Summer days

Kate Bailey – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Grasslands are important habitats in the North York Moors supporting a wide range of plants and wildlife. They’re habitats that have suffered severe declines all over England in the past decades. Therefore conserving, restoring, creating linked grassland habitats is one of the key focuses of our Habitat Connectivity initiative.

National Park Volunteers carry out regular tasks like scrub control in order to maintain and restore grassland sites. But volunteers are also essential when it comes to monitoring our grassland sites. Botanical monitoring is a key tool to ensure that the prescribed management is having a positive effect on the site, and the information collected through the annual monitoring process ensures management can be tailored to each site to help ensure each is in the best condition they can be or are at least moving in the right direction. Repeat annual monitoring means changes, good or bad, can be quickly identified.

Our Linking Landscapes Grassland Volunteers have been across the National Park this summer monitoring grassland habitats. We currently have ten enthusiastic volunteers who kindly give their botanical expertise and diligently undertake an annual botanical survey at their ‘adopted’ site/s.

Back in June the LLG Volunteers attended an informal workshop to work through the survey methodology and brush up on field identification skills before embarking on their own surveys for 2016. Copyright - NYMNPA.

This summer I’ve also been out surveying a number of grassland sites which hadn’t been surveyed previously; getting to visit some lovely spots whilst improving my botanical identification skills and collecting information.

Common spotted orchid in an old limestone quarry sites - nearly twice as tall as my clipboard! Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Both the volunteers and I have followed the same simple methodology for monitoring our site/s. A walking route is marked out on an aerial photograph for the surveyor to follow – the approximate ‘W’ shape ensures that a fair representation of the site is surveyed. The surveyor walks along the route stopping at regular intervals – ten stops is usually adequate. At each stop a square metre (quadrat) of vegetation is assessed and each species present is noted down – this is usually where the ID books and hand lens are invaluable.

The monitoring route for an area of species-rich grassland at Sutton Bank National Park Centre. Aerial photography copyright GeoPerspectives 2009 all rights reserved.

At the end of the ‘W’ shaped monitoring route, a survey sheet will look something like this.

One page of the grassland survey sheets - filled in - NYMNPA.

Because we’ve recorded which species are present in each quadrat at each of the ten stops we can work out the frequency of each of the species:

A species is rare (R) if it occurs in one or two stops out of ten;
It is occasional (O) if it occurs in three or four stops out of ten;
Frequent (F) species occur in five or more stops out of ten.

Common spotted orchid and Betony. Copyright NYMNPA.

Additional information is also recorded, including the amount of bare ground and height of the sward, the amount of scrub and bracken on site, and the presence of pernicious weeds (such as thistles, nettles and docks). Lots of photos are helpful, plus any sightings of notable wildlife!

All this information allows a site to be assessed and assigned one of the following categories:
Good quality species-rich grassland;
or
Good quality semi-improved or degraded grassland of high species-richness;
or
Semi-improved grassland of moderate species-richness;
or
Species-poor semi-improved grassland.

The National Park is keen to see an increase in the area of species-rich grassland. For the North York Moors that means the priority habitats lowland meadow and lowland calcareous grassland. By this regular monitoring we can get a clearer picture of the changing status of each site and use it to advise restoration methods. Altering the grazing regime, clearing bracken and scrub and/or sowing locally sourced wild flower seeds/spreading green hay can improve the quality and diversity of a grassland site with the ultimate objective of achieving and maintaining good quality species-rich grassland.

Ragged robin and Greater bird’s-foot-treofoil- indicators of the Lowland Meadow priority habitat. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Common bird’s-foot-trefoil, Knapweed and Field scabious on a species-rich area of calcareous grassland. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

We’ll be out again next summer, doing it all again.

A to Z: a jumble of Is, Js and Ks

I, J, K

INTAKE and INBYE

An intake is a parcel of land on the fringes of the moorland which has been “taken in” from the moorland and brought under cultivation i.e. farmed, usually by stock grazing. An intake is often separated and demarked from the moorland with drystone walling using the materials to hand. As a habitat these intakes are often a mix of acid grassland, wet rushy areas and remnant areas of heathland species such as bilberry. There are farms on the North York Moors that have the word intake in their name such as Riddings Intake in Westerdale where the farm holding is nearly all intake.

Inbye land is further down from the moorland, usually closer to the farmstead. Inbye is often the most productive land on an upland farm holding and is used for grass production (hay/haylage/silage) and sometimes arable. Inbye can also provide winter grazing as conditions on the higher more remote areas of the farm, the intakes or the moorland beyond, become too harsh for livestock.

IRONSTONE

Ironstone is a rock that contains minerals with an iron element. In the 19th century if the iron elements could be extracted the rock had a value. The ironstone in the Jurassic mud stones of the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills was close enough to the surface to make it relatively easy to mine, coal and limestone resources for processing were available nearby, the same entrepreneurs processing the iron were involved with the development of the railway network, and together this made exploitation worthwhile for a short lived period. The first ironstone mine in the area was Hays Mine near Grosmont which opened in 1837; by 1863, 78 of the 108 blast furnaces in the north east of England were using iron primarily from the North York Moors/Cleveland Hills. Most of the ironstone was of a low grade with a high phosphorous content – magnetite (a much purer iron ore) was discovered in Rosedale in the 1850s but it proved to be the exception and the seams were quickly worked out leaving lesser grade ironstone to maintain the industry here. The development of the Cleveland Practice in iron making in the 1860s meant that the problem of the phosphorous content became surmountable for a while and boosted the value of local ironstone. Because of the low grade it was economically advantageous to calcine the ironstone in blast furnaces close to mine sites rather than pay for conveying the unwanted dross as well, and so the resulting pig iron was then transported by railway to the developing town of Middlesbrough and its emergent steel industry.

Rosedale Bank Top Calcining Kilns today - copyright NYMNPA.

The financial viability of the industry and the companies involved was somewhat helter-skelter. After the initial rush and a period of consolidation for the local industry, better quality iron ore imports and decline after World War 1 saw the last working ironstone mine in the North York Moors close in 1927.

TEL logo band 2_FINAL_exc DRFThe impacts of the ironstone industry on the North York Moors’ landscape and communities are a major focus of our This Exploited Land Scheme.

 

JET

Jet is fossilised waterlogged wood which has been buried between sedimentary rock layers and compressed over millions of years. Buried in isolation and enriched by organic oils jet is formed instead of fractious coal. The wood was mainly from a type of monkey puzzle tree Araucariaceae which grew when the North York Moors were warmer than they are now; plant cellular structures can be seen in real jet.

Jet is only really used for one purpose – ornamentation. The best jet is always pure opaque black. Whitby Jet is a high quality hard jet formed in saline water and so easy to work. The town of Whitby was at the forefront of an upsurge in the popularity of jet jewellery – following the fashion for mourning set by Queen Victoria after the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1852. Jet had previously been collected out of the cliffs or from the sea shore but the heightened demand meant mines were opened across the north of the North York Moors to the west of Whitby; this line is thought to have been the edge of a salt water swamp some 180 million years ago. The enthusiasm for mourning became a social occupation – a widow was expected to wear mourning i.e. black for two years after the death of her husband, although many remained in black for the rest of their lives. Jet was the perfect accessory for the shrouds of mourning.

In mourning - image from http://www.cvltnation.com

Whitby Museum has a fine collection of local jet jewellery.

JOHN BUNTING

John Bunting (1927 – 2002) was born in London and educated at Ampleforth College on the edge of the North York Moors. The area made a considerable impression on him and he returned to the College to teach art in 1955. He also taught at the York School of Art, and later became sculptor in residence at Ampleforth. Without doubt, his religious faith was central to his work.

In the 1950s John Bunting bought a small piece of land on the edge of the ridge above Byland Abbey and on it he created the War Memorial Chapel . He renovated a derelict farm building on the site himself with the help of a Mr Winspear of Oswaldkirk.

The whole chapel is a work of art. The outside and inside commemorate the dead, in particular four named alumni of Ampleforth College, and the peace the dead sacrificed themselves for. The recumbent stone soldier inside the Chapel wearing WWII commando boots connects the modern age with the past, echoing a tomb of a mediaeval Catholic knight.

The Chapel is also known as the Scotch Corner Chapel; it was round about here that in an earlier conflict the Scots defeated the English in battle.

Scotch Corner Chapel - copyright NYMNPA.

The Chapel is occasionally open to the public.

JUNCUS sp.

There are two genera in the rush family common to the UK, luzula and juncus. Rushes can easily be confused with sedges, and even some grasses. As a rule of thumb, grass stems are usually cylindrical and hollow, sedges are triangular and solid whilst rushes are round and filled with pith – hence the common adage ‘sedges have edges and rushes are round’.

Soft rush Juncus effusus is one of the most widespread rushes in the North York Moors, and on the moorland Heath rush Juncus squarrosus is also commonly found. Other locally important rushes include Jointed rush Juncus articulatus, Blunt-flowered rush Juncus subnodulosus and Sharp-flowered rush Juncus acutiflorus.

Rushes are significant for a variety of animal species. Snipe often build their nests at the base of a clump of rushes near water, whilst meadow pipits feed on the seeds in winter. Lapwing, curlew and redshank also benefit from the damp pasture on farmland where rushes can be found. Rushes are an important food source for butterflies; the Large Heath butterfly feeds on Jointed rush.

Pasture with sharp flowered rush - Bilsdale. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Semi natural rush pasture is usually dominated by rushes. The UK priority habitat – purple moor grass and rush pasture – is found in the North York Moors, on or around moorland and in patches on damper ground around flushes or hollows on inbye land. Rush pasture can be managed with light to moderate grazing. The ideal level keeps the Juncus and Molinia caerulea (purple moor-grass) from becoming dominant and allows other species to flourish in these more vigorous swards. Occasional poaching caused by grazing stock can have the beneficial effect of creating varied soil surfaces and bare ground, which can be colonised by the smaller plants. However, as always, too heavy a grazing level will have a negative impact on the botanical interest. Draining rush pasture removes the vital element of water and will modify the habitat leading to the loss of specialist wetland plants.

Rush pasture in the North York Moors - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA.

JUNIPER (Juniperus communis)

Mature Juniper with good colouration - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.Common Juniper is a coniferous shrub or tree which is both evergreen and perennial. It is also a dioecious plant – plants are either male or female, not both as with many other plant species. It often lives to 100 years and can grow up to 4 metres in height, though it has been recorded at heights of up to 10 metres. It grows in a diversity of forms including as an upright bush, as a low-growing mat or a towering spire. It is typically found on moorland/heathland/downland and in pine and birch woodland habitats. It is one of only three “native” conifers in the UK (alongside Yew and Scot’s Pine).
Juniper bush - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.

Thirty-five insects and three mites are specifically associated with Common Juniper, such as the Juniper carpet moth (Thera juniperata) and the Juniper pug moth (Eupithecia pusillata). Juniper can also provide an important food source for berry-eating birds such as thrushes, fieldfares and waxwing who help spread the seed that passes through them. Juniper berries have Female juniper with berries - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.long been exploited by man too, for their flavour, fragrance and presumed medicinal properties.

Juniper is becoming increasingly rare. There are a small number of plants in the North York Moors. The population here is fragmented, and as Juniper is dioecious to regenerate both genders must be close enough to one another so that the wind-borne pollen of male plants may reach and
pollinate a receptive female. Close up of juniper leaves - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.Otherwise a population has no chance of successfully reproducing and will eventually die out. Juniper seeds become less viable with age, and natural regeneration of Juniper is also vulnerable to moorland management and grazing. Between 1990 and 2012 over 1750 new Juniper plants propagated from local seeds and cuttings, were planted in the North York Moors through a volunteer initiative. The local Forestry Commission have also been planting Juniper on their holdings, for instance at Bumble Wood. The threat of the pathogen Phytophthora austrocedrae means any further propagation work will need to be self sufficient within the North York Moors.

KILNS

A kiln is a structure capable of holding material at temperatures high enough to effect chemical change. Quicklime (or burnt lime) is used to improve soil structure and increase the fertility of acidic soils which are common in the North York Moors. It is also used to bind and render stonework. To abstract one tonne of quicklime from limestone you’d need a lime kiln, two tonnes of limestone, and half a tonne of coal (or similar) as a fuel source. Stack the limestone and fuel in alternate layers inside the kiln and heat to 1100°C. Leave for 4 to 5 days to cool. Be careful, because the end product is unstable.

There are records of lime kilns across the southern North York Moors dating back to the medieval period. Kilns were more common in the south because this is where the limestone is. Kiln structures ranged from single basic clamp lime kilns on farmland to lines of industrial heat-efficient kilns next to limestone quarry sites. Remains of a number of lime kiln structures can still be seen in the North York Moors landscape.

Lime kiln in Harwood Dale - copyright NYMNPA.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H

Saving up for the future

Sam Witham – Conservation Research Student

This summer I collected 10,000 (approx.) native raspberry seeds Rubus idaeus from the North York Moors for the UKNTSP (UK National Tree Seed Project). This is a project run by Kew to collect tree and shrub seeds from different regions of the UK in order to build a genetic representation of all UK tree/shrub species in the country. I first got involved with the project when I first started with the National Park last autumn.

Collecting wild raspberries in the North York Moors for the UKNTSP - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

A couple of weeks ago I got to visit the Kew Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex to drop off the raspberry seeds and see behind the scenes. Bede West, a field officer for the UKNTSP, kindly gave me a tour of the Seed Bank, and explained the processes involved.

Kew Millennium Seed Bank - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Collected seeds are sent, along with a herbarium (plant) specimen, to the Millennium Seed Bank. The herbarium specimen is used to determine the correct plant species and is then stored at the Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

If seeds are not yet ripe, they are ripened in a ripening room.

Millennium Seed Bank - a zigzag aspirator - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Once the paper work has been checked over, the seeds are extracted from casing or fruit, and washed using inventive methods such as squashing them while wearing wellies, scrubbing them on a rubber car matt, sieving them, and rinsing them in the sink. A zigzag aspirator can be used to separate seeds by size.

Most seeds are then x-rayed. Seeds can be infected by pathogens such as grubs, fungi, viruses and bacteria, reducing their viability. Viruses can be hard to detect in the x-ray so a sample of seeds can also be looked at under a microscope.

Millennium Seed Bank - x-raying seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

There are orthodox, recalcitrant or unorthodox seeds, along with intermediate seeds. Orthodox seeds can be dried to 5% moisture content or lower and then frozen. Relcalcitrant seeds will not survive if their moisture content drops below 40%. Intermediate seeds are someway inbetween and can be dried somewhat.

Millennium Seed Bank - seeds from all over the world are dried in the same room - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Millennium Seed Bank - Sam's NYM raspberry seeds in the drying room - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Orthodox seeds are placed in a temperature and humidity controlled drying room where the seeds are gradually dried to 5% moisture or lower. Certain seeds can take more than six months to dry out. The seeds needs to be dried so that damaging water crystals do not form when they are frozen.

 

At some point before the seeds go into storage, 50 seeds from a collection are weighed and then the whole seed collection is weighed. From this the mean seed weight is calculated.

Millennium Seed Bank - storing seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Millennium Seed Bank - storing seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.When the seeds are ready, they are put in jars and then stored at -20oC in an underground vault.

 

 

Millennium Seed Bank - underground seed vaults - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

There are two types of vault rooms – active rooms and base rooms. The seeds in the base rooms are left undisturbed, while seeds from the active rooms are used for research and regular monitoring. After seeds have been frozen, an initial seed sample is warmed up and germinated to test for viability. Samples are then taken from the underground freezer every ten years and germinated in order to monitor their continuing viability. This is done until there are no longer enough active room seeds to do this. The remaining frozen seeds are then moved to a base room and are also left undisturbed. At this point it’s time to collect more seeds from the wild.

Seeds are germinated on agar, a jelly-like substance taken from algae. Certain nutrients can be added to the agar to meet the requirements of the seeds. The seeds are kept at temperatures and humidities matching their country of origin, and some seeds are moved from light rooms to dark rooms to simulate day and night. Some seeds can be more demandng and extra steps need to be taken to improve germination such as subjecting them to different climatic conditions and adding chemicals.

Millennium Seed Bank - germinating seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Millennium Seed Bank - seed incubators for germination - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Once the active room seeds have been germinated and counted they are often destroyed, although Kew is looking into being able to grow more of them on in a nursery. Some seeds are grown on in greenhouses to definitively ascertain species and to create herbarium specimens, and also if they have been requested by outside organisations.

Millennium Seed Bank - growing seeds on in greenhouse - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

The recalcitrant seeds that could not survive the drying and freezing processes include coconuts, brazil nuts and acorns. Currently these seeds are germinated and the embryos are then cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196oC. This method is being actively researched and developed because as yet its not been that successful.

Millennium Seed Bank - recalcitrant seed embryos stored in liquid nitrogen - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

The value of the seeds stored at the Millennium Seed Bank is as a research resource, and as a living natural heritage archive which can be used to boost wild plant populations if plants become rare.

Sam, on location at the Millennium Seed Bank.

Thanks to the Millennium Seed Bank, and thanks to the Society for National Park Staff for paying my expenses.

A place in time

The A B C of Rosedale by Ralph Mayman
Thanks to the Ryedale Folk Museum and the Rosedale History Society

This poem was written in the early 1930s at the end of Rosedale’s industrial age, and is a rare primary source. The Rosedale Railway had just closed in 1929, the last working component in the area’s ironstone industry.

The rhyming couplets present the landscape and the character of the dale, at that particular point in time, referencing the industrial structures alongside natural features, local buildings and people. There is an impression of time and continuity – linking before industry and after – the dale is returning to ‘Quietude true and sincere’, the mines are already ‘old’, and the name Leeman (co-owner of the 19th century Rosedale and Ferryhill Iron Company) is falling out of use. But the shops are still open, left over from ‘Busier days’, and there is a proviso – ‘For the present’ – attached to the ‘engines and drivers have gone’, as if industry could yet return.

A.    Stands for Avenue, many know well,
Which leads into Rosedale, of which I shall tell.

B.    Stands for Busier days Rosedale has seen,
But her beauty’s the same as of yore I ween.

C.   Stands for Chimney the storm beaten pile,
Which can easy be seen for any a mile.

D.   Stands for Douker wood, way down below,
In the vale where the violets and bluebells grow.

E.   Stands for Engine shed, left all alone,
For the present its engines and drivers have gone.

F.   Florence Terrace, once a busy place,
To one, Florence Leeman its name we trace.

G.   Stands for Grange farm, on first turn to right,
‘ere’ the beautiful avenue comes into sight.

H.   Stands for its Hills, which tower so high,
When lads we thought that they reached to the sky.

I.    Its Ivy clad church, to there now we’ll repair,
For the names of The Lads are recorded there.

J.   Stands for our old friend Jonathon Robertshaw,
He lives at Burn’s cottage, Primrose Villas you know.

K.   Reminds us, Knott cottage way up the hillside,
The pleasant home where Mat Peirson’s reside.

L.   Stands for Leeman Grove built long years ago,
It has now got another name “School Row”.

M.   Stands for Moorland, where when not wrapped in snow,
The Travellers Joy, and the white Heather grows.

N.   Stands for Northdale, where if you search well,
You will find on its hillside the place called Job’s well.

O.   Old Magnetic ore mines at Rosedale West,
For quality this was the very best.

P.   Stands for Plane Trees an imposing spot,
You’ll find Robert Watson still there casts his lot.

Q.   Stands for Quietude true and sincere,
If you love this life best you may find it here.

R.   Readman’s boot shop your repairs here may send,
He has often had boots sent from Scotland to mend.

S.   Stands for Spenceley and Stamper as well,
At whose store nearly everything they sell.

T.   Stands for Thorgill, of this place we must tell,
You will find Charley Waller lives down in the dell.

U.   Up to its crags we will now pass along,
Where the Rock pigeon nests and the fox has its young.

V.   Verdant valley where the cattle graze,
And the streams trickle down through the leafy maze.

W.   Wood End Villas, in the tall trees near by,
May often be heard the Wood Peckers cry.

X.    Stands for Xmas, and don’t think it queer,
But here as else where it comes once a year.

Y.    Stands for Yatts farm with Hartoft quite near,
The Peirson’s have lived here for many a year.

Z.    Zig Zag climb to Bank Top you ascend,
Where the motorist oft fail on the hair-pin bend.

Relics of the industrial structures can still be found in Rosedale, as can the woodland and moorland, the trees, the buildings, and the family names. Although the Chimney has gone, Chimney Bank with its ‘Zig Zag climb’ remains. 

The This Exploited Land Landscape Partnership Scheme (the trailblazing story of ironstone and railways in the North York Moors) will help understand and enhance the landscape and its legacy of 19th century ironstone exploitation, preserving it for future generations.

TEL logo band 2_FINAL_exc DRF

 

 

 

 

Benefiting bees

Roy McGhie – Conservation Project Assistant

Recently my colleague Ami and I went on an organised farm walk near Menethorpe to the south of the North York Moors. The event was led by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and the theme was habitat management for pollinators. The walk was well attended by local land managers who wanted to know a bit more about the benefits that pollinators provide, and how they might most easily encourage them, in particular on otherwise unproductive areas of their land.

The main focus of our discussion was inevitably bees – our most efficacious pollinators.  We were given copies of an excellent booklet from the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology called ‘Habitat Creation and Management for Pollinators’.

We’ve mentioned bees a number of times before in this blog, but felt it was about time they had their own post because they are so important.

CFE Farm Walk - a pollinator meadow on the farm we visited full of red and white clover and meadow vetchling. Copyright NYMNPA.

In the UK whilst there is only one species of honey bee Apis mellifera (both wild and semi-domesticated), there are about half a dozen common bumble bees and over twenty common species of solitary bees like mining bees, mason bees and leaf cutter bees.

The bee flying season can begin as early as March and extend right the way into October, as long as there is food i.e. nectar and pollen available. Most species of bees can survive over winter if there is somewhere for them to hole up.

Bumble bees on a thistle - copyright NYMNPA.

The anatomy of different bee species varies greatly, and so to assist most species it’s best to have a wide range of flower species from which they can feed. As some of the mining bees have short tongues of only 4-5mm, they need open flowers such as cow parsley and daisies. The garden bumblebee Bombus hortorum on the other hand has a tongue that can extend to around 12mm, so it can feed from flowers with a long corolla (i.e. petals) like foxgloves and honeysuckle.

As well as fragrance, one of the other things that attracts bees to flowers is colour. So its worth considering maintaining colours throughout the season. For example, coltsfoot and hawk’s beard provide yellow colour from about February to June, and then cat’s ear How we see it (left) and how a bee might see it with UV shades visible (right) - Klaus Schmitt.and bristly oxtongue do the same from June to October. Similarly, a successional combination of white deadnettle, oxeye daisy and yarrow can ensure there are plenty of white flowers throughout the year. Interestingly, it is thought that bees can see in ultraviolet, which means how they perceive flowers will be very different from how we do.

Establishing and managing a wildflower meadow is one of the most effective ways of ensuring bees have a suitable habitat. In addition it is thought that on arable farms having a flower-rich margin on at least 1% of the land will provide significant benefit to pollinators, which in turn will improve crop production and quality. Hedgerows can be another useful way to help bees – cutting hedges on a two or even three year cycle will encourage more hawthorn and blackthorn flowers. When new hedges are planted, a greater species diversity (using hazel, field maple, crab apple, holly and willow where appropriate) will also mean that there is more food and nectar available for a longer period throughout the year.

Bees are fantastic creatures in their own right. They also provide a number of hugely important direct benefits for our countryside and environment. There are things we can do to encourage bee survival such as sowing appropriate wildflowers and creating habitat stepping stones, allowing what we might think of as typically weeds to flourish (in the right place), creating patches of bare ground in sunny dry spots which will allow solitary mining bees to nest, and leaving tall grass over winter which can provide places for bumblebees to hibernate and nest.

Bees are often in the news these days, mostly because they are in decline – they even need their own national strategy. If we can do our best to make the landscape more friendly, we can help give bees a better chance, and ensure they can continue to play a key role in pollinating our flowers, trees and crops.

Bee on red clover - copyright NYMNPA.

For a local initiative – see B-Lines Ryedale

Patience and perserverance

We’ve launched a new concerted effort against two of the most threatening non-native invasive plant species in the North York Moors, bolstered by funding from Yorkshire Water over the next four years. We’re chasing down Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in the River Esk and River Rye catchments.

As well as damaging existing ecosystems and decreasing diversity, both these species tend to overwhelm other plant species along river banks and the danger from this is that during the winter when these non-natives die back the banksides are left bare of vegetation so subject to erosion which increases the sediment getting into watercourses and smothering the water habitat.

Both plants are vigorous growers and virulent spreaders. Himalayan balsam disperses thousands of seeds per plant through exploding seed pods that can propel the seeds metres from the original plant. If the plants are next to watercourses the seeds can be carried downstream to colonise new areas. Japanese knotweed spreads through its underground rhizomes which are so effective that all remnants of the plants need to be carefully disposed of because even a small fragment of rhizome if given the chance to re-root will form a new plant.

The only way to have any real impact on the plants is to tackle them systematically starting at the top of catchments and moving downstream, and repeating the control year after year to remove any vestiges of the plants. This new funding will provide a much needed boost to efforts made over the last few years.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - it has a sickly, sweet smell, pink flowers and a bright green hollow stem. It can grow up to two meters tall. Copyright - NYMNPA.

Japanese knotweed grows to around three metres tall and has large alternate heart shaped leaves and a characteristic zigzag stem covered in purple speckles. Its flowers, which appear in late summer, consist of clusters of tiny creamy-white flowers. Copyright - NYMNPA.

We’ll be surveying the current extent of the plants and then resurveying each year to monitor the effects of the control. We’re using tried and tested control methods – hand pulling the Himalayan balsam before it gets the chance to seed and propogate, and treating individual Japanese knotweed plants with directly administered glyphosate injections to carry the chemical down into the rhizomes. We’ll be using contractors and volunteers to carry out the work coordinated by National Park staff.

Controlling and hopefully eradicating non-native invasive species in an area takes a long time. Simon, our River Esk Project Officer, is a real enthusiast for non-native invasive species control because he sees the detrimental effects the plants have on the river environment and on his beloved Freshwater pearl mussels. He can see the years of attrition starting to pay off as native vegetation starts to recolonise sites where invasive species have been removed.

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose” — Benjamin Disraeli

From Beck Hole to Brazil

Louise Cooke – This Exploited Land Progamme Manager

This Exploited Land has a wealth of stories to tell. These stories from the past can be traced on the landscape today and have tracks stretching out beyond the North York Moors.

For 30 years from 1836 the trains along the new Whitby to Pickering railway had to overcome the 1:15 incline at Beck Hole. The carriages were initially horse-drawn but when the trains came up against the steep gradient of the incline between Beck Hole and Goathland the only way up and down was pulling and holding the carriages on a system of wire ropes. Steam power took over from horses in 1845, but trains still had to negotiate the incline by means of winches. Winches are intrinsically dangerous; a fatal accident occurred in 1864. The delays, problems and dangers of using the incline motivated the construction of a more practical deviation line in 1865. This allowed steam locomotives to travel along the complete line for the first time, and this is the current route of the North York Moors Railway.

2015 LiDAR image - NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is a detail of the TEL Lidar survey undertaken in the development phase of the TEL Scheme. The defined line at the top shows the route of the current NYMR Whitby-Pickering Railway. The less defined line through the centre shows the route of the Beck Hole Incline.

So what happened to the ‘abandoned’ Beck Hole incline which connects the TEL landscape to Brazil and to innovations in railway technology that changed the ways railways worked through the 20th century…

In 1872 a 685 metre length of 3’7” (narrow) gauge track was laid on the disused Beck Hole Incline and successful tests were carried on a fell-system locomotive built by Manning & Wardle of Leeds. A fell-system uses a third rail to provide the necessary extra power and control when travelling up and down intense slopes. Manning & Wardle narrow gauges were exported around the world to Europe, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, Australasia and South America – so this short stretch of the Beck Hole Incline may have had an impact on the wider world opening up mountainous regions to exploitation.

Four fell-system locomotives were purchased from Manning & Wardle for use on the Cantagallo Railway in Brazil. This was Brazil’s first mountain railway linking Niterói to Nova Friburgo and allowed coffee to be shipped down from the mountains and out to the coast for export.

Back in the North York Moors, late in 1908 the railway line from Grosmont to the foot of the incline was re-opened for an Autocar service which ran in the summer months until the outbreak of the war in 1914. The North East Railway’s Autocars used early experimental petrol engines that generated electricity, and so are predecessors of the diesel and electric trains which took over the railways through the 20th century. The excursion/day trips by Autocar to Beck Hole saw tourists and visitors making use of industrial remains within the declining industrial landscape at the time.

Part of the Beck Hole Incline today – now the Historic Rail Trail. Copyright NYMNPA.

The site of the former railway station at Beck Hole at the base of the Incline – shown by the stone edge. Copyright NYMNPA. The Beck Hole Incline is now the route of the Historic Rail Trail footpath between Goathland and Grosmont. Walking down the incline today it is hard to imagine how it worked and what it looked like in its hey-day. It is perhaps even harder to imagine how this now tranquil part of the North York Moors is associated with changes in railway technology and how Beck Hole can be connected to Brazil.

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Discovered by Disaster

Aside

Prehistoric ‘cup and ring’ rock on Fylingdales Moor - photo by Jen Heathcote.

Fylingdales Moor on the eastern edge of the North York Moors features in an Historic England blog post from July on archaeological discoveries that came to light due to environmental change. In the case of Fylingdales Moor it was a severe wild fire which was devastating to the natural environment at the time – but from an archaeological point of view every cloud has a silver lining …

via Discovered by Disaster: 6 Astounding Archaeological Finds from Environmental Change — Heritage Calling

Habitat connectivity: evaluating potential

Roy McGhie – Conservation Project Assistant

Over the last month or so I’ve been investigating habitat connectivity in a new target area – near Boltby on the western fringe of the North York Moors.

Landscape from top of escarpment, near Boltby - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

This particular area has a fantastic variety of habitats, from the arable plain on top of the escarpment, down the slope through Boltby Forest and across to the pasture fields in the west. Our overarching objective for this area is to strengthen the mosaic of habitats, with special reference to improving networks for butterflies and bats.

After my initial desk-based research I proceeded to ground truth the area to establish how much of our mapping and existing information was still accurate and to build up a current picture of the area. With so many public rights of way in the National Park exploring is usually pretty straightforward, but for closer examination of any particular area we would always ensure we have the land manager’s permission.

Felled veteran tree with dead wood left in situ (good for invertebrates, fungii and lichens) - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

It’s important to establish what levels of connectivity already exist. Above the escarpment most of the arable fields are in Environmental Stewardship agreements, which suggests positive environmental land management is already in place and making use of national agri-environment schemes is something we would always encourage where appropriate for the environment and the land manager.

The Forestry Commission own a large forest within the area – Boltby Forest – and their Forest Design Plan sets out their long-term vision. This includes increasing the ratio of broadleaved trees to conifers and maintaining areas of open space. The open space is very useful in terms of meeting our original objectives for the area because open spaces in woodland create edge habitat which attracts bats.

Within Boltby Forest - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Another valuable habitat found within this area is unimproved and semi improved grassland, both acidic and calcareous in terms of soil pH because it’s where the farmland of the Vale of Mowbray meets the western edge of the moorland. Some of these grassland sites appear to be in a good condition and have an appropriate level of grazing to maintain this, whereas others seem more precarious.

Heath bedstraw and tormentil, indicative of an acidic grassland site - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Lots of wild thyme, commonly found on calcareous sites - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.The biggest threat to most of the grassland appears to be a lack of effective grazing. On several sites rank grass are beginning to dominate, resulting in wildflowers being outcompeted. On other sites scrub encroachment means that the grassland interest will diminish.

Rank grass and ash trees taking over a grassland site - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

In a site where grazing is happening, there is occasional poaching (heavy ground trampling) by cattle alongside the small watercourse. This happens when stock congregate along particular parts of the bank to drink, or cross over.

Poached land beside a small beck - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Bracken is another issue in the target area. Bracken isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can provide excellent cover for ground flora and butterflies such as the rare Pearl-bordered fritillary, but its tendency to spread means that it can very quickly outcompete and overcome other vegetation.

Bracken alongside a public footpath - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

There are plenty of positive biodiversity hot spots in this area, including patches of habitat that are excellent for butterflies. There are also a number of established hedgerows acting as wildlife corridors for bats to navigate by.

Common blue butterfly - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.Small copper butterfly - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

So once I’d assessed the area and its connectivity potential, I discussed ideas and options for how best to deliver the original objective with input from Rona, our Ecologist, and Mark, our Woodland Officer.

One of the key ideas coming out of these discussions is to provide long term replacements for the many mature in-field and boundary trees. These trees provide multiple benefits such as shelter for stock as well as a habitat for birds, invertebrates and insects. I recorded a standing veteran tree during my on-site survey and ideally we would like to see this tree fenced off as the stock in the field are causing considerable erosion around the base which may be weakening it.

To reduce the poaching alongside the watercourse we could help repair the fencing and investigate the use of a field trough so the cattle wouldn’t need to drink out of the beck.

Another idea is to fence off a particular area of mature ash trees to allow natural regeneration. This is because some ash trees show genetic resistance to the ash dieback pathogen, so whilst planting new ash trees is currently not encouraged assisting natural regeneration by older trees might mean that potentially disease resistant stocks are bolstered.

For the various grassland sites in the area, different management options are proposed. On the sites with bracken encroachment we could suggest organising volunteer tasks to help keep the bracken under control. On other sites we will need to discuss with the land manager their aims for their land and see if there is scope to manage levels of grazing to ensure the wildflower interest remains and potentially expands. Land manager engagement is a crucial part of the habitat connectivity development process – our management proposals on private land can’t happen without their permission and goodwill. Negotiations are the next step in the habitat connectivity process.

Overall I think this target area near Boltby is in a pretty well connected condition. There is already a mosaic of habitats suitable for bats and butterflies, and it forms part of a much more extensive network along the western fringe of the North York Moors. Our involvement will probably be relatively minimal, working where we can with local land managers to conserve the valuable grasslands and to sustain the important tree population into the future.

Landscape near Boltby - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.