A Date with a Dove

Richard Baines – North York Moors National Park Turtle Dove Officer

Was Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, a birdwatcher? As she sat about looking pretty with doves fluttering around her feet maybe she wondered when Turtle Doves would arrive back in Yorkshire from Africa that year!

Valentine’s Day has long been associated with doves, specifically Turtle Doves, and true love. This may have a link with science. Turtle Doves have been known to have a preference for monogamous partnerships; their strong connection is played out during their beautiful display when they first arrive back on their breeding grounds. The male will sing his soft purring song then fly up above the trees, fan his black and white tail and glide effortlessly down, making sure the female is watching!

Turtle Doves at Sutton Bank, 2015 - copyright Richard Bennett

Turtle Doves at Sutton Bank, 2015 - copyright Richard Bennett These photographs – kindly donated to our project by local photographer Richard Bennett – illustrate the wonderful care and attention Turtle Doves put into their post breeding courtship whether they are with the same mate as the previous year (or trying to woo a new one…. )

Sketches of Turtle Dove by Jonathan Pomroy

In the past few months I have had lots of requests from organisations in Yorkshire to talk on the National Lottery funded North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. Happy to oblige, here are some up-coming evening talks over the next few months. Please note romance is not guaranteed but lots of interesting facts and enthusiasm are.

22 February 2018 Newton-on-Rawcliffe Parish Council Newton-on-Rawcliffe Village Hall Starting 19:30
5 March 2018 Malton & Norton Green Drinks Malton Blue Ball Inn Starting 20:00
7 March 2018 Levisham with Lockton WI Lockton Village Hall Starting 19:30
4 April 2018 North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Dalby Forest Visitor Centre Starting 19:00
17 April 2018 Ryedale Natural History Society Kirkbymoorside Methodist Hall Starting 19:30
19 April 2018 North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Yorkshire Arboretum Starting 19:00
24 April 2018 East Yorkshire RSPB Group North Bridlington Library Starting 19:30

Call of Nature

This might not be the nicest subject to ever feature on this Blog – but it’s important stuff.

Kate Bailey – Catchment Partnership Officer

The National Park Authority is a partner in the Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership. All partners have an interest in improving water quality in the catchment.

The Catchment Partnership is therefore very happy to be involved in the Call of Nature Yorkshire campaign which aims to reduce inadvertent pollution getting into rivers and the sea when off-mains sewage systems aren’t maintained as they need to be. In rural areas, like the Esk and Coastal Streams catchment, individual homes/farms and small settlements are often not connected to the mains sewage network and so waste – from toilets, sinks, showers, baths, washing machines, dishwashers – is contained in cesspits, or treated in septic tanks or package sewage treatment plants, on site.

  • Cesspits are very basic, these tanks hold waste without any treatment. They need to be emptied regularly and the waste removed.
  • Septic tanks hold waste water where it settles and separates with sludge at the bottom and liquid at the top. Bacteria breaks down the organic matter in the tank. The effluent at the top drains onto a soak away area so that other bacteria in the soil can break down the remaining pollutants. The effluent cannot be discharged directly into a watercourse (which include ditches, field drains, small streams, rivers, lakes etc)
  • Package treatment works are a bit more technical than septic tanks. An electric pump brings in air which helps bacteria breaks down organic matter more effectively. This means under certain conditions that effluent can be discharged into a watercourse.

The Call of Nature Yorkshire campaign is raising awareness of the potential problems if these off-mains systems aren’t maintained properly and providing guidance on maintenance.

Local surveys by the Environment Agency have shown elevated levels of phosphates in certain areas of the catchment, and this could be partly due to individual sewage treatment systems and the domestic detergents and human sewage they’re supposed to treat. This isn’t the only issue; diffuse pollution from agriculture e.g. fertiliser, manure and slurry can also cause elevated nutrient levels in watercourses.  Phosphate acts as a nutrient and can trigger excessive plant growth in rivers and streams. This depletes the oxygen in the water, smothers the river bed and blocks out the sunlight damaging these important ecosystems. The Glaisdale Beck Restoration Project and the Biffa funded Esk Project is working with farmers to tackle agricultural impacts. But that leaves the accidental domestic waste.

General binding rules were introduced in 2015 and apply to people who are not connected to the mains sewage network.  All tanks need to be maintained to prevent leakage and to be emptied regularly to prevent over flow, any faults should be fixed immediately and maximum discharge volumes should not be exceeded (without a specific permit). If waste water that hasn’t been adequately treated gets out, it can end up polluting watercourses and beaches so damaging everyone’s environment and the nutrients and sewage released can harm both humans and wildlife. It’s much easier to maintain a off-mains system correctly than replace it when it fails. A poorly maintained system can also have a detrimental effect on the value of the property and so affect a house sale. Dark smelly liquid, sewage fungus (a slimy grey growth), a backing up toilet and a poorly-draining soak away are all indications that there is something wrong.

How to reduce domestic phosphates getting into local watercourses wherever you are (some of these suggestions are applicable if you do or don’t have an off-mains sewage treatment system):

  • Make sure you know how your own system works and where it is located
  • Make sure tanks are emptied regularly (by a licensed company) to ensure the lower layer of sludge doesn’t build up
  • Check all parts of your system regularly – make sure any faults with the system are fixed immediately
  • Make sure your system can manage the amount of waste being produced by the household – old tanks were not designed to manage the volumes used now e.g. washing machines, dishwashers. You might need to invest in a new system.
  • Don’t connect rainwater drainage pipes or guttering into an off-mains system
  • If possible space out your use of a washing machine and a dishwasher so the waste water/detergent isn’t entering the system at the same time.
  • Use ‘environmentally friendly’ products – only use small amounts.
  • Only use minimum amounts of bleach or disinfectant – these chemicals kill bacteria that is actually vial to breaking down waste
  • Don’t flush solid items down the toilet which can block the system and lead to overflow.
  • Don’t pour grease/cooking oil down the sink. Don’t pour paints or solvents or down the drains.

If you do have one of these off-mains sewage treatment systems and would like further information please can call the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506.  The Call of Nature Yorkshire website also has lots of useful fact sheets with further information.

Call of Nature Yorkshire logo

Environment Agency logo

Updating the landscape

This is a good example of the time and effort it can take to change a landscape for the better.

The Trennet Bank Project was initiated back in 2013 (although the wish to do something here had existed for much longer than that). We’ve now achieved the major part of the planned work with the removal of conifers and the start of the gradual restoration of the site to moorland and native woodland.

Trennet Bank is on the eastern edge of Bilsdale West Moor, just west of the village of Chop Gate. Set on the top of the bank was Trennet Plantation, a 20 hectare 20th century conifer plantation (Sitka spruce and Lodgepole pine) planted on moorland in the late 70s/early 80s. Since then the plantation was identified as an inappropriate forestry development at this location in terms of landscape and environment. Because it was so high on the horizon it stood out on the skyline from a number of vantage points and because it was surrounded on three sides by important moorland (designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area, Special Ara of Conservation) it was isolated from other woodland. In fact it stuck out like a sore thumb.

In addition, there was no future as a working plantation (plant-grow-fell) as it had become uneconomic to manage and harvest the timber, because of its location. So the trees would eventually start to be blown over leaving very little ground vegetation and therefore this would lead to erosion.

From a National Park Authority point of view Trennet Bank Plantation provided an ideal example of where to put into practice the North York Moors Management Plan policy – The removal of plantations from inappropriate sites will be supported where this will deliver landscape enhancement or other environmental benefits.

What happened…

The first requirement was the creation of a temporary access route from the plantation on the hillside down to the farm below and then onto the main road. This was a more achievable alternative to trying to take the trees up over the designated moorland. It meant building up the existing track including the provision of a new bridge so that the route could be used by timber lorries, and by machinery accessing the site to fell the trees. Subsequently once the conifer removal was completed the track was reinstated to ensure it was suitable for continued farm use. During and after the work, farm stock had to continue to be managed with fencing and gates, to allow the farm to function.

To remove the conifers a felling licence was required from the Forestry Commission. A felling licence requires a commitment to replant so there is no net loss of woodland. As the idea for Trennet Bank was to remove the existing woodland, the subsequent native woodland and wood pasture planned for the site wouldn’t amount to the required 20 hectares. Mark Antcliff, Woodland Officer, undertook the challenge to establish enough alternative planting sites in the wider area to ensure there was no let loss. In all, nearly 36 hectares of new compensatory woodland was established including on the plantation site and also in other appropriate locations such as bracken dominated moor edge, thanks to willing landowners and land managers.

With the access route improved and the felling licence in place the removal of timber started in the summer of 2015, and was completed by November 2016. The timber was of reasonable quality because the trees were over 30 years old and so could be sold on with some of the money made covering some of the costs entailed. The work also created large amounts of brash, some of which remains on the site to decay naturally and some of which was removed to be used as biomass.

In the winter of 2016/17 part of the felled site was replanted with oak and hazel, leaving the remainder (80% of the site) to naturally revert to heath and mire. The planted trees will need to be managed over the next three years to ensure they become established.

Establishing wood pasture on Trennet Bank. Copyright NYMNPA.

Lessons learnt for other potential large scale projects…

  • This turned out to be a major project for one Woodland Officer, with occasional assistance. A project of this scale and complexity would be helped by having a project manager on the ground.
  • Unavoidably the project relies on the good will and co-operation of landowners and tenants. It just couldn’t have happened otherwise.
  • In all, because of the complexity of the project, seven different agreements were required to be brokered by the Authority.

In the end a lot of time and resource was spent over a number of years, and as a result the landscape and environment of this part of the North York Moors has been significantly enhanced.

A to Z: a quantity of Qs

Q

QUAKERS

Quakers is a commonly used name for the Religious Society of Friends. Whether the term was originally meant to be derogatory or not, it is now embraced. The Society of Friends was formed in 17th century England. Quakerism spread particularly in northern England during that century due to missionary efforts.  In the same way that Methodism took hold in the North York Moors in later centuries, the Society of Friends found ready converts in this area due in part to the distance from centres of authority and conformist religion.

The founder, George Fox, had an understanding of Christianity that differed from that of the established Church of England at the time – he believed that there was something “of God in every person” (i.e. an inward light), people didn’t need Churches or Clergy to experience God they could do it themselves and have their own direct relationship. This idea of equality of all and divergence from the norm didn’t go down well in a period of Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration. Fox and others who thought the same way and who met together to listen to God, were imprisoned over and over again. Official persecution ended in 1689. 

After the initial period of conversion the Society turned inward and consolidated. New generations of Quakers sustained the Society – they didn’t need special buildings or clergy, their local meetings acted as self-regulating communities. A way of life was expected based on morality, honesty, diligence and most importantly, an inner conviction. The life of Joseph Foord, the land agent responsible for the engineered water races of the North York Moors, provides an example of how sometimes it wasn’t always easy for members of Quaker families to live up to all the expectations – Joseph was officially disowned for fornication. When he was buried, years later and away from home, he did end up in a Quaker cemetery although recorded as a ‘non member’.

Maybe not having inherited a place in the establishment, and having therefore avoided a classical only education and a disdain for business, individual Quakers worked hard for a living and for the betterment of all. They had big impacts in the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries including railways, and the iron and steel industries on Teesside.

QUAKING GRASS Briza media

Quaking grass is a common wild grass found in unimproved or semi improved grassland habitats on dry soils and slopes, the less nutrient rich the better. It relies on traditional hay meadow management (grazing or cutting) to give it a chance amongst more competitive grasses.

It has thin delicate stems ending in small coloured ‘locket shaped’ flowers which are what quake and tremble, making the grass easily identifiable in the summer when it stands out amidst the surrounding sward. The quivering movement and the rattling sound engendered make this grass particularly appealing and over time it’s been given a variety of different names based largely on the movement – Dothery dock, Shivery shakes, Wiggle waggle, Tottergrass, Quakers-and-shakers etc.

Image of Quaking Grass from http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/quaking-grass

Special QUALITIES

These are 28 Special Qualities of the National Park identified in the Authority’s Management Plan of 2012. The idea was to put into words the elements – landscape, environment, heritage and the feelings engendered – that make the North York Moors what it is i.e. special. It’s not an exhaustive list, everyone will have their own opinions, but it helps to illustrate the fundamental aspect that the whole has many valuable and interrelated parts.

Special Qualities from the North York Moors Management Plan 2012QUARRIES

Mineral resources from the North York Moors – limestone, sandstone, alum shales, ironstone, whinstone – have been quarried since the prehistoric period. Quarrying is a lot easier and cheaper than actual mining but depends on the mineral sought being close to the surface so it can be dug straight out, cutting into and manifestly changing the landscape. The available resources have been exploited to provide for local populations and sometimes the national interest if quarried on an industrial scale.

Now the majority of these local quarry sites have been abandoned, but it is still possible to identify these artificial landscape features all over the North York Moors. As well as having historic interest – sometimes you can see tool markings on a face, these sites have been re-colonised to some degree. Quarry sites provide refuges of uncultivated undisturbed land where since quarrying stopped unexpected plants and animals have moved in making the most of a habitat of rocky outcrops and thin low nutrient soil. These often isolated man-made sites can be extremely valuable for biodiversity such as cliff nesting birds like Peregrines and Kestrels and alpine plants like saxifrages.

Peacock butterfly, spotted in Boltby Quarry. Copyright Roy, McGhie, NYMNPA.

QUERCUS spp.

Quercus is the genus (Group) name for Oaks. There are two species of Oak found in the North York Moors – Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) and Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) – as well as hybrids of the two. The difference between the two main species is that the acorns of Pedunculate oaks hang from stalks (peduncle) whilst Sessile oaks produce acorns directly from their twigs – so you have to look carefully to tell the difference. Pedunculate oak is also known as the English oak and the Common oak in this country because it has been so widespread in woodlands, hedgerows, fields and parkland. Sessile oaks tend to be found in upland areas in the UK, in places like wooded gills because they prefer dry soils.

Pedunculate Oak close up drawing from https://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5mhcqx

Sessile Oak close up drawing from https://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5mhcqx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the most magnificent looking oaks in the North York Moors are Veteran Trees because oaks can last for hundreds of years if allowed to flourish in the right conditions. Oak woodlands are great biodiversity habitats for mammals, birds, invertebrates, fungi and lichen amidst the living and dead trees. Sunlight can penetrate the oak canopies to reach the ground and enable ground flora to flourish.

Upland oak woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Acorns are reasonably easy to propagate, by collecting local acorns to plant out in new woodlands the local provenance can be sustained hopefully for hundreds of more years.

Collected acorns to be propagated and planted. Copyright NYMNPA.

QUOITS

Quoits continues to be played competitively in the North York Moors through the Danby Invitation Quoits League and the North Yorkshire Moors League, in Esk Dale. The heavy metal quoits (originally two horseshoes forged together?) are thrown with the ultimate aim of encircling iron pins (‘hobs’), 11 yards away, set in a square of clay. Like all the best traditions there are lots of specific terms and rules used when it comes to playing e.g. a ‘Frenchman’ is the term for when the quoit lands underside (the ‘hole’ side) to the right of a hob.

Danby Quoit Club 1923 - from http://danbyquoitleague.btck.co.uk/Aboutus

Different versions of Quoits are played in different UK regions and countries. The variety played in the North York Moors is part of the northern England tradition which is also played in Swaledale, County Durham, Cleveland and Northumberland. It seems this north eastern sporting tradition, formalised in the 19th century, came out of a shared mining background and survived the end of that industry in the local area.

Quoit pitches are often located close to Public Houses or Village Halls, all focuses for social interaction. There are pitches (and matches)  in a number of villages in Esk Dale; a few years ago funding through the North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER programme (in a previous incarnation) helped restore the pitch in Fryup Dale.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O , P

Electric expeditions

People's Postcode Lottery logoUPDATE

The Yorkshire Esk Rivers Trust have recently been awarded a grant from the Postcode Local Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. This grant means we can purchase our own electric fishing equipment and train more volunteers to undertake surveys in 2018. If you’re interested in getting involved with surveys – please contact Kate

.

Kate Bailey – Catchment Partnership Officer

Electric fishing is a method used to determine fish populations in watercourses, commonly carried out by organisations such as the Environment Agency and the various River Trusts. Sites across the River Esk catchment up in the north of the North York Moors have been monitored using this technique over the past 20+ years as a way of estimating juvenile fish populations. In the last five years an increased number of sites have been surveyed along the Esk and we’ve managed to gain a better understanding of fish population changes.

This summer we took the chance to learn the technique ourselves. Simon Hirst our River Esk Project Officer, six keen volunteers and I went on a fully certified electric fishing course. Our new specialist team is made up of local anglers and existing River Esk Volunteers, all of whom care about the river and want to safeguard the species that live in it.

The two day course was essential to ensure our ‘in house’ monitoring can be carried out safely and to make sure the information we collect is scientifically robust so we can draw conclusions from it.

Methodology

During an electric fishing survey an electrical current is sent through the water which temporarily stuns the fish enabling them to be easily caught in nets. To produce an electrical current one team member wears the backpack which holds a battery and control box. A cathode trails behind the backpack resting in the water and the operator holds a pole with a metal ring on the end (anode). Once the operator places the anode in the water and turns the system on, the electrical circuit is complete and a small current passes through the water. The equipment has multiple safety features to ensure surveys can be carried out safely for all involved – that’s the fish, the operator and all the other team members in the water and on the bankside.

Two or three team members follow behind the operator with the nets and buckets ready to quickly remove the stunned fish from the river.

September 2017 - Electric Fishing in Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Once caught, the stunned fish are transferred into a large holding tank on the bankside. Each fish is measured using a special measuring board – this helps us estimate the relative age of the fish. The size and species is noted down and the fish is then released back into the river as quickly as possible.

September 2017 - Electric Fishing in Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Sites are identified – usually an approximately 50 metre stretch of river – and the team enters the water at the downstream end and walks upstream fishing as they go until they reach the top of the site. It is useful to fish up to a feature in the river, for example a natural barrier like a riffle, to ensure the greatest percentage of fish can be caught. If the end of the site was situated in the middle of a pool, for example, the fish would be driven beyond the far end and hence not be recorded.

Once the site has been fished, it also needs to be measured – this allows us to work out species density (i.e. the number of fish per unit area). We measure the channel width at 10 metre intervals and calculate an average width. This average width is multiplied by the length of river surveyed to give us a total area of river fished! Fish densities are usually recorded as the number of fish per 100 metres2

September 2017 - Electric Fishing in Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Health & Safety

Fish welfare (and the welfare of our volunteers and us) is extremely important, there is little point in measuring fish populations to help sustain numbers if we end up with dead fish. When electric fishing is carried out correctly this methodology does not harm the fish. As part of the training we learnt how to set the control box to the correct settings to ensure the electrical current will temporarily stun the fish but will not cause any damage. This is determined by the electrical conductivity of the water – a reading is taken before carrying out the surveys.  It is important to temporarily keep the fish in a large holding tank in the shade to ensure there is sufficient oxygen for them and that the water temperature does not increase too much, and we release the fish back to the river as soon as possible.

Fish aside, all team members who are in the river must ensure they are fully insulated (e.g. rubber chest waders) and must not put their hands into the water when the backpack is switched on. Prior to undertaking a survey each stretch of watercourse is checked for hazards and a site risk assessment produced. This is to make sure there are no ‘nasty’ surprises (such as deep holes!) when the team enter the water.

Why

Electric fishing is a really good way of estimating fish populations and this is extremely important on the River Esk. Atlantic salmon is a species that is struggling due to a wide variety of issues including water quality and habitat issues, barriers to fish migration and poor survival rates at sea. Monitoring juvenile numbers across the Esk every year will help to highlight areas where these issues are magnified and can therefore help target the conservation work we’re undertaking in the catchment to improve water quality and riparian habitats.

Our electric fishing team were out and about in the catchment in the autumn surveying six specific sites. It proved a success – the surveyed fish were released back and all the volunteers survived. Species recorded included Brown trout (Salmo trutta), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Stone loach (Barbatula barbatula), European eel (Anguilla Anguilla), Bullhead (Cottus gobio) and Brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri). Overall our results showed healthy fish populations at each site, although as expected relatively low numbers of Atlantic salmon were found.

We plan to monitor juvenile fish populations annually in September, to build up our understanding of the local status of the Atlantic salmon and the other species found in the Esk.

This Exploited Land of Iron: November 2017

David Mennear – This Exploited Land of Iron Administrative Assistant

Now at the end of Autumn, here at the North York Moors National Park, the Heritage Lottery funded Land of Iron team look back at what have been busy and satisfying months of activity and look forward to next year.

We’ve been working on ensuring that the landscape and ironstone heritage of the North York Moors will be in better condition and better cared for, valued by more people with a sustainable future, by the end of the This Exploited Land of Iron (TELoI) programme in 2021. Families loved our engineering challenge to build an archway at Egton Show this year. Copyright NYMNPA.

TELoI Guided Walk at East Kiln,Rosedale - for PLACE. Copyright NYMNPA.

A snapshot of our Goathland dig volunteers in action, helping to uncover the enigmatic abandoned railway incline. Copyright NYMNPA.

New Team Addition
We have recently welcomed Kim Devereux-West to our team as the new Cultural Heritage Assistant. Kim will be working closely with our Cultural Heritage Officer Maria Calderón in conserving the industrial monuments found throughout the Land of Iron area. Kim will be joining Maria on a number of site visits helping to establish the condition of the historic ironstone industry buildings and associated rail infrastructure, and drawing up conservation plans.

In addition Kim will be assisting the Historic Environment team at the North York Moors National Park Authority by helping to manage the all important North York Moors Historic Environment Record, the regional archive of ancient and modern human activity here that is open to both researchers and members of the public.

Please look out for Kim, and give her a warm welcome.

Recovering Reeking Gill
We’ve recently carried out some truly fantastic team work which achieved an excellent result – we’ve uncovered the stone culvert at Reeking Gill in Rosedale. The culvert was built as part of the Rosedale Railway which was operational from 1861 until 1926 when the ironstone mines there were no longer profitable and therefore closed.  Now once again the magnificent keystone at the centre of the arch has seen the light of day. This is after more than 20 years of being buried beneath compacted silt and boulders from the effect of natural processes above in the gill once the culvert was no longer needed and therefore no longer maintained.Digging out the Reeking Gill Culvert in Rosedale, autumn 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

With the dedicated efforts of Shaun, our JCB digger and driver extraordinaire, and persevering volunteers and Land of Iron personnel, we managed the first step in the consolidation of the Reeking Gill culvert with the ultimate aim of conserving the working structure. This has been one of the programme’s core aims within its first year as Reeking Gill is a major structure within Rosedale, and a striking reminder and relic of the once-thriving ironstone industry in the landscape.

The ongoing Reeking Gill restoration work is one example of the work the Land of Iron team will be doing ‘behind the scenes’, alongside the more public and volunteer-led public community archaeology digs and activities run by Maria Calderón and natural environment events to be run by Elspeth Ingleby, our Natural Heritage Officer, over the next few years.

We’ve been making sure we have a full roster of exciting community-led events and fun-filled activity days (and nights) for 2018, with another community archaeology dig, lots more guided walks and specialist talks, and a little bit of star gazing.

Your chance to deliver your own project
We have recently concluded the initial round of our grant allocation for local community groups and individuals to deliver small scale projects that help to deliver our vision and aims for the landscape and heritage in the Land of Iron area. We are excited to see how the grant aided projects develop and are keen to keep spreading the word around our region as the grants are available to apply for throughout the year.

The next application deadline is 31 December, for a decision by the end of January 2018. It is advisable to discuss your project idea at an early stage with the team before submitting an application. Please note that around 25% match funding is generally required.

If you’ve got an idea for our Land of Iron Community Grant please send us an email or give us a call on 01439 772700 to find out more. Or see our website page.

Next few months
Our work over winter will include:

  • Assessing the latest round of Community Grant applications to see what exciting project ideas there are for the Land of Iron and to see how we can help them come to fruition.
  • Researching mine water discharge along the Rosedale Railway, to see how we can best help mitigate the environmental impacts that are still effecting the local biodiversity.
  • Giving new opportunities for volunteers to be involved in conservation and restoration efforts around the Rosedale and the Esk Valley areas each month with Dawn Rothwell, our Volunteer Coordinator. Contact Dawn on 07792 332053 or by email, to register your interest.

Volunteers after planting woodrush in the Esk Valley. Copyright NYMNPA.

Keeping up to date
If you’re interested in what we’re doing and what you can do to help, then please sign up to our mailing list or email us.

For some great pictures of the landscape and features – click here.

Sharing ground

Abi Duffy – Conservation Trainee

Every year one of the fifteen National Parks in the UK hosts a Farm Liaison Officers Meeting when staff who work with farmers and land managers and are involved with agri-environment and rural development initiatives, come together to discuss issues and opportunities, share their knowledge and learn specifically from the host Park. Although each National Park differs in terms of geography and local priorities, we all share two purposes and one socio-economic duty, and each Park landscape is nationally important.

Shave Wood Inclosure, New Forest. Copyright Julie Melin-Stubbs, New Forest National Park Authority.

This year, it was the New Forest National Park Authority’s turn to host the event. We got a fascinating insight into their landscape, their commoning cultural heritage, and their quality food and drinks producers making the most of their local assets.

View of a New Forest heathland landscape. Copyright Julie Melin-Stubbs, New Forest National Park Authority.

Commoning (exercising common rights to make use of common land)

Commoners have helped to shape and define the New Forest landscape over hundreds of years by turning out their animals to graze the common land. It is this created landscape which has led to the area being designated as a National Park.

The feral/tame animals which roam the New Forest have owners who have the ‘Rights of Common of Pasture’. These common rights are attached to properties, rather than to individual people. We met the Head Agister for the New Forest and a practising commoner at the Beaulieu Sales Yard to learn more about commoning as a way of life. What was made clear is that local people are very passionate about their commoning heritage and want to see this way of life continued through future generations.

Beaulieu Sales Yard. Copyright Julie Melin-Stubbs, New Forest National Park Authority.

Working in partnership the New Forest Verderers (responsible for overseeing common rights and employing the Agisters) and Commoners, the New Forest National Park Authority, and the Forestry Commission (one of the largest landowners) were successful in applying to Natural England for funding for Europe’s largest agri-environment scheme (Higher Level Stewardship) which aims to restore and enhance the New Forest’s mosaic of habitats over time.

To help sustain the commoning culture within the New Forest, the Commoners Dwelling Scheme has been set up by the New Forest National Park Authority. New Forest Commoners can sign up to an agreement with the Authority committing themselves to continue to common and to only sell on to another committed commoner, and they can then apply for planning permission to build outside of villages which is usually heavily restricted. We met a local lady who built a house through the scheme and owns cattle, sheep and New Forest ponies which graze in the fields by her home and outside on the expanse of common land. We also heard about a project where Commoner’s old photographs and associated stories are being recorded so that this intrinsic part of the New Forest’s history is not lost.

Local Produce – the New Forest Marque

The New Forest Marque scheme is supported by the New Forest National Park Authority, as part of the socio-economic duty of all National Park Authorities to foster the social and economic well-being of their local communities.

The Marque is awarded to quality produce which has been reared/crafted/produced locally and demonstrates to consumers that they are purchasing a product made with local ingredients identified with the image/ideal of the New Forest. The scheme helps to champion businesses which produce quality local products, which in turn champions traditional farming techniques that are distinct to the cultural heritage of the New Forest. We visited the Lyburn Cheese Factory, which is a member of the New Forest Marque. Lyburn Cheesemakers is a family run business which produces high quality cheeses for local deli counters, the restaurant trade and even Waitrose.  We learned about the process of cheese making from the milking of the cows through to the packaging up of the end product. We were also lucky enough to sample some of the cheeses which were absolutely delicious.

We also got to visit the Dancing Cows Distillery and Brewhouse where they create artisan beers and spirits. They use local fruit and barley in their ingredients and their products are sold at markets and in pubs across the New Forest. Following on from the cheese tasting, we also got to imbibe some of the spirits which was very much appreciated!

Future agri-environment support

We spent a good part of the time discussing the future of agri-environment policies. National Park Authorities across the UK recognise that a high level of coordination and collaboration is needed to plan for the future of environmental policy after Brexit. Working together National Park Authorities are hoping to be able to help shape the future which is so important to our landscapes. We’re all wanting a new effective and acceptable framework in which land managers and organisations can work together to achieve sustainable farming that produces good quality products whilst delivering positive environmental outcomes. Collaborative local decision making within National Parks working with farmer networks and environmental interest groups can help to achieve this. We’ll keep you posted.

Conclusion

Our visit to the New Forest National Park reinforced my understanding of the National Park family – we are one of many and all National Park Authorities are trying to do similar things for the nation. It has been very interesting to visit somewhere so different to the North York Moors and learn about the landscape and cultural heritage that make the New Forest special, but there are also shared issues which don’t seem 300 miles away.

View of the New Forest landscape. Copyright Julie Melin-Stubbs, New Forest National Park Authority.

It will be our turn to host the Farm Liaison Officers Meeting in 2019.

Lunch time research

Joan Childs – Head of Volunteer Service

When I returned to live in North Yorkshire recently, I unearthed some old records of the rare hoverfly Parasyrphus nigritarsis from the Farndale area, and decided to look for this species along the River Rye, Helmsley – close to where I now worked, because it looked to be a similar habitat. This section of the riverbank is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (local designation for important wildlife sites) from Helmsley Bridge down to West Ness.

Swathes of dock (Rumex spp.) by the River Rye, Helmsley. Copyright Joan Childs, NYMNPA.

The larvae of this hoverfly feed on the eggs and larvae of Chrysomelid beetles on alder, sallows i.e. willows, and dock (Rumex spp.). Back in May, I found some of the dock beetles by the River Rye, and started to turn the dock leaves over to look for their egg clusters on the underside. While I was doing this I noticed that a hoverfly was engaged in exactly the same search pattern as me, hovering around the leaves, and disappearing underneath them, one by one! This behaviour, and the broad, dark-orange stripes on the abdomen, suggested that I had found the hoverfly in question.

Adult P nigritarsis showing the black feet from which it gets its name. Copyright Joan Childs, NYMNPA.

Catching one of the three I saw confirmed that it was, and that it was a female. Several of the clusters of dark orange beetle eggs were overlaid by the paler yellow eggs of the hoverfly.

Dock beetle egg cluster overlaid by the pale yellow eggs of P nigritarsis. Copyright Joan Childs, NYMNPA.

In June, I returned to the site and found that larvae had emerged from the P nigritarsis eggs and were feeding on the beetle eggs and larvae. Over the next few weeks the larvae were observed feeding and growing, eventually becoming harder and harder to find as they dispersed following the beetle larvae and then going into diapause (suspended development) in leaf curls and in the leaf litter, where they will spend the winter before pupating and emerging as adults. The hoverfly larvae will face a number of potential dangers over the winter, including a rise in water levels depositing mud across the lower dock leaves, and possible negative effects from agricultural land management.

Growing P nigritarsis larva feeding on beetle eggs. Copyright Joan Childs, NYMNPA.

Having found a technique for locating the P nigritarsis, I checked many clusters of beetle eggs on dock in a number of other sites, but did not find any further hoverflies. This suggests that this is a genuinely scarce species, not just overlooked. Other sites where the beetle occurred on dock but the hoverfly was not present, showed extensive beetle feeding damage to the leaves – which did not exist at the site by the River Rye, showing that P nigritarsis can significantly affect the beetle population.

What Katie did next

Katie Pownall – Conservation Research Student

My name is Katie Pownall and I am currently working at the North York Moors National Park for my year in industry, before heading back to the University of York to complete my biology degree next autumn. So many people have told me how valuable a year in industry can be for future employment prospects, and I feel very lucky to be able to spend my year with such an inspiring organisation. I hope to gain skills and knowledge from this placement that will allow me to pursue a career in ecology when I have graduated. What other job would involve me doing some of the things I’ve already had the chance to do so far?

Reptile monitoring at Sutton Bank…

Four of us travelled to Sutton Bank Visitor Centre and walked round existing paths on the heathland area there to locate the mats previously placed on the ground to act as attractive refuges for reptiles. We were looking for three particular species – Adders, Slow worms and Common lizards, all of which are protected by law in the UK. The ongoing monitoring was to provide evidence to consider as part of a planning application for a car park extension.

Reptile monitoring at Sutton Bank Visitor Centre - September 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

After carefully looking under about a third of the mats and having had no luck, we decided to wait a little to allow the sun to heat up the mats a bit, which would encourage the cold blooded reptiles to rest there in order to warm up. When we continued we had more luck, finding some Common lizards as well as some Common toads. Unfortunately we did not come across any slow worms or adders, nevertheless we were pleased with what we had found, and a Fox moth caterpillar and a vole or two added even more excitement to the day!

Water vole surveying at Eller Beck…

The next day I joined the search for Water voles, or at least for signs that they are living in the area around Eller Beck, Fylingdales. Water Vole populations have suffered in the UK due to habitat loss as a result of agricultural intensification. More significantly populations have come under threat from the American mink as a short lived mink fur industry in the 1960s/1970s declined and mink were released into a wild without natural predators. Between 2004 and 2007 the UK’s Water Vole numbers decreased by around a fifth. In many areas mink have wiped out water voles completely; the remnant populations hang on in less than optimal habitats for Water voles but where mink find it very difficult to survive – upland areas such as Eller Beck and urbanised areas such as Burdyke in York. The fragility of the populations are why surveys to ensure they’re surviving in the North York Moors are so important.

Having donned our wellies and waterproofs we started trying to make our way over the rough terrain of a former plantation to find the beck. The ground was very tricky to move across, and we soon found multiple smaller streams running across the landscape by putting our foot down in the wrong place! Eventually we found the actual water channel that we were going to survey and started searching for clues that Water voles had been there. We were looking for latrines (piles of water vole droppings that look like dark green or brown tic-tacs!), grass that had been chewed and cut at a 45° angle, and Eller Beck - Water vole latrine with cut grass. Copyright NYMNPA.Water vole burrows along the side of the bank (which should have a clean opening with a diameter of 4-8 cm). After carefully treading along the banks of the beck we came across several latrines, some cut grass and potentially one or two burrows. This was encouraging since it proved that Water voles were still living in the area. Also, we didn’t find any evidence of mink in the same area, which is great news.

As the day progressed we found that some channels where signs of Water voles had been recorded in the past now seemed less suitable since the vegetation on the banks was particularly overgrown and so latrines and burrows could be less easily formed here. Water voles may still have been using these channels, but possibly just not living in them.

Eller Beck - Water vole burrows. Copyright NYMNPA.

Just after lunch we were surprised by an individual who had been lying low in the grass and which we accidentally startled. After not seeing one the day before whilst doing the reptile surveying, I was delighted to see my first Adder! The excitement of this experience more than made up for having a welly full of water all day.

Eller Beck - Adder. Copyright NYMNPA.

Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites investigations…

As part of the This Exploited Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, PAWS surveys are being undertaken to look for opportunities to conserve remaining ancient woodland features. The Ingleby Plantation was previously planted on the site of what might have been ancient woodland, so our job was to survey the area to identify any trees that we thought were over 60 years old, and would therefore have been present before the plantation. We recorded the level of threat to the amount of standing and lying deadwood, which is such a great habitat for invertebrates and fungi, and to the remaining ground flora.

Ingleby Plantation - stream that ran through the site, with stones from old retaining wall. Copyright NYMNPA.Ingleby Plantation - dead wood placed in piles after selective felling. Copyright NYMNPA.Ingleby Plantation - Dead Moll's Fingers fungus on lying dead wood. Copyright NYMNPA.

We considered what changes could be made to the area to reduce these levels of threat. Where it seemed like there was little succession of ground flora some thinning of the trees preventing light from reaching the ground would help. Tree felling in a ‘halo’ around older, more vulnerable trees would help them to grow and stay healthy. Ring barking some trees – cutting off the nutrient supply to the tree – would create more standing dead wood where there is a lack of it.

This Exploited Land of Iron logos

Practical conservation work…

I joined a group of National Park conservation volunteers to clear an area of scrub near Rievaulx to encourage wild flowers to grow and spread next spring in a site of potential species rich grassland. To prevent the scrubland plants such as bracken and bramble from taking over the site again before the wild flowers get a chance to establish we had to remove all the cuttings from the area so that they didn’t reintroduce their nutrients to the soil. Wild flowers should grow better than the scrubland plants on nutrient-poor soil.

This kind of outdoor work was what I had imagined I might be doing quite a bit of during my time with the National Park, and despite the couple of downpours we had, it was good fun, and we all felt a huge amount of satisfaction once the job was done!

National Park conservation volunteers clearly scrub. Copyright NYMNPA.

As the new Conservation Research Student I sarted my new job not knowing what the next week would hold, never mind the next year! I have not been disappointed so far, as so many opportunities to go out on site and get involved in a wide range of projects have been presented to me, and I am keen to gain as much experience as I can from them.

Archaeologist at Large: a new beginning

Shannon Fraser – Senior Archaeologist

I recently arrived in the North York Moors to take up the post of Senior Archaeologist with the National Park. It is going to be quite an exciting challenge following in the footsteps of long-serving Graham Lee, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history and prehistory of the landscapes within the Park! Having spent the last 16 years researching, conserving, interpreting and promoting the cultural heritage on National Trust for Scotland properties in eastern Scotland, I am used to dealing with a very broad range of archaeological and historic places – from the traces of mesolithic settlement to WWII aircraft crash sites in the Cairngorm mountains, from Pictish symbol stones to Renaissance palaces and gardens in the eastern lowlands. So some things will be familiar, while other elements of the North York Moors heritage will be quite new to me. Happily Graham is taking phased retirement, so he is still around to share with me his knowledge of and great enthusiasm for that heritage.

I have been taking as many opportunities as I can so far to get out into the North York Moors and explore the cultural landscape, meeting the people who work in, study and enjoy it. Recently, I joined a group of our stalwart Historic Environment Volunteers, on a day out exploring archaeological sites on Carlton Moor, Live Moor and Whorlton Moor in the north west of the National Park. The day was organized by our Monument Management Scheme team, as a thank-you to the volunteers for having devoted so much of their time to monitoring how scheduled archaeological sites within the Park are faring and helping to improve their condition.

Historic Environment Volunteers Day Out 5 August 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

We visited a number of prehistoric sites, in the company of Alan Kitching, one of the landowners in the area who has been extremely supportive of our efforts to remove nationally-important monuments from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register through conservation and beneficial land management.

Among these monuments is a compact hillfort with well-preserved ramparts at Knolls End, at the end of the Live Moor plateau. The Cleveland Way actually cuts right across this monument – how many people realize they are walking through a defended settlement probably dating back to the iron age? The estate here has been working to control bracken on the fort site through an Environmental Stewardship agreement. Apart from the swathes of bracken making monuments very difficult to see, the plant’s extensive network of underground rhizomes can be very damaging to the structure of earthworks, like the hillfort’s ramparts, as well as to the archaeological layers below ground.

Historic Environment Volunteers Day Out 5 August 2017. Discussing monument management at a bronze age burial cairn. Copyright NYMNPA.

We were also able to appreciate the efforts of our historic environment volunteers who had helped to remove modern walkers’ cairns from the top of bronze age burial cairns. The adding of lots of new stones to these prehistoric monuments can radically change their appearance. More importantly, if stones are removed from previously undisturbed parts of the original cairn to add to a walkers’ cairn on top, it causes incremental damage. By removing obvious walkers’ cairns, we hope to discourage further ‘rearrangement’ of the stones so these wonderful meaningful monuments survive for yet more millennia.

All in all, it was a very pleasant experience meeting some of the committed people who are working to conserve the precious heritage of the North York Moors, whether landowners or volunteers. And the day ended with tea and cake – what more could you wish for?

Historic Environment Volunteers Day Out 5 August 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

Our Historic Environment Volunteers undertake both indoor and outdoor work. If you’re thinking you might like to join the team, and would like to find out more about what’s involved, please get in touch.