interest of these valuable strips. A little later there was considerable discussion about the impact on wildlife of the proposed reservoir in upper Farndale, a plan which was later dropped.

Some of the early problems sound strangely familiar: at one field meeting only four members turned up, and at another the two leaders never left the car because of torrential rain! Even in 1970 the chairman commented on poor attendance at meetings, and in 1978 there was an appeal for younger members. The name of the society was changed to its present title in 1979, and in that year there were reports of nightingales in Pickering and Thornton Dale (have they been seen since I wonder?). In the late ’70s and ’80s attendances picked up and attendances of 70–80 were common. There was a series of quizzes against the Scarborough Naturalists, most of which Ryenats won.

After 20 years Don Smith first suggested moving all the Ryenats records onto a computerised system. In 1988 the 25th anniversary was celebrated with a dinner at the White Horse. Mr Beachall was made the first Life Member and it was agreed to move the meetings to our present venue, Church House. In more recent times we saw the introduction of recording cards in 1991, and the decision that coach trips would have to be priced to cover costs in 1996 as they had become too expensive, and the production of one rather than two newsletters a year. Coach trips were abandoned altogether in ’99. The website was launched in 1998 and has since grown to include a large number of pictures of Ryedale wildflowers. Finally in 2003 the rules of the society were tidied up and a new constitution adopted – ready for the next forty years.

We were delighted to welcome Grodon Simpson back as our Guest Speaker at the meeting on January 13th 2004, 40 years to the day from his first talk to the society. On this occasion his topic was “40 Years of Wildlife Surveying in Forestry Commission Woods”. Afterwards we celebrated our 40th birthday is style – with a cake of course!

[Below, two views of the birthday cake, with Gordon Simpson (left) and Janet Denney with our Chairman Jim Pewtress.]

Gordon Simpson with the cake Jant Denney and Jim Pewtress, with cake

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