John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer
I work out on the glorious North York Moors coastline and I’m currently spending a lot of my time re-linking the myriad of habitats found there. Magnificent gill woodlands, orchid filled cliff top grass fields, coastal slopes that have escaped the plough, ancient hawthorn hedges and lichen encrusted stonewalls all make up the diverse range of land based wildlife habitats that exist alongside the sea.
As part of our habitat connectivity programme I recently negotiated the planting of 3,020 metres of new hedgerow with local landowners on the coast. Hedgerows will provide vital highways for wildlife to move through in years to come. In the main, the National Park Authority have provided the materials – the plants and the fencing needed to protect the hedgerow as it initially grows, whilst the landowners have provided the labour. Hedging shrubs (known as whips) that have been planted include Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel, Holly, Field Maple and Crab Apple. If you want to see what’s been going on – recent planting is visible as you drive along the A174 out of Lythe village towards Runswick Bay.
In Fylingdales Parish, nearly a hectare of seed rich ‘green hay’ has been cut from a donor site and transported to a cliff top location north of Robin Hood’s Bay to boost the currently species poor meadows there which have a lot of potential. Fingers crossed that the seed germinates and we have a flower filled buffer strip in early June for the benefit of pollinators.
Elsewhere on the coast, hardy native breed cattle are returning to the cliff slopes during the summer where it’s accessible and manageable. I’ve been working with a landowner north of Runswick Bay to enable restoration of the flower rich coastal undercliff at Wrack Hills which is part of the Runswick Bay SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). The cliff slope has been fenced, a water supply installed and half a dozen cattle will be led down to begin grazing later this year. The cattle will battle the scrub and bracken that is gradually engulfing the rare plant life there. Wrack Hills gets its name as an area where locals used to dry the seaweed, known locally as wrack, before applying it to the cliff top fields as a natural fertilizer!
Future negotiations with coastal landowners will include pond creation, scrub control and tree planting possibilities. I’ll you know how it goes.