National Park Newbie

Kate Bailey – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Kate, Conservation Graduate Trainee - copyright NYMNPAHaving started in September as the new Conservation Graduate Trainee, I have been busy getting out and about in the National Park getting to know my colleagues and my fantastic place of work.

One thing I have been fortunate to get involved with so far has been this year’s National Park Authorities’ Ecologists’ Workshop. The theme of the three day workshop hosted by this National Park was “Improving Habitat Connectivity” and there was a great turn out – ecologists from all 15 UK National Parks attended, apparently the first time this has happened! For a new member of staff it was great for me to hear about how this National Park is working on restoring and reconnecting important habitat networks such as species rich grassland, river corridors and native woodland. It was also a great opportunity to meet people from across the country who are so passionate about conserving our countryside and wildlife.

Our Monday evening activity was a boat trip out of Whitby – with the possibility of seeing some whales. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. Everyone joked that it is always the way – as a group of ecologists approach, all the wildlife disappears! However, we had a great trip all the same with a beautiful sunset, topped off with fish and chips – a must if you are in Whitby.

View looking back at Whitby - Ecologists Workshop Sept 2015 - copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA

Sunset over land - Ecologists Workshop Sept 2015 - copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPAComing back into Whitby - Ecologists Workshop Sept 2015 - copyright Sam Witham, NYMNPAWe had beautiful weather for all three days, especially for our field trips on the Tuesday. We visited four sites which illustrate some great examples of restoration in the North York Moors – on moorland, in PAWS and along rivers – always returning to the importance of building a connected landscape within the National Park and beyond.

Glaisdale Moor peatland restoration - Ecologists Workshop 2015 - copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA

Lealholm stepping stones - Ecologists Workshop 2015 - copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPAEsk Valley farmland - Ecologists Workshop 2015 - copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA

Arnecliff Woods - Ecologists Workshop 2015 - copyright Sam Witham, NYMNPAArnecliff Woods - PAWS restoration - Ecologists Workshop 2015 - copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m looking forward to getting involved with as many different things as possible to make the most of my time as Conservation Graduate Trainee over the next two years. I’ll be carrying out botanical and bird surveys, monitoring farmland and land management through our Wildlife Conservation Scheme and Traditional Boundary Scheme, and hopefully getting the opportunity to go on lots of interesting training courses as well as learning from my colleagues. All in all, I hope my time with the Authority will give me enough experience and knowledge to pursue the career in conservation that I have always wanted!

A to Z: a collection of Cs

C

CANON ATKINSON – a literary celebrity

John Christopher Atkinson (1814–1900) was an author and antiquarian. He was born in Essex, and ordained a priest in 1842. Progressing from a curacy in Scarborough, he first became domestic chaplain to the 7th Viscount Downe in 1847 before in the same year being made Vicar of Danby. So Atkinson  relocated to this isolated Parish in the Cleveland Hills.

Danby Parish and the surrounding area offered a new panorama to a gentleman antiquarian. Atkinson explored the history and natural history of his parish and acquired a unique knowledge of local legends and contemporary customs using primary sources i.e. his parishioners and the landscape around him. He produced studies on local dialects and, in 1872 he published the first volume of ‘The History of Cleveland, Ancient and Modern’. He went on to write and edit a number of books and was recognised in his lifetime with an honorary degree from the University of Durham. By far his best-known work was a collection of local legends, traditions and reflections on modern rural life which he published in 1891, with the title ‘Forty Years in a Moorland Parish: reminiscences and researches in Danby in Cleveland’.

Atkinson died at the Vicarage in Danby, on 31 March 1900, and is buried at St Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale. He was married three times and fathered thirteen children, in between his writing.

CLAPPER BRIDGES

Clapper bridges are rare in the North York Moors and where they do survive they are often hard to find due to their simple functional appearance which is often hidden by a modern highway road obscuring their unique construction.

Clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPA

Underside of a clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPAThey are one of the earliest known bridge designs – the design is found across the world. Clapper bridges were built with long, thin slabs of stone to make a beam-type deck and with large rocks or piles of stones for piers. Some clapper bridges were wide enough to accommodate a cart, while others were designed for pedestrians or horse riders only, with carts crossing at a ford alongside the bridge. The word “clapper” could derive from an Anglo-Saxon word – cleaca – meaning “bridging the stepping stones”, but it is also suggested that the word derives from the Medieval Latin – claperius – meaning “a pile of stones”.

Clapper bridges would have once have been common in Britain but over time these bridges began to fall into disuse as more substantial methods of bridge construction were needed and, undoubtedly, many clapper bridges were destroyed to make room for newer bridges.

Clapper bridges are most commonly found on upland areas in Britain. Elsewhere the importance of these bridges is recognised and protected through designation but as yetClapper bridge near Castleton - copyright NYMNPA there are no listed clapper bridges in the North York Moors. We’re keen to make sure that all surviving bridges in the North York Moors are at least recorded; please let us know if you come across one. Graham, our Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer, found this one near Castleton while out walking. An application has been made to Historic England to help secure its survival.

CLEVELAND PRACTICE

The Cleveland Practice of blast-furnace technology for iron-making relates to a move away from large stone furnace structures towards larger, less enduring iron-clad construction. The zenith of this practice was reached in the Cleveland area from the mid-1860s, when for about 10 years the region took a world lead in blast-furnace practice. By 1875, the Cleveland area was producing 32% of the national output making it the greatest single iron-making district in the world.

The Cleveland Practice was distinctive, with the ironstone always first roasted in a calcining kiln, close to the blast-furnaces, to which it would be transferred whilst still hot. The blast-furnaces took the form of tall cylinders, rising to a height of 80 feet, with an average capacity of 30,000 cubic feet. Furnaces were worked with closed top systems to avoid heat loss, with multiple hot-blast blowing engines used at higher speed / pressure and with powerful machinery to move supplies to the kiln tops more efficiently. This technique was developed specifically to smelt large quantities of relatively low grade ironstone as cheaply as possible and, to achieve this, reliance was placed on improving energy efficiency – the height of the furnace stack was increased in order to utilize the heat generated at the base of the furnace to heat the materials being charged in at the top. The disadvantage of poor quality Cleveland ironstone (generally with a purity of only 26-33%) was offset by the huge quantities that were available locally and the high quality coke from the Durham coalfields to smelt it.

The transition from the old style blast furnaces to the new ‘Cleveland Practice’ style can be seen between the sites of the Beckhole and the Grosmont Ironworks in the North York Moors. The low quality ironstone from the Moors was contributing to the total at this stage but our most important period was pre-1850; once the Eston Mines came on-stream in the 1850s they were producing enormous quantities of (relatively poor-grade) ironstone which invigorated the rise of Teesside at the end of the 19th century.

COMMUNITIES…in general

Unlike in many other National Parks across the world, National Parks in the UK have human populations. People continue to shape the landscape, conserve their cultural heritage and maintain their natural environment. The nature of the North York Moors landscape means we have a pattern of dispersed settlements and individual farmsteads making up the communities in our National Park. The majority of communities are small fairly isolated settlements with a limited range of services and facilities. Given the chance however communities work hard to make the most out of what is practical and to provide essential services as well as retaining and promoting a strong proactive sense of community and identity. The National Park Authority’s planning policies within our Local Development Framework allow for some limited development opportunities including the creation of new facilities, housing and employment.  We have a long track record of working with communities whether that’s information exchange through regular Parish Forum meetings or the provision of funding support for community ideas through our Community Grant and the recent North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme.  See also below.

COASTAL COMMUNITIES…in particular

The North York Moors National Park has 26-miles of coastline with towering cliffs and rocky shores, steep wooded valleys, sheltered bays and sandy beaches. To showcase this fantastic coastline and the natural, fishing, artistic and culinary heritage of the coastal villages such as Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes and Runswick Bay, we’ve secured £455,000 from the PrintCoastal Communities Fund (CCF) to deliver the ‘Sea Life, See Life’ initiative from now until the end of December 2016. The Fund aims to encourage the economic development of UK coastal communities, and through this project we’re looking to attract new visitors who want to do something different, and to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more.

Fishing coble at Staithes - copyright Brian Nicholson, NYMNPA

It’s a partnership project, with the National Park Authority working with local businesses and communities to define what really makes this area special and different. Workshops and skills training will set up local businesses and communities to be ready to guide visitors to the high quality experiences available and encourage them to support local supply chains to strengthen and sustain the North York Moors’ economy. The project includes small-scale infrastructure projects such as interpretation, heritage restoration works, village improvements, and new public artwork to be delivered alongside a strong public relations and social-media led campaign. There’s also support for new events, festivals and activities, including an interactive trail in Staithes to capitalise on CBeebies’ Old Jack’s Boat, which is filmed in the village.

COMMON COTTON GRASS Eriophorum angustifolium

Patches of cotton grass – featherlike white smidgens of fluff – flutter in the early summer across the wetter areas of moorland .

Cotton Grass - copyright NYMNPA

Cotton grass is a sedge, not actually a grass. A sedge is a grass/rush like plant with triangular solid stems and unassuming flowers which usually grow on wet ground.

CONNECTIVITY

We do go on a bit about Habitat Connectivity on our Blog. That’s because it’s the fundamental concept articulated by Sir John Lawton in his Making Space for Nature review in 2010 which is guiding natural environment conservation efforts across the country. In the North York Moors we’re putting connectivity principles into practice working at a local scale.

Slide 1

BETTER ecologically valuable habitat sites through improving condition

Slide 2

BIGGER ecologically valuable habitat sites through expansion and bufferingSlide 3jpg

MORE ecologically valuable habitat sites through creation and enhancement

Slide 4

BETTER CONNECTED ecologically valuable habitats through creation/enhancement of corridors and stepping stones

Slide 5

The result is a connected landscape making it easier for species to move through

Slide 6

CROSSES

The remains of stone crosses can be found across the moorland area of the North York Moors. They are such a particular feature of the area that the North York Moors National Park took Young Ralph’s Cross to be its emblem.

The survival of original moorland crosses is very variable – some only comprise the base or socket stones, whilst others appear more complete, although the latter may be due to modern repairs or replacement – such as Ainhowe Cross on Spaunton Moor which was replaced in the 19th century. There are different styles of cross-heads – such as wheelheads (White Cross and Steeple Cross) and the simple upright cross shafts with projecting arms (such as Young and Old Ralph, Mauley and Malo crosses) – the latter make up the majority of the surviving examples.

Old Ralph Cross - copyright Tammy Andrews, NYMNPA

In the North York Moors the most relevant reasons for the original crosses seems to be as way-markers, boundary markers and memorials – potentially all three at once. For a Christian traveller coming across a symbol and reminder of Christianity whilst crossing the desolate moorland must have given hope and succour. Crosses may also have been erected by landowners to mark boundaries and as a good deed, or pre-existing crosses used as a local landmark to help define a boundary. The most famous memorial cross on the Moors is also meant to be the earliest – Lilla’s Cross – which is said to mark the burial site of the servant who sacrificed his own life to save that of his King, Edwin of Northumbria, in the 7th century AD. Although the surviving roughly cut maltese cross is actually dated approximately to the 10th century AD.

Lilla Cross - copyright Mike Kipling for NYMNPA

After the Protestant Reformation in England, the cross came to be seen by some as a symbol of superstition and this led to the slighting and destruction of individual moorland crosses. This may help to explain – in addition to weathering and deterioration over hundreds of years – why so many crosses today are missing their upper shafts and cross arms.

A new stone cross was erected in Rosedale in 2000 to mark the Millennium, continuing a cultural tradition of the local area.Millennium Cross, Rosedale - copyright Jay Marrison, NYMNPA

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

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.

 

A Toast to the Coast

John Beech – Coastal Project Officer

Turning plans into action

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

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

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

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

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

Cattersty Beach, Skinningrove - John Beech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

David Renwick – Director of Conservation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linking Landscapes latest

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

We’re always looking to make our grant budgets go as far as possible, and for our Linking Landscapes habitat connectivity programme this involves using a mix of delivery mechanisms to undertake the necessary habitat management on the ground. So working alongside land managers that means making use of local contractors, apprentice teams, and volunteers.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAVolunteers from the Rosedale community were hard at work at the end of August with the annual management of the Rosedale churchyard mini-meadow. The conservation site in the churchyard of St Mary and St Laurence in Rosedale Abbey was initially established in 2011. Since then it has developed into a wonderful mini-meadow, with beautiful pockets of wild flowers buzzing with pollinator insects such as bees, butterflies and moths, which in turn support many birds. The site is also providing a home for small mammals and slow worms.

Once a year the mini-meadow needs a helping hand – after the flowers have all died back and set their seed, the excess vegetation needs to be cut and raked off the site to ensure unnecessary nutrients do not build-up. It may seem strange not to want a build-up of nutrients however wild flowers favour poor nutrient-rich soils. Additional local seeds from established meadows nearby were also scattered at the end of the day to encourage even more flowers such yellow rattle, red clover, stitchwort and knapweed to establish and grow.

Keep up-to-date with Rosedale news and events – such as next year’s volunteer day – on their community blog.

Hand cutting - Rosedale Churchyard conservation areaSANYO DIGITAL CAMERABird's Foot Trefoil

Near Oldstead, National Park volunteer teams have been getting stuck in to revitalising an important habitat mosaic area. The Conservation Volunteers spent a whole day pulling up Himalayan balsam (non-native invasive plant species) which was covering a small wooded site and stifling the ground flora. As usual, continued balsam bashing will be required over the next few years in order to have a lasting impact, but it was a good start. The MAD volunteers – MAD means Making a Difference – then braved a thundery wet day
to pull creeping thistle (invasive plant species) from a nearby pasture field. This field contains a diverse mix of habitats comprising calcareous, neutral and acidic grassland;
mire communities and rush pasture; and areas of woody blackthorn scrub and hazel MADs volunteers with giant thistle!coppice. The site is grazed by Exmoor ponies who are great at conservation grazing but they needed a helping hand to deal with these particular thistles which are detrimental to this particular site. This sort of management which needs repeat commitment is picked up in Land Management Agreements between the National Park Authority and the land manager. The Agreements last five years – it’s an EU/NPA State Aid notification requirement (click here if you’re especially interested) – and five years of repeat annual control of invasives and pernicious weeds will make an impact on the ground and enable better quality habitats to survive and flourish.

MAD Volunteers - thistle pulling MAD Volunteers - thistle pulling The MAD Volunteers

We have a Land Management Agreement with the land manager of a site near to Scawton. This particular farm includes a wild flower area where the species include orchids. Often on a farm such sites would be grazed by stock and this would keep the vegetation in check and open up the dense matt of vegetation by the act of trampling. However in this case the area isn’t suitable for grazing because the Cleveland Way National Trail runs through it. So to avoid the site vegetation becoming tall and rank our Conservation Volunteers strimmed back the dead vegetation after all the flowers had set seed and then raked off the debris. This was the first year this task was carried out so it will be really interesting to see how the site responds over the next few years. The site was one of those surveyed earlier in the year by our new Grassland Volunteers in order to establish a baseline species list. This monitoring will be carried out each year, along with the management, and will hopefully demonstrate an increase in abundance of the existing species, and maybe one or two new species as well.

Conservation Volunteers  at workConservation Volunteer - strimmingConservation Volunteer raking off the cut vegetation

 

 

Conservation VolunteerCommon spotted orchidsExmoor ponies can be very effective conservation gaziers

 

 

 

Betony & Common Spotted Orchid  Common Spotted OrchidSelf-Heal & Yellow Rattle

 

 

Ami Walker – Lead Land Management Adviser

The first year of the ‘Linking Landscapes – Grassland Volunteers’ worked really well. Each of the initial Volunteers adopted sites where they will carry out an annual botanical survey. In all –

  • 9 volunteers surveyed 14 sites, a total of 35 hectares of grassland.
  • 140 quadrats were surveyed and 159 different plant species were recorded.

One of the measures for determining if grassland is actually species rich is that it must have at least 15 different species per 1m2 quadrat. 7 of these sites already have these characteristics, and 1 site had 25 species recorded in just one quadrat. Our ultimate aim is to see an increase in the number of plant species at each site, year on year. The results from the Volunteers are essential to identify if this is happening.

Linking Landscapes - Grassland Volunteers, practice surveying at Sutton Bank in the summer

As usual, a big thank you to all our volunteers!

All creatures, great and very small…

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant

Bugs – do you love them, or hate them?

Skipper butterfly - Kirsty BrownI love them. Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve been keen to have some random creature in my hand, and because of their usual accessibility and small size, these creatures have usually been insects.

Larval stage

Growing up in Houston in the USA, magical fireflies blinking at dusk were amongst the first to take my fancy, and I’d happily gather them gently into my bug-barn (as built by my Dad) and watch their eerie green glow. They sometimes accompanied me on the yellow school bus to take pride of place during show-and-tell. The large, green tomato horn worms (hawkmoth caterpillar) were also a favourite of mine to collect. I guess I must have been reasonably cautious in my collecting as, despite the many poisonous/stinging/biting/hairy creatures around Houston and picked up on various camping trips in the Rocky Mountains, I am happy to say I am still alive, intact, and fascinated!

Six-spot Burnet Moth - Kirsty Brown

When my family later moved to Eglwysbach in North Wales, my bug-barn was constantly filled with a variety of invertebrates, though I soon discovered snails didn’t make good guests, as they slimed up the inside, creating a sticky trap for my next ‘pet’. Gerald Durrell’s book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ was a great source of inspiration. Although there weren’t quite so many bright and shiny insects here compared with the USA, I raised caterpillars – impressive mini-snake-like Elephant Hawk moths, fluffy Yellow-Tail moths, and notorious Cabbage White butterflies – poring over bug books to determine their food-plants, life cycles and characteristics, watching as the caterpillars turned into chrysalises, and the magical metamorphosis into butterflies and moths. I also kept stick insects in a tank and ants in an ant-farm (which was not quite escape proof, to my mother’s delight!).

Pupation and Adult stages

At University, my dissertation was on seaweed flies – ironic because being at the University of Leicester, I was pretty far from the coast! Following graduation from University, I secured a job with a company near Edinburgh, and identified over 70,000 invertebrates as part of a project studying insect growth regulators. These insecticides disrupt pest insect development, and had been applied to livestock. The study assessed for any effect on beneficial invertebrates in the field, with particular attention paid to dung and those insects such as dung beetles and dung flies, which help break it down. I usually had the whole laboratory to myself, due to the wonderful aroma.

I’ve also worked at the Central Science Laboratory (now Fera), and helped raise a variety of invertebrates, including springtails, cabbage white butterflies, lacewings, soil mites and Eisenia fetida (tiger or compost worms). The worms were kept in huge containers, about 4x3m in size, filled with soil, and we fed them with oats, lettuce and Matilda the Mantis - Kirsty Brownother vegetable matter. Each summer, I identified aphids as part of the Aphid Monitoring Scheme, to help farmers decide whether insecticide sprays were required, as several species are vectors for plant diseases. I also kept a ‘pet’ praying mantis, whose head swivelled as she watched me with her huge iridescent eyes…

Insects continued to be a theme when I joined the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust as a trainee. I was able to delve into the identification of our native British species, and learned about the threats from habitat fragmentation and climate change. And now I’m working for the North York Moors National Park Authority.

At the North York Moors National Park, I see a great diversity of invertebrates almost every time I venture out to grant aid the restoration of walls and hedges, and to advance our habitat connectivity programme. This summer has been warm and dry, and so has been particularly good for butterflies and moths.

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle - Kirsty BrownOne of our regular volunteers found a lovely Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle up at Sutton Bank when we were surveying the species rich grassland. The beetle was particularly interesting as they are usually found in the south of England and not this far north.

Another unusual beetle is the strange red-breasted Red-Breasted Carrion Beetle, Oiceoptoma thoracicum - Kirsty Browncarrion beetles, which we found near Lockton, on some dung.

The lovely red-headed cardinal beetle and coppery click-beetle, are amongst the prettier beetles to be found in this area.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis - Kirsty BrownCoppery Click Beetle, Ctenicera cuprea - Kirsty Brown

 

 

 

 

Even on holiday…

Costa Rica has proved to be an excellent holiday destination for someone interested in entomology. I saw a click beetle with glowing ‘eyes’ in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a terracotta-coloured longhorn beetle posed for a picture, and during a night walk, I photographed a most incredible web-casting spider. A scorpion also decided to bed down for the night in our suitcase…I couldn’t have been more delighted.Scorpion in suitcase, Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

Leaf scale bug in Costa Rica - Kirsty BrownOrb web spider in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown  Tiny mantis in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

 

 

Longhorn beetle in Costa Rica - Kirsty BrownMoths in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown Net casting spider in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

 

 

Rhinoceros beetle in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

On a trip this summer to Gran Canaria, I couldn’t help photographing some of the local insects, though this huge robber fly got a bit close to my head, even for my liking! Robber flies ambush other flying insects, and even eat bees.

Robber fly, Asilidae sp in Gran Canaria - Kirsty Brown

Never ending fascination

Over the summer, I attended the Royal Entomological Society’s European Congress of Entomology, in York. The speakers were world-class, and discussed all sorts of issues such as controlling mosquitoes to rid the world of malaria, stepping in to help the last few endemic water beetles trapped in the Sierra Nevada as Spain becomes hotter and drier with climate change, and how incredibly useful Citizen Science has become through websites and apps such as iSpot.

I know I can’t go for a walk without carefully lifting (and replacing!) various stones and logs, to see what I might find. You might be the same. You might like to have a go at building a bug hotel in your garden, then you can attract your own local mini-beasts.

Green Tiger Beetle, Cicindela campestris - Kirsty Brown

We have our own North York Moors National Park wildlife recording system, and we’re always keen to know what people have seen so we can build up a picture of what is about in the North York Moors. The information you give will help us conserve these amazing and vital creatures.

Hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii- Kirsty Brown

We have our own Discovery Days, here in the National Park – the next one is 29 October 2014. If you’d like to get more involved with bugs in the United Kingdom, the Amateur Entomological Society and Buglife have lots of information, activities and events. Watch out for National Insect Week events, such as bio-blitzes.

Oak Eggar moth caterpillar,Lasiocampa quercus - Kirsty Brown

There is no getting away from it, I love bugs.

Conservation grazing

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

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

Why use grazing?

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

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

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

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

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

Which animals?

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

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

Animal welfare

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

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

The Grazing Animals Project has helpful advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Linking up Landscapes and Volunteers

Gallery

This gallery contains 30 photos.

Ami Walker – Conservation Land Manager Adviser    The objectives of the Linking Landscapes (Habitat Connectivity) Project are to ensure that the best bits of habitat in the National Park are as good as they can be, and to extend … Continue reading