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Since its foundation in 1945, the mission of Wharfedale Naturalists has been to record, conserve and educate about the wildlife and natural history of the local area. With an enthusiastic and engaged membership, who are skilled across many disciplines and passionate about wildlife and the wider environment, the Nats offer a wide programme of talks, events and opportunities to participate in a great range of activities that support and promote our local nature and wild places.


Please see Events for the full detailed summer and winter programmes, Join for all the many benefits of membership, and Supported Projects for the grants and financial support we give to many local wildlife, conservation, and education projects.

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Ian Brand

Ian after forty plus happy years in medicine, now has more time to rekindle his teenage interests in the natural world, and botany in particular.

He is passionate about enthusing everyone to take a closer look and interest in nature. Writing a monthly nature notes column for four local newspapers, leading walks, giving talks to natural history, scientific, and gardening societies, and is actively involved in conservation.

Now as president of the Wharfedale Naturalists he wants to inspire everyone about wildlife and nature, just as he was himself many years ago by an inspirational schoolteacher.


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Peter Riley 

Peter was born and raised in Cheshire. He took a Geography Degree at Nottingham University where he met his wife Anne who was responsible for developing his interest in natural history and the environment.

His whole working career was spent in Human Resources with British Gas before seizing the opportunity to take early retirement and thoroughly indulge his natural history interest. Peter and Anne joined WNS in 1983 but only became active in the late 1990s with Peter becoming Bird Recorder from 1999 to 2003 the latter year coinciding with a year as Vice-President. This led to him becoming President in 2003 continuing in this role until 2023, supported throughout by Anne without whom such a long stint would not have been possible. Following this long service the WNS Committee honoured both Peter and Anne by appointing them as Life Members.   

Vice-President and Winter Programme Secretary

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Gordon Haycock

Gordon lives in Otley and loves wildlife in Wharfedale! He is a professional ecologist and runs an ecology practice in Otley established in 2010, and is recognised as an authoritative upland habitat specialist and advocate for rewilding. Gordon is an active member of British Bryological Society and attends outings all over UK where he shares his passion for bryophyte recording. He also enjoys undertaking reptile and amphibian survey. As well as being Secretary and Bryophyte Recorder for Wharfedale Naturalists Society, he is on Committee for Friends of Gallows Hill Nature Reserve, volunteers for Friends of Chevin Forest and Wildlife Friendly Otley and represents WNS on Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Forum and Nidderdale Landscape Area Local Nature Recovery Plan steering group.


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Jeff Davitt 

Jeff is a keen amateur naturalist and in recent years has discovered the wonder of rewilding.  He is a Trustee and former Chair of the Yorkshire Rewilding Network, which he co-founded in 2020 to bring together anyone with an interest in rewilding.


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Ros Lilley 

Ros worked in education, promoting the benefits of outdoor learning, including forest schools, and the role of creativity based on the principles of Reggio Emelia. She enjoys birdwatching and chemical free gardening. She is a volunteer speaker for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Membership Team

Membership Team

Jenny as a child, was introduced to the delights of wildflowers by her eldest sister and ever since has maintained a wonder in the natural world. Many decades later, Jenny still loves letting serendipity be her guide as she spots the ‘wild’ on rambles through the countryside. Jenny very much values being part of the Wharfedale Naturalists (and other organisations), as it promotes nature recovery and endeavours to ensure that wildlife is valued and enhanced in our local area. 

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Jenny Watson

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Helen Steward

Helen first joined Wharfedale Naturalists in 2009, soon after she moved to Ilkley from Oxford. She has been organising the summer programme since 2015. She is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Leeds and her main interest in natural history is birds - although she has developed her interests also in other aspects of wildlife as a result of joining WNS. 

Summer Programme Secretary

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Cathy Burton 

Cathy has always worked in ecology, ranging across academic, charity, private and government sectors for nearly 30 years! She has worked on social evolution in insects and has a special interest in bees, wasps and ants. Always keen to spread the word about conservation and the benefits of nature (especially insects!) Cathy is involved in numerous citizen science and biological recording schemes. 


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Steve Parkes  

Steve has been a member of the Wharfedale Naturalists since 2005 and active in the management of Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits nature reserve since 2007.  He became a committee member in 2021, and is passionate about initiatives to increase biodiversity and encouraging inclusivity. Everyone should be able to appreciate the delights of the natural world first hand. Steve loves learning from the many experts in the society and sharing that knowledge with others. 

Safeguarding and Charity Commision

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Karen Shackleton

Karen has always loved wildlife since a young age and has been a member of the Wharfedale Naturalists for nearly 20 years.  Running regular ‘Balsam Bashing’ sessions throughout the summer, along the river Wharfe.

After seeing the awful sewage going into the River Wharfe at Ilkley, Karen became a founder member of Ilkley Clean River Group. Campaigning not only to clean the river Wharfe, but also addressing the issue nationally of our polluted rivers.

Karen is also a founder member of the Friends of Weston Woods which has been successfully raising funds to buy the woods for future generations to enjoy the rich flora and birdlife.

Committee Member

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James Tate-Smith 

Known to everyone as Tate. Tate is a very keen birder and lover of the outdoors. He is an avid hiker and loves Wharfedale and its landscapes.  Tate can be regularly found swimming in cold water. 

Tate has lived in Ilkley for over 20 years with his wife and children. During which time he has developed an interest in the wider ecology and how improvements can be made to benefit both our wildlife and resilience to climate change.

Committee Member

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The Wharfedale Naturalists have been producing an annual review for almost eighty years. We have an extensive archive of articles and records about our local wildlife to be read and enjoyed.

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