Positive messaging from the Midlands

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

I’ve recently returned from the lowlands of Leicestershire and three days training with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The BASIS Conservation Management course was highly informative, well led and thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part.

The Trust’s own Allerton Farm Project at Loddington  was the venue for the course – a 272 hectare mixed farm enterprise that is innovative in its approach to conservation management. One of the first things I noticed when I drove into the village was the amount of farmland birdlife, so I knew somebody was doing something right in terms of conservation land management.

The course covered all of the different elements required when managing farmland for conservation and wildlife, alongside profit. We covered a multitude of subjects including Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, Minimum Tillage systems, Biobeds for pesticide removal, increasing farm energy efficiency, recent pesticide developments, Biodiversity 2020 strategy, Farm Assurance Schemes, Cross Compliance regulations, gamekeeping for wildlife management, maintaining soil sustainability, improving water quality, tackling non-native invasive species, and managing farm woodlands. Starting off in the classroom the lessons were then observed in practice across the farm.

Gamekeeping techniques in practice at Loddington - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA

Settlement ponds seperate out soil particles and reduce run off before water returns to the ditch system at Loddington - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA

The Allerton Farm Project targets management for specific (Red and Amber Status) species such as Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove, Bullfinch, Tree Sparrow and Skylark. Cultivating a mixture of high hedges, managed grass buffer strips, plots for nesting in amongst the cereal crop as well as putting up nest boxes, has added to the aggregate of necessary habitats and increased habitat diversity on the farm.

The farm has benefited from a number of agri-environment grants over the years but is by no means reliant on these. If there is something that an agri-environment scheme promotes but doesn’t fit in with farm practices it isn’t taken up. However this is relatively rare, and the general thinking is that farms should take advantage of these schemes where possible and can do so with a little assistance.

Energy efficiency and recycling are common threads within sustainable farm management and our classroom for the three days was a good example of an energy efficient building: surrounded and insulated by straw bales, heated by a biomass boiler and lit via solar panels on the roof.

The afternoon of Day Three meant sitting a two and a half hour exam – as a middle aged man that’s something that some of us on the course hadn’t done for many a year. I’ll find out how well I’ve done when the results come through in a few weeks!

The Allerton Farm Project is a great example of how mixed farming and wildlife conservation can work in practice, and benefit species recovery and landscape enhancement.

Beetle Bank seeded with a mix of species including Teasel, Yarrow and Knapweed to benefit farmland birds at Loddington - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA

All in all, I learnt a lot and one of the positive messages I’m taking away is that on every farm there is always something that can be done to benefit wildlife without having to lose out on money in the process. I’ll carry these thoughts with me as I start back on my day job in the North York Moors, refreshed and revitalised from my three days at Loddington.

The Allerton Farm Project has its own Research Blog.

A to Z – an exaggeration of Es

E

EBENEZER CHAPELS

There are a number of Ebenezer Chapels in the North York Moors. These were generally built during the 19th century in the evangelical revivals in response to changes across society bringing uncertainty and upsetting traditional beliefs and controls. Being geographically ‘separate’ to some extent the North York Moors has tended to be on the edge of conventional authority and control; it has a long history of non-establishment religious belief. With influxes of people to work in the booming industry in the North York Moors non-conformist denominations flourished – such as the Primitive Methodists and Strict Baptists. Chapels were sometimes given the name ‘Ebenezer’ because it means ‘rock of help’ (a good name for a stone built building) and reminds the congregation of God’s protection for his repentant people.

Ebenezer Chapel, Rosedale built 1872  - http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3198945

EELS (Anguilla anguilla)

The European eel has an amazing lifecycle – use this link to access a great illustrative video put together by the Zoological Society of London.

The European eel is a critically endangered species fish species which was once common in the rivers of the North York Moors. Its numbers have declined by over 90% since the 1970s due to a number of cumulative factors such as barriers to migration (such as weirs), pollution, overfishing, a parasitic nematode (worm), and also changes in climate. The presence of eels is often used as an indicator of water quality in a river.

European eels - http://europeaneel.com/european-eel/

Dr Frank ELGEE

Frank Elgee was born in North Ormesby near Middlesbrough in 1880 – his father worked as a book keeper for one of the town’s Iron Masters. He suffered a litany of childhood diseases which limited his formal education and culminated in him being sent home from hospital to die at the age of 17 – but this didn’t happen. With a body somewhat confined and debilitated by his bad health his mind flourished and grasped at everything: history, literature, philosophy, languages, astrology and in particular local natural history and archaeology. As his health improved somewhat he applied himself to practical investigation in order to draw his own rational conclusions, heading off into the hills and moorland of the North York Moors. He became the Assistant Curator at the newly opened Dorman Memorial Museum in 1904 and he began to write.

Photo of Dr F Elgee from A Man of the Moors: extracts the Diaries and Letters of Frank Elgee edited by Harriet W Elgee, 1957His first and now most famous book was ‘The Moorlands of North-eastern Yorkshire; their
Natural History and Origin
’ which after much self-doubt and revision was finally published in 1912. He and his family relocated in 1920 to Commondale within the North York Moors – surrounded by the moorland that so stimulated him. He became Curator at the Dorman Museum in 1923. He continued to research and write leading, probably inevitably, to his health breaking down on a number of occasions, although as his wife recorded he continued to write from his sick bed. He was recognised by the awarding of a Doctorate in Philosophy from Leeds University in 1933.

Harriet his wife, who always provided stirling support, gave Frank Elgee a heartfelt epitaph after his death in 1944 – ‘his labours had been Herculean; his physical strength was nothing but frailty; his monetary resources were meagre…he stands for the triumph of mind over body, of spirit over matter…a scholar-saint of the Yorkshire Moorlands, as having entered fully into his rights of pre-eminent domain as their genius loci, unto whom all is revealed’.

Below is an extract from A Man of the Moors: extracts from the Diaries and Letters of Frank Elgee edited by Harriet W Elgee, 1957. It is interesting to consider whether what Frank Elgee saw and experienced over 100 years ago, can still be seen and experienced today.

Wooded slopes in Baysdale 2008 - copyright NYMNPA

Jan 19 1908 In Baysdale

  A misty, frosty morning becoming brilliantly sunny at mid-day. Went up Baysdale Beck beyond the Westerdale-Kildale road. Along the slopes the cowberry is extremely abundant, even growing among bilberry which only here and there preserves its leaves, the square wiry stalks standing up like thistles. Trees grow along the beck slopes and include oak, birch, holly, hawthorn, and one small juniper bush, the first I have seen for several years.

 Under heather growing on blocks of sandstone two or three small Lepidoptera [butterflies] were found, whilst under a stone Zonites alliarius [snails] were noted.

 Along the streams are one or two old slag heaps evidently made in olden days when the ironstone of the Ellerbeck Bed was worked.

 In the afternoon I walked as far as Howl Syke and back. From the railway bridge there is a fine view of the Lealholm moraine and Cunkley Gill, and it is clear how the Esk has been deviated by an ice barrier at this place, the level at which it began to cut down being considerably higher than the lowest point of the moraine.

 To me the Moorlands of Cleveland [northern part of the North York Moor] have been a source of physical and intellectual development. On them I have found that health which the town cannot give; and they have forwarded, and I hope they will continue to forward, my intellectual career.”

There is a memorial stone to Frank Elgee on Blakey Ridge, erected by the Natural History and Archaeological Society of Yorkshire in 1953.

Frank Elgee Memorial - http://www.hidden-teesside.co.uk/2013/07/25/frank-elgee-memorial-blakey-ridge/

ENCLOSURE ACTS

Since medieval times, here and there land often farmed under an ‘Open Field system’ had been enclosed and holdings established out of owned and tenanted fields. During the 17th century the practice of using an Act of Parliament to enclose land took off. Enclosure was a way for landowners to make the most of their assets and at the same time expedite investment to increase productivity – hence the 18th century ‘agricultural revolution’ in England.

Enclosure enhanced agricultural productivity and meant more and more land was able to be managed/cultivated for agricultural use. It therefore had a big effect on the landscape, as the area of cultivated ‘improved’ land grew, and stock numbers increased considerably. Many (but not all) of the ‘traditional’ boundaries such as hedgerows and walls that divide up the countryside and are so valued today, came about due to Enclosure – as well as demarcating ownership divisions the boundaries were needed to manage stock. The enclosed field systems with square or rectangular parcels of land are still visible if fields have not been subsequently amalgamated, particularly around villages where individual villagers received a division of the previously ‘common’ land. In contrast the remains of ridge and furrow can also still sometimes be seen – for instance on aerial photographs – revealing the ploughing regime of a previous ‘Open Field system’.

The effects of Enclosure on local communities is still widely debated, and are bound up with the effects of the industrial revolution taking place around the same time. Productivity increases alongside the introduction of machinery meant less labour was required on the land, and parts of the population left without any or too little enclosed land needed to seek a living elsewhere not withstanding the lure of a more regular industrial wage. Increased productivity of farmed land was then even more important – in order to feed a growing urban population, without the wherewithal to feed themselves.

There were so many individual bills coming before Parliament regarding Enclosure that the first General Enclosure Act was passed in 1801 which did away with the need for private bills. The final General Enclosure Act of 1845 included a number of exceptions like village greens, but otherwise was the legal consummation of the ‘inclosure and improvement of commons and lands held in common’ in England.

In the North York Moors, as in other areas, there remain a number of un-enclosed ‘Commons’.

EUROPEAN PROTECTED SPECIES

These are European Protected Species*, found in and around the North York Moors, which are protected by European law across the European Union. In addition national law protects other species that are thought to be particularly important.

European otterEuropean otter http://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/discover/rivers/wildlife-on-the-river/otter

Great crested newtGreat crested newt - http://www.adas.uk/Service/edna-analysis-for-great-crested-newt

All bat species (currently 10 species in the North York Moors – soprano pipistrelle, noctule, brown long-eared, common pipistrelle, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, whiskered, Brandt’s, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s bats and Alcathoe).Alcathoe Bat http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/uk_bats.html

Killarney fern Killarney fern http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/T-Flowers/Trichomanes%20speciosum.htm

Bottle nose dolphins, Harbour porpoises, Whales – Fin, Minke, Sei, Pilot and HumpbackSei Whale - balaenoptera_borealis-karin_hartman_nova_atlantis_foundation - from http://uk.whales.org/species-guide/sei-whale

*Doesn’t include any lichens, fungi or birds which are protected through seperate legislation.

EXTENSIVE FARMING

Extensive farming – as opposed to intensive farming – is a term used to describe the farming of areas of land that are managed using less inputs relative to the area of land being farmed. Upland areas of the UK, like most of the North York Moors, are normally farmed extensively, due to the physical limitations of the climate and soil resulting in lower productivity. The majority of these upland farms consist of extensive livestock grazing of natural and semi-natural vegetation.

Extensive farming - muck spreading in Fryup Dale - copyright NYMNPA

Accepting that yields cannot be as high as in lowland areas and so minimising inputs can profit the surrounding environment. Inputs change the environment – and this can in the extreme include the acidification of land and the eutrophication of water systems.

Extensive grazing benefits many plants, insects and birds and so provides a higher biodiversity than in both intensively grazed fields and in ungrazed fields. Extensive farms generally run less livestock per hectare than intensive farms. This is due to the lower growth rate of plants in upland areas with minimal inputs and so fewer stock can be supported. Fewer stock avoids the chance of overgrazing, and in catchment areas minimises the siltation ending up in rivers.

Feeding livestock hay from unimproved (i.e. no inputs) hay meadow habitats instead of silage from improved grasslands gives a purpose to maintaining upland hay meadows, and some people suggest the end product – i.e. meat – therefore tastes better. One of the downside of a more ‘natural’ system is that the livestock takes longer to reach maturity; this can be offset somewhat by selling the meat at a premium for this improved taste. The premium can also be justified to consumers with the idea of helping to conserve the upland hay meadows as a by-product of raising the livestock that way.

Elements of extensive farming can also assist more intensive farming. When planting insect pollinated arable crops (usually an intensive process), it has been shown that managing the lower yield edges and corners of arable fields as habitat buffers can increase overall crop yield on a farm. This can be explained by the increased presence of pollinators attracted by the cornfield and wild flower plants growing in these edge habitats without damaging inputs.

EYEBRIGHT (Euphrasia sp.)

This is a common plant on short (e.g. grazed) grassland/heathland habitats. It has small white/mauve flowers with purple/yellow markings and ‘frilly’ petals. It is semi-parasitic because it collects nutrients off the roots of neighbouring grasses and plants, demonstrating in its own small way the vital interconnections that make up biodiversity.

Its common name came from the traditional use of a tonic made from the plant to treat eye ailments. Like most plants it can also have detrimental (poisonous) effects.

Eyebright has numerous species and hybrids hence the general binomial Latin name given above – with a generic name Euphrasia first but with sp. instead of a species name second to indicate the particular species is unknown/unidentified.

Eyebright (Euphrasia sp) - copyright NYMNPA

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D

Out of Intensive Care and into rehabilitation

Taken from final report for the Cornfield Flowers Project: ‘Out of Intensive Care’

Cornflower - Cornfield Flowers Project

The Cornfield Flowers Project was set up originally to save rare plants of arable fields in north-east Yorkshire. It is spearheaded by the Carstairs Countryside Trust in partnership with the Ryedale Folk Museum, North Yorkshire Moors Association and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The core project area covers the south of the North York Moors National Park. Beyond this it links across the Vale of Pickering, Howardian Hills and on to York and the Yorkshire Wolds in the south and across the moors to Cleveland in the north.Treacle-mustard - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The grant funding for the 3rd five year phase of the Cornfield Flowers Project (‘Out of Intensive Care’) came to an end earlier this year. This phase was funded through the National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, the North York Moors Coast and Hills LEADER programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Carstairs Countryside Trust.

Large-flowered hemp-nettle - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Phase 3 of the Project has managed and enhanced

  • a dedicated public demonstration field at the Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton-le Hole;
  • a cornfield and recreated species-rich meadow at Silpho, near Scarborough;
  • and in addition a new sandland arable site at Water Fulford near York – which was sown in one year due to the available amount of volunteer-grown seed.
Species counts at these sites were either maintained or more usually, raised.
Corn buttercup - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012During Phase 3 the Project introduced suitable open ground species into four disused quarries where the conditions could be manipulated to offer opportunities to increase the number of places where the plants can be allowed to thrive. However the low soil nutrients and harsh micro-climates at these sites have suited only some species e.g. Red hemp-nettle, whilst most others have struggled, suggesting the use of such sites is limited. However one of the conclusions of the Project is that the target species are not just plants of farmed land, but properly plants of disturbed ground and a focus for the future could be other places where the ground is regularly disturbed.
Venus's-looking-glass - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012
The Project is only possible due to the dedicated work of volunteers and the involvement of participating farmers. Phase 3 set out to engage the wider public in further participation in rare plant conservation through recruiting volunteers to expand seed stock and to act as species custodians as well as people, groups and schools willing to plant cornfield flower areas. A core of custodians has remained dedicated to the aims of plant conservation over the years, enabling a vital consistent supply of seed. The creation and management of cornfield beds has proven popular because they are effective even in small areas and the intense flowering display provided by the mix of species has attracted people along with the obvious signs of benefit to bees and other insects. One of the issues that became apparent initially was the widespread misunderstanding about the difference between arable land and meadow land, and the differences between their plants and required management. The ground the arable plants grow in needs to be disturbed (as if cultivated) for them to survive.

Sharp-leaved fluellen - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The Project has worked directly with 14 volunteer farmers managing areas of their farms for arable plant conservation and as species reintroduction sites. The greatest determinant of arable wildflower success is the dedication of the individual farmers themselves, and their willingness to encourage these plants above and beyond what would usually be required from an arable management regime. Maintaining a variety of core farms throughout the project area is essential to provide the widest range of conditions (soil type, microclimate etc.) to benefit the greatest variety of arable plant requirements and mitigate against localised losses at one site. In addition the Project has reached out to farmers through organised events and provision of advice and through working with agri-environment scheme providers to establish what species remain where in the wider area.

Corn marigold - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The sharing and spreading of knowledge is an essential element for the future of the species’ conservation. Hands-on growing of plants has proven to be the very best method for volunteers to become familiar with arable wildflowers, learning as they go through experiences of failures, pests, flowering times and seedling identification, with ready access to a Project Officer to answer any queries when needed.

Night-flowering catchfly - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Documenting the origins and movement of seed to ensure locations and provenance are recorded has been vital and will serve as an historical record of the Project’s work. Because much conservation targeting is based on species rarity, clear distinctions need to be drawn between native sites / plants and those reintroduced by the Project, so as not to impair wider conservation efforts or devalue any species by misrepresenting its true status. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) study UK plant distribution and taxonomy, and operate a recording and mapping scheme that informs national plant Atlases and County Floras. The Project has provided them with records for local vice-county areas 61 and 62 (North-east Yorkshire and South-east Yorkshire respectively). One outstanding issue is how many years an introduced plant must be self-sustaining, without further reintroductions, before its ‘introduced’ status can be relaxed.

Corn mint - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Steadily expanding survey coverage, along with increasing botanical expertise of the Cornfield Flowers Project and its volunteers, resulted in continuing species discoveries of national or regional significance, including a number previously thought regionally extinct. As well as new species found in the area during Phase 3, rare species were also found at new sites.

Upright goosefoot (Chenopodium urbicum)

Small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica)

Purple ramping-fumitory (Fumaria purpurea)

Few-flowered fumitory (Fumaria vaillantii)

Dense-flowered fumitory (Fumaria densiflora)

Corn parsley (Petroselinum segetum)

Abyssinian kale (Crambe hispanica

Shepherd’s-needle (Scandix pecten-veneris)

Common ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis subsp. boraei)

Cornfield knotgrass (Polygonum rurivagum)

Common fumitory - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The current Management Group are determined to keep the work going to sustain the effective conservation of arable flowers in north-east Yorkshire. A plan for how to move forward – to maintain the momentum of the project, provide responsibility for maintaining the seed stock, consolidate affinity with participants over the future of the project, and provide ongoing enthusiasm and focus – is still taking shape. In the meantime the Carstairs Countryside Trust are providing funding for an additional year.

Common poppy - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Tom Normandale and Chris Wilson have been the  whole-hearted proactive Project Officers for the Cornfield Flowers Project. Chris is now retiring from that role but will continue his involvement. Tom remains as a dedicated Project Officer.

Cornfield Flowers - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Cornfield Flowers Project – Latest CFP Newsletter 2014-15

Cornfield Flowers – species cards

Cornfield Flowers Project, Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire, YO62 6UA.

A to Z – starting, unsurprisingly, with A

We thought we’d try something new, new for us anyway. Now and again we’re going to post bits and pieces on conservation. the National Park and the North York Moors – under each letter of the alphabet. That’s the plan – we’ll see how far we get.

A

AFFORESTATION

The North York Moors includes large areas of forest owned and/or managed by the Forestry Commission. These forests were planted at the beginning of the 20th century when in a time of uncertainty following World War One it was decided that the nation needed to create and maintain its own timber resource. This afforestation had a dramatic long term effect on the landscape of the North York Moors which continues today. Timber and other wood products from both public and private enterprises in the National Park remain economically important to the North York Moors.

Boltby Forest - Southwoods - NYMNPA

Boltby Forest - Southwoods - NYMNPA

This is using the word afforestation as it is understood nowadays – turning land into forest by planting trees. In medieval times afforestation meant designating land as forest and therefore placing it under forest law, separate from common law. A forest meant an area for hunting belonging to the Crown; so heathland and grassland as well as woodland, wherever deer and boar and other game animals would live.

ALCATHOE BAT Myotis alcathoe

This bat was first identified as being in the United Kingdom in 2010 – in Sussex and in the North York Moors. It could have been here for years it’s just that it’s difficult to distinguish from other bat species. The Alcathoe bat lives in woodland and swarms with other bats to mate before hibernation. One of the records in the North York Moors was from the autumn swarming at one of the Ryedale Windy Pits.

Alcathoe bat. From www.batconsultancy.co.uk.

ALUM

Alum was one of England’s earliest chemical industries, operating in the North East Yorkshire region from c.1604 until 1871. Alum (aluminium sulphate) was important in textile production which was our main export in the 17th century, and was used as a compound with potassium (e.g. seaweed) and ammonia (e.g. urine – at first collected locally and later also shipped in from coastal towns) to make vegetable dyes colour-fast. With the exception of one Alum Works in Lancashire, North East Yorkshire produced the entire supply of English alum until the early years of the 19th century. The main Alum Works and Quarries were along the coast, which provided better exposures of the mineral together with the most practical means of transport to markets when travelling by sea was a much better prospect then setting off across country. Although softened by over a century of weathering and coastal erosion, the extracting and processing industry has left huge imprints on the North York Moors landscapes which can still be seen today for example at Ravenscar, Saltwick, and Kettleness.

Saltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPA Saltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPASaltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPA





Saltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPASaltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPASaltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPA

(WILD) ARUM (Arum maculatum)

Also known as Lords and Ladies, Cuckoo Pint etc.

Grows on hedge banks and on woodland edges in the leaf enriched soil. Common throughout Britain and Ireland.

Looks like something from science fiction and has a life cycle to suit.

Has large shiny green leaves sometimes with dark blotches, followed by a thin leaf like cowl growing up through the centre and partially opening to reveal a smelly purple-ish central spike (March/April). This smelly heat emitting spike attracts insects which then slip down into the plant and are temporarily trapped in the base where they pollinate the tiny hidden flowers (female) and collect pollen from the male flowers to carry elsewhere once released. The leaves and initial spike wither away and are replaced by another spike growing upwards topped with the female flowers as small berries which turn from green to red (July/August). Birds eat the berries – but they’re unpalatable and poisonous to humans, as is most of the plant.

Wild Arum. From easywildflowers.wordpress.com/tag/arum-maculatum/Wild Arum. From easywildflowers.wordpress.com/tag/arum-maculatum/

ATLANTIC SALMON (Salmo salar)

The Esk is the principal Atlantic salmon river in Yorkshire. The whole of the River Esk catchment is within the North York Moor National Park.

The rod catch on the Esk in 1923 was 950 fish per year, this number has declined to about 170 fish in 2010. The National Park Authority’s Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project has been running since 2007 and its aims include reversing the decline in the Atlantic salmon population in the river by improving water quality, improving in-river and riparian habitats and removing barriers to vital fish migration.

Atlantic salmon. From www.thesundaytimes.co.uk - picture by Thomas Kitchin & Victoria Hurst

ATTITUDE

i.e. the right attitude to work positively with people in the National Park to listen to what others have to say; to try and tackle concerns; and to take forward National Park purposes together.

The latest example of this attitude in action has been the Dales and Moors Farm Innovation Pilot Project where the North York Moors National Park worked with the Yorkshire Dales National Park and neighbouring Areas of Outstanding Beauty across the wider area and used skills funding through the local LEP to provide free business and environmental advice to guide local farmers into producing their own whole farm plans and tailored proposals for sustainable ways forward for their farms.

AUSTROPOTAMOBIUS PALLIPES

White-clawed crayfish - Helen Webster, NYMNPAAustropotamobius pallipes are native White-clawed crayfish. The upper tributaries of the
Yorkshire River Derwent in the National Park still support populations of this nationally declining species. What with needing clean aquatic habitats, competing with non-native aggressive signal crayfish, and suffering from deadly crayfish plague, the White-clawed crayfish are in a perilous situation. Just when you thought their luck couldn’t get any worse, one of these Yorkshire Derwent tributaries, the River Rye, tends to dry out in the summer at one particular location because of sink holes, leaving the local population of White-clawed crayfish and other aquatic creatures stranded.

So just like a year ago, last week we had to launch another rescue mission. Alex led a team of Emily, Simon (who has a licence to trap and/or remove crayfish), Helen the Planning Officer, Alex’s partner Toby, and a helpful man called Jim and his dog. They managed to collect and relocate upstream of the sink holes around 500 White-clawed crayfish (including females carrying hatchlings) as well as 20+ lamprey and 40+ small fish that were scooped up with them.

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Alex Cripps, NYMNPARiver Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Helen Webster, NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Helen Webster, NYMNPARiver Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Helen Webster, NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Alex Cripps, NYMNPA

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - if you look closely you might make out the hatchlings on the abdomen - Alex Cripps, NYMNPAA couple of weeks before the Environment Agency (EA) had carried out a fish rescue at the same location. The EA rescued and re-located 265 Brown Trout, 65 Grayling, 5 Lamprey and 100s of minor fish species including minnows, stone loach and bullheads. They also rescued 50 White-clawed crayfish, some carrying eggs.

Four seasons of the Traditional Boundary Scheme

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant

The Traditional Boundary Scheme (TBS) is now into its third year, helping to restore hedges and drystone walls across the North York Moors landscape throughout the seasons.

Autumn haze - TBS - NYMNPAFog - TBS - NYMNPARain - TBS - NYMNPAAutumn brings out beautiful colours and dampening mists, and the chance to get going on hedge restoration tasks, such as hedge-laying and coppicing, as the plants become dormant.

Snow - TBS - NYMNPAFog & snow - TBS - NYMNPASnow - TBS - NYMNPA

 

 

 

Winter snow tends to put a stop to all TBS work, as the conditions make it difficult for moving heavy stones, and hedge plants aren’t going to appreciate being planted out.

Spring planting - TBS - NYMNPAHedge planting - TBS - NYMNPAEarly spring sun - TBS - NYMNPASpring means the leaves break out along the restored hedges. In a few years time birds will be searching out nest sites amongst the thorny branches, and the bees collecting the nectar and pollen from the blooming hedgerow flowers.

Summer sun - TBS - NYMNPALate summer breeze - TBS - NYMNPAHedge - NYMNPASummer sees derelict walls disappear beneath the fast-growing grasses and bracken, whilst the hedges and trees form a luscious, green network across the landscape. This is a great time to be getting on with dry stone walling, while the weather is fine and the ground is dry.

The new application period for TBS grant is now open. Please have a look at our website.

 

Cosseting coastal streams

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Over the winter months and tree planting season as part of our on-going quest to promote habitat connectivity in the North York Moors we’ve been working on coastal streams and linking up bankside (riparian) woodlands. There are a number of these coastal streams that run down from the east edges of the moorland plateau and don’t merge with a river but instead each continue east and end up running into the North Sea along the North York Moors coast.

Some of these coastal stream catchments have persistent water quality issues. By judicious land management and habitat stimulus we can combine the two objectives (extend habitat connectivity AND improve water quality) and make best use of available knowledge, skills and resources. Stabilising and fencing off banks to minimise sedimentation and to keep stock out of the water, along with buffering agricultural run-off, can have extensive impacts downstream and on the coast where the streams meets the sea.

Bankside tree planting underway - NYMNPA

This has been a real partnership effort. The National Park Authority’s northern work force – with any luck, skilled environmental workers for the future, the Northern Apprentice Team – strove through the mud and planted a good mix of native trees and shrubs, whilst land managers installed the fencing. Together we managed to fence over 600 metres of land and plant around 1,000 trees in gaps alongside the watercourses.

View of tree planting and fencing work near Mickleby - NYMNPA

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this work, not least the Environment Agency who paid for materials through their Tree Mitigation Programme.

This isn’t a solution in itself, but it’s part of an expanding effort to tackle water quality problems. For information on Defra’s available advice and grants – see Catchment Sensitive Farming.

Last year’s top 5 posts

Iron oxide running down walls inside abandoned mine - NYMNPA

1. Hangover from the past

Update posted by Emily just last week with a suggested Hangover cure

 

 

 

Philip Wilkinson, Westerdale - Ami Walker2. A week in the life of a Land Manager Adviser        

 

 

 

3. Peculiarity of Character: part 1 and part 2

11c 11a11b

In addition to the characterful structures mentioned previously – here are three photos of the faces of a stone near to Worm Sike Rigg – it’s inscribed to “G. BAKER AGED 68 YEARS WHO WAS LOST ON THE 5 OF DECEM 1878 AND WAS FOUND HERE ON THE 26 OF JANUARY 1879”. The supposition is G Baker died of exposure out on the moors and the stone was erected as a memorial to the man and the tragic event.

Heptageniid - Emily Collins

4. River Monsters

Emily is carrying on Sam’s good work – this is a photograph she’s taken of a Heptageniid down the end of a microscope.

 

Hovingham Market - Chris J Parker

 

5. 129 Projects in 129 Pictures

Following on from the previous North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme which finished in 2013, we submitted a bid to Defra in September 2014 for a new LEADER Programme which would run from 2015 to 2021.

We’re just waiting to hear whether we have been successful, and we’ll share any news as soon as possible!

If we are successful, the new LEADER Programme will be looking for projects that generate jobs and support the local economy under the following six priority areas:

  • Increasing Farm Productivity
  • Micro and Small Enterprise and Farm Diversification
  • Rural Tourism
  • Rural Services
  • Cultural and Heritage Activity
  • Increasing Forestry Productivity

In the meantime we are working out how to approach these priorities and what we would like to fund over the next six years so we’ll be ready to go as soon as we find out if this area’s LEADER Programme is approved.  Keep in touch through our website, follow us on Twitter  and keep an eye on this Blog.    

Winter landscape - Lower Bilsdale - NYMNPAAnd if you’re wondering whether last year’s blatant attempt to get someone from Iceland to view our Blog succeeded – unfortunately not. But we won’t give up – við hlökkum til annars árs varðveislu í North York Moors þjóðgarðurinn og við munum tryggja að láta þig vita hvað við erum að gera í gegnum bloggið okkar.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

David Renwick – Director of Conservation

I’ve been lucky enough over the past couple of months to have visited a number of farmers and land owners in various parts of the National Park. I’ve seen first-hand how challenging but rewarding their way of life is and how it’s very much more than a job! They live, breathe and sleep the work they do and it’s that work which keeps the North York Moors landscape what it is – iconic, beautiful and inspiring. They are trying to make a living from a sector that faces uncertainty and change  – vastly varying prices, and increased red tape along with increasingly arm’s length support such as the new ‘digital by default’ requirements – I could go on.

Winter sun - North York Moors landscape - by David Renwick, NYMNPA

But despite the challenges there are still many success stories in the National Park farming story and these help create the backdrop to the delivery of good environmental outcomes – be it farmers working with us on habitat connectivity; traditional boundaries being restored and managed within the landscape; catchment sensitive farming actions to protect water resources and preserve soil nutrient; or woodland management to provide cover, habitat and wood fuel.

ELS - grass margin and beetle bank establishment - NYMNPAEvery farm is different and every farmer has a different philosophy which is applied to their
particular holding. It is the interaction of these two things which results in differing opportunities for us to work with land managers positively in order to take forward our priorities. Some farms are livestock only; some are mixed arable and livestock. Some farms are dairy and some are mixed Charolais cattle - by Ami Walker, NYMNPAdairy, beef and sheep. We have hill farms with moor flocks. We have traditional hefts and robotic dairy parlours. We have organic, upland,
lowland, coastal…we have pigs, poultry, ducks and geese…the list goes on and the combinations are endless. The diversity of farming in the Park is great.Moorland Sheep - NYMNPA

But regardless of the particular blend of farming on any one farm we are confident there is always a way in
which a balance can be struck to allow land management that makes economic and environmental sense – and keeps the landscape looking tip Drystone wall - Bragg Farm, Farndaletop too! We look forward to continuing our work with our farmers in 2015 and beyond. I hope the National Park can make a really positive contribution to help – be it lobbying for land
management interests in the area, helping disseminate best practice and supporting networks for farmers, making links into wider opportunities like the Local Enterprise Partnerships, providing our own modest grant support or signposting to that of others.

Thank you to all the National Park’s farmers, land managers, land owners and estates and I hope they, and everyone else who we’ve worked with in 2014, have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year. Well-earned I’m sure.

Roadside robin - Murk Esk Guided Walk - by Emily Collins, NYMNPA

Conservation grazing

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant and Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Conservation grazing as a management technique: how does it work, when do we use it and what animals do we use? These are all questions we discussed during a recent Grazing for Site Conservation Management course held at Plas Tan y Bwlch, Snowdonia National Park’s Study Centre.

Why use grazing?

Conservation grazing can be an important tool for habitat management and works in three main ways:

  • defoliation by grazing and browsing vegetation;
  • trampling by treading and breaking up vegetation;
  • dunging/urinating by recycling materials back into the system.

The combination of these three processes, along with understanding the ways that different animals graze can help manage and extend important habitats.

Grazing is the traditional way of managing hay meadows (species rich grassland). Surviving meadows have an increased fungi:bacteria ratio, when compared to improved grasslands, as fertilizers increase bacterial levels which result in less healthy soils. The addition of any type of artificial fertiliser has a negative effect. Controlling the grazing e.g. shutting the animals out of a meadow in the summer is vital to allow the plants to flower and set seed without being eaten. Where the hay meadows are shut in summer, a later shut date leads to greater meadow species richness. A helping hand to the traditional grazing method is also useful as studies have shown that the addition of appropriate seed mixes helps establish good species richness.

The course involved a number of case studies/site visits looking at grazing and non grazing on a variety of different upland habitats. Sites included Newborough Warren Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Llanddwyn Island, both on Anglesey, to study grazing management in action using ponies and cattle on coastal habitats; Caeau Tan y Bwlch, managed through a partnership between Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales; and Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve. This Nature Reserve with its mountain habitats had previously been heavily grazed, but grazing had been removed in 1998 to help restore priority features, including rare plants. The image here shows an exclosure (on the right) that has been closed off from grazing for approx. 40 years, showing how vegetation varies from that on the left, which has been excluded from grazing for only approx. 10 years. It was surprising to see that the majority of 2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brownvegetation in the 40-year exclusion area was still barely knee-high. On this particular site, without grazing, there is currently a diverse botanical richness of species and structure, and it hasn’t become swamped with invasive species or scrub. This is an improvement in terms of biodiversity against the original uniform short sward that once covered the area, caused by over-grazing.

Which animals?

When looking to choose the best grazing animal for an area we learnt that:

  • Sheep can select particular plants and leaves down to ground level. Horses can also select to plant level.
  • Cattle have a big, wide mouth, and eat by wrapping their tongue around vegetation then pulling it out. They can only graze down to about 5cm from the ground, and can eat a variety of plant species in one mouthful. As they take longer to digest their food, they are able to absorb more nutrients from poorer grasslands.
  • Mixing different types of grazing animals on a site can be very beneficial, e.g. on grassland dominated by Molina (Purple Moor Grass), grazing with sheep only saw increased spread of Molina, but with a ratio of 1.5 ewes to 0.75 cattle grazing the area, there was a significant decrease in Molina.
  • Some grazing animal breeds do better than others in the winter (usually native breeds over continental breeds).
  • Grazing animals change their plant preferences depending on their nutritional needs, and tend to choose the tastiest and most nutritional plants first. They can also change their preference for different plants throughout the year.
  • Where animals have had particular worming treatments it is necessary to make sure the treatments have had time to flush through (at least 3 weeks) before the animals enter a conservation grazing area, to avoid detrimentally affecting beneficial and non-target invertebrates at the conservation site.

Animal welfare

It is important to consider whether, on a conservation grazing site, the animals are going to be:

  • Living a natural life? e.g. in an environment to which the species/breed is adapted;
  • Fit and healthy? e.g. able to achieve normal growth and function, and maintain good health in adult life;
  • Happy? e.g. sense of mental satisfaction, or at least freedom from mental distress.

The Grazing Animals Project has helpful advice.

Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) regulations (2000, 2003): includes duty of care by both Owners and Keepers. Persons attending to the animals should be acquainted with the relevant statutory welfare codes. So for conservation grazing management we need to

  • Enlist the help of an expert on that species/breed.
  • Ensure a site risk assessment for the grazing animals is carried out well in advance of putting the animals on the site, keep the document under review.
  • Ensure there is adequate contingency planning, in case the usual stock keeper/checker is unable to tend to the animals for any reason.
  • Make sure we’re not accidentally breaking the latest animal movement and standstill regulations and transport welfare regulations.

2014-06 Grazing Course - Llyn Dinas - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty BrownManagement plans

Every plan needs a sustainable goal – and we need to know when we’ve reached that goal.

Currently lapwing are in the spotlight as they are declining in the UK, however their initial population rise was due to post-war human habitat intervention, creating lots of grazed habitat that benefited them and other farmland waders over other species. What is our goal? – should we be concentrating our efforts on supporting lapwing? should we look to the species assemblages that were present prior to this? or should we work towards habitat mosaics supporting lapwing and the other species?

The rule of thumb is to start by grazing the area lightly. Establishing the level of grazing appropriate is always important, over or under grazing can be damaging or ineffectual. Incorporate regular assessment and survey. Monitoring the site is vital so that the effects of the grazing on the valuable features can be assessed, and the grazing adjusted if necessary. Be prepared to be flexible and ready to tweak if necessary – increase/decrease, change animals/timing etc. Be ready with Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work! Management plans need to be dynamic documents and be reviewed/amended/built upon as required.

Conservation grazing is not an exact science so this course was really valuable in learning from the experts and hearing about their experiences and the general principles they have adopted. As each site is so unique it is important to recognise our starting point and decide what we want our end point to be: we may currently have quite a species-poor grassland but we would like it to become a species-rich hay meadow….so then we can work up a management plan to make that happen.

2014-06 Grazing Course - Caeau Tan y Bwlch - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown

2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Cwm Idwal - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Blaen y Nant - by Kirsty Brown
2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Llandwyn Island - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Llyn Dinas - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Llyn Dinas - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty Brown 2014-06 Grazing Course - Newborough Warren - by Kirsty BrownNow to translate all we have learned to help manage relevant sites in the North York Moors National Park, through our Habitat Connectivity project!