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.

Woodland with added purpose

Michael Johnson – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Our National Park hosted a meeting for the Yorkshire Branch of the Royal Forestry Society on 19 May. The on-site meeting on the National Park Authority’s own Levisham Estate looked at previous and ongoing regeneration schemes on semi-natural and plantation woodland and their part in increasing biodiversity and the viability of the local woodland ecosystem* as a whole, including the slowing of run off by planting trees.

We started at the Hole of Horcum discussing the woodland regeneration of the southern slopes and passes where most of the new tree planting has taken place; there was much discussion as to the long term effects that bracken and other plants would invariably have upon the new tree saplings and whether or not differing types of management techniques and also tree guards/fencing would be beneficial in order to protect the growing trees from grazing livestock at this early stage.

Looking down into Hole of Horcum - RFS visit 19 05 2015 - NYMNPA

The rest of the day was spent at Levisham Woods, where we looked at the various felling and natural regeneration works that had been carried out previously and discussed the long term future of the site. The Royal Forestry Society represents all sorts of interests involved with woodlands – commercial, professional, academic, conservation. The purpose of the Society is to promote active woodland management for the sake of sustainable woodlands rather than represent a single group or single point of view. When it came to Levisham Woods we considered the balance between commercial management of timber and the management of a woodland for public access, biodiversity benefits and its own intangible sense of place. Levisham Woods - RFS visit 19 05 2015 - NYMNPA

The discussion wasn’t quite as dramatic as the weather – we dodged hail, rain, thunder and lightning and also enjoyed an odd sunny spell. We all shared ideas and if there was one outstanding lesson it was that there is rarely a right or wrong answer when it comes to land management.

*Ecosystems are a big thing in conservation at the moment – similar to biodiversity but also including none living elements such as water, air, soil – the concept links together the interactions between natural resources and their management which are ultimately essential for humans. For a better explanation see here.

So did it actually work?

Emily Collins – Conservation Student Intern 

It’s eleven o’clock and the sun is already high in the sky above Lealholm stepping stones. There are two benches overlooking the river; one occupied by a couple of ice-cream savouring villagers, the other piled with buckets, Environment Agency fleeces and a hefty lot of electrofishing equipment. It’s time, at last, to find out whether last year’s bankside encystment really worked…

The plan is simple; the Environment Agency team will use their electrofishing kit to stun the fish, capture them in their net and place them in a bucket for us to examine. Freshwater Pearl Mussel glochidia – if present – will be visible on the gills of the fish as little white specks. Whilst Simon the River Esk Project Officer takes charge of handling the fish, it is my job to record whether it is a salmon or trout, its age, and whether or not it has glochidia on its gills.

In April 2014 we had followed the same routine, only to find that not a single fish showed signs of mussel encystment on their gills. This was more than a little disheartening, especially as this area of the Esk is prime habitat for juvenile survival. If young mussels aren’t growing on the gills of the fish then chances are they’re not growing in the riverbed either. Considering that our mussels are all the equivalent of old-aged pensioners and that it takes 10-15 years for a mussel to mature, this is a huge concern for us. Hence the decision to try out bankside encystment that summer.

Fingers crossed!

Electrofishing - May 2015 - NYMNPA

Checking for glochidia - May 2015 - NYMNPAClose up - checking for glochidia - May 2015 - NYMNPASuccesful group shot - May 2015 - NYMNPAAmazingly, it turns out that this time around, 1 in 4 fish (mostly salmon) had glochidia on their gills. Whilst numbers were low – approximately 4 to 6 glochidia on each fish – this is a great improvement since last year and an important indication that our mussel old-aged pensioners have still got it in them to reproduce. With this in mind, we’re already looking to carry out another bankside encystment this August to further their success.

In the meantime, there is the potential for transferring some of our juvenile mussels from the Freshwater Biological Association ARK facility back into the River Esk. Of course, there’s no point in doing this until the river habitat is suitable for mussel survival so, with the help of landowners, contractors and volunteers, we’re continuing to plant riparian trees, control invasive species, carry out bank stabalisation and fence along the river bank in order to reduce the sedimentation in the water and ultimately, improve mussel habitat.

Team working for the River Esk

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Simon Hirst – River Esk Project Officer The River Esk Volunteer Group was established at the start of the WREN funded “Esk Pearl Mussel Recovery” project and have been going ever since. The aim of the project is to improve … Continue reading

Criss crossing the landscape

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant

The landscape and land managers in the North York Moors have benefited from grants totalling £64,400 through the 2014/15 round of our Traditional Boundary Scheme. The grant supported the restoration of hedgerows and drystone walls which aren’t being picked up through national agri-environment schemes. The work builds on that carried out in 2013/14 which was the first year of the Scheme. This year’s funding has enabled the restoration of over 2,600 square metres of traditional drystone wall and over 2,800 metres of hedge planting, coppicing and laying.

Hedge laying - Kirsty Brown

Hedge laying is traditionally carried out in the autumn and winter when the plants are dormant. Importantly this also avoids the bird nesting season. A rural craft which has been widely practised for hundreds of years across Europe, hedge laying has largely disappeared apart from in  a handful of countries including the UK. It involves partially cutting through the upright stems of shrubs, bending them down and weaving them around stakes driven into the line of the hedge. There are around ten different regional styles of hedge laying within the UK including a ‘Yorkshire style’ which is traditionally very narrow, laid flattish and no more than three foot in height.

Hedge laying is obviously more skilled and time consuming than hedge cutting and coppicing, and has been dying out as a traditional craft. But the availability of targeted support funding and an awareness and appreciation of the benefits of hedgerows as wildlife corridors, habitats and food sources, as well as landscape features, is assisting the survival and re-burgeoning of hedgerow management skills like laying. And don’t think that drystone walls are second best to hedgerows in terms of biodiversity and wildlife. Walls can provide corridors for species movement and homes for a world of biodiversity from saxifrages to spiders to slow worms etc. Fortunately we have a number of skilled hedging contractors as well as drystone wallers working in the North York Moors and the wider area, maintaining boundary structures and practising their craft.

Rebuilt drystone wall - Kirsty Brown

I would like to thank all the land managers and contractors who have undertaken work to restore and reinstate valuable boundaries in the North York Moors this year. Various dry stone walls in the National Park are believed to demarcate boundaries going back to the Iron Age or earlier, with some on the coast being noted from Viking times, while some of our hedgerows are remnants of ancient woodland margins. In addition to supporting our local farms and benefiting wildlife, up keeping our walls and hedges has economic elements too employing local contractors and making the area more appealing to visitors. The National Park Authority is keen therefore to do what it can to support the continuation of these traditional boundaries and despite considerable cuts to our core funding, we are still hoping to be able to offer the Traditional Boundary Scheme again in 2015/16 (keep a look out on our website).

Drystone walls in the NYM landscape - Kirsty Brown