John Beech – Coastal Project Officer
Turning plans into action
The eastern edge of the North York Moors National Park ends abruptly as it cascades over the cliffs onto beaches and shoreline and into the North Sea. As spectacular as any coastal landscape in the UK, our local coastline is a real gem.
Careful planning is needed to look after our marvellous natural asset. As the local Coastal Projects Officer, I’ve spent the last few months working on a new coastal Management Plan that, if followed, should make sure our share of national treasure is looked after into the future.
The coastline between Boulby and Cloughton is not only in the North York Moors National Park but it also makes up part of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast, one of 45 Heritage Coasts in England and Wales. These undeveloped scenic coastlines were defined in the 1970s by the (now extinct) Countryside Commission and they’re just as worthy of the special protection and recognition now as then. The Management Plan covers the whole North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast (from Saltburn down to Scalby Mills).
Working on the new Plan has taken some time. We ran a public consultation over the summer to gauge people’s views on how to care for the coast into the future. Many of the responses chimed with what we were thinking but new issues and ideas were also raised regarding conservation, recreation, beach and water quality and coastal communities both by local people and national organisations – and these all needed considering and incorporating.
The new Management Plan, which is due to be published in early 2015, will promote key principles to guide agencies and land managers and local communities working together as we move into the 2015 – 2020 period. To get an idea of what kind of thing we’re working towards – our previous Management Plan 2009 – 2014 is available on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Coastal Forum website.
Our ongoing Coastal Forum is an active collection of people and organisations who have a vested interest and shared vision in the safeguarding and enhancement of a sustainable Heritage Coast. Back in September we organised our 12th annual Coastal Forum partnership conference. We had over 60 people attend to hear guest speakers from the Marine Management Organisation, Whitby Fishing School, Parkol Marine (shipbuilders), Whitby Whale Watching, Whitby & District Tourism Association and East Barnby Outdoor Centre. Due to the all-day sea fret (fog) we couldn’t get out to sea to look for whales in the afternoon but we did have an informative boat trip up and down the River Esk (no whales) and had a chance for a close up look at the Whitby harbour walls – impressive listed structures that were originally built in the 15th century.
If you’re interested in joining the Forum – get in touch.
In between developing and writing the new Plan, I’ve been working closely with the Environment Agency to improve the rivers and watercourses that run into the sea along the coast. In 2015, our bathing beaches at Staithes, Runswick, Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay will be subject to increased scrutiny as the EU Bathing Water Directive raises the bar on water quality. By working in the wider catchments now, addressing land management, we hope to give the beaches a better chance of reaching these new stricter guideline standards. So working with land managers we’ve been assisting with the fencing off of watercourses (and providing in field water sources) and planting beck side trees where there had been access points for cattle and breaks in the woodland cover. As well as the trees buffering the watercourses, the fencing prevents the livestock standing in the water and doing what comes naturally after a day’s grazing in the fields!
As well as addressing water quality issues this work also improves habitat connectivity by creating habitat corridors. We will also be back at farms in the Staithes Beck catchment in early 2015 to continue with some of the excellent work done last winter to promote habitat connectivity. We’ll be back planting hedges again at Roxby and Borrowby to provide these vital wildlife links between the coastal wooded gills there.
The Exmoor ponies on the coastal slope at Runswick Bay are currently off the undercliff for the winter. In the meantime our National Park Apprentices will set to and undertake some mechanical scrub control. Taking out the edges of the established scrub is part of the plan to encourage the seacliff grassland habitat to expand. The ponies have done a marvellous job over the summer tackling the scrub and will be back in the spring ready for some light grazing in 2015.
The mixture of work that I do as the Coastal Project Officer is incredibly varied and thoroughly enjoyable and the opportunity to work in such a dynamic environment is something that I cherish every day.