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

Apprentices go all-a-Broad

Lisa Till – Coast Area Apprentice Ranger

At the end of May, six of us North York Moors National Park Authority’s Apprentices got the fantastic opportunity to take part in an Apprentice Exchange in the beautiful Broads. After a long drive down to the village of Coltishall, we received a lovely welcome at the Girl Guiding Lodge we were staying in from the Broads Apprentices who were hosting us. After a lot of introductions to the apprentices from the South Downs, Yorkshire Dales, and the Broads, the evening was filled with presentations from each National Park along with a plentiful BBQ arranged by Graeme and Polly, the Broads Rangers who had organised the whole trip.

On the next morning we all headed out first thing to Geldeston, where we met up with more Rangers from the Broads and went on a canoe trail along the River Waveney to Beccles. Out in the canoes for an hour and a half, we found that the best way to experience the Broads is definitely by boat. Our trail took us along a lovely tranquil stretch of river, showing us just a glimpse of the great scenery and wildlife there is on offer. The trip on the water also gave us chance to learn about the responsibility the Broads Authority has to maintain the navigation, along with stories of speeding boats and the inevitable accidents that occur. Back on dry land, and with only one canoe having capsized, we headed back to the minibus and on to our next adventure.

After a lunch break, where we were lucky enough to spot a Long-Eared Bat, we were taken on a guided walk by Ranger Stephen Fairbrass around part of Hickling Broad. Hickling Broad, like most of the Broads, is a result of peat digging in the 12th to 14th centuries where the area then flooded due to sea-level rise, an issue the Broads are continually facing. We were shown the last working Eel Sett in the east of England at Candle Dyke, and we spotted a Chinese Water Deer and saw the Konik ponies; both species graze the area.

After a fantastic home-made lasagne for tea back at the base, we were out again onto the waterways for a trip on the solar powered boat ‘Ra’ on the Whitlingham Great Broad at Whitlingham Country Park. We had a fantastic hour trip, and Captain Mark told us all about the fascinating history of the area and its wildlife. ‘Ra’ was Britain’s first solar-powered passenger boat, and with the City of Norwich so close if offers a great chance to view wildlife of the Broads so near to the city.  We all ended up in Norwich for a brilliant end to the day for a pub quiz at the Fat Cat Pub. Other employees of the Broads Authority joined us for additional brain power, but unfortunately even with around 20 of us we still didn’t manage to beat the locals.

Thursday began bright and early and we were all straight out to meet Volunteer Pete Morgan at St Benet’s Abbey, which 1000 years ago was a prosperous monastery. Pete gave us a brilliant guided tour of the Abbey remains and the setting. Back in Tudor times when King Henry VIII closed down monasteries across the country, St Benet’s remained the only one never officially shut down.

We left the Abbey on foot and walked towards How Hill along the River Ant – what with the sun shining, an ice cream stop was definitely in order. At How Hill we looked around Toad Hole Cottage, a traditional Marshman’s Cottage. There used to be plenty of Marshmen in the Broads, working across vast areas cutting and collecting reeds whilst managing the land with drainage and cattle. However, the growth of machinery has meant this way of life has slowly died out; the cottage at How Hill still shows how these families used to live and work.

As no trip is complete without a trip to the beach, so next we headed out to the coast. The beach at Horsey Gap gave us a chance for a paddle (even a dip for some). It is well known for its grey seal colony and we spotted some friendly seals popping their heads above the water. We soon had to head off again this time to Brandeston Village Hall to see a local theatre production called ‘Tide Jetty’. The play was a dramatic love story reflecting life growing up in the Broads, which was a perfect way to end our time spent together.

As Friday morning came we all said our goodbyes over our final breakfast together, before heading back to our own National Parks. The trip was a great experience to see another National Park whose landscapes and challenges are different to the North York Moors. As our National Park Authority has had apprentices for many years, the Apprentices and Rangers at the Broads were interested in how our programme runs and we all learnt a lot about the range of apprenticeships on offer. Our North York Moors group had apprentices from planning, tourism, and the ranger services which shows the diverse apprenticeship opportunities available. A big focus of the trip was to remind us all that although we work all over the country, we’re all part of one ‘National Park Family’ and it is always good to discuss ideas and to praise and support each other whenever possible. Huge thanks to Graeme, Polly, and everyone else who helped from the Broads Authority for being such brilliant hosts and showing us all the best bits that the Broads has to offer.

Apprentice on the Beach.Added Footnote
‘I can’t speak highly enough of the apprentices, the National Parks will be in safe hands and you should be very proud’.
Graeme Hewitt, Broads Authority Senior Ranger who organised and hosted the trip.

 

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.