Fostering hedgerow trees

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Mature trees within a hedgerow network are an important feature in the countryside. This is where land managers across generations have allowed single hedgerow plants to grow to their potential, alongside hedgerow plants that are coppiced, laid, and managed to create a boundary. Hedgerow trees have no particular value in terms of land management, but have huge value for wildlife and for the landscape.

Re-laying a hedge - copyright NYMNPA.

Traditionally Elm, Ash and Oak trees were the dominant hedgerow tree species reaching heights of up to and over 30 metres tall, towering above the hedgerow corridors. Saplings that are allowed to grow higher than the surrounding hedge do not need to compete for light and therefore grow and spread their canopy high and wide up into the air. This provides a wonderful habitat kingdom for many species of wildlife, free from the clutch of ground based predators. Such trees act as key wildlife ‘stepping stones’ between woodland habitats and across a mixed landscape.

Large hedgerow tree near Low Askew - copyright NYMNPA.

The intensification of agriculture in the latter half of the 20th century including increasing field sizes resulted in the loss of thousands of miles of hedgerows along with their hedgerow trees. The outbreak of Dutch elm disease from the late 1960s onwards removed some 20 million elms from our countryside, mostly from hedgerows. It is therefore quite rare now to find a mature Elm tree within a hedgerow. Similarly Ash trees are now threatened by Chalara dieback.

In 1998 there were an estimated 1.8 million hedgerow trees in Britain (CPRE survey). Many of our over mature hedgerow trees today are beginning to die and slowly retrench. There is an adage that an Oak tree takes over 200 years to grow and then 200 years to die.

Planting hedgerow gaps between old hedgerow trees - copyright NYMNPA.

To check the loss of hedgerow trees we need to be planting new ones to replace the ones that are dying back. The 1998 survey revealed that only 1% of hedgerow trees were in the youngest age class (1-4 years old). Without successional planning there is a danger that these key features will be lost for good from the landscape and the disconnection between farmed land and semi natural woodland will become more marked than ever. It takes a leap of imagination but by planting now land managers will be leaving their mark on the landscape for their children.

Trees take time to grow. Native wildlife species use hedgerow trees but birds, bats and butterflies in particular favour mature hedgerow trees.

Hedgerow trees in the landscape - copyright NYMNPA.Tawny Owls take advantage of mature trees both as nesting sites and day roosts usually hiding close up against trunk. From a tree perch owls can see the movement of their potential prey on the ground below them. Bullfinches clamber amongst the branches searching for seeds, buds and insects. Treecreepers and Nuthatches use their Hedgerow trees in the landscape - copyright NYMNPA.acrobatic skills to forage for insects, nuts and berries and Woodpeckers drill away into the deadwood high in the canopy to make a home and feast on any tiny invertebrates in the wood. Butterflies such as Hairstreaks forage for honeydew from aphids and lay their eggs high up in the Oaks and Elms. Rich lichen communities also grow on the branches of old hedgerow trees.

In some of the older trees, holes and crevices provide ideal habitats for a variety of bat species. Around three quarters of British bat species are known to roost in trees. Bats use different parts of the tree for different reasons, depending on the time of year and temperature. In the summer bats use the higher canopy sites to have their young in warmer temperatures. In winter, they move deeper and lower into the tree to hibernate. Trees such as Oak, Beech and Ash are particularly suitable for bats, but any hedgerow tree has potential for a bat roost – especially if it has cavities in the trunk or branches, woodpecker holes, loose bark, cracks, splits and thick ivy. In Britain, all bat species and their roosts are legally protected by law.

Single hedgerow tree alongside an arable field - potential 'stepping stone' - copyright NYMNPA.

We’re working on enhancing wildlife corridors and connections through our habitat connectivity initiative, and as part of this we’re actively encouraging the planting of hedgerow trees where appropriate. With the loss of Elm and the threat to Ash, Oak is now the main species being planted in the North York Moors to become the hedgerow trees of the future. With good care and maintenance the trees should grow into vigorous specimens.

Mature hedgerow trees as a feature in the landscape - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA.

To foster hedgerow trees:

  • Select suitable saplings from within an existing hedgerow and add a tree tag to the top of it. This shows/reminds the person who cuts the hedge to leave this strong sapling to grow into a mature tree.
  • Alternatively, plant a hedgerow tree adjacent to an existing hedge to add variety and height. This has the added advantage of widening the hedgerow and enables useful wildlife buffer strips to develop along the hedge bottom. If there is an existing gap within a hedgerow that is wide enough to accommodate a hedgerow tree then plant a new tree there.
  • Try to avoid uniform planting and instead plant the new trees at irregular intervals along the hedge line. Planting two or three together may also be suitable for instance if a site is next to a field corner.
  • Plant trees with local provenance that will be used to the local conditions and be more likely to flourish.
  • It is best practice to add a tree guard or tube attached to a stake to protect a tree in its early years from stock, rabbits or deer. A mulch mat around the base of the tree helps to keep the weeds down. This will give the tree every chance to grow strong and straight.

Practical help and advice can be provided by the National Park Authority. Contact us.

Saving up for the future

Sam Witham – Conservation Research Student

This summer I collected 10,000 (approx.) native raspberry seeds Rubus idaeus from the North York Moors for the UKNTSP (UK National Tree Seed Project). This is a project run by Kew to collect tree and shrub seeds from different regions of the UK in order to build a genetic representation of all UK tree/shrub species in the country. I first got involved with the project when I first started with the National Park last autumn.

Collecting wild raspberries in the North York Moors for the UKNTSP - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

A couple of weeks ago I got to visit the Kew Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex to drop off the raspberry seeds and see behind the scenes. Bede West, a field officer for the UKNTSP, kindly gave me a tour of the Seed Bank, and explained the processes involved.

Kew Millennium Seed Bank - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Collected seeds are sent, along with a herbarium (plant) specimen, to the Millennium Seed Bank. The herbarium specimen is used to determine the correct plant species and is then stored at the Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

If seeds are not yet ripe, they are ripened in a ripening room.

Millennium Seed Bank - a zigzag aspirator - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Once the paper work has been checked over, the seeds are extracted from casing or fruit, and washed using inventive methods such as squashing them while wearing wellies, scrubbing them on a rubber car matt, sieving them, and rinsing them in the sink. A zigzag aspirator can be used to separate seeds by size.

Most seeds are then x-rayed. Seeds can be infected by pathogens such as grubs, fungi, viruses and bacteria, reducing their viability. Viruses can be hard to detect in the x-ray so a sample of seeds can also be looked at under a microscope.

Millennium Seed Bank - x-raying seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

There are orthodox, recalcitrant or unorthodox seeds, along with intermediate seeds. Orthodox seeds can be dried to 5% moisture content or lower and then frozen. Relcalcitrant seeds will not survive if their moisture content drops below 40%. Intermediate seeds are someway inbetween and can be dried somewhat.

Millennium Seed Bank - seeds from all over the world are dried in the same room - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Millennium Seed Bank - Sam's NYM raspberry seeds in the drying room - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Orthodox seeds are placed in a temperature and humidity controlled drying room where the seeds are gradually dried to 5% moisture or lower. Certain seeds can take more than six months to dry out. The seeds needs to be dried so that damaging water crystals do not form when they are frozen.

 

At some point before the seeds go into storage, 50 seeds from a collection are weighed and then the whole seed collection is weighed. From this the mean seed weight is calculated.

Millennium Seed Bank - storing seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Millennium Seed Bank - storing seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.When the seeds are ready, they are put in jars and then stored at -20oC in an underground vault.

 

 

Millennium Seed Bank - underground seed vaults - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

There are two types of vault rooms – active rooms and base rooms. The seeds in the base rooms are left undisturbed, while seeds from the active rooms are used for research and regular monitoring. After seeds have been frozen, an initial seed sample is warmed up and germinated to test for viability. Samples are then taken from the underground freezer every ten years and germinated in order to monitor their continuing viability. This is done until there are no longer enough active room seeds to do this. The remaining frozen seeds are then moved to a base room and are also left undisturbed. At this point it’s time to collect more seeds from the wild.

Seeds are germinated on agar, a jelly-like substance taken from algae. Certain nutrients can be added to the agar to meet the requirements of the seeds. The seeds are kept at temperatures and humidities matching their country of origin, and some seeds are moved from light rooms to dark rooms to simulate day and night. Some seeds can be more demandng and extra steps need to be taken to improve germination such as subjecting them to different climatic conditions and adding chemicals.

Millennium Seed Bank - germinating seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Millennium Seed Bank - seed incubators for germination - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Once the active room seeds have been germinated and counted they are often destroyed, although Kew is looking into being able to grow more of them on in a nursery. Some seeds are grown on in greenhouses to definitively ascertain species and to create herbarium specimens, and also if they have been requested by outside organisations.

Millennium Seed Bank - growing seeds on in greenhouse - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

The recalcitrant seeds that could not survive the drying and freezing processes include coconuts, brazil nuts and acorns. Currently these seeds are germinated and the embryos are then cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196oC. This method is being actively researched and developed because as yet its not been that successful.

Millennium Seed Bank - recalcitrant seed embryos stored in liquid nitrogen - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

The value of the seeds stored at the Millennium Seed Bank is as a research resource, and as a living natural heritage archive which can be used to boost wild plant populations if plants become rare.

Sam, on location at the Millennium Seed Bank.

Thanks to the Millennium Seed Bank, and thanks to the Society for National Park Staff for paying my expenses.

Patience and perserverance

We’ve launched a new concerted effort against two of the most threatening non-native invasive plant species in the North York Moors, bolstered by funding from Yorkshire Water over the next four years. We’re chasing down Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in the River Esk and River Rye catchments.

As well as damaging existing ecosystems and decreasing diversity, both these species tend to overwhelm other plant species along river banks and the danger from this is that during the winter when these non-natives die back the banksides are left bare of vegetation so subject to erosion which increases the sediment getting into watercourses and smothering the water habitat.

Both plants are vigorous growers and virulent spreaders. Himalayan balsam disperses thousands of seeds per plant through exploding seed pods that can propel the seeds metres from the original plant. If the plants are next to watercourses the seeds can be carried downstream to colonise new areas. Japanese knotweed spreads through its underground rhizomes which are so effective that all remnants of the plants need to be carefully disposed of because even a small fragment of rhizome if given the chance to re-root will form a new plant.

The only way to have any real impact on the plants is to tackle them systematically starting at the top of catchments and moving downstream, and repeating the control year after year to remove any vestiges of the plants. This new funding will provide a much needed boost to efforts made over the last few years.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - it has a sickly, sweet smell, pink flowers and a bright green hollow stem. It can grow up to two meters tall. Copyright - NYMNPA.

Japanese knotweed grows to around three metres tall and has large alternate heart shaped leaves and a characteristic zigzag stem covered in purple speckles. Its flowers, which appear in late summer, consist of clusters of tiny creamy-white flowers. Copyright - NYMNPA.

We’ll be surveying the current extent of the plants and then resurveying each year to monitor the effects of the control. We’re using tried and tested control methods – hand pulling the Himalayan balsam before it gets the chance to seed and propogate, and treating individual Japanese knotweed plants with directly administered glyphosate injections to carry the chemical down into the rhizomes. We’ll be using contractors and volunteers to carry out the work coordinated by National Park staff.

Controlling and hopefully eradicating non-native invasive species in an area takes a long time. Simon, our River Esk Project Officer, is a real enthusiast for non-native invasive species control because he sees the detrimental effects the plants have on the river environment and on his beloved Freshwater pearl mussels. He can see the years of attrition starting to pay off as native vegetation starts to recolonise sites where invasive species have been removed.

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose” — Benjamin Disraeli

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

Missing links

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

As mentioned previously one of our core conservation objectives is improving ‘habitat connectivity’ – ensuring that wildlife has the opportunity to travel within habitats and between habitats in order to help populations thrive into the future.

The National Park Authority itself owns very little of the land within the North York Moors; good relations with people who own and manage the land are crucial to be able to roll out connectivity.

One of the first acts in any connectivity scheme is to make contact with the land owner/manager (although we don’t always know who they are so this can take some time) and put any project ideas to them. After negotiations and if they are in agreement, the next stage is to work through the inevitable paperwork (it isn’t too convoluted) which sets out the process steps and secures the scheme in place. Once the agreement between ourselves and the land owner/manager is signed – the scheme can begin – materials ordered, labour organised and work carried out.

Creating these habitat networks for wildlife needn’t take up large tracts of land. Planting new hedges or creating rough grassland buffer strips are key elements of connectivity and can be installed at relatively little cost. Agreeing to leave awkward field corners out of cultivation, planting selected areas with trees or fencing out wet boggy grassland to avoid poaching of the ground, can all be beneficial to the enhancement of connectivity.

For example – a connectivity scheme with a landowner near Cowbar, along the coastal Harvest Mouse from sciencephoto.comhinterland, is delivering excellent long term results for biodiversity. A large expanse of arable land now has a wildlife superhighway running through it – a new hedgerow – linking the clifftop back to existing roadside hedgerows. Whilst weeding the new hedgerow last summer we came across a nest of a Harvest Mouse. The North York Moors is known to be close to the northern most limit of UK distribution for this little creature. The arrival of the Harvest Mouse demonstrates the value of movement between linked habitats; and the new hedge, providing shelter and food, will help enable the wider area to support a higher population in the future.

New hedgerow planted near Cowbar - copyright NYMNPA.

Connectivity efforts continue and I’ll keep you posted.

A to Z – a bounty of Bs

B

BEES

It’s estimated that bees contribute £651 million a year to the UK economy – largely through pollination of crops such as apples and strawberries, of which a large percentage depend on pollination by bees. Unlike other pollinators, such as wasps, mosquitos, ants, moths, flies and beetles, bees rely solely on pollen as a food source, just as plants rely on the bees to reproduce. The resulting co-evolution of the two has meant that bees are especially efficient pollinators and can pollinate a vast range of species. These plants then provide animals (including humans) with a rich variety of fruit, nuts and seeds to feed on. Contrary to popular belief, only 4 out of the 250,000 species of bee in the world produce honey.

Bumblebee - NYMNPABees are in decline due to various cumulative reasons such as intense grazing regimes, use of some pesticides, loss of field margins and hedgerows. At the moment there is a lot of interest in bees and their future e.g. see Defra’s National Pollinators Strategy. In the National Park our efforts are going into conserving, extending and connecting species-rich habitats (through the Habitat Connectivity project) to help support the migration of bees between nesting and feeding sites. The Cornfield Flowers Project and the management of species rich roadside verges help to provide the vital ‘stepping stones’ and ‘corridors’ for bees and other pollinators moving across the landscape. Gardens can do the same thing.

BEE BOLES

Bee bole wall, Glaisdale - NYMNPA

Bee boles are cavities or hollows built into walls to provide shelter for bee skeps which were woven baskets used before the development of bee hive structures you see today. One of our best examples is in Glaisdale and consists of a drystone wall forming the boundary between enclosed (farmland) and common (moorland) land since at least the 17th century. The north face of the drystone wall is crudely constructed from drystone rubble but the sunnier south face contains about 77 recesses or remains of recesses. These recesses vary in size and are formed from two stone dressed uprights and a lintel – in many cases the uprights are shared between adjacent recesses. Each recess would have accommodated a skep or two. The intention was probably for the bees to access the flowering heather on the moorland during the summer. The feature is associated with a farmstead just to the north which is linked to the common land by a ‘driftway’ forming a funnel like track which was probably once paved. The wall has been repaired over time indicating it was valued – it was most recently repaired in 2013/14 because it is still valued as a local cultural and historical asset.

BIODIVERSITY – what is it?

‘Biodiversity’ encompasses all life, from the birds singing outside your window to the bacteria growing on your keyboard. The interaction between animals and plants within a habitat (your garden, for instance) is called an ecosystem in which various food chains interlink. The larger and more diverse the ecosystem, the less likely animals within it are going to be affected by environmental changes, and the more likely the community is to thrive. Not only does a biodiverse ecosystem have intrinsic value, but it also provides social and economic benefit. Supply of food, water and the fresh air all rely on biodiversity in nature, as well as more obscure necessities such as the discovery of new medicines, protection against natural disasters, the pollination of crops and the regulation of our climate.

Biodiversity 2020 is a worldwide agreement, signed in 2010 by over 190 countries, to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2020. Here at the North York Moors National Park, we’re doing all we can to live up to the agreement but we can‘t do it alone; local landowners, farmers and other members of the public are involved in practical conservation to help secure and improve the local biodiversity of the North York Moors – a small but integral component of the world’s biodiversity.

BLUEBELLS

The UK is home to almost half of the world’s population of the British bluebell, Hyacinthoides nonscripta. They are important enough to the nation to have been protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which means it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells.

It can easily be distinguished from its Spanish relation by looking at the flowers; whereas Spanish plants are upright with bell-shaped flowers on either side of the stem, British plants are much droopier, with darker, narrower flowers falling on one side of the stem. You need to watch out though, for hybrids of the two are becoming increasingly common and aren’t so easy to classify.

Woodland near Hawnby - NYMNPA

Bluebells are usually found in shady habitats such as broadleaved woodland and emerge in spring, flowering before the trees gain all their leaves and block out the majority of the sunlight. They’re actually extremely slow at growing so some ecologists believe that if bluebells are present and yet there are no young trees or any trees at all, it could indicate that it was once a site of ancient woodland where the trees have been lost or have declined but the associated ground flora lingers on. Where there are no trees at all anymore, remnant bluebells are known as “orphans”.

Not all bluebells are blue - photo from Dalby area, North York Moors

BOBBY SHAFTO…

Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea,

Silver buckles on his knee;

He’ll come back and marry me,

Bonny Bobby Shafto.

 

Bobby Shafto’s bright and fair,

Combing down his yellow hair,

He’s ma man for ever mair,

Bonny Bobby Shafto.

This is a nursery rhyme, particularly associated with the north east of England. Robert Shafto was real; he was an 18th century Member of Parliament first for County Durham and then Wiltshire (he had family connections in both places). The rhyme is probably an electioneering song sung by his supporters. And this historic celebrity’s particular association to the North York Moors? He married the daughter and heir of Thomas Duncombe of Duncombe Park, Helmsley; so he and his rhyme are part of our local history.

BRACKEN (Pteridium aquilinum)

Bracken is incredibly wide spread in temperate zones across the world and remarkably persistent. We have a bit of a dual relationship with bracken here at the National Park. Notorious here for its rapid colonisation of moorland and moorland edge habitat, bracken can often create a monoculture which can be bad for biodiversity and take over productive agricultural land, and don’t get our Archaeology Team started on what destruction bracken can inflict on archaeological features. Bracken mainly spreads through underground stems, or rhizomes, with each stem producing active or dormant buds. Whilst active buds can be destroyed by environmental stresses – such as herbicide or cattle grazing/stamping – the dormant buds will remain immune until they become active in a couple of years on a potentially never ending cycle. Annual management is needed just to keep bracken under control, and a lot of money is spent on trying to do this.

Bracken - NYMNPA

It’s important to remember though that bracken isn’t all ‘bad’. In some areas it can act as a surrogate to trees in providing cover for woodland ground flora such as bluebells and violets. It can also provide nesting, feeding and roosting habitat for birds such as Ring ouzels, and Whinchats; and shelter for butterfly eggs such as Pearl-bordered fritillary. People have long been trying to turn this prolific plant into something useful, such as bedding for animals, thatching for rooves and now as mulching.

Walter H BRIERLEY

Walter Henry Brierley (1862–1926) was a highly-reputed architect who practised in York for 40 years. Sometimes known as ‘the Lutyens of the North’, he designed buildings in the fashionable styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century including the Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne Revival styles. Brierley designed many public buildings such as County Hall in Northallerton and a large number of schools in York, as well as being highly sought-after by the Yorkshire aristocracy and gentry for country-house work, such as the reconstruction of Sledmere following a catastrophic fire in 1911, and Welburn Hall.

Mallyan Spout Hotel, Goathland - http://www.mallyanspout.co.uk/But perhaps a lesser known fact is that much of the village of Goathland was also designed and built by him – including many of the houses around the green, the hotel and St Mary’s Church were his – all of which reflect the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. These buildings are now well-known to the public because if you watched the television series Heartbeat, many of Cottages in Goathland - http://www.rightmove.co.uk/Brierley’s buildings ‘star’ alongside the actors!

Arts and Crafts architecture represented a reversion to a simpler more functional style of building which elevated craftsmanship and honesty in design and materials, influenced by vernacular buildings and folk art. The style was a reaction against the elaborate detailing and Gothic architecture of the Victorian period, with its fussy, often-manufactured ornament, but also of the classical styles based on ancient Greek and Roman architecture which had characterised the Georgian and Regency periods. The preference for local slate, handmade clay tiles and red brick, for English oak fixtures and fittings, and for the inglenook fireplace, all defined the Arts and Crafts style. Architects like Brierley used local materials and traditional styles to create something that would not jar with its surroundings, but at the same time distinctive and of its time – an ideal which the National Park promotes today.

BUILDINGS AT RISK REGISTER

The National Park’s Buildings at Risk Register was established in 1995 when the Authority engaged consultants to complete a structural and photographic survey of the Park’s 3014 listed buildings. The survey was subsequently updated in 2004/2005 and we are now in the process of carry out another survey with the help of our volunteers, this time using our prize winning ‘app’ and tablet to capture information electronically.

A lot of time and resources have gone into this area of work over the years and although the final figure is constantly changing (as buildings are removed from the register, more are always added) our running total currently stands at 39 buildings on the At Risk register. When compared to 200 buildings in 2009 we can’t help being pleased with such an achievement, to have helped secure the long-term future of many of the North York Moors’ most important buildings and structures. We have no intention of stopping though and will continue to work towards securing the future of all such buildings.

BEFORE Listed Building repair - NYMNPABEFORE Listed Building repair - NYMNPABEFORE Listed Building repair - NYMNPA

 

 

AFTER Listed Building repair - NYMNPAAFTER Listed Building repair - NYMNPAAFTER Listed Building repair - NYMNPA

 

 

The success so far has been achieved in a variety of ways, often involving a collaboration between the Authority’s Building Conservation Team and the land or property owners, galvanized by the availability of grant or assistance in kind (such as the provision of professional architectural services). Other routes to repair have included working with owners to find alternative viable uses for disused buildings. The Authority only use listed building enforcement action as a last resort.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A

What’s so good about a National Park …

Added together England’s ten National Parks are among the best places in the country for wildlife. Statistics recently compiled by National Parks England show that while National Parks cover less than 10% of England’s area, they contain much higher percentages of the most wildlife-rich habitats such as heaths, fens and ancient woodlands providing homes for rare and threatened plants and animals. Up to 80% of the habitat types that have been identified as national priorities for conservation are found within National Parks.

See National Parks: England’s Wildlife Wonders

http://www.nationalparksengland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/588411/National-Parks-Englands-Wildlife-Wonders.pdf

 

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.

Practicalities of meadow creation

Michael Johnson – Conservation Graduate Trainee

In June I was on a remote farm near Burradon on the outskirts of the Northumberland National Park to attend a workshop run by Flora Locale on Practical Meadow Creation and Management.

Flora Locale Training Day - June 2015 - Michael Johnson, NYMNPAWhat made this workshop different to others I’ve attended was the emphasis that was placed upon the invertebrate population and their place within the ecosystem as a whole. Yes, there was the need to make a living from the land; however, in this case there wasn’t a trade-off with ecological responsibility. The farmer was happy to support the conservation interest of his land and at the same time able to make money.

The farm was managed in order to both maximise profitability in terms of hay production for sale and to create species rich hay meadows by growing species such as Ox-Eye Daisy, Yellow Rattle, Plantain, Lesser Trefoil, Eye-bright and Red Clover which supports populations of native pollinators. The local provenance flower and grass seeds were also harvested and sold on to local collectives, other farmers, and the Northumberland National Park to enhance, restore and create buffer strips and meadow areas elsewhere in the area.

Flora Locale Training Day - June 2015 - Michael Johnson, NYMNPA

The concept of leaving field margins as wild areas on farms is not a new one, yet here there was quite a novel take on the notion – separate fenced off areas within a field that equated to perhaps a tenth of the total field size that were planted some weeks after the initial fields were sown, not cut for hay, not aftermath grazed and just left so that pollinators would have a ready and available food source throughout the season and after the main fields were harvested so as to enhance their potential and give the pollinators more of a chance to survive the winter.

There is the idea of maximising productivity from managing available land intensively; I believe that when considering what makes our land profitable – the role of the pollinators in food and crop production cannot be overlooked in the quest for productivity.

Flora Locale Training Day - June 2015 - Michael Johnson, NYMNPA

There are different ways to create species rich grassland. One is to cut a flower rich hay crop before the plants in it set seed and then spread this ‘green hay’ mix onto harrowed and disturbed ground, and then use aftermath grazing to remove the rank vegetation that is a by-product of the process. Potential problems with this method is that the process is very time sensitive – the time from cutting, collecting, transporting and spreading is very short due to the natural enzymes and chemicals within the decomposing vegetation causing the plant material to heat up and therefore contributing to the seeds denaturing and reducing their germination effectiveness. The addition of livestock to trample the seed into the ground and remove the rank vegetation can contribute to the nitrogen and mineral levels in the soil, making it more fertile and therefore susceptible to encroachment and colonisation by weeds and perennials such as thistle and dock.

I think that the alternative of collecting the seed with a specialist seed harvester from the plants still in situ means these problems are dissipated and lessened; there is no time urgency for removal and transportation, no need for aftermath grazing to separate out the seed and no over fertility issues in adding more nutrients to the soil.

The aim of this post isn’t to nay-say and dispute traditional and existing land management methods, just to highlight another potential option for sustainable land management.

Around the end of apple blossom time

Tricia Harris – Helmsley Walled Garden

As the unseasonal cold weather whips the blossom from the fruit trees, it’s hard to think of summer and apple harvests. But sure enough, if the bees have done their work, the branches will have plenty of fruit for us to collect to turn into pies, chutney and juice by then.

James Grieve Apple Tree - Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmsley Walled Garden has over one hundred different apple trees. One particular collection surrounding the community allotments, is the Yorkshire collection. This is a collection of apple trees that have proven to grow well in cooler northern climes. Some, like Acklam Russet, first recorded in the village of Acklam in 1768 have been here for centuries. Others, like Charles Ross, were originally first grown in Apple blossom April 28th 2015 - Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled GardenBerkshire, but have grown well up here for over 100 years. But whether it’s Keswick Codlin or Ribstone Pippin; Hunthouse or Cockpit, all do well in Yorkshire.

All of these apples were grown for their taste and keeping qualities. Cooking apples such as Lane’s Prince Albert and Alfriston, if stored in a cool, dry place without touching, will keep throughout the winter. The Worcester Pearmain Apple Tree - Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Gardenoriginal Walled Garden was created to supply the fruit and vegetables to the nearby Estate House – Duncombe Park – and had plenty of suitable storage space. The current office buildings against the north wall would have had an apple store, a root vegetable store, a grape room plus dark forcing rooms for chicory and early rhubarb. These rooms and the gardeners’ ingenuity, ensured that as required there were supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables all year round.

If you want to find out a bit more about local apples, come and see the local collection here at Helmsley Walled Garden. The Garden will be having an apple day on 3 October when you will be able to try some of them and get to appreciate the subtle differences of taste, smell and texture.

You can also read up on a wide range of apple varieties on websites such as www.orangepippin.com to find out more about Britain’s favourite fruit.

Apples - Orchards of Husthwaite

Traditional Orchards are one of the United Kingdom’s priority habitats. Priority habitats are semi-natural habitat types considered to be the most threatened and therefore requiring conservation action. Traditional Orchards are one of the rarer priority habitat types in terms of area. This composite habitat is defined as groups of fruit and/or nut trees planted on vigorous rootstocks at low densities in permanent grassland; and managed in a low intensity way. An important part of the biodiversity of a Traditional Orchard is the diversity of the fruit itself, valued as something worth conserving and not allowing to be lost for want of trying.

Traditional Orchards are still important for landscape and local heritage, alongside biodiversity. Historically many farmsteads and sometimes villages would have had their own small orchard, you can see this on historic Ordnance Survey maps where little tree symbols are set out in neat rows next to habitation. In the North York Moors Traditional Orchards are mainly still found on the southern edge, in the dales in the Esk Valley, and around Whitby.

Traditional Orchards are an example of a semi natural partly contrived habitat where man has manipulated the natural environment and biodiversity has adapted – perfect little ecosystems producing an end product of value to society. Like many semi-natural habitats, Traditional Orchards need management to survive.

For more information on how to manage a traditional orchard – see here.