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.

 

Feed the Birds

Sam Newton – Natural Heritage Trainee, Land of Iron

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) are a member of the thrush family, and an annual migrant to the UK from Northern Africa. They look similar to Blackbirds (Turdus merula)  but they are slightly smaller and have a striking white neck band which helps identify them (torquatus means wearing a collar). In the UK Ring Ouzels breed in upland areas of Scotland, northern Wales, and north and south west England; hence another name they have – Mountain Blackbird. They can also be seen as they come into and leave the country along the southern and eastern coast.

Male Ring Ouzel - copyright RSPB

Ring Ouzel are a UK Red List species because of their historical population decline – an an estimated 58% population decline from 1988-91 to 1999, and 43% range decline from 1968-72 to 2008-11. This means the birds are endangered in the UK, and are therefore of particular conservation importance. Action is required to try and maintain our population.

Within the North York Moors, local volunteers have identified Rosedale as an important spot for the birds. They’ve studied the population here in detail for the last 18 years.

The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme has become involved with the aim of improving the local habitats, so helping to ensure Ring Ouzel persists in a landscape whose natural heritage has been shaped by its industrial heritage. It is suggested that the remains of industrial structures in Rosedale provide the crags and gullies that the birds prefer to nest in.

Rosedale landscape. Copyright Tom Mutton, NYMNPA.

A factor identified as a reason for national Ring Ouzel decline has been diet, which is mainly made up of invertebrates and berries. The red berries from the Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) ripen from July into the autumn and are particularly important prior to migration in September when the birds need as much nutrition as possible for the long journey ahead. Within Rosedale, existing Rowan (also known as Mountain Ash) is located on the steep moorland edge – less accessible for sheep grazing, and not burnt as part of moorland management. However, many are now veterans, showing that there has been little natural regeneration recently.

Another view over Rosedale. The dead tree highlights the lack of natural regeneration around it. Copyright NYMNPA.

So with advice from the Rosedale Ring Ouzel volunteer monitors along with support and assistance from the landowner, gamekeepers and grazing tenants; the National Park’s Volunteers and Apprentices have been out planting. It took a while because they were working in some pretty wild weather at the beginning of the year but they eventually managed to plant 150 Rowan trees either in small exclosures or as single trees. These new trees will help to provide the local Ring Ouzels with food into the future.

A small number of aged Rowans surrounded by one of the small exclosures and some of the single scattered trees. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

The birds themselves have just arrived back in Rosedale to breed this year.

Have a listen to the BBC’s Tweet of the Day

Shoulders to the wheel

Kelsey Williamson – Business Administration Apprentice

I decided to look for an apprenticeship after completing my A-levels as university wasn’t for me. I wanted to be out working however I had limited experience after only working part time while studying, at hotels, cafes and Sainsburys – so this wasn’t the experience I needed or the type of career I wanted to pursue.

I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do but after studying Business Studies at GCSE and A-Level I thought a Business Administration Apprenticeship was a good start; it would allow me to get the experience I was lacking, gain more qualifications and hopefully provide direction for a career. So I decided to join the North York Moors National Park Authority’s apprenticeship scheme.

Apprentices at the North York Moors National Park Authority currently make up about 14% of the workforce and compared to the other 15 National Parks in the UK we are the biggest employer of apprentices (the second place Park employs 9 behind our 17!) Our apprenticeships cover three different areas: Business Administration, Countryside Conservation and Tourism, and we offer Levels 2 (intermediate), 3 (advanced) and 4 (higher). The Apprentices range in age between 16 and 28.

Our Business Administration Apprentices normally do a two year apprenticeship with one year in the Corporate Services team assisting with office works such as phone cover, sorting the pool vehicles/room bookings and organising the post. The other year is helping the Planning Admin team, booking in and requesting payment for enquires, plotting applications and doing background searches. At the moment I’m working at a Level 4 role, alongside the Ranger Service team, undertaking project work such as selling off our old National Park boundary signs and looking at easy access routes within the Park.

The Countryside Workers and Apprentice Rangers are split into two teams – the Northern Area Team cover the north and coast areas of the Park and are based at Danby, and the Southern Area Team cover the south and west areas of the Park and are based at Helmsley.

Both teams have four Level 2 Apprentices and two Level 3s. The Level 2 Apprentices work together with their Supervisor doing jobs such as tree felling, fencing, path resurfacing and controlling vegetation. The Level 3s work under the Senior Ranger (North, Coast, South or West) taking on more responsibility including working on their own,  planning  jobs themselves, liaising with landowners and farmers, as well as working with our Volunteer Task Day Leaders and volunteer teams.

Our Tourism Apprentices are based at our Visitor Centres. In this role the Apprentices are dealing with customers, sorting and restocking displays and helping with events.  In the winter months when the Centres are closed during the week the Apprentices work in the offices. The Moors National Park Centre Apprentice assists with the education administration, sorting post, processing school bookings and arranging timetables for the week ahead. The Sutton Bank Centre Apprentice helps in our Park Services Team based in our Helmsley headquarters updating the events system, helping the social media officer and organising events.

Last year the Authority started an ‘Apprentice Forum’ to be run by ourselves. It is managed mainly by me, I coordinate the meetings and find out what the others would like to do and organise the trips. At present the Forum is meeting bi-monthly, it’s an excellent opportunity to do a bit of team building. We’ve had an initial meeting, a meeting to discuss one another’s roles, a tour of the new features at the Moors National Park Centre, and visited the Seated Man figure on Castleton Rigg to discuss the planning process undertaken and our opinions. We’re aiming to have a talk from past Apprentices about what we could do after our apprenticeships and also to visit the Lake District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales National Park to meet up with their Apprentices.

Apprenticeship Forum - first official meetingDoing my apprenticeship has helped me gain a lot and not just in experience and qualifications. I have gained confidence, done things I never thought I would and learnt so many new skills from leading the Apprentice Forum to juggling workloads and deadlines.

I hope this won’t be the end of my learning I would like to go on and train more in a position that still has a link to the outdoors either with National Park Authorities or in the agricultural sector.

Deconstructing modern mounds: what happened next…

Jo Collins – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator

As part of our Historic England funded Monument Management Scheme, the project to tackle accidental damage caused to archaeological sites by walkers cairns is continuing. A second walkers cairn has been taken down on Raisdale Moor revealing the shape of the round barrow (burial mound) beneath. Six National Park volunteers helped move the modern cairn stones away, taking great care not to disturb the archaeological remains. A covering of small stones was left to protect the top of the Bronze Age barrow from natural erosion whilst heather and bilberry becomes established.

Raisdale Moor - NPA volunteers removing the walkers cairn from the scheduled barrow. Copyright NYMNPA.

Raisdale Moor - At the end of the task, National Park volunteers and Jo next to the round barrow without the walkers cairn. Copyright NYMNPA.

Now if you’re walking on the Cleveland Way at Live Moor near Whorlton you might notice a new information notice next to a prominent scheduled round barrow. As featured previously on this Blog the modern walkers cairn was removed by our apprentice team earlier this year, revealing the stony ancient burial mound underneath. We hope the information provided will help walkers understand why remedial action was needed and will encourage people to protect the archaeology and help preserve it for future generations.

Deconstructing modern mounds

Linda Smith, Archaeological Consultant

You may be familiar with the Cleveland Way as it winds its way across the top of Greenhow Bank and you might have been tempted off your route at Burton Howe to head over towards Baysdale. You may have stopped to take in the view from the mound with the boundary stone stuck on top and perhaps, whilst eating your sandwiches or resting your legs, you might have moved a few stones around or brought up another couple from the track to add to the heap.

What harm could there be in that?

Piles of loose stones can be the remains of something built in prehistory. During the Bronze Age (3-4,000 years ago) it was the custom to bury people in mounds called barrows (sometimes marked as tumuli or tumulus and labelled in gothic lettering on maps). Barrows were often built from stones and located on hill tops or ridges of higher land. The dead may have been buried with pots or flint tools and disturbing these structures also disturbs the archaeological story contained inside. Archaeologists could have used this varied information to build up a picture of what happened in the past, much as a detective would today except there is no one alive from whom to take a statement and corroborate the evidence.

Barrows are located in prominent places in the landscape. They can be found on the skyline or forming a focal point for a modern path or they may have had trees planted on them in the past to highlight a hill or a view. Historically they have often been used as route markers by pedlars or when moving animals over long distances in otherwise featureless terrain, or to mark a property boundary by inserting a boundary stone into the mound. They are often important features in the landscape even today, because of their visibility, or maybe because they have a local legend associated with them. As a very numerous and distinctive feature of the North York Moors landscape, barrows constitute a significant proportion (about 65%) of the 842 protected sites or Scheduled Monuments, within the National Park.

Why people build cairns today

Cairns, simply piles of stone, are often built today by walkers to help mark a route which is difficult to see on the ground and this is especially true in the North York Moors where there are few prominent landscape features such as trees or hilltops, where fog and bad weather can divert the walker from the right route or where the heather is deep and makes the path hard to locate. Or where the top of a hill has a great view but it’s often windy so a wind break has gradually been built up to provide welcome shelter. Or maybe there’s a place people always stop for a breather after climbing a steep hill and look down, perhaps on their home village. A handy nearby pile of loose stone can easily be used as a quarry for creating a new heap or cairn in a better place and it may become the custom to add a stone or two to a modern cairn when anyone passes, or even to deliberately take up another stone each time a place is visited. In this way, cairns are created, and enlarged and become important markers.

What’s the damage?

The problem with building cairns today is that by using stones from existing archaeological features like barrows the information contained within them is disturbed, the clues that archaeologists use to build up a picture of what happened in the past are destroyed – how the structure was built and used, how it was developed for different burials, perhaps over several generations, or what objects were buried with the dead. This does not mean that every archaeological feature will one day be excavated by archaeologists but it does mean that the features are so important that they deserve to be left undisturbed for future generations and new techniques and understanding: if something 4,000 years old is disturbed, that unique information is lost for ever. Many of these barrows have been recognised as being nationally important and so are protected as Scheduled Monuments.

'Codhill Heights' - walkers' cairn and shelter built up on round barrow on Gisborough Moor. You can see a hole next to the scale pole where a stone has been pulled out of the burial mound. Copyright M Johnson.

Some artefacts moved during modern cairn building will not be recognised as such and simply be thrown away, including small fragments of bone which might have revealed a lot about the person buried there. Moving stones may disturb post holes or remains of other structures. Inserting a commemorative plaque adds a modern intrusion, or it may be fixed to a stone with prehistoric carvings or which is part of a prehistoric feature. Modern graffiti are sometimes carved into the stones on a prehistoric monument. Sometimes gamekeepers use archaeological features for siting grouse grit stations; if the ground is not disturbed and no stones are moved this might not start as a problem, but then if passing walkers are tempted to start building a cairn on the same spot a problem forms.

Beyond the obvious problems, these activities can have other impacts. Making a feature more prominent means that more visitors may be attracted to it, creating deepening erosion by following a single line to the summit. In some cases a new cairn might even bury or obscure the historic monument altogether.

Large walkers’ cairn on Drake Howe which draws visitors off the Cleveland Way. Copyright M Johnson.

An even larger walkers’ cairn on a round barrow above Bilsdale. Copyright S Robson.What we can do?

To put things right, work is under way as part of the National Park Authority’s Monument Management Scheme (MMS) which is funded by Historic England. This involves a group of volunteers monitoring the condition of barrows with identified walkers’ cairns, and carrying out remedial work to repair the worst damage. The first of these repair projects has recently transformed a round barrow next to the Cleveland Way on Live Moor. The barrow will be monitored to ensure a modern cairn appendage doesn’t re-appear.

A volunteer monitors the walkers’ cairn on Pike Howe. Copyright S Bassett.

Barrow on Live Moor before remedial work to remove the cairn. Copyright Solstice Heritage.

NPA apprentices help to remove the modern cairn from a burial monument on Live Moor. Copyright M Johnson.Live Moor monument after remedial work. Some loose stones have been left around the centre of the mound to protect the bare ground on the top until the vegetation can re-establish itself. Copyright Solstice Heritage.We want to raise awareness of this issue of accidental damage to archaeological features amongst walkers. When in the countryside, it is best to leave things alone and not disturb anything you find. Be aware of the Countryside Code which includes “Our heritage matters to all of us – be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.”

You can find out if a feature or site is protected by visiting the Historic England website where you can search by a name or on a map.

So the next time you find a nice sheltered spot for a rest on top of a hill, enjoy the view and your lunch and by leaving the site as you found it you could be helping to preserve an important feature for another 4,000 years!

Seas of Green

Simon Hirst – River Esk Project Officer

New Zealand pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii) was introduced to Britain from Tasmania in 1911. By 1927 it was being sold as an “oxygenating plant” for garden ponds and aquariums by Perry’s Hardy Plant Farm in Enfield. The first recorded occurrence of pigmyweed in the wild was at Greensted Pond in Essex in 1956. It spread widely and rapidly due to the increasing availability of the plant at garden centres and aquatic nurseries.

This non-native invasive plant is now listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to plant or otherwise cause this species to grow in the wild. The plant is now also banned from sale in the UK, which is a significant environmental step forward.

Crassula helmsii - copyright NYMNPA.

Crassula helmsii grows around the damp margins of ponds and in water up to three metres deep. It starts as a small light green tussock on sediment. The tussocks grow and spread rapidly to form a dense mat of vegetation. Severe oxygen depletion can occur below dense growths. The dense mat out-competes all other aquatic vegetation, eliminates native flora and creates a poorer ecosystem for invertebrates and fish.  The plant grows throughout the year and has no dormant period. Thankfully the pigmyweed does not produce viable seed in the UK but it can re-grow from small stem fragments.

New Zealand pigmyweed is very hard to eradicate when it has become well established. The plant is tolerant of shade for long periods, tolerant of frost and dessication, and it cannot easily be tackled by any existing method of environmental control.

Recently New Zealand pigmyweed was discovered growing in two ponds in Bilsdale which are both adjacent to the River Seph. The river is one of our key wildlife corridors. Working with our Apprentice team, we came up with a plan to carry out a programme of control which will hopefully result in eradication of this invasive plant.

One of the ponds in Bilsdale covered in Crassula helmsii - copyright NYMNPA.

One of the ponds in Bilsdale covered in Crassula helmsii - copyright NYMNPA.

We’ve covered the ponds with black plastic sheeting in order to prevent sunlight reaching the pigmyweed. This will prevent the plant photosynthesising, and should eventually kill it. The unsightly but purposeful plastic sheeting will need to be left on top of the ponds for six months, and we will be reviewing the situation next Spring!

Depriving the Crassula helmsii of light - copyright NYMNPA.

Depriving the Crassula helmsii of light - copyright NYMNPA.

Temporary black plastic over the top of one of the ponds - copyright NYMNPA.

Habitat connectivity: back to basics

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Currently this National Park Authority has two strategic priorities: one is to promote the North York Moors and the other is to improve the connectivity of habitats in order to benefit the biodiversity and landscape of the area, and mitigate the encroaching impacts of climate change.

Habitat connectivity features quite heavily on our Blog; that’s because it’s important to us. Habitat connectivity is the main driver for the work of the Conservation Department. It’s generally accepted that some of the most (ecologically) important habitats within our countryside have declined and fragmented over the decades and good quality habitat now tend to only exist in isolated pockets across the landscape. The first step is to conserve these remnants and then go on to establish connections, buffers, corridors, stepping stones – linking and increasing the habitat resource and therefore its sustainability into the future. These connections, buffers, corridors, stepping stones allow animals, birds, plants to move through the landscape between the habitats they need which helps populations thrive and grow (helping to mitigate the effects of climate change) – ‘stitching’ the landscape back together for wildlife.

Imagine a habitat e.g. native woodland and the biodiversity that depends on it e.g. oak, ash, birch, hazel, bluebell, wood anemone, wild garlic, great spotted woodpecker, nut hatch, wood warbler, tawny owl, ringlet butterfly, feathered thorn moth, barbastelle bat, wood mouse, not to mention the ferns, fungi, lichens, mosses, beetles and spiders etc. etc. We want to better the condition of existing native woodland habitat, to increase the extent of native woodland habitat, to create new native woodland habitat, and to ensure native woodland habitat is better connected; all to ensure a linked landscape for native woodland and the wildlife that depends on it.

Woodland with bluebells, near Hawnby - copyright NYMNPA

So what does this mean in practical terms?

Back in 2012 we sat down with a map of the National Park and considered where we were at. As discussions developed a clear picture of where concerted effort was needed began to emerge. We knew more or less where the surviving key habitats were and we also knew where we wanted to enhance other habitats more generally e.g. the areas which had been key habitats in the past and could benefit from restoration. Key habitats such as Ancient Woodlands, species rich and semi-improved grasslands, riparian strips and coastal hinterland were used as focuses around which to plan for greater connectivity. In the North York Moors, heathland/moorland which makes up around a third of the National Park would seem a likely key habitat but as this is already well connected with large expanses stretching as far as the eye can see, it does not require the attention that more isolated habitats do in terms of habitat connectivity.

We identified the strategic corridors where our efforts would be best focused in our 2012 Management Plan. We then identified the key ecological gaps along these corridors as well as a number of essential gaps to address more widely – 132 of them in total.

Strategic Connections Map from the North York Moors National Park Management Plan 2012

Target Connection Sites map from North York Moors National Park Business Plan 2012

What we then needed was a method of implementing our thoughts and vision. We draw polygons around the gaps to provide a framework for practical implementation. Officers are assigned individual or groups of polygons and using the original objectives for each ecological gap (e.g. restore PAWS to having Ancient Woodland characteristics, develop a mosaic of habitats, enhance species rich grassland) we develop rationales setting out what might be done on the ground and how best to do it. If we are going to carry out work and spend money in these target areas we need to establish sound reasons for doing so and to be able to justify our decisions. We start by carrying out a desk study of the habitat interest and records in that area – this includes previous habitat surveys, species information, existing and previous agri-environment agreement areas, public access, historic environment records, designations, and aerial photography. The records are important because as well as looking for opportunities we need to also consider potential constraints such as the historic environment because we don’t want to accidentally damage a valued feature by attempting to achieve the aims of Habitat Connectivity.

Once we have this background picture of a target area we need to get our boots on and get out on the ground to see what’s really there. We’re looking initially from Public Rights of Way only (unless specific permission to access the land has previously granted) – we need to assess how much of the information we have matches the real situation on the ground. A key requirement is to take good quality photographs (both of individual habitats and the wider landscape) as well as making accurate field notes, annotating our original maps and at the same time looking out for possible linkages across the landscape. As our main habitat survey information (a Phase 1 Survey) is nearly 30 years old it is not always still accurate as habitats have changed and shrunk since then. This is especially true of unimproved grasslands identified in the late 1980s where scrub, bracken and bramble succession has since encroached.

Once back in the Office with the results of the field work, we consult with specialist Officers (Rona the Senior Ecologist, Mark the Woodland Officer etc.) to agree the best way forward i.e. how to make a difference. A plan of action is developed using the following principles:

  • Identify – find and assess the current condition of the key habitats.
  • Protect – ensure that quality habitats are in some way ‘protected’ i.e. conserved. If there are particularly important species e.g. breeding waders, making use of a habitat e.g. rough pasture, that habitat might be enhanced but shouldn’t be transformed.
  • Enhance/restore – most areas of habitat need some form of continuing care and maintenance to prevent decline or loss.
  • Expand – are there any adjacent buffer areas of land that could be incorporated into the habitat?
  • Create – establishing new areas of habitat nearby – this is easier for some habitats e.g. woodland than others e.g. grassland. Long term commitment is required.

To take forward any ideas the involvement of landowners/land managers is essential. In many cases for a land manager and their family the land is their living. To protect, enhance/restore, expand or create the landowner/land manager has to be willing. We’re talking about facilitating capital works like fencing to control stock, scrub control, tree/hedge planting, spreading wild flower seeds, cutting grassland, managing woodland etc. Following negotiations, the National Park Authority can provide grant assistance, use its own Volunteers and Apprentices to carry out the required tasks, or buy the necessary materials and the land manager provides the labour. Longer term requirements are met through maintenance clauses or land management payments over time.

Then once the work is organised and underway, at some point we need to be able to declare whether the gap has been addressed and the looked for key ecological connection made, or rather is on the way to being made. We do that by returning to the rationale – have we been able to achieve what was identified as being required at the beginning of the process?

Although the process takes time it is necessary in order to ensure that we achieve the best workable and sustainable linkages we can.

Little Fryupdale - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

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.

Let out of the Office

Tom Stephenson – External Funding Officer

A week or so ago as part of my induction to the National Park Authority I accompanied Mark the Woodland Officer to plant oak trees at Keldgate on Levisham Estate. Part of the area was PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) and the conifers had previously been harvested. The aim is that the surviving woodland ground flora will spread now that the ground shading conifers have gone and with some tree planting and natural regeneration the site will become a semi natural woodland habitat again.

I made sure I came fully prepared with man-flu, a borrowed jacket (thanks Amy Thomas) and inappropriate trousers – as is to be expected for an office boy let lose in the field. After meeting the Rangers and Apprentices on site, we continued the previous good work of the National Park Volunteers by planting more new trees and so helping restore the wood to how it would have been centuries ago before the recent introduction of non-native conifers. Despite the early efforts of the rain, I had a great day learning about woodland conservation, watching the occasional steam train trundle by and generally putting the world to rights as we dug holes, planted saplings and hammered in stakes.

Keldgate, Levisham Estate

As the new External Funding Officer for the Authority my actual day job is going to be helping to identify and secure external funding to enable our ambitious conservation projects across the National Park…

A Toast to the Coast

John Beech – Coastal Project Officer

Turning plans into action

The eastern edge of the North York Moors National Park ends abruptly as it cascades over the cliffs onto beaches and shoreline and into the North Sea. As spectacular as any coastal landscape in the UK, our local coastline is a real gem.

Old harbour at Saltwick Bay used by vessels to transport materials for the Alum industry - John Beech

Careful planning is needed to look after our marvellous natural asset. As the local Coastal Projects Officer, I’ve spent the last few months working on a new coastal Management Plan that, if followed, should make sure our share of national treasure is looked after into the future.

HC boundary marker at Upgang, Whitby JBThe coastline between Boulby and Cloughton is not only in the North York Moors National Park but it also makes up part of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast, one of 45 Heritage Coasts in England and Wales. These undeveloped scenic coastlines were defined in the 1970s by the (now extinct) Countryside Commission and they’re just as worthy of the special protection and recognition now as then. The Management Plan covers the whole North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast (from Saltburn down to Scalby Mills).

Working on the new Plan has taken some time. We ran a public consultation over the summer to gauge people’s views on how to care for the coast into the future. Many of the responses chimed with what we were thinking but new issues and ideas were also raised regarding conservation, recreation, beach and water quality and coastal communities both by local people and national organisations – and these all needed considering and incorporating.

Cattersty Beach, Skinningrove - John Beech

The new Management Plan, which is due to be published in early 2015, will promote key principles to guide agencies and land managers and local communities working together as we move into the 2015 – 2020 period. To get an idea of what kind of thing we’re working towards – our previous Management Plan 2009 – 2014 is available on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Coastal Forum website.

Our ongoing Coastal Forum is an active collection of people and organisations who have a vested interest and shared vision in the safeguarding and enhancement of a sustainable Heritage Coast. Back in September we organised our 12th annual Coastal Forum partnership conference. We had over 60 people attend to hear guest speakers from the Marine Management Organisation, Whitby Fishing School, Parkol Marine (shipbuilders), Whitby Whale Watching, Whitby & District Tourism Association and East Barnby Outdoor Centre. Due to the all-day sea fret (fog) we couldn’t get out to sea to look for whales in the afternoon but we did have an informative boat trip up and down Coastal Forum - a foggy day in Whitby Town the River Esk (no whales) and had a chance for a close up look at the Whitby harbour walls – impressive listed structures that were originally built in the 15th century.

If you’re interested in joining the Forum – get in touch.

Disused Alum Quarrries at Boulby - John BeechBack to the day to day stuff

In between developing and writing the new Plan, I’ve been working closely with the Environment Agency to improve the rivers and watercourses that run into the sea along the coast. In 2015, our bathing beaches at Staithes, Runswick, Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay will be subject to increased scrutiny as the EU Bathing Water Directive raises the bar on water quality. By working in the wider catchments now, addressing land management, we hope to give the beaches a better chance of reaching these new stricter guideline standards. So working with land managers we’ve been assisting with the fencing off of watercourses (and providing in field water sources) and planting beck side trees where there had been access points for cattle and breaks in the woodland cover. As well as the trees buffering the watercourses, the fencing prevents the livestock standing in the water and doing what comes naturally after a day’s grazing in the fields!

As well as addressing water quality issues this work also improves habitat connectivity by creating habitat corridors. We will also be back at farms in the Staithes Beck catchment in early 2015 to continue with some of the excellent work done last winter to promote habitat connectivity. We’ll be back planting hedges again at Roxby and Borrowby to provide these vital wildlife links between the coastal wooded gills there.

The Exmoor ponies on the coastal slope at Runswick Bay are currently off the undercliff for the winter. In the meantime our National Park Apprentices will set to and undertake some mechanical scrub control. Taking out the edges of the established scrub is part of the plan to encourage the seacliff grassland habitat to expand. The ponies have done a marvellous job over the summer tackling the scrub and will be back in the spring ready for some light grazing in 2015.Butterwort growing on cliffs at Beast Cliff Special Area of Conservation (SAC) - John Beech

The mixture of work that I do as the Coastal Project Officer is incredibly varied and thoroughly enjoyable and the opportunity to work in such a dynamic environment is something that I cherish every day.