Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant
Last week I went out with the River Esk volunteers, Simon (the River Esk Project Officer), and Bill Ashton-Wickett (the National Park’s Volunteers Officer). Our work for the day involved gapping up two existing hedgerows and installing a new fence line on a farm near Lealholm. Strengthening the boundaries will prevent stock getting into a small ditch which runs into the River Esk, and therefore lessen the amount of the sedimentation getting into the river which is a major aim of the Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project. Hedgerows are also great for biodiversity (for all sorts of species: invertebrates, birds, bats etc.) and act as a physical connection (nature highway) between other habitats.
Bill explained the National Park Authority’s hedgerow planting guidelines to the team – six plants per metre in a zigzag formation, with a cane and a rabbit-proof guard per plant – then we split into two teams: planters and fencers. The first hedgerow took a little effort to plant as the ground was very stony, but we soon got a system going and completed the gapping up with a mix of hawthorn and blackthorn. Due to the drying winds we had to ensure the plant roots were kept moist throughout. The fencing in this section was particularly difficult due to the stony substrate, and the team worked very hard getting the posts in.
After a picnic lunch in the sun, we moved onto the second hedgerow alongside a dry stone wall. This was slightly trickier as many of the large boulders from the wall had tumbled down over the years, and the vegetation had covered them over. These boulders had to be dug out and replaced on the wall before we could get the hedge plants in, but hopefully the new hedge plants will get off to a flying start under the shelter of the dry stone wall!
The task was physical but very satisfying and enjoyable, especially with such a great team of volunteers who always put in such a huge effort with all kinds of projects across the area. If you are interested in volunteering around the North York Moors National Park, take a look at our volunteering pages on our website.