Ryevitalise Discovery: Woodlands

Ann Pease – Ryevitalise Administration Assistant

The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme focuses on a fascinating river catchment landscape encompassing the Rivers Rye, Seph and Riccal. The area contains some truly amazing woodlands which support an enormous array of wildlife, including some real rarities.

River Rye and riparian woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Over the next four years Ryevitalise will focus on the conservation and restoration of woodlands and adjoining habitats such as sunny clearings and marshy grasslands, to support the wildlife that relies on these important sites.

Patience is a virtue, and what can often seem like a quiet woodland setting on first glance can be a veritable highway of activity.  Back last summer a remote, motion sensitive camera was set up in a quiet corner of woodland near Helmsley ahead of an invasive-species control task we ran to control Himalayan balsam, just to see what we could see.  The device was left in situ for two weeks, and in that time stealthily caught the comings and goings of some of our most loved British wildlife. So here are a few of the captured images of the wildlife of the Ryevitalise catchment from last summer to lighten and warm up these cold winter days.  Some are easier than others – see if you can identify the roe deer, the badger, the bat, the fox, the rabbit, the thrush feeding its chick, the roe deer, the partridge.

Spring is not too far away – but the winter itself is a particularly great time to spot wildlife in your local patch.  An influx of winter visitors such as fieldfare, wax wing, and short eared owl boost bird populations, and many animals become bolder in their search for sustenance and shelter and food hotspots can support great concentrations.  If there is a covering of snow (or mud!), head out into the countryside to find footprints and secret paths hidden during fairer weather. The Nature Calendar pages on of the National Park’s website has some great information on the types of wildlife you are likely to see throughout January and February, as well as the best places to see them.

We are always keen to see your photos of wildlife on and around the Rye area – so if you can, when you post them online please include #Ryevitalise or @northyorkmoors so we can see them too. Whatever you do this winter – take time out in nature and enjoy the best that the National Park has to offer.

STOP PRESS
The official Ryevitalise launch event will be held on 25 May 2020 at Sutton Bank National Park Centre including lots of opportunities to learn more about the habitats and wildlife of the River Rye area within that week … more details will be announced shortly!.

If you would like to find out more about the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership, upcoming volunteer opportunities or events keep an eye on our web pages.

Ryevitalise logo

Going with the FLO

Victoria Franklin – Conservation Trainee

At the end of October last year it was the turn of this National Park Authority to host the National Park Authorities’ Farm Liaison Officers (FLO) Group Meeting. It was the thirtieth such meeting and we welcomed 23 farm officers from 11 National Parks with attendees from the Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales.

The main purpose of these three day meetings is to enable discussions between colleagues about the common opportunities and challenges of working with landowners and land managers to conserve the special qualities of farmed landscapes. This is an annual event shared out between the 15 UK National Parks. The last time the North York Moors played host was back in 2002. There have been a lot of changes since then so we had a lot to showcase.

DAY ONE

The meeting was based at Wydale Hall near Scarborough on the southern edge of the National Park – a very peaceful and beautiful setting. Everyone arrived by midday and we started with a brief introduction and catch up from each National Park with representatives talking through their new projects and current issues from their point of view. We had a cup of tea and a presentation on the new Woodsmith Mine near Whitby followed by a drive past to see the setting within the landscape. The mine sparked much discussion around light pollution, the local economy, offsetting carbon emissions and the scale of the planned operation. We ended up in Whitby that evening for much appreciated fish and chips.

DAY TWO

Day two was all about the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership. We started off in Nunnington, a village towards the southern end of the Rye catchment within the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We had roped in various members of the Ryevitalise and the Howardian Hills AONB teams to help. Paul from Ryevitalise was able to present an overview of the Landsdcape Partnership, highlighting why the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund decided to fund this 3.2 million project for the area – i.e. to enhance water quality, to improve water level management and to reconnect the people who live within the catchment with their river.

By the River Rye in Nunnington, FLO visit 30.10.19. Copyright NYMNPA.

We went on for a short walk along the riverbank in Duncombe Park, Helmsley. Duncombe Park is a National Nature Reserve (NNR) because of its important ecology. We talked about the potential for alleviating some of the impacts that weirs can have on both water level management and the ability for fish to spawn throughout the length of a river.

View from Duncombe Park looking back over Helmsley Castle. Copyright NYMNPA.

Low Crookleith Farm, Bilsdale - FLO visit 30.10.20. Copyright NYMNPA.After indulging in pie and peas at Hawnby Village Hall for lunch we drove further upstream through Bilsdale to visit a farm where the farmer now has a land management agreement through the Ryevitalise programme. We looked at his riverside fields where trees will be planted through the agreement to create a riparian buffer, along with the installation of new fencing to stop stock accessing the river directly which can cause sediment to enter the water and negatively impact on the river ecology.

We ended up at Chop Gate Village Hall near the top of Bilsdale where we got to hear about riverfly monitoring from two very enthusiastic and interesting volunteers who are already actively engaged in monitoring the water quality in the Rye catchment.

Back at Wydale Hall dinner was followed by a range of after dinner presentations from invited speakers on Turtle Doves, Championing the Farmed Environment and the Esk Valley Facilitation Fund group, as well as an appreciation of Geraint Jones from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park who has been coming to these meetings from the beginning and for whom this one would be his last as he is due to retire shortly.

DAY THREE

Straight after breakfast the morning session began with a talk from Forestry England on their enclosed beaver trial ongoing in Cropton Forest.  There was fascinating video footage of how the beavers’ natural behavior of building dams can help with slowing the flow of water which has great potential as a natural and sustainable flood alleviation method.

We rounded off the session with in depth discussions of current issues including the development of the new national environmental land management scheme and rural development initiatives post Brexit and how National Park Authorities might be involved. Other subjects considered were; how National Parks could help companies offset their carbon, providing advice to farmers on how to reduce carbon emissions, opportunities for more landscape scale projects within National Parks, the always contentious issue of fencing on common land and how best to share farming stories with the general public. The meeting wrapped up at lunch time and everyone set off back to their respective National Parks hopefully with good memories of the North York Moors and its work.

Attendees at the Farm Liaison Officers Group Meeting October 2020. Copyright NYMNPA.

It is always useful to meet up with like-minded people and discuss pertinent subjects with colleagues from other National Park Authorities. We do tend to consider ourselves to be a family of National Parks and it is great to be able to come together occasionally, to discuss ideas, to learn from each other and to return to our individual Parks refreshed and inspired by what we have seen and experienced.

Inspirational birds

Richard Baines – North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Officer

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project has benefited from huge support since we started back in 2016; from local farmers to national celebrities, we have been amazed at how many people want to help the project.

This year we entered what will be our last funded year as part of our current National Lottery Heritage Fund Project. Because of this we were determined to continue the conservation effort and to keep creating habitat to help the local Turtle Dove population survive. To help resource planned future work and to generally raise awareness of Turtle Dove conservation we decided to launch an autumn of fund raising.

So – how could artists, celebrities and a couple of cyclists help Turtle Doves?

The major art theme grew out of a donation from international wildlife artist Alan Hunt who lives in North Yorkshire. Alan donated two beautiful pieces of original art to the project.

Alan’s art along with other pieces were displayed at two venues in October (Danby and Dalby) ahead of an auction of the art works. This was a big success attracting a wide range of artists from sculptors such as Jennifer Tetlow to a local poet Tiffany Francis.

Alongside the formal art auction was our unique ‘Doodle a Dove’ celebrity auction. This was run by the local Forestry England’s Funding & Development Manager Petra Young, following on from her Scribble a Squirrel project in Scotland back in the 1990s. Over 30 doodles of Turtle Doves were donated with a crazy range of images by famous people including Bill Oddie, Chris Packham, Lolo Williams, Derek Jacobi, Sophie Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Miriam Margolyes, Lily Cole and many more.

Then up popped fellow Birders Jonny Rankin (RSPB Dove Step fundraising hero) and Nick Moran (BTO) who said “How about we cycle from Thetford to Spurn and raise £3,000 for your project?”. So naturally I said a big yes please! And they did it in September, arriving at Spurn at the start of the iconic Spurn Migration Festival.

The total raised for future Turtle Dove work in North Yorkshire currently stands at £8,000. All of the funds will be spent on conservation one way or another, such as the creation of tailor made wild flower plots, pond restoration or scrub creation.

Our year was rounded off in style with news that our project had won the platinum award for the best conservation project at this year’s UK National Parks Conference. We could not have won this award without the amazing efforts of many people from survey volunteers to farmers with habitat space. We were highly commended on the international links achieved through the project such as Bird International’s Flyways Initiatives.

Turtle Dove Auction Artists, along with Petra and Richard (holding the Award). Copyright NYMNPA.

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project logo

Woodland enterprise

Raincliffe Wood Community Enterprise was set up back in 2016 to take on the management of Raincliffe, Forge Valley and Row Brow Woods near Scarborough. Their mission is to build a strong community enterprise that secures a safe and sustainable future for the woods while enhancing wildlife and community benefits.

 

They’ve been working ever since to restore these ancient woodlands to predominantly broadleaf with all the biodiversity benefits that brings to this important area. Part of it is a National Nature Reserve and the area also includes the Raincliffe & Forge Valley Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of its sequence of woodland types rich with botany, birds and other animals. The historic environment is also full of features related to past industry and endeavour such as charcoal platforms and a forge. The Community/Social Enterprise aspect means income generated through woodland management today is used to help make the ongoing management sustainable and also to provide associated activities such as improving access, increasing community involvement and providing education.

 

Recently the National Park Authority have been working with Raincliffe Wood Community Enterprise (RWCE) and others to carry out works in the woods to get rid of litter, keep access open, and tackle rhododendron. Have a look at the RWCE’s recent Working Together blog post to find out more and to keep up to date about future plans.

Raincliffe Woods - https://www.raincliffewoods.co.uk/

Traversing the Esk

Christopher Watt – River Esk Project Officer

Hi there, I’m Chris and I’ve just recently joined the National Park Authority as a River Esk Project Officer, having moved down from Scotland, and seemingly brought the weather with me! My role will involve working with farmers and landowners to implement river restoration techniques that seek to improve the water quality of the River Esk catchment.

Over the last month I have started to piece together the Esk catchment, worked with volunteers in delivering practical tasks and began undertaking fish obstacle river surveys. It has certainly been a varied introduction to the role and area.

Autumn colours in Westeredale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Volunteers braved the drizzly elements back in October to repair a broken fence on the River Esk, near Castleton. Thankfully, the task allowed us to remain on dry land and avoid venturing into the river which was rather swollen after recent heavy rainfall. A bankside tree had fallen and crushed a section of the fence-line, slackening the wire and dislodging posts. The volunteers assisted with installing new posts, including a heavy duty straining post, re-attaching the wires and finally tightening them. The volunteers worked extremely hard and it was a pleasure to meet and work with them. The task was also completed in one afternoon and the sun even came out, which is a bonus!

This task was one of the many on-going works to restore and enhance the riparian habitats of the River Esk. Maintaining riverside fences assists in keeping cattle and sheep away from the bankside vegetation and so causing sediment loading through erosion. Bankside vegetation stabilises the soil and is an important habitat in its own right. The reduction of sediment loading should help improve conditions for conservation priority species such as Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Sea trout (Salmo trutta) and Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) which favour clean, fast-flowing rivers and streams.

In combination to riparian habitat enhancements, we have also been undertaking fish obstacle surveys stretching from Westerdale down  to Goathland. These involve inspecting an assortment of obstructions from weirs, fords and culverts and assessing how severe they impinge on fish migration. At each obstacle the length, width and height are recorded, along with a written assessment of the level of severity the obstacle poses to migrating fish populations.  

Esk Catchment weir after high rainfall event. Copyright NYMNPA.

Due to recent high rainfall, many of these obstacles have been partially or fully submerged, and although looking dramatic, have been just too dangerous to take measurements from. Electro-fishing will also accompany these surveys at a later date to inform us about fish species diversity and abundance at each obstacle. The purpose of these surveys is to update our records on obstructions across the catchment and prioritise where mitigation measures would best be targeted to benefit fish populations of the Esk. Migratory fish are a vital aspect of the biodiversity of the river.

Esk Catchment culvert and ford system. Copyright NYMNPA.

Electrifying activities

Victoria Franklin – Conservation Trainee

Last week some National Park Volunteers (all fully trained) have finally been able to carry out the first electro fishing surveys this year along the River Esk. Delays had been caused by the weather.

The priority are sites up and downstream of the Sewage Treatment Works (STW) and one Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) in the upper catchment. The first day of surveying was at Commondale.

The concept of electro fishing is to collect samples of fish living within the river, the higher the fish count the healthier the river should be. This will also show the type of fish living in our rivers, the cleanliness of the river and theoretically what the invertebrate population is like along that stretch of river.

The river levels had settled down by Thursday meaning the water was back to a slow flow and all the previous rain had made the water clear giving the perfect conditions for electro fishing.

We fished the river in two 50m sections, one upstream and one downstream of water treatment works. This was done using a zig zag motion to ensure that no area was left unfished. Each 50m section was fished three times to ensure a fair population of fish were caught.

Esk electro fishing October 2019. Copyright NYMNPA.

The equipment used to stun the fish is called an electro fisher and consists of a positive charge the anode at the front and a negative charge called the cathode which trails along the back. These are both attached to a battery which is worn by the person conducting the fishing, today it was Volunteer Paul. Both the anode and the cathode must be in the water to cause an electro charge which is what stuns the fish, but don’t worry rubber thigh waders were worn by everyone so the electro pulse did not affect us humans like it did the fish. The rest of us were in charge of catching the stunned fish in nets alongside the anode, which is harder than it looks as the fish soon spring back to life! They are then transferred into a bucket from the nets.

Esk electro fishing October 2019. Copyright NYMNPA.

We set the voltage output at 150- 200 volts which is enough to temporarily stun the fish making them easier to catch in the net. Once the section of river has been fished the data collection begins. The fish are identified – on this day we found 57 trout downstream and 104 upstream with the largest being 180mm and the smallest recorded at 52mm. The information collected will now be analysed before being sent onto Yorkshire Water, they will then compare this with the other locations which are due to be fished over the next few weeks, and that will all help inform management of their sites as necessary.

An amazing day was had by all the volunteers and staff that attended. More data collection will happen in the next few weeks on different sites along the Esk.

Esk electro fishing October 2019 - small trout. Copyright NYMNPA.

Much Ado About Mothing

Sam Newton – Land of Iron Natural Heritage Officer

MOTH NIGHT

Records generated from moth trapping with light traps by amateurs naturalists all over the UK is the main way conservationists can understand how moth numbers are changing. N.B. The moths are subsequently released unharmed. While many enthusiasts moth trap year round, Moth Night is an annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland aimed at raising awareness of moths among the general public. It is organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Usually held in the summer months, this year it is being held from 26-28 September to target the spectacular (in appearance and in name) Clifden Nonpareil, and other late summer migrants moths.

The records generated from Moth Night, and from all other moth trapping is useful to conservation. While declines in large and ‘charismatic’ species are regularly reported in mainstream media, insects are often forgotten. For example in the UK, Butterfly Conservation reported habitat specialist butterflies (26 species) to have declined by 77% since monitoring was started in 1976, while more generalist butterflies (24 species) decreased by 46%. This is unfortunately also seen on a global scale, with 40% of insect species declining, and a third classified as endangered. It’s also not just the numbers, but the biomass, with the total mass of insects falling by 2.5% a year – suggesting an unsustainable future for populations.

The more we know about insects, the more we can do to try and save them. Below are a few images of moths recently seen within and around the North York Moors, including our own brilliant Clifden Nonpareil – the first time this moth has been seen in Yorkshire for many years.

Further Reading/References
Insect Armageddon: https://butterfly-conservation.org/news-and-blog/insect-armageddon
Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature
Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers

Levisham Estate: scrapbooking

Rachel Pickering – Natural Environment Team Leader

Looking across Newtondale and Levisham Estate. Copyright NYMNPA.

The photo above is my screensaver to remind me how lucky I am to live and work in such a gorgeous part of the world. It’s looking over the National Park owned Levisham Estate taken from Levisham Moor, close to the fascinating Skelton Tower which is a favourite feature of mine as I am sure you can see why …

Levisham Estate - Skelton Tower in the distance. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): Skelton Tower sits on Corn Hill Point (on the sky line). Crops were grown up here in the Napoleonic Wars.Levisham Estate - close up of Skelton Tower. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): This two story listed ruin was built around 1830 by Reverend Robert Skelton from Levisham as a shooting lodge.

Levisham Estate - close up of Skelton Tower. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): In 1978 the tower was partly restored and made safe by the North York Moors National Park Authority to commemorate the first 25 years of the National Park.

This place still continues to captivate me despite my 13 years managing the Estate for the North York Moors National Park Authority alongside our long term tenants and almost equally long term Senior Ranger, David Smith.

Levisham Estate - David Smith discussing land management. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): David Smith discussing habitat management with a tenant in Levisham Woods.

I got the opportunity to show off the Estate to National Park colleagues back in September 2017  – these are some of snaps (below) that they took, which just goes to show what wildlife is lurking about if you take the time to look.

We saw a dung beetle doing its thing too – happily recycling the Highland cow poo!

Levisham Estate - Highland cattle. Copyright NYMNPA.

As well as the cute and the curious we have plenty of what makes the North York Moors National Park special and that’s heather!

Levisham Estate - bell heather close up. Copyright NYMNPA.

And nothing shows heather moorland off better than a stunning landform or two and we are spoilt for choice on Levisham Estate. I said in a previous blog that my favourite view is shared by many at the Hole of Horcum but you don’t have to go far to find more satisfaction for the senses.

Levisham Estate - steam train. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): North Yorkshire Moors Railway steam train chugging up Newtondale with a backdrop of Levisham Moor.

One of the great things about Levisham is that parts of it are really accessible and very well used and then there are other parts that feel quite remote and isolated. The variety of habitats, archaeology and landscapes means that there really is something to interest everyone!  I would encourage you to come and explore.

Levisham Estate - moorland path. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

Photo (above): A well used moorland path to explore!

Levisham Estate - Nab Farm. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): A moody shot of the deserted remnants of Nab Farm

So I’m bidding Levisham Estate a fond farewell as in future I will be spending more time on woodland and moorland issues across the whole of the National Park. I am certainly sad that I won’t be working on this Estate anymore but I am really pleased that I can hand over the reigns to an experienced colleague who I know will love it as much as I do. David Smith will still be involved with his 20+ years of knowledge of the Estate but it’s always good to get a new perspective and the time is right for a change.

Levisham Estate visit Sept 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): A staff training day on the Estate where colleagues discuss land management options for the future, Sept 2017.

In my previous blog I started with a photograph similar to the one below which is taken on my regular dog walk round ‘the back lane’ at Newton on Rawcliffe. So I thought I’d finish my post with these three photos all taken this year from the same viewpoint  in the sun, snow and mist. I’ll be continuing to keep an eye on my beloved Levisham Estate whilst trying to keep two spaniels and two children under control!

 

In the Zone

Aside

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project area is now considered a Turtle Dove Friendly Zone. These zones form a loose association of areas in England where Operation Turtle Dove is in action. Here’s a link to a recent Operation Turtle Dove blog post with a bit more info on what’s going on across the different zones including ours.

Fishing 4 Litter

Ana Cowie – Marine Pollution Officer, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Marine pollution is one of the biggest threats to our oceans’ health; plastic is found almost everywhere, causing ingestion by or entanglement of marine wildlife. 20,000 tonnes of plastic are dumped in the North Sea every year and only 15% of that is washed ashore – the rest is still out at sea. Studies have shown that 98% of fulmars (grey and white seabirds related to the albatross) in the North Sea had plastics in their stomach, averaging a shocking 34 pieces per bird.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is tackling the problem of plastic pollution through a variety of projects. This includes Fishing 4 Litter, which is a voluntary scheme that involves the direct removal of litter from the sea, and raises awareness of the problem inside the fishing industry at the same time. Studies have shown that marine litter costs the fishing industry an average of £10,000 per boat, per year – through contamination of catches, broken gear and fouled propellers. In addition, it’s calculated that it takes approximately 41 hours each year to remove marine debris from just one boat’s nets. It is therefore essential that continued action can be taken to reduce what is currently a significant marine pollution problem.

Fishing 4 Litter has two aims; to maintain a network of harbours around the country so that participating boats can land the marine litter they have caught in their nets, and to change working practices within the fishing industry – hopefully preventing litter from reaching the marine environment in the first place.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust place (and regularly empty) dedicated rubbish bins for marine litter, or discarded fishing gear, at various ports and harbours in the region. This project has been successfully running for five years now and has been extended to encompass North Yorkshire due to its popularity with the industry. There are currently eight bins along the East and North coast of Yorkshire, from Withernsea all the way up to Staithes. In 2018, it’s estimated that 25 tonnes of litter will have been removed from these bins through the Fishing 4 Litter scheme. That’s 25 tonnes that will not be entering our sea!

I do this job because I believe that through education and awareness, our marine wildlife can recover from past decline if we all do our bit now. My job is to inspire people about our marine wildlife and teach them why we should value the sea, from the air we breathe to being peoples livelihood. We all have a duty to protect this vital resource and we are at a risk of losing it right now! There is often a disconnect when it comes to the marine environment (out of sight out of mind) so this is one of my biggest challenges. If people knew what marine pollution is doing to the environment on a daily basis I believe that everyone would think twice about dropping litter.

Coast by Ebor Images