When is a woodland a wood?

Mark Antcliff – Woodland Officer

The National Park Authority has played a role in creating more than 600 hectares of new native woodland since the turn of the century, with something in excess of half a million trees established.

But when is a new woodland actually a wood and how do you measure the success of a habitat created?

In terms of tree growth the first milestone is when the young trees are fully established and have outgrown the competing vegetation and the attention of voles, rabbits, deer and livestock and their teeth. The second is when the branches of the new neighbouring trees meet – this is called “canopy closure” – from which point the ground flora will alter as shade tolerant and shade loving species will have better success, including our beloved bluebells. Perhaps a third is when the new trees reach a stage where they could be used to produce wood and timber through thinning or coppicing.

I was thoughtful of this question when revisiting a site that was planted about 16 years ago in Bilsdale. Here the area of an existing woodland had been extended by new planting, mainly young oak trees.Existing area of Ancient Woodland in Bilsdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Contractors planting new woodland alongside the existing Ancient Woodland, back in 2001. Copyright NYMNPA.

There were some initial challenges caused by a faulty batch of plastic tree shelters that degraded faster than they should have leaving the new trees vulnerable. However the trees are now fully self-supporting and I can walk under them, which for me personally is a good moment as I can then consider myself in a wood rather than looking at it. The icing on the cake however is that some of the trees planted 16 years ago are now producing acorns, a sign that a true self-regenerating woodland has been created.

Part of the woodland planted approx. 16 years ago showing this year’s additional planting in the distance. Copyright NYMNPA.

Buoyed by such success we have, with the cooperation of the land owner and his agent, planted an additional area of 3 hectares this winter. I can’t wait to see how this new woodland extension looks in another 16 years’ time, alongside the ancient and post-millennial woods already in place.

As a Woodland Officer, I do tend to think in the long term.

Along the riverbanks

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

A couple of weeks ago a demonstration event was held in Bilsdale, organised through the new (Yorkshire) Derwent Catchment Partnership*.

The event, kindly hosted by Mr and Mrs Lang, was held in order to share knowledge and experience when it comes to managing watercourses for wildlife benefits.

Demo Day 9 September 2015 - copyright NYMNPA

Initial discussions between landowners and Partnership organisations focused on  practical application. The Wild Trout Trust led on the practical demonstrations in the river. This included realigning some of the woody debris found in the channel in order to re-direct water flows. There was a lot of talk around the question of responsibility for trees in rivers, and when and where to remove or leave or realign them.

Demo Day 9 September 2015 - copyright NYMNPA

The practical demonstrations also included using natural materials to help stabilise banks in order to lessen erosion. One of the main issues with the Rivers Rye and Seph in Bilsdale is siltation which smothers river gravels and therefore inhibits spawning areas for fish with a knock on effect on fish populations. Riverside fencing and resulting buffer strips can have a significant effect in lessening agricultural run-off into a watercourse and so improve water quality. Creating 6 metre wide grass buffer strips along banks can not only help halt run off and help stabilise the banks with vegetation but also provide excellent habitat linkages adjacent to the river and so enhance connectivity along the river corridors running through a landscape.

Over this summer the National Park Authority has lead on another round of Himalayan balsam control, this time on behalf of the Partnership. This is the 8th year of this programme aimed at eradicating this particular invasive non-native plant at the top of the Rye catchment. Where the programme started, right at the top reaches of the the River Seph, the aim of eradication has almost been achieved, but repeat surveying and the pulling up of any individual plants that remain is vital to make sure this can be finally realised. Himalayan balsam can grow pretty much anywhere but it is particularly rife along watercourses where seeds are effectively spread downstream by the moving water. The main threat of the plant to a riparian habitat is that it tends to out compete native vegetation and then dies back in the winter leaving banks uncovered and subject to erosion.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - copyright NYMNPA

Enhancing the river for wildlife is a key goal for all members of the new Partnership. What is essential for delivery is the engagement of landowners and the identification of common objectives, and this kind of event can help with that.

*The Derwent Catchment Partnership includes the East Yorkshire Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Natural England, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, North Yorkshire County Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, City of York Council, Howardian Hills AONB, and the North York Moors National Park Authority.

 

Pink peril

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - NYMNPA

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) in the UK can be a contentious plant – some people like it and some people loathe it. From a water quality point of view, it’s bad news.

Now in the winter months the detrimental effects of the species are obvious on bare unvegetated river banks where the invasive plant has died back and where it suppressed other vegetation during the summer which could have stabalised the bank, and so the soil from the banks crumbles and slips into the water and chokes the river habitat.

Because of this, the National Park has been tackling Himalayan balsam in Bilsdale, in the west of the North York Moors, since 2008. It’s a long term task.

A targeted top-down approach is being taken which started with the River Seph in the north, with the objective of eliminating Himalayan balsam from the uppermost reaches of the catchment by repeat control over and over again, and expanding slowly downstream and onto the River Rye. It’s this targeted concerted effort that can make a difference as it is the abundant seed released each year and carried downstream that means the balsam is so prolific and recalcitrant.

Over the last seven years contractors, land managers, volunteers and apprentice teams have been tackling the plant. Hand-pulling and strimming have been the only methods of control used, due to the proximity to the watercourse. Permission from the land owners and land managers along the banks has been vital, and the local Bilsdale Beacon newsletter has been used regularly to keep the wider local community informed.

The work is proving effective – in 2014 only a few Himalayan balsam plants were found along the River Seph and were easily hand pulled by our apprentices, at the same time the banks are becoming revegetated with native meadowsweet and willowherb. This is very encouraging and makes the aim of the project to eradicate Himalayan balsam from the Seph catchment and the stretch of the Rye catchment that lies within the National Park, seem actually possible. The efforts over the past seven years have made great inroads into achieving this aim, but there is still work to do.

River Rye in Duncombe Park - where Himalayan balsam is being tackled through a Higher Level Stewardship agri-environment agreement

 

A real good show

 Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser

A highlight of my summer and one of the things that I look forward to every year is attending the local Agricultural Shows in and around the North York Moors, where I get the chance to help man the National Park tent.

This year I attended Thornton Dale Show and Rosedale Show. Having the chance to catch up in a less formal environment with farmers and land owners whom I have worked with over the years is great, and I love to find out how they have done on the day with showing their sheep and cattle. I also really enjoy chatting about the work I do at the National Park with the wider public and visitors; people that I wouldn’t usual get to meet.

There are still more Shows in the North York Moors this summer.

If you get the chance to come to one, call in to the National Park tent and see us – find out more about the National Park while the kids make a badge and do the quiz. Members of our Planning, Park Services and Conservation teams as well as an Area Ranger will be there. We are always happy to answer any questions that you have – we like a challenge.

Ami did get the opportunity at Rosedale Show to shoot a few video clips – if you want to have look – they’re on the North York Moors National Park’s YouTube page.

Kirsty went to Egton Show on 21 August – and got a few more photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few more April snap shots (including daffodils)

Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser

Pig troughs after wall repaired

Pig troughs after wall repaired

Pig troughs before wall repaired

Pig troughs before wall repaired

Following on from the bee boles in Glaisdale, here is another historic feature from the North York Moors. This is a row of stone pig troughs built into a dressed stone wall in a farmyard in Bilsdale. The farm is within the North York Moors Farm Scheme and through that scheme this wall has been repaired. Care was taken to retain the pig troughs and we think it’s worked pretty well. These small scale cultural features can easily be lost, but not in this case.

Mark Antcliff – Woodland Officer

This tree in Farndale just doesn’t know what it wants growing under it – to the left is OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcovered in daffodils and to the right it is bluebells (yet to come into flower). This is part of a six hectare woodland project with the Farndale Estate where 500 oaks grown from acorns collected from local veteran and venerable trees (approx. 200 – 300 years old) were planted two years ago. With some on-going care from me virtually all the trees are growing nicely and I look forward to seeing the maturing trees shade out the giant beds of bracken – if I live that long or am still able to clamber up to the wood!

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Training

I am well underway with the Rosedale wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) survey and after such a late spring the daffodils are now looking spectacular.

I have been visiting many landowners who have kindly been in touch to say they have wild daffodils on their land. I walk the sites and map out the distribution of the daffodils, categorising them according to whether they are have a dense or a scattered distribution, or if it is just an occasional plant. I also make notes on how well they are flowering.

Wild daffodils are growing really well along the banks of Northdale Beck and the River Daffs1Seven, along various small springs and also on banksides that are often wooded. Wild daffodils favour these areas as they provide partially shaded habitats. Now we are having warmer days (although that may not be the case for next week!) there are lots of insects about which will be pollenating the daffodils, allowing them to produce seeds. Wild daffodils do however have a second method of regeneration by producing small bulblets around the parent bulb. Having two methods of regeneration is a great way to ensure their survival.

This is the first time we have carried out a detailed survey of the wild daffodils in Rosedale and it will be interesting to compare future survey data to build up a picture of what is happening to the population.Daffs2

Clair Shields – Small Scale Enhancements Co-ordinator

A LEADER Small Scale Enhancements funded education project is underway in Hutton Buscel led by a local volunteer and Hedgehog Club co-ordinator called Tammy Andrews. The first session, at St Mathews Church in Hutton Buscel, involved 23 children from Derwent Valley pre-school. The children walked round the churchyard looking for the photos of birds which Tammy had hidden and listened to their songs using an app. The children then collected sticks, feathers and grass to make a bird’s nest collage. They even found an actual old bird’s nest! Back at the pre-school centre everyone helped to build bird boxes. The idea is to have another day for the children in a month or so to see the bird boxes installed on site along with bat boxes and ladybird logs.