The objective of our Connectivity programme, put simply, is to protect and enhance the best bits, and to extend and connect them to other sites where possible. To do this we’re going to be working in the National Park towards:
- improving the quality of current wildlife sites by better management;
- increasing the size of existing wildlife sites;
- enhancing connections between sites, either through physical corridors or by ‘stepping stones’;
- creating new sites; and
- reducing the pressure on wildlife by improving the wider environment.
Our Management Plan illustrates the strategic corridors (“wildlife super highways”) in the North York Moors, and we’ve come up with specific areas along these corridors where we’re going to concentrate efforts for the next few years. Different people in our Conservation Department have been allocated different ‘polygons’ (target areas) to lead on.
We’ll be keeping you up to date with what is happening on the ground.
Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser
I’m well underway with Connections 5 to 8 which run from Dalby to Levisham (in the south east of the National Park). The first step has been to ascertain which habitats and species are found in this part of the North York Moors and to see if the current management is beneficial or detrimental to these interests.
Species rich grassland areas and road verges are just one of the important habitats in this area. I’ve been surveying those that we are already aware of to make sure they are in tiptop condition and I’ve been looking for any potential to extend these assets further. There is a particular site just outside Lockton village that has got that potential! It is a steep grassy bank which lies between a road verge with lots of flowering plants and another area of flower rich grassland. Managing flowering grassland by cutting or grazing is necessary to maintain the diversity of this habitat or else it will be overcome by rank grass and scrub. By getting this intermediate bank site into good management using a positive grazing regime, in this case with native breed sheep, the flowering plants will be given a chance to flourish so increasing the good habitat for pollinators, such as bees and hoverfly, which birds and other animals feed on; and linking up two separate sites of species rich grassland into one larger extent.
In the same target area, I’m going to be trying to extend the valuable habitat at Sieve Dale Fen SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) by setting up a National Park Authority Land Management Agreement to conserve and encourage the wetland plants in the next door field to the SSSI and so increasing the extent of this diverse wetland habitat.
There are also deciduous woodlands in the wider area which mainly run in a north/south direction. Where new actual tree planting isn’t appropriate there is still the possibility to strengthen the hedgerow links (east/west) around Lockton and Levisham instead, in order to connect up the wooded areas in Dalby to those in nearby Newtondale.
Lockton and Levisham village both have large areas of communal/amenity grassland and I’m thinking there may be potential to turn some of this grassland in to village nature areas. While I’ve been out surveying with my clip board I’ve been approached by locals and visitors who’ve all been receptive to the ideas behind what I’m trying to do. It’s really important to get local people on board as well as specific land managers and I’ll definitely be reporting back to the local community on how the project progresses in their area and the wider National Park. Village nature areas would be a great way of getting local people involved, if they’d like to.
The next phase is to start doing practical work on the ground such as grassland management and enhancement, installing fences so that positive grazing regimes can be instigated, and setting up the hedge planting for the autumn. In most cases this will be done through agreements with land managers and farmers. Money from national schemes and National Park grants will assist by paying a contribution to help cover the cost of capital works and acknowledge profit foregone.
John Beech – Coastal Project Officer
I’ve been out ground truthing a target area round Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast, with an emphasis on reconnecting existing habitats. A mixture of grasslands, hedgerows, wooded gills, wetlands and streams all provide scope for improvement works to connect, extend and create a more robust mosaic of habitats.
I’ve been talking to landowners in that area to identify work which we want to support and which they are happy with. I’ll be working up the details in the next few weeks with an idea to implement the work over the coming autumn/winter.
Whilst out and about a further two project ideas (pond creation, species rich grassland donoring) have come up in previously surveyed areas – proof that the connectivity message is spreading!
We’ve already installed six new ponds close to Robin Hood’s Bay, and now that it is summer they are already attracting aquatic life including invertebrates such as greater water boatmen, whirligig beetles and pond skaters. Curlew, Swallow, Grey Wagtail and Snipe have also been seen using the ponds. In partnership with the National Trust (land owners) and the tenant farmer, the ponds have now been fenced to prevent cattle and sheep accessing them which has solved the siltation and effluent problem.