Conservationists have been out in the Dales collecting seeds from wild juniper bushes to help the plants to spread. Thousands have been collected in the past few weeks from three sites in Swaledale and Ribblesdale and sent to a tree nursery in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Juniper, whose berries are used in cooking and to flavour gin, was once widespread in the upland fringes of northern England, growing often as a shrub in open woodland with birch, rowan, alder, hawthorn and hazel but their numbers are declining dramatically. In the Dales, it can range from a spreading shrub to a column-like tree.

The Government has produced a country-wide Biodiversity Action Plan for the juniper and the national park authority has agreed to collect the seeds. It is also encouraging landowners to manage juniper populations in a way that will allow natural regeneration.

The seeds will be grown on until they are about six to eight inches tall (15cms to 20cms), when they will be ready for planting in the wild. That can take three to four years, so cuttings have also been taken from wild bushes to speed up the planting schemes.

The authority plans to collect seed each year to provide a steady supply of local plants for suitable new native woodlands.

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