Taken from final report for the Cornfield Flowers Project: ‘Out of Intensive Care’
The Cornfield Flowers Project was set up originally to save rare plants of arable fields in north-east Yorkshire. It is spearheaded by the Carstairs Countryside Trust in partnership with the Ryedale Folk Museum, North Yorkshire Moors Association and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The core project area covers the south of the North York Moors National Park. Beyond this it links across the Vale of Pickering, Howardian Hills and on to York and the Yorkshire Wolds in the south and across the moors to Cleveland in the north.
The grant funding for the 3rd five year phase of the Cornfield Flowers Project (‘Out of Intensive Care’) came to an end earlier this year. This phase was funded through the National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, the North York Moors Coast and Hills LEADER programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Carstairs Countryside Trust.
Phase 3 of the Project has managed and enhanced
- a dedicated public demonstration field at the Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton-le Hole;
- a cornfield and recreated species-rich meadow at Silpho, near Scarborough;
- and in addition a new sandland arable site at Water Fulford near York – which was sown in one year due to the available amount of volunteer-grown seed.
The Project has worked directly with 14 volunteer farmers managing areas of their farms for arable plant conservation and as species reintroduction sites. The greatest determinant of arable wildflower success is the dedication of the individual farmers themselves, and their willingness to encourage these plants above and beyond what would usually be required from an arable management regime. Maintaining a variety of core farms throughout the project area is essential to provide the widest range of conditions (soil type, microclimate etc.) to benefit the greatest variety of arable plant requirements and mitigate against localised losses at one site. In addition the Project has reached out to farmers through organised events and provision of advice and through working with agri-environment scheme providers to establish what species remain where in the wider area.
The sharing and spreading of knowledge is an essential element for the future of the species’ conservation. Hands-on growing of plants has proven to be the very best method for volunteers to become familiar with arable wildflowers, learning as they go through experiences of failures, pests, flowering times and seedling identification, with ready access to a Project Officer to answer any queries when needed.
Documenting the origins and movement of seed to ensure locations and provenance are recorded has been vital and will serve as an historical record of the Project’s work. Because much conservation targeting is based on species rarity, clear distinctions need to be drawn between native sites / plants and those reintroduced by the Project, so as not to impair wider conservation efforts or devalue any species by misrepresenting its true status. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) study UK plant distribution and taxonomy, and operate a recording and mapping scheme that informs national plant Atlases and County Floras. The Project has provided them with records for local vice-county areas 61 and 62 (North-east Yorkshire and South-east Yorkshire respectively). One outstanding issue is how many years an introduced plant must be self-sustaining, without further reintroductions, before its ‘introduced’ status can be relaxed.
Steadily expanding survey coverage, along with increasing botanical expertise of the Cornfield Flowers Project and its volunteers, resulted in continuing species discoveries of national or regional significance, including a number previously thought regionally extinct. As well as new species found in the area during Phase 3, rare species were also found at new sites.
Upright goosefoot (Chenopodium urbicum)
Small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica)
Purple ramping-fumitory (Fumaria purpurea)
Few-flowered fumitory (Fumaria vaillantii)
Dense-flowered fumitory (Fumaria densiflora)
Corn parsley (Petroselinum segetum)
Abyssinian kale (Crambe hispanica
Shepherd’s-needle (Scandix pecten-veneris)
Common ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis subsp. boraei)
Cornfield knotgrass (Polygonum rurivagum)
The current Management Group are determined to keep the work going to sustain the effective conservation of arable flowers in north-east Yorkshire. A plan for how to move forward – to maintain the momentum of the project, provide responsibility for maintaining the seed stock, consolidate affinity with participants over the future of the project, and provide ongoing enthusiasm and focus – is still taking shape. In the meantime the Carstairs Countryside Trust are providing funding for an additional year.
Tom Normandale and Chris Wilson have been the whole-hearted proactive Project Officers for the Cornfield Flowers Project. Chris is now retiring from that role but will continue his involvement. Tom remains as a dedicated Project Officer.
Cornfield Flowers Project – Latest CFP Newsletter 2014-15
Cornfield Flowers – species cards
Cornfield Flowers Project, Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire, YO62 6UA.