Cumulative enhancements: Part One

Briony Fox – Director of Conservation

Over the last two years, a number of projects have been delivered to enhance the landscape and ecology of the North York Moors National Park.

These projects have been delivered under four key themes – Access, Environment, Cultural Heritage and Tranquility; all related to the special qualities of the National Park.

Here’s a few examples…

Upgrades to Rights of Way such as at Boggle Hole where improvements have been made to the bridleway to the beach by removing steps.

Boggle Hole - before. Copyright NYMNPA.

Boggle Hole - after. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riverbank in poor condition. Copyright NYMNPA.

The restoration of river bank habitat on the river Esk by fencing (to prevent trampling by grazing animals) and planting trees which will in turn stabilise the banks and prevent sediment entering the river, so enhancing water quality which is essential for endangered species such as Freshwater Pearl Mussel.

Tree planting and fencing works to stabilise the bankside. Copyright NYMNPA.

Drystone wall, Coxwold - before repair. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

Restoration of historic landscape features such as our iconic dry stone walls

 

Drystone wall, Coxwold - after repair. Copyright NYMNPA.

Commissioning of a Dark Skies Audit to understand where the darkest skies in the park are and to inform policy and a new management plan related to protecting the dark sky asset.

2019 light pollution map of the NYM area with survey points (yellow / green dots) shown.

Areas with the most light pollution are shown in yellow / orange while darker areas are grey. This work will help us to prioritise our efforts to keep our darker areas dark and reduce pollution in our brightest areas.

This is just a snapshot of what we’re doing to enhance the National Park area through this project and this work will continue long into the future. Other work includes ongoing woodland creation to offset carbon emissions and promoting the fabulous activities and opportunities that the North York Moors offers for visitors.

This is only the start.

Seeds for the future

Alasdair Fagan – Woodland Creation Officer

In a previous blog, on the Year of Green Action, we mentioned the planting of 3,500 trees near Danby by National Park staff and volunteers. Our volunteers form an integral part of the work we are able to do, this is particularly the case with woodland work.

Last year saw the origins of the Acorn Volunteer Group. The task for this Group is to collect tree seed from the ancient woodlands and trees of the North York Moors to then be propagated and grown on at local tree nurseries with the ultimate aim of the trees being used in future woodland creation schemes throughout the area.

We focused in the first year on acorns as the National Park Authority has a bit of a history of acorn collecting and so we already knew some good spots to try. We managed to collect over 25,000 acorns. Going forward we are looking to diversify the tree species we collect to include species such as rowan, elder and wild cherry.

One of the North York Moors' oldest Ancient Oak Trees. Copyright NYMNPA.

So why is collecting tree seeds important?

There are ongoing discussions in the world of woodland and forestry about what is the best approach for new woodland planting – whether it should be young trees grown from seed which has been collected from the local area (‘local provenance’) or trees grown from seed sourced elsewhere in the country e.g. further south.

Local provenance seed has benefits such as being from trees which we know grow well on a kind of site or in a particular area , but seed from a more southerly zone has the potential to be better suited in the future because of an increasingly warming climate.

The predictions for climate change vary in severity based on the potential for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, but what is certain is that our summers will be warmer and drier (this is especially true in the east of the Britain) and our winters will be wetter. This means that the climatic conditions of the places where we are planting trees today to create woodlands could be significantly different in 100 years time. 100 years is not a long time within the lifetime of a woodland. Woodland managers need to consider the effects of their work over these long timescales. Planning now to survive the effects of climate change is essential to give our woodlands the greatest chance of reaching maturity.

Skipster Hagg. When the right site is chosen to plant woodland the rate at which the young saplings grow can be surprising. Copyright NYMNPA.

Ayton Banks. Stitchwort and bluebells growing on a site with newly planted trees. These woodland indicator plants grow on woodland soils and show where woodlands once existed. Copyright NYMNPA.Currently the advice for woodland managers is that the best approach depends on the characteristics of the site proposed. On sites where the woodland soils have remained relatively undisturbed, with intact woodland plant communities – such as bluebells and wood sorrel – planting local provenance trees is still the best choice, particularly if it is adjacent to an existing ancient woodland. However if the site is less sensitive then it makes sense to try and improve the woodland’s chance to withstand the effects of climate change and the resulting pests and disease as much as is possible; making the woodland more ‘resilient’.

This type of resilience is increased by having a higher number of tree species as more diversity means that any one pest or disease is unlikely to have a catastrophic effect on the entire wood. If you also incorporate into this diverse mix of tree species a mix of genetic stock, such as you would get from planting a mixture of trees sourced both locally and from further afield, then this is certain to improve a woodland’s chances of adaptation and survival in the future.

Setting up a seed collecting project is a way to make sure we have some locally sourced trees to plant, including some of the genetics of our oldest living trees. The project is also a great way to include volunteers and give them the opportunity to visit some of the ancient trees and woodlands hidden away in secluded parts of the North York Moors.

One of the many handfuls of acorns that made up the 25,000 that were collected in 2018. Photo credit – Tessa Bunney.

If you think you might like to sign up as an Acorn Volunteer with the National Park Authority then please contact me by email or ring me on 01439 772700.

Looking forward to June

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant, and Sam Newton – Sam Newton – Land of Iron Natural Heritage Trainee

Surrounding the remarkable built heritage remains of the Land of Iron is a patchwork of habitats and species that have withstood the industrial exploitation and managed to find a niche in the landscape left behind. The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund, is working to maintain these habitats and species. Ancient woodland, upland hay meadows and salmon rivers are being enhanced, and by addressing gaps between good habitat the connectivity through the landscape is improved helping wildlife move more freely.

To celebrate the natural heritage of Rosedale, one of the key areas of the Land of Iron, a free to attend Wildlife Week is happening from Sunday 23 to Sunday 29 June 2019. The Updale Reading Room (YO18 8RQ) in Rosedale will be the main hub but there will be activities taking place across the dale. This family-friendly week will be full of opportunities to learn all about the remarkable animal and plant life right here in the North York Moors.

Rosedale Wildlife Week poster. Copyright NYMNPA.

Join us during our Wildlife Week as we celebrate the natural heritage of Rosedale by encountering a wide array of habitats and species under the guidance of local experts. By identifying and recording what we find during the week you will be helping to further understand, and therefore help protect, the diverse wildlife of this area of past ironstone industry into the future.

The kind of things that are going to be happening include:

  • Aquatic Rosedale – spend the morning visiting some fantastic wildlife ponds and the afternoon identifying aquatic invertebrates;
  • Bats of the Abbey – stay out till midnight to see what happens after dark in Rosedale Abbey village, guided by a local bat expert;
  • Fabulous Flora – learn to recognise wildflowers and grasses in the historic Rosedale Abbey churchyard;
  • Moth Mornings – a great way to discover some of the 2,500 species we have in the UK;
  • Tantalising Talks – from photographing wildlife to goshawks and humpbacks, listen to our experts share their experiences in the wild;
  • Rosedale Abbey Short Nature Walk – a short nature and history-themed walk, accessible to all around Rosedale Abbey village;
  • Wildlife Walks – wildlife-themed walks visiting hidden Hartoft and up-dale Rosedale.

Curlew - image credit: Steve Race.The moorland edge of Rosedale and Hartoft provides great habitat for Curlew. For a chance to view these birds, come along on the Rosedale Wildlife Walk (25 June) or the Hidden Hartoft Wildlife Walk (27 June). Image credit: Steve Race.

Hay Meadow - image credit: NYMNPA.

Rosedale is home to some of the North York Moors’ best remaining species rich grasslands, like this fantastic traditionally managed hay meadow. Come and explore this diverse plant life on the Meadows and Pastures of Rosedale (24 June) Image credit: NYMNPA.

Wood Tiger Moth - image credit: Allan Rodda.

Rosedale’s rich mosaic of habitats will support a wide variety of moths, such as this Wood Tiger. To see what moths we can find, come along on one of the Moth Mornings (23 and 29 June). Image credit: Allan Rodda.

Keep an eye on the Land of Iron website or the National Park’s own What’s On page for programme updates, or else telephone the Land of Iron team on 01439 772700 to find out more. Please note that certain sessions will be unavoidably inaccessible to wheelchair users due to rough and rugged terrain.

To book onto a session please visit our Eventbrite page and reserve your space to avoid disappointment.

If you are travelling into Rosedale from further afield please think about using the local Moorsbus and other public transport – because its good for the environment, and also because Rosedale has narrow roads and limited parking.

Land of Iron logos

 

Happy Birthday

Mark Antcliff – Woodland Officer, and Rachel Pickering – Natural Environment Team Leader

Forestry Commission England owns/manages considerable land holdings within and around the North York Moors and therefore has had and continues to have a major impact on the landscape and the natural and historic environment of the area.

This year the Forestry Commission is marking its centenary. Timber was a crucial resource in the First World War, relying on imports meant vulnerability and risk. Afterwards the amount of land producing timber in Britain was down to 4%, so the 1919 Forestry Act was passed setting up the original Forestry Commission to plant and manage public woodland and to assist private woodland. The Commission was to drive organised afforestation in order to build up a secure timber reserve.

Ever since then the objectives and priorities of the Commission have adapted to changing governmental policy and shifting environmental and social concerns. Its current mission is increasing the value of woodlands to society and the environment, the majority of its current holdings are mixed multi-purpose forests. As of 2018 10% of Britain is woodland cover.

Ingleby Greenhow Forest in summer. Copyright NYMNPA.

Boltby Forest in autumn. Copyright NYMNPA.

In the North York Moors…

Woodlands cover 22% of the North York Moors National Park and Forestry England (previously known as Forest Enterprise and part of the Forestry Commission) manages 60% of these. So understandably we like to work closely together to achieve the best for both organisations. We do loads of great conservation projects together and here are a few:

Ancient Woodland Restoration
Forestry England manage approximately 45% of the National Park’s Ancient Woodland Sites which have been planted with conifers since World War 2 (known as Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites – PAWS). They are committed to restoring these sites back to nature-filled native woodland and we help to ensure that this can happen in a timely fashion through our comments on their individual Forest Design Plans which direct forestry management based on the qualities of the different forests. On difficult sites funding can be given through partnership projects like This Exploited Land of Iron to avoid delays and help facilitate management.

Thinning of conifers in Wass Moors and Pry Rigg Forest. Copyright NYMNPA.

Veteran Trees
Forestry England manages a hugely important area of veteran trees at the Deer Park near Helmsley. The National Park Authority and Natural England work together with volunteers to help monitor and manage these amazing natural ancient monuments which support populations of insects, fungi and bats.

One of the Veteran Trees in the Deer Park. Copyright NYMNPA.

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project
Volunteers survey forest and farmland for these critically endangered birds and this partnership project will raise awareness at both organisations’ Visitor Centres (Dalby and Sutton Bank) as well as providing more flower seeds and water in key locations. The forests in the south east corner are particularly important for these birds.

Beaver Trial
The National Park have given Forestry England £20,000 towards the setting up and monitoring costs of their exciting Beaver Release Trial in Cropton Forest which will be underway shortly. It will be fascinating to see how much impact the beavers can have on the management of water with the forest.

Ancient semi-natural woodland at Howlgate Head. Copyright NYMNPA.

So Happy Birthday to our friends in Forestry England and the Forestry Commission who are celebrating their 100 years. To celebrate the centenary a new artwork was commissioned – the Nissan Hut by Rachel Whiteread is situated within our own Dalby Forest.

Rachel Whiteread's Nissen Hut (2018) copyright Ben Thomas, Forestry Commission. From www.theartnewspaper.com

If you want to find out more about each element of the Forestry Commission, have a look at these links:
Forestry Commission England
Forestry England
Forest Research

Going underground

Rob Smith – Senior Minerals Planner

A key challenge for the developer of the major new Woodsmith Mine, now being built in the National Park, is how to get the polyhalite mineral from the mine itself to a suitable location for further processing and export without causing unacceptable impact on the environment. Solving this problem was a critical step towards the eventual decision to grant planning permission. Although it forms only one element of what is a huge and complex construction project, digging the 23 mile (37km) mineral transport tunnel from the minehead south of Whitby to the processing site at Wilton on Teesside is a massive undertaking in its own right. Work on the tunneling is about to start.

It may not be widely known that there is a patron saint for mining, Saint Barbara.  This reflects the fact that mining has been, and to some extent remains, a risky business and it is perhaps not surprising that a degree of divine support is called upon to help look after those involved at the sharp end. Similarly, it is not unusual for mining machines themselves to be treated with a certain degree of reverence, like you would a ship, in order to help them on their way.  Within that context, Sirius Minerals recently held a naming ceremony and blessing for the first of three huge tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to be used to construct the required tunnel.

A cold, bright, breezy April day at Wilton saw an estimated 200 or so visitors and workers gather in a mass of high viz jackets to watch the ceremony.  Local schools had put forward a short list of names:  Persephone (Queen of the Underworld according to Greek mythology); Gertrude (for Gertrude Bell, the famous explorer with connections to Redcar) and Stella Rose (Stella to reflect the ‘bright star’ link with the Sirius name and Rose from Roseberry Topping, the prominent landmark near the Wilton end of the tunnel). An online poll of around 7,000 votes found in favour of Stella Rose and 8 year old local primary school pupil Warren Walls, along with the Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, unveiled the name on the day.  A short blessing by a local Cannon followed, invoking the assistance of Saint Barbara in achieving a safe and successful outcome.

The front of Stella Rose the TBM. Copyright NYMNPA.

Whilst divine intervention is all well and good, the TBM is clearly also the product of great engineering talent and ingenuity.  Resembling a cross between a freight train and a pre-launch space rocket lying horizontally, it is more capsule than machine – a self-contained burrowing monster weighing 1,800 tonnes and 225 metres in length (that’s two full size football pitches end to end) including on-board canteen and washrooms!

Tunneling through the Redcar mudstone towards the Woodsmith Mine site will start in earnest over the next few weeks and will take two years or so to complete, as part of a giant subterranean relay along with the other two TBMs.

Looking along only part of the length of the TBM. Copyright NYMNPA.

Whilst there will always be differing views about the decision to grant permission for the mine development, the sheer scale and intensity of the construction effort, driven in part by the need to help conserve the environment of the National Park, is impressive to witness.

The Madness and Delight of a North Yorkshire forest at dawn   

Getting up at 3am to start a bird survey at dawn deep in the North Yorkshire countryside may seem like madness to many people but for Ginny the delight has been far greater than the sacrifice…

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project logo

Ginny Leeming, Turtle Dove Volunteer

A few years ago I was walking in Broxa Forest when I became aware of a strange low bubbling, turring sound. For a minute I just couldn’t place it – perhaps a frog? Then it clicked – I hadn’t heard it for years but it had once been so familiar to me. I went home and looked up some facts and figures and was horrified (though not entirely surprised) to learn of the drastic fall in numbers of a bird that was once so well known (and still is widely known by name if only through the 12 Days of Christmas). So when I heard about the Turtle Dove Project I was immediately keen to get involved. OK, so getting up at 3am to be in the forest ready to start a survey at dawn is somewhat daunting, and I even felt a bit nervous at the thought of walking through the forest in semi-darkness. But once up it is a truly magical time to be out there. I’ve had close encounters with badgers, deer, hares and much other wildlife.

On my very first survey I was nearing the end, almost resigned to a negative result, when I approached a clearing and before I could see through the trees I heard that unique sound. It turned out to be 3 singing males. I really had to stop myself shrieking with delight! Since then I’ve had less luck, but the memory of that moment has helped to maintain my feeling of anticipation. It has also been really encouraging to know that the data from that first survey has already been used to target conservation measures on local farms. Perhaps in a few more years encounters with these iconic birds will become more common.
A North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Volunteer in Action. Copyright NYMNPA.
Our North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project surveys start again in May. We will be holding two meetings this spring to explain the surveys and to allow volunteers to meet up. One meeting will be in the Dalby Forest Courtyard Building (YO18 7LT) on 24 April at 7 pm and the second at the Yorkshire Arboretum (YO60 7BY) in the Howardian Hills on 2 May, again at 7 pm. If you’d like to get involved please come along or alternatively email Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer.

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project partnership logos

 

YoGA: taking action

Laura Barr – Marketing and Product Development Executive

2019 has been designated the Year of Green Action.

The Year of Green Action (YoGA) is part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and is a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds to take actions that improve the natural world. We want to encourage and inspire others to do the same.

Everyone can get involved in projects, whether it’s in your own garden, at school, in the workplace or as a consumer. A small change can make a big difference…

Take part in a local litter pick or beach clean, make water, waste and energy-saving improvements, or simply head out into a local green space and appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

Throughout 2019, we will be hosting events and activities across the North York Moors National Park aiming to help people connect, protect and enhance nature.

Some excellent tree planting activity. Copyright NYMNPA.

To kick things off, over the past few weeks National Park staff along with volunteers, youth groups and corporate teams have been planting trees to create a new native woodland near Danby. Incorporating a mixture of oak, silver birch, hazel, rowan, crab apple, wild cherry, hawthorn and blackthorn, the team are on schedule to plant more than 3,500 trees in six weeks.

Some more excellent tree planting activity. Copyright NYMNPA.

There are lots of different opportunities to get involved and take action. Events coming up in and around the North York Moors include:

  • Health and Wellbeing walking festivals including our own WalkFest (25 – 27 May), and the Redcar & Cleveland Walking Festival (15 – 23 June) to celebrate the Cleveland Way’s 50th birthday.
  • The Lost Words (13 June – 29 July) – an exhibition on tour from Compton Verney Art Gallery that reconnects adults and children with the natural world using the power of words and art. A programme of treasure hunts, art workshops, nature expeditions and more are scheduled throughout the summer.
  • Rosedale Wildlife Week (23 – 29 June) – Join the ‘Land of Iron’ project team for a week’s worth of wildlife-themed walks, family activities, talks and workshops in Rosedale from moth-trapping and wildlife walks to natural history lectures and mammal-monitoring.

Help us take positive steps to help our natural environment!

Finding out how to identify tree species. Copyright Daniel Wildey.

You can find out what activities we’ve got going on across the North York Moors here.

You can follow the latest news about YOGA across the UK using #yearofgreenaction

Take two minutes

Alison Goodwin, Moor to Sea Project* Officer

Most of us will have seen the shocking images from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 programme: oceans full of plastic and beaches filled with detritus. On our UK beaches, the Marine Conversation Society revealed in 2018 that just under 7 tonnes of litter was collected at a handful of beaches over a 3 year period.

Since then there’s been a grassroots-level movement emerge with people keen to do more. Whitby Beach Sweep is one such community organization. Running since February 2018 in association with Surfers against Sewage, they’ve been organising community litter picks along Whitby beaches. Eager to expand their focus to reach wider audiences, they’ve now linked up with the #2minutebeachclean board initiative. By promoting the scheme through social media, and by having a physical board sited on the beach, it’s hoped others will be encouraged to lend a hand.

Close up on a #2minutebeachclean board. Copyright NYMNPA.

These #2minutebeachclean boards are looked after by ‘guardians’ and provide volunteers with all the necessary equipment and instructions. This simple idea run by Beachclean.net has reduced beach litter by 61% in trials. With such good statistics, it’s clear to see why Whitby Beach Sweep thinks it’s a good investment. So we’ve helped support their vision by donating funds towards purchasing more boards.

Beach clean launch - Whitby Beach Sweep and Whitby Surf School. Copyright NYMNPA.

Last week saw the unveiling of the Whitby board outside Whitby Surf School, who’ve kindly volunteered to look after it.  In the next couple of weeks, boards at Staithes and Runswick Bay will also be in situ. Don’t forget to look out for them if you’re out and about – and feel free to share the love and have a go.

*A Coastal Communities Fund funded project 

Coastal Communities Fund logo

A to Z: a troupe of Ts

T

TEMPLARS

Most people have probably heard of the Knights Templar, mediaeval military monks best known for their Order being forcefully suppressed.

The sole purpose of the Order was to protect pilgrims, and that meant supporting knights in the Holy Land which required money. Along with many monastic orders the Knights Templar were good at making and managing money to fund themselves and their work. Nobles were particularly happy to endow military orders with gifts and property as a way to win favour with God, because they shared a common interest in the noble art of fighting. A mix of Papal and Regal authority granted the Templars immunity to local jurisdiction and taxation, putting them beyond the law.

The Templars were pan European and had a network of estates in England. One of these holdings was the Manor of Westerdale in the north west of the North York Moors, which was gifted to the Knights Templar in 1203 by Guy de Bonaincurt. There are also records of additional gifts from other landowners in the wider area, at Kildale, Ingleby Arncliffe, Pinchinthope, and Broughton. At Westerdale a preceptory was founded – a preceptory is a military order’s equivalent of a monastery – and the land put to good use producing income. It’s not known where the buildings and granges were, suggestions include Westerdale Hall and there are earthworks at two sites towards the head of the dale. 

The Knights Templar Order consisted of Knight Brothers (you had to already be a knight), Sergeants/Serving Brothers, and Chaplains. Then there were the lay servants to do most of the work. There wouldn’t have been knights at Westerdale, but there would no doubt have been servants farming the land. When the Order was surpressed the Manor was recorded as being 1,182 acres and producing £37 of annual income.

The Order didn’t long survive the end of the Crusades in the Holy Land. Pope Clement V issued a bull in 1307 telling all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest Templars and seize their assets. The dissolution in England was drawn out and non-violent. The Manor of Westerdale was taken by the crown in 1311 or 1312 and then held until it was either given or sold to the Knight Hospitallers (the other major military order) in 1338. Two hundred years later it went back to the crown during the Reformation..

TEMPLE MOORE (1856 – 1920)

The fantastically named Temple Lushington Moore was a celebrated Victorian/Edwardian architect, particularly renowned for his ecclesiastical commissions both inside and out. He conceived new churches* and restored/rebuilt churches**, many of which are now listed. He also designed decorative church fixtures such as screens, windows, reredos, lecterns, and pulpits.

Moore’s style was Late Gothic Revival with its focus on the mediaeval: for example pointed arches, buttresses, vaulted ceilings, ornamentation and decoration.

There was a lot of new building/rebuilding of Anglican churches at this time; to serve the growing urban populations and to rival the pull of the evangelical low church congregations. The Gothic Revival style linked directly with the high church tractarian movement at the end of the 19th century. The exaggerated style presented an idealised medieval past in reaction to mechanisation and industrialisation. The enthusiasm for the style itself could sometimes result in the destruction or diminishing of original mediaeval elements of the buildings being ‘restored’.

Temple Moore worked on a number of commissions in and around the North York Moors and elsewhere in Yorkshire which earned the appellation for his work of ‘gothic with a Yorkshire accent’.

*New Churches in/around the North York Moors
St Aiden, Carlton
St Botolph, Carlton in Cleveland
St John the Evangelist, Bilsdale Midcable
St James the Greater, Lealholm
St Mary Magdalene, East Moors

**Restored/rebuilt Churches in/around the North York Moors
St Chad, Sproxton
St Augustine, Kirkby
St Oswald, Newton upon Roseberry
St Hilda, Danby
St Nicholas, Guisborough
St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale
St Mary, Church Houses, Farndale
St Mary Magdalene, Faceby
St Mary, Rievaulx

TREE PRESERVATION ORDERS

The North York Moors has a statutory claim to fame, because one of the first Tree Preservation Orders in England was served in the village of Sinnington. It was served to protect an area of woodland known as The Stripe to the north of the village. It was an ‘interim’ TPO made under the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Act of 1943.

This Act was followed up a few years later by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. This legislation looked to build a new country, depending on receiving permission. It aimed to control development and protect the best elements such as buildings with special architectural or historic interest as well as trees and woodland, the natural equivalent of the buildings. Where trees or woodland might be under threat and those trees or woodland had an identified amenity value – that is they mattered to local people and the wider landscape – a Tree Preservation Order could be served. Also in 1947 came the Hobhouse Report which recommended the creation of National Parks; however the thing about Tree Preservation Orders is they can be used anywhere not just in protected landscapes, because any tree can be special.

Tree Preservation Orders are still a useful part of planning legislation, most recently reiterated in the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 2012.

TREE SPARROWS

Many people would recognise the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), a common visitor to garden bird tables and feeders. Less often seen is the smaller Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus), a shyer bird that can be distinguished by its chestnut brown cap and black cheek spots.

The Tree Sparrow has suffered a substantial decline in recent decades with a 93% population decrease between 1970-2008. They are therefore on the Red List for conservation concern.

Tree Sparrows make use of cavities in trees and old buildings to nest in. They will also build their own nests within thick hedges. During the 1970s and 80s many elm trees were lost to Dutch elm disease which reduced the availability of nesting holes for this and other species. Alternatively, they will make use of nest boxes – projects aiming to expand Tree Sparrow populations place several nest boxes close together as the birds like to live in colonies.

A good habitat for Tree Sparrows is mixed farmland where small woodlands, scrubby hedgerows, cereal crops and dead trees can be found together. Aquatic invertebrates are a good food source for their young so farmland ponds are also valuable features. Young chicks are fed on insects to provide them with the minerals they need to develop their bones. Seeds and cereals, such as wheat and barley, are also part of the Tree Sparrow diet.

The southern edge of the North York Moors is a good area for Tree Sparrows, villages such as Hackness, Staintondale, Newton-upon-Rawcliffe and Lockton all have Tree Sparrow populations.

Close up of Tree Sparrow - RSPB https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/old-world-sparrows/

TWAYBLADES

There are two types of Twayblades: Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) and Lesser Twayblade (Neottia cordata). These are orchids, not the blousy bright orchids but much more subtle and discreet.  Both have one upright stalk with small clusters of flowers at the top. The Common Twayblade has tiny yellow/green flowers and can grow up to 60 cm tall, the Lesser Twayblade has tiny reddish flowers and grows up to 20 cm. The name Twayblade comes from Old English words for two leaves, because Twayblades have one pair of leaves except sometimes they don’t, sometimes there is a third leaf. Common Twayblade are much more adaptable than Lesser Twayblades, growing in neutral/calcareous grassland and woodland. Lesser Twayblades favour acid soil so are found in wet Ancient Woodland and on wet heath. They’re pollinated by tiny insects e.g. flies for Common Twayblade, even smaller gnats for Lesser Twayblade. They both smell, however whereas the Common Twayblade has a gentle sweetish smell, the Lesser Twayblade produces a smell like rotting flesh which humans find unpleasant but gnats like. Both plants produce tiny seeds like dust, but they can also spread through rhizomes from their roots. As well as diminishing habitat, one of the other reasons for Twayblades being relatively rare is because they take such a long time to grow up, it can take a Common Twayblade 15 years to mature enough to flower.

Close up of Common Twayblade flowers, Monks Dale in Derbyshire copyright RWD from wildflowerfinder.org.uk. The tiny flowers are said to look like tiny people if you look carefully..

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, Q, R, S 

Hedgerow equations

Large parts of the North York Moors have either no field boundaries (open moorland) or have drystone walls as boundaries (upland tops and slopes), but round the edges of the area and in the farmland dales there are often hedgerows. A large number of these hedges will have existed for years, but they’re not considered ‘ancient’ unless they’re older than 1700, just like Ancient Woodland.

Hedgerows of course are made out of trees and shrubs just like woodland but are otherwise culturally and ecologically distinctive. Hedgerows have long been a man-made feature of landscapes – boundaries to keep things in as well as out. In other parts of England there are hedgerows that are thought to date back over a millennium. This is not so likely in the North York Moors. Many hedgerows here probably just date back to the 18th and 19th centuries when there was a lot of enclosure and land ‘improvement’ going on, here as elsewhere in the country.

Old roadside hedgerow, Bilsdale. Copyright Ami Hudson, NYMNPA.

Hedgerows have been created through one or more of these three methods – original planting/transplanting, allowing uncultivated field edges to grow up, or by leaving a ‘ghost’/edge of a removed woodland. A curved hedge suggests a ghost hedge because natural woodlands are more likely to have had curved not straight edges, whereas constructed boundaries are often as straight as possible.

Ancient hedges share Ancient Woodland herbaceous ground flora such as Wood anemone, Sweet woodruff and Golden saxifrage. There is also a well-known ‘rule’ (Hooper’s Law) sometimes used to estimate the age of a hedge by counting the number of established woody species over a 30 yard/30 metres stretch or preferably an average over a series of stretches. The equation is then Age = no of species in a 30 yard stretch (or average number) x 110 + 30 years.

Whereas an enclosure hedge (18th/19th century) will have one or two species, a pre Norman Conquest hedge might have more than ten species. However such ancient hedges would have been an unlikely feature in the ‘wastes’ of the North York Moors recorded in the Domesday Book at the end of the 11th century.

Managed hedgerow, Glaisdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Like all rules there is bound to be exceptions. Hooper’s Law relies on the hedgerow being mainly naturally colonised, not planted 30 years ago by a biodiversity enthusiast. Also any hedgerow adjoined to or close-by woodlands are more likely to be colonised at different rate than another hedge. In the end it’s probably best to use other evidence of dating, such as maps and records, as well.

Although original hedgerows may have been planted and laid to incorporate existing older trees it would be difficult to keep such trees alive, and therefore much more likely that in-boundary trees were planted at the same time as a hedge or added later. The first edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch mapping includes individual in-field and in-boundary trees. For the North York Moors area these maps are usually from the 1890s. The presence of a mapped in-boundary tree suggests that boundary was a hedge rather than wall or fence at that time.

Since the middle of the 20th century the amount of hedgerow in the country as well as the number of boundary trees has been reduced. Machinery meant it became easy enough to remove a hedgerow, and to maximise the cutting of hedgerows. At the moment the cultural and ecological importance of hedgerows is valued and lately there have been efforts to use agri-environment schemes to encourage good practice management and to use the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations to control removal.

Briar rose in an old hedgerow. Copyright NYMNPA.

* This is the list of species which count towards Hooper’s Law. The species listed grow in a wide variety of habitats across the country, only some of these would ever have been used in and around the North York Moors. As it is currently winter, identifying different species is particularly difficult and therefore maybe more fun.

Alder Cherry-plum Hornbeam Sallow
Apple incl crab apple Dogwood Lime – ordinary, pry Service
Ash Elder Maple Spindle
Beech Elm – Wych, English, East Anglian, Cornish, Dutch/Huntingdon etc Oak – pedunculated, sessile Sycamore
Blackthorn Furze Pine Wayfaring-tree
Briar (three named species) Guelder-rose Plum incl bulace Whitebeam
Broom Hawthorn – ordinary, woodland Poplar – aspen, blackwhite, grey Willow – crack, white
Buckthorn Hazel Privet (wild) Yew
Cherry Holly Rowan