A while ago on this Blog we mentioned the annual Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show. This year it took place on 1 August and here are a few photos from the day.
For the Show on film – have a look at The Forgotten Fruit, made by Deadpan Films.
Coming up this Saturday (1 July) is National Meadows Day.
There is a partnership project called Save our Magnificent Meadows, led by Plantlife and largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which promotes the importance of hay meadows and other species rich grassland types for the country’s natural and cultural heritage..We’re not one of the landscapes where the project is directly working but we have similar aims and objectives for North York Moors grasslands too. Save our Magnificent Meadows has a really useful Advice and Guidance resource which can help land managers work out what kind of grassland they have (e.g. acid grassland, neutral grassland, calcareous grassland, cornfield flowers), what type it currently is (e.g. improved, semi improved, unimproved) and then how best to manage it for conservation benefits. In the North York Moors we have a lot of improved grassland like most places, but we still have an amount of unimproved grassland and a bigger amount of semi improved grassland. Semi improved grassland – i.e. some characteristic species found in low frequency – can have great potential for biodiversity enhancement.
NOT TOO LATE – we’re nearly at the end of this year’s Great British Bee Count but there is still a chance to join in and record bee sightings in the North York Moors up to the end of June. Reported records will help to build up a snap shot picture of the national bee population in 2017.
Bees, like all pollinators, are a vital cog in the workings of biodiversity. Volunteers are a crucial constituent in data recording that means trends and issues can be recognised and understood. With understanding there is a chance of addressing the issues.
N and O
There are three native UK snake species. Although Adders and Slow worms are common in the North York Moors, Grass snakes (Natrix natrix) aren’t. However they are found at at least one known site on the western edge of the National Park which makes them locally rare. They like rough grassland near to water and are known to swim (they’re also sometimes called Water snakes). Neither Grass snakes nor Slow worms are venomous, but Adders are.
All native snake species are protected. Please leave them alone and they should leave you alone.
What is a network? In ecological terms it is basically the infrastructure through which species and habitats survive and flourish. In our 2012 Management Plan we identified the key ecological networks that we wanted to consolidate and enhance. Following the Lawton Principles (More, Bigger, Better and Joined) we’re working to ensure these networks and the associated habitats and species not only survive but become more resilient and sustainable into the future.
So what does a network actually look like? When we talk about networks and connectivity (which we do quite a lot on this Blog) we mean all sorts of things corridors, connections, linkages and stepping stones which whilst contributing to the same ecological goal, might look very different on the ground. For example, the Rivers Rye and Esk are important riparian linear networks, winding their way through other interconnected patchwork woodland and farmland networks. Some networks might be important for their great trophic diversity whilst others are essential for the survival of a particularly rare species. Promoting one particular network over another may impact on different species in different ways. For example, some farmland waders such as lapwing tend to nest in open fields with a low or short structure and areas of bare ground. One posited reason for preferring these open and large fields is that Lapwing want a clear line of site to any potential danger approaching their nests. So then planting hedgerows, usually a positive way to increase network connectivity, through good lapwing territory may negatively impact on this wader species. Similarly, native broadleaf woodland planting is usually something to be encouraged but not if it would break up a precious species-rich grassland network and adversely impact upon the important species that rely on it.
The North York Moors hosts a diversity of plants, animals and habitats. The challenge we’re grappling with is a putting together a jigsaw of different habitats and species; connecting up networks at varying spatial levels all within a framework of unpredictable future land use and climate change. It’s as difficult as it sounds.
And talking of different types of network, the National Park Authority is keen to foster a network of land managers in the North York Moors so we can share information and opportunities, and enable the North York Moors area to be a sounding board for new ideas in relation to land management and land use. If you are a local land manager and you’d be interesting in joining in – please contact us.
Newtondale is a narrow valley cutting through the southern central moorland. It is the narrowness and steepness of Newtondale and its resulting inaccessibility which makes this dale unusual in the North York Moors which is renowned for its open landscapes. It contains important SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) successional habitats including wet woodland, flush communities and species rich grassland.
Newtondale was formed in the last Ice Age at least partly as subaerial overflow from the glacial lake in Eskdale to the north of the higher ground drained south into the glacial lake in the Vale of Pickering. The two lakes formed from meltwaters dammed in the west by the ice sheet in the Vale of York and in the east by the massive North Sea ice sheet. Recently it has been suggested that Newtondale existed already at this time and the overflow scoured and deepened an already existing feature.
This naturally formed cutting was exploited by the always practical George Stephenson when he built the Pickering to Whitby railway (opened 1836). The railway connected up the northern and southern parts of the North York Moors divided by the large central area of high moorland. For centuries the only connections had being inhospitable and difficult trods and tracks. The railway line is still used – by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and Newtondale has its own request stop.
Nicholas Postgate was born in or near to Egton Bridge in Eskdale at the end of the 16th century. He was a Catholic. Although Anglican Protestantism was the official state religion by this time, there was much insecurity and uncertainty and an international element was attached to Roman Catholicism that meant not following the protestant religion as prescribed by the state implied potential treachery. In the first half of the 17th century refusing to attend Anglican Protestant services was illegal, this recusancy marked people out as non-compliant and dangerous .
Nicholas Postgate decided to be an active Catholic when passivity was definitely safer. He went to a seminary in France where he was ordained a priest and returned to England where after ministering to catholic gentry families he finally came back to Eskdale in the 1660s to practice his faith and serve persevering Catholics in the wider North York Moors travelling from house to house. The situation of the North York Moors, on the edge and out of the way, has allowed non conformist religions to survive and flourish over the centuries.
Father Postgate survived the Civil War and Commonwealth periods in England, but the Restoration re-ignited the fear of Catholicism which blew up into the Popish Plot in 1678. The plot didn’t need much substance, it suggested that internationalist Catholics were conspiring to murder the King and destroy the State just as many Protestants had long feared and gave credence to some not very latent animosity towards Catholicism and Catholics. There followed a short lived period of persecution and settling of scores.
Father Postgate was arrested in Littlebeck near Whitby, reportedly carrying out a christening. He was charged with being a Catholic priest in England and therefore causing Catholicism to spread ‘of purpose…not only to withdraw … subjects from their due obedience … also to stir up and move sedition, rebellion and open hostility … to the great endangering … and to the utter ruin, desolation and overthrow of the whole realm’ (Act Against Jesuits and Seminarists, 1585). In line with the punishment for high treason as the highest crime imaginable, Father Postgate was hanged, drawn (disembowelled) and quartered at York on 7 August, 1679. He was 83.
Nicholas Postgate has been beautified by the Catholic Church as one of 85 English Martyrs. His beatification means he is known as the Blessed Nicholas Postgate, intercessional prayers can be addressed to him, and his image and relics are venerated. Reportedly a lock of his white hair is kept in a reliquary at Egton Bridge, a jawbone at English Martyrs Church in York, and a hand with a blood soaked cloth at Ampleforth Abbey.
There is an annual local rally in honour of the Blessed Nicholas Postgate, held alternatively in Egton Bridge (where he was born) and Ugthorpe (where he lived up to his death).
NORTH YORK MOORS
A lot of people get the name wrong. The North York Moors means the moors north of the city of York. There are other areas of North Yorkshire moors and moorland, but only one North (of) York Moors.
OPPOSITE-LEAVED GOLDEN SAXIFRAGE (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)
Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage is a creeping perennial plant which can form extensive mats in damp, shady areas. So look out for it alongside becks, flushes and springs. It produces tiny golden flowers (3 to 5 mm) from February through to July. The plant has square-stems with directly opposite pairs of leaves.
To make identification more complicated there is also an Alternate-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium alternifolium) which shares the same genus. This species is very similar to the Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage except, as the name suggests, the leaves are alternate rather than opposite, and on triangular shaped stems. Its flowers can also be a bit bigger and brighter. The Alternate-leaved golden saxifrage is less common than its Opposite-leaved relative and it prefers a more limey habitat, but occasionally the different species can be found growing together.
In the North York Moors 19th and early 20th century farms and a lot of village houses had their own small orchards (still visible on Ordnance Survey historic mapping). Orchard fruit and other soft fruit provided part of a multi source income to people living hand to mouth and making the most of what they had. The fruit season ran from July through to winter – starting with gooseberries, then red and black currants and raspberries, then plums and finishing with apples and pears. The fruit wasn’t just sold at local markets, fruit could be sold on and because of the railways could end up in towns like Scarborough or end up in jam factories in Liverpool and Grimsby, or at the Rowntree’s factory in York to make jelly.
Apple and pear trees, as well as other tree species, are susceptible to canker (fungus). To counter this people used to whitewash orchard tree trunks with lime and spread lime on the orchard floor. Lime is still used as a fungicide.
Main local orchard species for the moors and dales are recorded as being:
Cooking Apples: Bramley’s Seedling, Lane’s Prince Albert, Old Cockpit
Eating Apples: Green Balsams, Winer Pippins
Taken from Life and Tradition in the Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingleby
The loss of orchards since WWII has been a major change in the landscape, biodiversity and culture of the North York Moors.
An orthostat is a vertical ‘upright’ set stone. If its old enough i.e. prehistoric, it is likely to be called a standing stone. Less dramatic orthostats can also be found in drystone walls where farmers have made use of the stones to hand. Big stones have been reused over time and set vertically into the ground amongst the horizontally laid smaller stones more commonly found in drystone walls. Orthostats are also very useful within a wall as gate posts or as the edges of a sheep creep (to allow sheep but no other stock to rove) providing added strength and structure.
Orthostatic walling is rare enough here that where it does occur the walls are often recorded on the NYM Historic Environment Record.
Elspeth Ingleby – Natural Heritage Officer, This Exploited Land of Iron
Wildlife can be wonderfully conspicuous – in the UK there are lots of places where you are assured a wealth of wildlife before your very eyes, be it throngs of guillemot on a sea cliff, ducks and geese scrambling for titbits at a local park, or even clouds of the infamous Scottish midge. However many other species can be much harder to discover, whether because of where they live, what they eat or their sensitivity to disturbance.
But with a little effort and some detective work, you can discover a whole new world of wildlife. Spring is a great time to look a little more closely and see what you can find.
Prints, tracks and signs
You can pick up guides to some of the more common prints and signs (the Field Studies Council produce several) and then with a little practice it is possible to find and follow the footsteps of your local wildlife seeing how animals are using the landscape which is their home. Things to look out for include:
Pellets and poo
You can tell a lot about wildlife from the physical remains they leave behind. Looking a little closer at droppings or the regurgitated pellets of raptors can yield a wealth of information, not only about the eater, but also about the eaten.
At our recent This Exploited Land of Iron launch weekend, we challenged young wildlife explorers to see what they could find within Barn Owl pellets. Within minutes we had identified remains of Field Vole, Common Shrew, Wood Mouse, Robin and Frog showing just what a range of food owls will eat. It’s also fun trying to see how many skulls you can find, or identifying the different bones of the victims’ anatomy!
Many of our native predators use scats (animal excrement) as sign posts advertising their presence and territory to others. Surveying some of our shyest mammals is often done almost entirely by poo alone. The distinctive ‘tic-tac’ Water Vole droppings can identify not only where a population is, but also size of inhabited area, number of population, whether breeding or not – where you could be walking every day and never actually see ear nor tail of a Water Vole.
Smell can be a great way to tell different species apart as a careful sniff can tell you a lot. For instance Otters will leave ‘Jasmine scented’ scats often containing fish bones and scales, on prominent rocks in a stream, whereas Foxes will leave grey, foul smelling scats with wisps of hair, bone and beetle shells in the middle of a path giving clues to their daily haunts and diet.
A slightly less ‘hands on’ approach is to wait for the wildlife to come to you. As technology progresses and costs fall, remote cameras are becoming much more accessible – whether you are hoping to learn about a particular species, or simply work out what is digging up your vegetable patch! Our Land of Iron Programme has recently invested in a number of cameras to help us find out more about the shy and elusive Ring Ouzel which breeds around the moorland edge, and is also known as the Mountain Blackbird. The local population in Rosedale has been vulnerable to nest predation in recent years and we are hoping to catch the culprits in the act by staking out key nest sites. We are also expecting these cameras to give us real insights into Ring Ouzel behaviour, informing how we can best support and bolster the population of these beautiful birds. The best bit? – we don’t have to spend the next three months sitting behind a bush to find out!
Animal tracking can be incredibly rewarding, and a great activity to do when you’re out and about – particularly with kids. You can get involved for yourself by joining This Exploited Land of Iron at the upcoming Rosedale History Society Festival on 22 and 23 April where we will be busy dissecting owl pellets, or taking part in one of the family friendly events at The Moors National Park Centre over the Easter holidays, or just heading out yourself for an explore! However when you’re exploring please remember that most of the North York Moors is privately owned and you’d need permission from the landowner to explore over private land.
As mentioned previously, in the 1850s a seam of iron rich ironstone was discovered in Rosedale. Also known as lodestone, magnetite had long been a valued mineral because of the amount of iron ore it contains, so much so that it is often magnetic.
The discovery in Rosedale led to the rapid development and expansion of the mining and calcining industry there and in the wider area. There were great expectations …
“Professor Phillips delighted and informed the company by his description of the ‘Ironstones of Cleveland’ … The Rosedale band at its richest points, yielded 50 per cent [ore] and in many places 42 per cent. The Rosedale stone was magnetic and contained phosphorous, it was not merely magnetic, but it had an inherent magnetic polarity … There must spring up over the Cleveland district, through the working of the iron ore, great towns, with a numerous and active population; and, as a result, the moorland would be brought under cultivation and this once dismal tract of 20 square miles would rejoice in all the material means that could promote human happiness and prosperity…”
From a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Leeds, as reported in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 2 October 1858.
However the actual magnetite seam was soon exhausted leaving the industry exploiting poorer ironstone and slowly declining into the 20th century. The magnetite proved to be rather a flash in the pan.
There are very few natural lakes in the North York Moors due to geology and climate, which makes Lake Gormire on the south western edge of the National Park even more remarkable. In the last Ice Age a hollow was formed by a meltwater channel between the edge of the moving Vale of York ice sheet and the edge of the North York Moors gritstone escarpment. The channel damned up and the lake left behind divided into two bodies of water – Gormire and the much smaller, Buttermere.
These are mesotrophic lakes – containing a narrow range of nutrients in medium concentrations. This type of lake chemistry is rare and becoming rarer as lakes are effected by artificially increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and so become eutrophic. Lake Gormire is surrounded mainly by semi natural woodland and fed by springs and so largely circumvents the risks of artificial diffuse pollution and nutrient enrichment.
Because of their chemistry Mesotrophic lakes can support higher levels of diversity of macrophytes (algae), aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish. The fen (‘mire’, ‘mere’) plants around Gormire/Buttermere reflect the acid soil, so there is Marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris, Common skullcap Scutellaria galericulata and Tufted loosestrife Lysimachia thyrsiflora, as well as Bog bean Menyanthes trifoliata and Water horsetail Equisetum fluviatile. Gormire is particularly popular with noisy water birds, mating toads and freshwater leeches, all exaggerating the primeval sense inside this Ice Age hollow.
Lake Gormire and the area around it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The cliff slope woodland above Lake Gormire is the Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
The Milky Way is a galaxy of billions of stars and planets sometimes partly visible to the naked eye as a milky looking band of light in the night sky.
We’re in the middle of the Dark Skies Festival 2017 here in the North York Moors National Park. The dark skies over National Parks make it easier to see the lights of the galaxies around us. This February is particularly good for viewing Orion and also a very bright Venus.
“February 27 1920 The mysterious stars
…Later in the evening a half-moon shone in a filmy sky across which, from S.E. to N.W., ran a Noë-ship of thin white clouds. A soft mist hung in the far valleys, but the nearer moory slopes loomed clearer. In the pastures the furze bushes were startlingly like huge black beasts grazing on the rimmed herbage. No sounds broke the utter silence of the moonlit hills; the wind had almost died away, but as I stepped over the little rill from Thunderbush Farm [Commondale], I heard its faint, musical ripple.
The ever-mysterious stars flashed through the interspaces of the filmy clouds and circled silently above the dim earth. Sirius flashed due south whilst mighty Orion hung high above the moor edge, his glory somewhat dimmed by the moon. What would life have been without the stars?”
A Man of the Moors: Extracts of the Diaries and Letter of Frank Elgee.
We use the term mini-beasts for the tiny invertebrates that go without notice until they’re looked at under the microscope and a menagerie of marvel and dread is revealed.
Identifying and counting river invertebrates is a very useful way of assessing the health of a river at a particular spot. Certain species indicate good water quality and others, poor water quality; a change in species/numbers indicate a change in water quality e.g. a pollution incident. There is a national programme of riverfly monitoring led by the Riverfly Partnership. Results are recorded centrally and indications of a potential incidents are reported to the Environment Agency. The National Park run a number of local Riverfly Monitoring Workshops for volunteers – the next one is 1 March.
MOSCHATEL Adoxa Moschatellina
Moschatel is a perennial unobtrusive plant which likes the damp, shady conditions found along woodland edges and on shaded hedge banks. It flowers between March and May, producing five lime green flowers on top of a leafless stalk, four flowers face outwards and one flower faces upwards, forming a cubic which has led to the plant’s other common name – Townhall Clock. The plant grows along the ground through rhizomes with the flower stalks growing up through its leaves to only c. 15cm tall. It is a common plant but easy to miss – look out for it in early spring before it gets hidden by taller plants.
MOTTE AND BAILEY
Historic England suggest there are over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles in England. These were early medieval fortifications built by the Normans and made up of a large mound of earth/rubble (the ‘motte’) with a defensive palisade and tower on top, and an embanked enclosure with other buildings (the ‘bailey’) adjoining.
A motte and bailey castle could act as a fort when required as well as providing the residence for the local landowner/representative of the King and a centre for feudal power. They were often built on high ground to take advantage of the extra height to dominate the landscape and overlook access routes.
Soon after the beginning of Norman rule in England came the ‘harrying of the north’ – a military campaign to overcome and overwhelm the population in the north of the country and hammer home the idea that the Normans were here to stay. The new motte and bailey castles were a highly visible tool for holding that ground and reinforcing that message.
By the 13th century castle design had moved beyond the basic motte and bailey. Although the timber structures have largely gone, the earthworks are often still traceable in the landscape, and rubble mottes and the remnants of stone towers remain. Many are scheduled. Examples in the North York Moors include Hood Hill, Easby motte, and Foss Castle.
Moths are often considered the poor cousins of butterflies in the Lepidoptera family. The most obvious difference between butterflies and moths are that the former are active during the day whereas moths are mostly (but not all) nocturnal, feeding on the nectar of night blooming/night scented plants. Another difference is that when resting, butterflies usually close their wings whereas moths leave theirs open and this makes it easier to examine their intricate patterning and refined colouring. But as with most ecological questions – what is the difference between butterflies and moths? – there is no obvious answer and always an exception. Moths can be just as colourful, just as beguiling and just as in peril, as butterflies. For more on moth conservation see here.
Shandy Hall, Coxwold has become a location for moth study and reporting over the last few years. The gardens there provide a semi-natural/cultivated habitat for many species – over 400 different species have been recorded in the gardens to date.
Graham Lee, Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer and Ed Dennison, Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd
Roulston Scar Iron Age Hillfort is a scheduled site in the south west corner of the National Park. Previous investigations by the Landscape Research Centre (in 2013 and 2015) on the north-eastern rampart of the hillfort located a substantial palisade trench cut into the top of the back of this prehistoric rampart. The sharpness of the buried remains and the increased organic nature of the fills suggested a short period of re-use and a date within the historic period for this – it was clearly much later than the established prehistoric use of the site. But no material evidence was recovered which could provide even an approximate scientific date for this significant addition to the defences of the hillfort.
The known event in the locality that could best explain such a major re-fortification of the defences is the Battle of Byland, which took place on 14th October 1322 between the forces of Edward II and Robert the Bruce, resulting in a victory for the Scottish army.
So as a follow-up to these initial investigations, the National Park commissioned archaeological surveyors (Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd), during the first part of 2016, to record the form of the supposed prehistoric earthworks in close proximity to Roulston Scar in the hope that further relevant information would be revealed. Both these earthwork dykes, the Casten Dyke South and the Casten Dyke North, have anomalous features which suggest that they have been remodelled since they were originally built. Parts of their ditch profiles are far too steep and sharp to be prehistoric since earthworks tend to slump and soften with age. It has also been previously suggested that the Casten Dyke South may have been mediaeval rather than prehistoric in origin and could have been specifically constructed for the battle.
Both the Roulston Scar Hillfort and Casten Dyke South have their defences facing north, protecting two large steep-sided promontories of land respectively 24 and 28 hectares in extent which could have served as seemingly strong positions for use as encampments for the English army. Facing south towards them, across a gap of between 880 to 1300 metres, is the Casten Dyke North. So might these earthworks mark the respective positions of the English and Scottish armies in October 1322, before a part of the Scottish army managed to outflank and rout the English forces?
The surveyors concluded that both dykes lack firm dating evidence but do show evidence of substantial later modifications. The Casten Dyke North more convincingly fits the pattern of a later prehistoric cross-ridge dyke, whilst the Casten Dyke South is clearly unconnected with the prehistoric defences at Roulston Scar and would work better as a medieval or post-medieval boundary, which could – perhaps – either have been first constructed or re-fortified in the early 14th century.
By sealing off the north side of a plateau, and with very steep slopes on all other sides, any English force encamped within would have felt they held a reasonably secure position, particularly if they were augmented by another force close by to the west behind the modified northern rampart of Roulston Scar. The plateau site overlooks Boar’s Gill and Hell Hole, both steep-sided small valleys which would have provided routes up the natural escarpment for the Scots forces seeking to outflank the English army which they ultimately did. If this was the case, then some re-assessment of the battle itself might be required. The traditional narrative suggests that the battle was a hastily organised action, but the use of earthworks would perhaps indicate that it involved more preparation on both sides.
One factor that all previous surveys have largely underestimated is the impact of Second World War activity affecting both earthwork dykes. The 2016 survey found evidence of significant amounts of re-cutting of the dyke ditches, in sections up to 70 metres in length, to provide a very steep (i.e. good defensive) profile together with breaks for access, slit trenches and weapons pits. This has obvious implications for the evidence of a mediaeval battle, as extensive WWII wartime alterations may have obscured earlier alterations undertaken in 1322, particularly if these were done somewhat hastily and piecemeal prior to the battle.
The recent survey has greatly increased our knowledge of local activity in the 1940s in addition to that revealed by previous surveys of slit trenches in the area of Kilburn Moor Plantation, around the perimeter of Roulston Scar gliding field owned by the Yorkshire Gliding Club, and those visible on RAF aerial photographs from May 1940 where the slit trenches are revealed by pale lines of upcast from the ditches that were dug or re-cut.
Taken together the evidence demonstrates that there is a significant area of WWII military earthworks in this area. They appear to be grouped and so are unlikely to all be exactly contemporary or to serve the same purpose. Some of these earthworks may relate to troop training, but those closer to the gliding field may be a defence against potential enemy landings. So far, only a proportion of the trenches visible on the old aerial photographs have been located and confirmed on the ground, whereas those within Kilburn Moor Plantation have already been subject to detailed survey (by Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd).
Unfortunately it is still not yet possible to conclusively confirm the site of the Battle of Byland despite the tantalising information we’ve collected so far. Further work would be needed to acquire more information that could attest to this location. With the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Byland coming up in 6 years’ time it could be very timely.
Following on from our last blog post about lime mortars and traditional buildings – there are a series of upcoming workshops over the next few months on using hot mixed and other traditional lime mortars, aimed at practitioners in the north of England.
Further information – lime-mortar-workshops-january-to-march-2017
Roy McGhie – Conservation Project Assistant
Recently my colleague Ami and I went on an organised farm walk near Menethorpe to the south of the North York Moors. The event was led by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and the theme was habitat management for pollinators. The walk was well attended by local land managers who wanted to know a bit more about the benefits that pollinators provide, and how they might most easily encourage them, in particular on otherwise unproductive areas of their land.
The main focus of our discussion was inevitably bees – our most efficacious pollinators. We were given copies of an excellent booklet from the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology called ‘Habitat Creation and Management for Pollinators’.
We’ve mentioned bees a number of times before in this blog, but felt it was about time they had their own post because they are so important.
In the UK whilst there is only one species of honey bee Apis mellifera (both wild and semi-domesticated), there are about half a dozen common bumble bees and over twenty common species of solitary bees like mining bees, mason bees and leaf cutter bees.
The bee flying season can begin as early as March and extend right the way into October, as long as there is food i.e. nectar and pollen available. Most species of bees can survive over winter if there is somewhere for them to hole up.
The anatomy of different bee species varies greatly, and so to assist most species it’s best to have a wide range of flower species from which they can feed. As some of the mining bees have short tongues of only 4-5mm, they need open flowers such as cow parsley and daisies. The garden bumblebee Bombus hortorum on the other hand has a tongue that can extend to around 12mm, so it can feed from flowers with a long corolla (i.e. petals) like foxgloves and honeysuckle.
As well as fragrance, one of the other things that attracts bees to flowers is colour. So its worth considering maintaining colours throughout the season. For example, coltsfoot and hawk’s beard provide yellow colour from about February to June, and then cat’s ear and bristly oxtongue do the same from June to October. Similarly, a successional combination of white deadnettle, oxeye daisy and yarrow can ensure there are plenty of white flowers throughout the year. Interestingly, it is thought that bees can see in ultraviolet, which means how they perceive flowers will be very different from how we do.
Establishing and managing a wildflower meadow is one of the most effective ways of ensuring bees have a suitable habitat. In addition it is thought that on arable farms having a flower-rich margin on at least 1% of the land will provide significant benefit to pollinators, which in turn will improve crop production and quality. Hedgerows can be another useful way to help bees – cutting hedges on a two or even three year cycle will encourage more hawthorn and blackthorn flowers. When new hedges are planted, a greater species diversity (using hazel, field maple, crab apple, holly and willow where appropriate) will also mean that there is more food and nectar available for a longer period throughout the year.
Bees are fantastic creatures in their own right. They also provide a number of hugely important direct benefits for our countryside and environment. There are things we can do to encourage bee survival such as sowing appropriate wildflowers and creating habitat stepping stones, allowing what we might think of as typically weeds to flourish (in the right place), creating patches of bare ground in sunny dry spots which will allow solitary mining bees to nest, and leaving tall grass over winter which can provide places for bumblebees to hibernate and nest.
Bees are often in the news these days, mostly because they are in decline – they even need their own national strategy. If we can do our best to make the landscape more friendly, we can help give bees a better chance, and ensure they can continue to play a key role in pollinating our flowers, trees and crops.
For a local initiative – see B-Lines Ryedale
The Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England, was established in 1983 (National Heritage Act) and is managed by Historic England. It currently identifies over 1,600 significant sites across the country, ranging from the grounds of large stately homes to small domestic gardens, as well other designed landscapes such as town squares, public parks and cemeteries. The register aims to “celebrate designed landscapes of note, and encourage appropriate protection” so as to safeguard the features and qualities of these key landscapes into the future. The designation is on a par with scheduling and listing and therefore provides legal protection which means it is a material consideration in the planning process.
Within the National Park we have four entries on the national Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Arncliffe Hall – A small 3 hectare site, Arncliffe Hall gardens include two walled enclosures, grass terraces, a summerhouse, and two L shaped canals. The Hall was built between 1753 and 1754 and the gardens and pleasure grounds had been laid out by the 1770s. Alterations have since been made, although the structure of the gardens has remained broadly intact.
The Hall gardens are not open to the public.
Duncombe Park – This 285 hectare park was created in the early 18th century and early to mid-19th century on the site of a medieval deer park associated with Helmsley Castle. It was described as “pleasure grounds” with a curving terrace, blocks of woodland with curving paths and a serpentine ha-ha. It is one of the earliest examples of a ha-ha in the country (around 1718-23) – the walled ditch demarcates between the garden and the thrilling ‘wilder’ landscape beyond without breaking up the important vista. The Park retains elements of both the formal, symmetrical garden style and the later more picturesque “English garden” style.
The Park still contains a large number of veteran trees and is considered the most important parkland in the north of England for dead-wood insects.
The Duncombe Park gardens are open to the public – please see the Duncombe Park website.
Rievaulx Terrace – This 23 hectare site forms a terrace laid out in about 1758 with views of the valley of the Rye and the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. The layout of the Terrace with the emphasis on unfolding views rather than formal axes was departure at the time and has been described as ‘a landmark in the development of English Landscape style’ and ‘a superlative example of large-scale landscape gardening’. The Terrace was part of the Duncombe Park Estate and the picturesque dramatic ruins of Rievaulx Abbey presented the ultimate landscape Folly.
The Terrace is open to the public – please see the National Trust website.
Mulgrave Castle – A 350 hectare park which was laid out by the first Earl of Mulgrave in the late 18th century and early 19th century incorporating proposals of Humphry Repton (the last great English landscape designer of the 18th century, often regarded as the successor to Capability Brown). A series of drives took in the most dramatic and aesthetic features. The Park makes full use of its ‘wild’ rural setting and encompasses the steep valleys of the Sandsend Beck and East Row Beck, as well as the romantic ruins of the old Castle.
The Park is occasionally open to the public, by invitation.
GEOLOGY and GEOMORPHOLOGY
‘The region forms one of the most natural divisions of Yorkshire possessing its own special physical boundaries’ Frank Elgee, 1912.
The North York Moors stands out from the surrounding lowland landscape to the north and west, stands up against the North Sea in the east, and to the south slopes more gently down into the Vale of Pickering. The North York Moors were originally designated as a National Park because of its landscape. The land forms and land management which result in the changing landscape are a result of the underlying geology.
The geology of the North York Moors is made up largely of layers of sedimentary rock formed under water during the Jurassic Age. The exception is the Cleveland (Whinstone) Dyke which cuts across the area and is an igneous seam forced vertically upwards as molten lava. The last Ice Age, around two million years ago, meant the North York Moors plateau was surrounded on three sides by ice sheets. The effects of the ice itself, and then as it retreated, had huge effects on the land forms along the edges e.g. the western scarp, the Newtondale and Forge Valley glacial meltwater channels. Sedimentary rocks continue to erode over time, due to the wind, rain and the sea, and so the landscape continues to morph – this can be seen most dramatically now along the coastal edge. In a number of places where softer shale rocks have eroded away, the harder sedimentary rocks remain as outcrops e.g. Bridestones.
Formed under water sedimentary rocks contain the fossilised remains of animals and plants deposited on the sea floor which is why this area is so well known for fossils. There was a thriving industry on the coast in the 19th century where dealers were happy to supply real, and not so real, fossils and other historic artefacts to collectors.
Geology shaped in prehistory continues to affect the more recent history of the North York Moors. The sedimentary rock groups include elements which have been quarried and mined, and vestiges of these industries can still be seen today. These minerals, valuable enough at one time or another to encourage exploitation, have included jet, coal, alum, and ironstone; as well as limestone and whinstone for building materials. The needs of the industrial revolution led to advances in geology/geomorphology because it was financially important to be able to understand and identify where the best mineral seams could be most easily accessed. The latest minerals of the North York Moors area to be valued are potash and polyhalite. Oil and gas (created by fossilisation) are also present in the sedimentary rock stratification.
GOLDEN-RINGED DRAGONFLY (Cordulegaster boltonii)
This particular dragonfly species favours watercourses and waterbodies in upland heathland areas, including the North York Moors. One of the places it can be seen is the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Fen Bog Nature Reserve.
The majority of the life of a dragonfly is spent as a nymph living in water and predating on other creatures including fish. The short lived adult emerges from the larval stage when it leaves the water, begins to breathe and breaks out of its old skin. Adult dragonflies are a spectacular summer sight in England where native wildlife is seldom flashy, because of their unusual size and their eye catching bright colours.
GOLDEN PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
The Golden Plover is a wading bird. A wader is any species of longish legged bird that feeds in shallow water. The Golden Plover is one of a number of wader species that breed on the North York Moors – the other main species being Lapwing, Curlew and Snipe. Golden Plover spend spring and summer on the moorland and along the moorland/farmland edge (inbye). They are a ground nesting bird preferring shorter managed vegetation so they can see approaching predators. Like most ground nesting birds they are often more easily heard than seen.
The major moorland area of the North York Moors National Park is an internationally important habitat for Golden Plover and because of this Golden Plover population (as well as its Merlin population) the area has been designated as a Special Protection Area. Our most recent Moorland Breeding Wader survey (2014) found the highest densities of Golden Plover on record in this area.
The Goldilocks Buttercup (sometimes known as Wood Buttercup) is a small low growing straggly plant that flowers in April/May. It has bright yellow flowers with uneven misshapen looking petals. It is often found in Ancient Woodlands sites growing in moist glades, on hedge banks and along shrubby margins, and as a ‘calcicole’ it thrives on chalk, limestone and other basic soils.
There are orphan Goldilocks within Helmsley Churchyard. To the north of the churchyard is Beckdale which is still wooded and here the plant grows alongside the beck – just downstream the same beck runs through through a culvert in the Churchyard. The Goldilocks could be a surviving remnant from woodland on the site over 1,000 years ago.
The Egton Bridge Gooseberry Society has maintained the competitive northern tradition of showing and comparing the heaviest gooseberries grown, since approximately 1800. The Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show is held every year on the first Tuesday in August – and is all about this deliciously juicy cultivated fruit.
The wild relation (Ribes uva-crispa) can be found occasionally in old hedgerows.
The Goths, or Visigoths, were a Germanic Tribe largely responsible for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But it’s not that type of Goth that congregate in Whitby at least twice a year. Our Goths are those who celebrate the darker side of existence and share an appreciation of the morbid and the beauty of horror, and you couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of people. They are drawn to Whitby because of its association with Dracula, a personification of the Gothic. Hopefully on their way over the moors to Whitby they enjoy the dark brooding skies and the grim lonely landscapes of the North York Moors.
Grasslands are extremely important habitats supporting a wide range of plant and animal species. A large part of our grassland habitats resource has been lost in the National Park, like elsewhere in the country, through agricultural intensification where land has been ‘improved’ by using fertiliser and re-seeding to increase productivity and make a better living. Species rich unimproved grasslands still exist in the National Park, though they are now often small and isolated remnants of habitats that used to be widespread – in 2012 it was calculated that of the 45,000 hectares of grassland in the North York Moors only approximately 1,150 hectares were species rich grassland. These small areas hang on where their location or terrain has made it difficult to intensify management, for example on steep banks and in awkward field corners. Roadside verges can also retain valuable grassland flora.
In the Tabular Hills, along the southern edge of the North York Moors, diverse species-rich calcareous grasslands can still be found. However, these grasslands are at risk; under grazing can lead to scrub encroachment, whereas over grazing can cause erosion and loss of vegetation structure and plant species. Lowland Calcareous Grassland* is a priority habitat that the National Park seeks to conserve, restore and where possible create.
Locally, there is a lot more good quality, semi-improved grasslands in the North York Moors which despite being species rich, do not qualify as a species rich priority habitat because they don’t reach the abundance threshold. Instead these grasslands are classed as ‘good quality semi-improved or degraded grassland of high species richness’, or ‘semi-improved grassland of moderate species richness’. These grasslands are often farmed but just aren’t ‘improved’ to the level of other fields.
Our grasslands may have been slightly more species poor historically than grasslands elsewhere in the country e.g. the Yorkshire Dales because they are close to acid moorland soils and not surrounded by calcareous geology and consequently do not typically have an abundance of calcareous (limestone) species. However, for this National Park they are still locally valuable habitats supporting a diverse flora and associated species and well worth conserving for biodiversity and landscape reasons. This is one of the main aims of our Habitat Connectivity initiative.
*The North York Moors is mostly under 300 metres altitude which is the approximate dividing line between ‘lowland’ and ‘upland’ habitats.