VOLUNTEERS who have spent 23 years working to protect a unique piece of nature could be about to see their dedication recognised.

The Hassacarr Nature Reserve has been looked after by people in Dunnington for more than two decades, and later this week a council boss will be asked to give the land protection and support as a "Local Nature Reserve".

Terry Weston has been the volunteer warden of the much-loved plot for 23 years, and works hard to maintain the area with the help of the Dunnington Conservation Group.

Having Local Nature Reserve status will help the volunteers protect the land from development nearby, which could harm the unique and rich flora and fauna on the site, Mr Weston said.

It will also be a help when it comes to applying for grants and funding to keep their work going from bodies like Natural England, he added.

The name "Hassacarr" comes from an Old English word for a tussocky marsh, meaning Hassacarr Pond has probably had wetland conditions for many centuries, leading to its current situation where the pond supports an "unusually rich" array of flora and fauna, a report to council executive member Cllr Ian Gillies says.

The pond is already a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, the report adds, and is thought to be one of the most important "non-SSSI" (Site of Special Scientific Interest) wetlands in York.

Mr Weston said: "Around a pond, normally having 15 different species of plants would make a good site, but we have about 40 species."

The 3.7 acre site just outside Dunnington village is home to more than 70 species of beetles, as well as great crested newts, 21 species of mammals, 24 types of butterfly, and 20 species of dragonflies, 132 winged insects, and more than 220 different plants.

Seeds from the meadow's yellow rattle have been taken to a nature reserve at Leven in the East Riding, to help boost biodiversity on the site.

As well as protecting the hundreds of different species of flora and fauna, the conservation volunteers regularly invite schools and community groups to learn about nature at the reserve. Since it began 23 years ago, around 5000 school children have been welcomed on to the site.