Habitat connectivity: back to basics

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Currently this National Park Authority has two strategic priorities: one is to promote the North York Moors and the other is to improve the connectivity of habitats in order to benefit the biodiversity and landscape of the area, and mitigate the encroaching impacts of climate change.

Habitat connectivity features quite heavily on our Blog; that’s because it’s important to us. Habitat connectivity is the main driver for the work of the Conservation Department. It’s generally accepted that some of the most (ecologically) important habitats within our countryside have declined and fragmented over the decades and good quality habitat now tend to only exist in isolated pockets across the landscape. The first step is to conserve these remnants and then go on to establish connections, buffers, corridors, stepping stones – linking and increasing the habitat resource and therefore its sustainability into the future. These connections, buffers, corridors, stepping stones allow animals, birds, plants to move through the landscape between the habitats they need which helps populations thrive and grow (helping to mitigate the effects of climate change) – ‘stitching’ the landscape back together for wildlife.

Imagine a habitat e.g. native woodland and the biodiversity that depends on it e.g. oak, ash, birch, hazel, bluebell, wood anemone, wild garlic, great spotted woodpecker, nut hatch, wood warbler, tawny owl, ringlet butterfly, feathered thorn moth, barbastelle bat, wood mouse, not to mention the ferns, fungi, lichens, mosses, beetles and spiders etc. etc. We want to better the condition of existing native woodland habitat, to increase the extent of native woodland habitat, to create new native woodland habitat, and to ensure native woodland habitat is better connected; all to ensure a linked landscape for native woodland and the wildlife that depends on it.

Woodland with bluebells, near Hawnby - copyright NYMNPA

So what does this mean in practical terms?

Back in 2012 we sat down with a map of the National Park and considered where we were at. As discussions developed a clear picture of where concerted effort was needed began to emerge. We knew more or less where the surviving key habitats were and we also knew where we wanted to enhance other habitats more generally e.g. the areas which had been key habitats in the past and could benefit from restoration. Key habitats such as Ancient Woodlands, species rich and semi-improved grasslands, riparian strips and coastal hinterland were used as focuses around which to plan for greater connectivity. In the North York Moors, heathland/moorland which makes up around a third of the National Park would seem a likely key habitat but as this is already well connected with large expanses stretching as far as the eye can see, it does not require the attention that more isolated habitats do in terms of habitat connectivity.

We identified the strategic corridors where our efforts would be best focused in our 2012 Management Plan. We then identified the key ecological gaps along these corridors as well as a number of essential gaps to address more widely – 132 of them in total.

Strategic Connections Map from the North York Moors National Park Management Plan 2012

Target Connection Sites map from North York Moors National Park Business Plan 2012

What we then needed was a method of implementing our thoughts and vision. We draw polygons around the gaps to provide a framework for practical implementation. Officers are assigned individual or groups of polygons and using the original objectives for each ecological gap (e.g. restore PAWS to having Ancient Woodland characteristics, develop a mosaic of habitats, enhance species rich grassland) we develop rationales setting out what might be done on the ground and how best to do it. If we are going to carry out work and spend money in these target areas we need to establish sound reasons for doing so and to be able to justify our decisions. We start by carrying out a desk study of the habitat interest and records in that area – this includes previous habitat surveys, species information, existing and previous agri-environment agreement areas, public access, historic environment records, designations, and aerial photography. The records are important because as well as looking for opportunities we need to also consider potential constraints such as the historic environment because we don’t want to accidentally damage a valued feature by attempting to achieve the aims of Habitat Connectivity.

Once we have this background picture of a target area we need to get our boots on and get out on the ground to see what’s really there. We’re looking initially from Public Rights of Way only (unless specific permission to access the land has previously granted) – we need to assess how much of the information we have matches the real situation on the ground. A key requirement is to take good quality photographs (both of individual habitats and the wider landscape) as well as making accurate field notes, annotating our original maps and at the same time looking out for possible linkages across the landscape. As our main habitat survey information (a Phase 1 Survey) is nearly 30 years old it is not always still accurate as habitats have changed and shrunk since then. This is especially true of unimproved grasslands identified in the late 1980s where scrub, bracken and bramble succession has since encroached.

Once back in the Office with the results of the field work, we consult with specialist Officers (Rona the Senior Ecologist, Mark the Woodland Officer etc.) to agree the best way forward i.e. how to make a difference. A plan of action is developed using the following principles:

  • Identify – find and assess the current condition of the key habitats.
  • Protect – ensure that quality habitats are in some way ‘protected’ i.e. conserved. If there are particularly important species e.g. breeding waders, making use of a habitat e.g. rough pasture, that habitat might be enhanced but shouldn’t be transformed.
  • Enhance/restore – most areas of habitat need some form of continuing care and maintenance to prevent decline or loss.
  • Expand – are there any adjacent buffer areas of land that could be incorporated into the habitat?
  • Create – establishing new areas of habitat nearby – this is easier for some habitats e.g. woodland than others e.g. grassland. Long term commitment is required.

To take forward any ideas the involvement of landowners/land managers is essential. In many cases for a land manager and their family the land is their living. To protect, enhance/restore, expand or create the landowner/land manager has to be willing. We’re talking about facilitating capital works like fencing to control stock, scrub control, tree/hedge planting, spreading wild flower seeds, cutting grassland, managing woodland etc. Following negotiations, the National Park Authority can provide grant assistance, use its own Volunteers and Apprentices to carry out the required tasks, or buy the necessary materials and the land manager provides the labour. Longer term requirements are met through maintenance clauses or land management payments over time.

Then once the work is organised and underway, at some point we need to be able to declare whether the gap has been addressed and the looked for key ecological connection made, or rather is on the way to being made. We do that by returning to the rationale – have we been able to achieve what was identified as being required at the beginning of the process?

Although the process takes time it is necessary in order to ensure that we achieve the best workable and sustainable linkages we can.

Little Fryupdale - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

A to Z – a flock of Fs

F

FARMERS

David Winship, farmer in Bilsdale - by kind permission of Mr Whinship - copyright NYMNPA.We talk on our Blog about the important species that make the North York Moors their home – wading birds, rare arable flowers, water voles etc. however Ami our Lead Senior Land Management Adviser would argue that the most important species whose home is the North York Moors, are the Farmers!

The North York Moors may look wild and full of natural beauty but it is a largely managed landscape and it is the farmers that undertake the majority of that management which makes the area what it is. The National Park depends on its farmers.

A few of their number have migrated here from other populations however the majority are born and brought up here and will spend all their working lives in the North York Moors. Their children often work on the farm but may also have to find work elsewhere to sustain the general population. This population is contracting with a decline in the number of farmed holdings in the National Park, from 1608 in 2007 to 978 in 2013 (Defra Farming Statistics).

Keith Prudom, farmer from Mickleby, by kind permission of Mr Prudom - copyright NYMNPA.

“No matter what their origins, all the farmers I meet have a great sense of pride in what they do and where they live – farming and the North York Moors is in their blood”.

FARNDALE

Farndale is probably the most famous dale in the North York Moors, mainly due to its population of wild daffodils which bring the visitors in spring to admire the golden views.

Farndale Daffodil walk - copyright Mike Nicholas for NYMNPA.Looking north up Farndale - copyright NYMNPAHere are five facts about Farndale.

  • In 1955 (just three years after the North York Moors National Park was created) Farndale was designated a Local Nature Reserve to help protect the wild daffodils growing there. The designation meant specific local byelaws could be brought in urgently to prohibit the digging up and removing of bulbs which was considered a major threat at the time. Wild daffodils are also known as the Lent Lily, as they often bloom and die away between Ash Wednesday and Easter. But not always, and it’s worth keeping an eye on the National Park’s website to see when the flowers are blooming each year.
  • In Wordsworth’s elegiac poem of 1798-99, ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’, the solitary and idealised Lucy lives and dies close to the ‘springs of Dove’. It has been suggested that this is a reference to the source of the River Dove which snakes its way down through Farndale and joins the River Rye. But there are also River Doves in Westmorland and Derbyshire, so a real river cannot be identified and the ‘Dove’ remains a poetical expression. It’s not yet been suggested, or maybe it has, that Wordsworth’s ‘host of golden daffodils’ in the poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ were the wild daffodils of Farndale.
  • In the late 1960s Farndale was almost drowned through a plan to dam and flood the steep sided dale in order to create a source of drinking water for cities to the south such as Hull. The 1960s saw a rush of reservoir building aimed at securing water supplies. The proposed Farndale Reservoir would have covered 400 acres, submerged 20 farm-holdings and held 8 million gallons of water. But the plan was abandoned.
  • In 1990 (a year before the original national Countryside Stewardship Scheme was piloted) the National Park officially launched its own Farm Scheme (1990 – 2014), a local agri-environment scheme which provided grant aid for capital works and annual payments for environmental land management. The local scheme came about because unlike most of the other upland National Parks at the time, the North York Moors was never designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) for its landscape, wildlife and/or historical value, and therefore land managers here were missing out on ESA grants. Nine farms in Upper Farndale were the first to join the North York Moors Farm Scheme, and all nine later secured national Higher Level Stewardship agreements because of their conservation value.The original Farndale Farm Scheme Farmers - an evocative press photograph from 1990
  • There are many examples of early field systems at the top end of Farndale. These most likely date from early medieval times (and some could potentially even be prehistoric), providing a visible example of how man has worked and managed the landscape for centuries. The field systems are still visible at the dale head because the conditions are difficult and so the farming remains extensive.

FENESTRATION

The word Fenestration is an architectural term used to describe the arrangement of windows in a building and derives from the French word ‘fenestre’ meaning window.

The vernacular fenestration in and around the North York Moors comes in many different forms from the more common styles of the Yorkshire sliding sash (below top) and vertical sliding sash (below middle) to the more unusual ‘Whitby composite’ (below bottom) which is a window style generally only found in the coastal area of the North York Moors.
Yorkshire sliding sash window - copyright NYMNPAVeritcal sliding sash windows - copyright NYMNPA'Whitby composite' windows - copyright NYMNPA

Windows are the ‘eyes’ of a building and their size, location and style play a key role in defining the character of a building. The choices made in relation to window replacements and their alteration may affect the character, appearance and ultimately the value of a property.

Traditional, vernacular cottages have small, simple and functional fenestration. This is generally concentrated on the principle elevation with fewer openings to the rear elevation which was a deliberate effort to minimise heat loss in cold winters.

Traditional vernacular cottage - copyright NYMNPA.

In contrast elegant and classical Georgian houses have symmetrically arranged, multi-pane windows without ‘horns’ – projecting pieces of timber at the base of the top sash – and are an intrinsic detail of this architectural period. Note how the windows become smaller towards the top of the house. This reflects the status and business of each floor and, in design terms, prevents the building looking ‘top heavy’.

Classical Georgian House - copyright NYMNPA.

During the Victorian period glass making techniques developed and larger panes of glazing became more fashionable and affordable. ‘Horns’ were added to the top sash to add rigidity to windows which contained fewer glazing bars.

Victorian period house - copyright NYMNPA.

Crown glass in situ - copyright NYMNPA.Glazing is an important element in any window. Crown glass is one of the oldest forms of glass and is now very rare. Its main characteristic is its “wavy” or “rippled” appearance which really adds to the character of a property. It scintillates when you walk past and creates a beautiful quality of light internally. Crown glass was widely used until the mid-19th century but ceased being manufactured in the early 20th century. Therefore where old or historic glass remains it is very important it is not replaced.

Float glass is the modern form of glazing invented in the late 1950s and involves flowing the molten material over a bath of molten tin. It is completely flat and therefore lacks much of the interest of earlier glass. Treatments added to float glass to increase its thermal performance can also make glass look like Perspex and so from a Building Conservation perspective this should be avoided if possible and alternative means of minimising heat loss should be considered.

The timber lintel (i.e. cheaper than stone) is a feature of vernacular buildings which is often seen on simple cottages and farm buildings due to their comparative lower status. They can also be found on the rear elevations of higher status properties i.e. out of sight, and are an important insight into the hierarchical status of different elevations and buildings. Often people rush to replace timber lintels with stone but by maintaining timber lintels in situ or installing them appropriately in new buildings people can help conserve this important feature variation.

Where traditional fenestration has been lost through the introduction of poor quality or modern styles, the Building Conservation team are always keen to see the
reinstatement of the original style of window. However it is common for a property to Part stone mullioned window - copyright NYMNPA.display several different historic styles as owners were influenced by different architectural periods over the long life time of the building. Where this happens, it’s always important to try to keep the clues that tell the story of the past. This stone-mullioned window (right) could easily be reconstructed, but the later nineteenth-century casement window is vital evidence of the building’s evolution over time.

This cottage in Appleton le Moors (below) was formerly a farmhouse before becoming the village shop in the 20th century until it closed c.1980. Likely to have originally contained Yorkshire sliding sashes, this 19th century ‘Arts and Crafts’ revamp is a high quality addition that adds to the building’s architectural and historic character and contributes to the area’s local distinctiveness – its quirky and characterful.

Cottage in Appleton le Moors - copyright NYMNPA.

There are always windows which don’t seem to fit into any style and go against all the normal design principles. This house in Thornton le Dale (below) with four pane sashes at first floor provides a horizontal arrangement which goes against design principles, yet it is uniquely charming, adding character and interest to this Georgian property.

House in Thornton le Dale - copyright NYMNPA.

Historic England have useful guidance on the care, repair and upgrading of traditional windows. For the different stages of window repair see our previous blog post.

FOORD’S WATER RACES

During the 18th century, Joseph Foord, a self-taught engineer and surveyor, worked out that it was possible to bring the copious amounts of water available from the springs and becks of the high moors down to the drier limestone pastures of the Tabular Hills plateau in the south of the North York Moors, by means of gravity alone.

The farms and settlements of the Tabular Hills were recorded as suffering summer droughts in the mid-18th century, which caused high stock losses and considerable distress to the local populations. By bringing a dependable water supply to these areas, agricultural productivity could be increased and the conditions for the villagers improved, and therefore once their worth was clear the local landowners were prepared to commission Foord’s practical solution.

Foord (1714-1788) was a yeoman farmer with an interest in a colliery near his home in Fadmoor, and who also specialised in water mills. Familiar with water leats and their management, the first commissions ran across Duncombe Park Estate land where Foord and his father before him worked as land agents.

His water races (or channels) were a work of remarkable surveying skill and hydrological engineering which enabled the transfer of water using only gravity and created at a time when detailed maps and contours were unknown, Foord stands out as a true visionary and a man of exceptional capabilities.

Rievaulx water race - you can see the channel route coming down across the moorland - copyright NYMNPAOver 75 miles of created water races are known in total and these can still be traced across the landscape over large distances. They survive largely as shallow ditches with low embankments, particularly on the downhill side, which closely follow the contours, and in many places they have structures associated with them, such as stone culverts known as ‘smoots’ where they pass beneath field walls, and ‘brigsons’ where stone slabs are laid across the channels to carry paths and tracks. Some also have small scale aqueducts and tunnels. The longest race – Rievaulx – is 12.7 miles and illustrates Foord’s considerable skills, working with gradients as fine as 1 in 430.

The water races are an important historical and cultural feature of the North York Moors. At present the water races have no statutory designation, but as a group they have been assessed by Historic England as being of exceptional national importance.

Water Race - Bonfield Gill Aqueduct October 2005 after flood damage - copyright NYMNPA

Research into the network of Foord water races was undertaken by Dr Isabel McLean and published by the North York Moors National Park Authority in 2005 as Water from the Moors. The Life and Works of Joseph Foord. Since then, the Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society, with the assistance of the National Park, have been surveying the Foord water races with the aims of locating the individual features identified in Water from the Moors, recording the condition of all known sections of water race and highlighting areas where there may be opportunities for improved management or restoration. This work has been continued in recent years by Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.

FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR (Common or European Ash)

Upland mixed ashwoods (a national Priority Habitat) are an important habitat and landscape element of the North York Moors. Ash is usually the major component of this woodland type, but oak, birch, elm and small-leaved lime may also be present. Typically ash and downy birch are the dominant canopy trees with hazel dominating the understorey. Mixed ashwoods are amongst the richest habitats for wildlife in the uplands. They support a rich ground flora often dominated by dog’s mercury, with common dog violet, early purple orchid, and primrose. Ashwoods can be but may not necessarily be ancient, as ash is able to colonise open ground relatively easily. These mixed ashwoods are usually found on free-draining, base-rich limestone soil, but in the North York Moors ashwoods are also found on slightly acid soils where there is a flushing of nutrients along riverside strips or on flushes and outcrops.

Upland Mixed Ashwoods - copyright Mark Antcliff, NYMNPA

Ash trees are often found in fields and hedgerows too; they are a common farmland tree.

Chalara fraxinea is a tree disease – also known as Ash Dieback – caused by a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), which has been recorded in the UK since 2012. The disease particularly effects Common Ash and usually kills the tree either directly or indirectly (the tree is fatally weakened) – young trees die more quickly than older trees so older woodlands tend to deteriorate slowly over time. The fungus can be spread by the wind, so unsurprisingly and probably inevitably it’s reached the North York Moors.

Not removing ash trees and woodland arbitrarily is important to potentially help identify tolerance. The best hope of a long-term future for ash trees and woods is by identifying the genetics that mean some ash trees tolerate the infection, and then breeding new generations of tolerant ash trees for the future. There has recently been encouraging progress made by the University of York/John Innes Centre. It’s definitely not hopeless – and maybe if you’re reading this Blog in 20 years’ time Chalara will have been made ineffectual.

For now it’s important to report sightings of Chalara because it’s a notifiable disease – Tree Alert.

FYLINGTHORPE SLUG

Fylingthorpe Slug - from Whitby Gazette 3 October 2014

The only known UK location for this beautiful rather large slug is in the grounds of Fyling Hall School in Fylingthorpe. Its closest relative is from the Appennine Mountains in Tuscany.

As to how the species got to Fylingthorpe on the rugged North Yorkshire coast – it is suggested that eggs could have arrived with an Italian marble fireplace imported for Fyling Hall (now the School) back in the 19th century.

This Fylingthorpe subspecies has not yet been given a scientific name.

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

Battling the birch

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Species rich grasslands are one of the key habitats that we’re working to conserve and enhance across the North York Moors.

Grasslands that are high in biodiversity interest are one of this area’s rarest habitats. A lot of these sites are now isolated, so once a site can be brought up to a good condition we’re looking for opportunities to buffer and expand the site and how best to link it up to other grassland sites in order to enable a re-propagating more sustainable future.

Grasslands have been compared with tropical rainforest in terms of the numbers of species and the importance of habitat to biodiversity. But over 90% of the traditional hay meadows (one type of species rich grassland) in the UK have gone under the plough or been ‘improved’ with inputs since the 1940s. Their importance to wildlife such as pollinators which mean the habitat is an ecosystem in itself is now being grasped and our initiative is only one among many being progressed across the UK.

As part of our ongoing habitat connectivity programme, National Park staff and volunteers are currently concentrating efforts in the south west corner of the North York Moors which has a particularly rich reserve of fragmented species rich grasslands peppering the area. Ensuring these sites are well managed, properly resourced and cared for into the future is a major part of our work in the Land Management Team.

Contact was initially made with landowners in the area and then followed up with an assessment of each grassland and proposals suggested to enhance the condition of the particular meadow or rough grassland habitat sites. One of the recurring issues arising from a lack of management is encroachment by scrub and bracken which can be detrimental.

This is an example of a site near Oldstead which recently required a task force and so National Park Volunteers were called in, organised and supervised by the National Park’s Volunteer Services Team. The task was taking out some of the birch scrub that was taking over and out competing the wet grassland/heathland habitat on the site. Rather than suddenly removing the scrub, the birch stems were cut and piled into concentrated habitat heaps to provide some shelter for wildlife over the winter before slowly rotting away. During that time the long lengths of timber providing wet, damp conditions just under the bark of the cut trees is ideal for invertebrates, so provides a food source for other wildlife inhabitants of the wet grassland/heathland site.

NYMNP Volunteer Task clearing scrub - copyright NYMNPA

NYMNP Volunteer Task clearing scrub - copyright NYMNPAAlthough this type of volunteering can look and sound like hard work, it can also be great fun to take part. At the end of the day you can see the results of your labour and you know it’s good for your natural environment as well as being good for you – you’ve had plenty of fresh air and it can actually improve your health!

Catchment Trilogy – Part 1

Alex Cripps – Catchment Partnership Officer

It’s been a year since the River Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership was established and we have a lot to be pleased about!

The new initiative – the River Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership – has brought together the Yorkshire Esk Rivers Trust (YERT) and the North York Moors National Park Authority to pool knowledge and resources to improve and safeguard the catchment’s valuable ecosystems. Our Partnership has the support of DEFRA which, in 2013, rolled out the Catchment Based Approach idea across the UK promoting the need to work together to protect and improve our river catchments, with particular focus on sharing the knowledge, skills and expertise of local people.

I was appointed the Catchment Partnership Officer to help deliver our three year Action Plan which sets out a range of projects including river habitat improvements, fisheries monitoring and wider community engagement initiatives.

The main watercourse of Esk and Coastal Streams management catchment is the 28 mile River Esk which flows through some of the area’s most outstanding scenery. Its catchment is almost wholly within the North York Moors National Park – heather moorland, valleys of farmland, ancient woodlands and stone built villages – it reaches the North Sea at Whitby, just outside the National Park boundary. The river hosts a variety of wildlife which rely on it to survive including Freshwater pearl mussel, Water vole, Atlantic salmon, Sea trout/Brown trout (same species), Sand martin, Dippers, Kingfisher and Otters (which are found now in increasing numbers).

Atlantic salmon lifecycle - http://www.nasco.int/atlanticsalmon.html

Atlantic salmon lifecycle - egg deposition in gravels - http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/habitat/spawningbed_protection/redd.html

Over the last year we have secured funding to deliver particular projects in the Catchment – the People’s Postcode Lottery is funding the delivery of our Discovering the Esk project (look out for a future blog post) and the Environment Agency’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund is funding our Glaisdale Beck Restoration Project. Glaisdale Beck is a tributary of the River Esk and suffers from a number of issues affecting water quality, which inevitably in-turn affect the aquatic life found within the beck. Our restoration project is addressing these issues, such as:

Fine sediment – this causes huge problems for spawning fish including Atlantic salmon and sea trout, as a layer of fine sediment over spawning gravels (where fish eggs are deposited within the gravel) starves eggs or young fish (alevins) of oxygen. It also affects species such as the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

Nutrients and organic matter, and bacterial loading from dirty water run-off from farms and livestock having access to the watercourse.

Riverfly Monitoring Volunteer - copyright NYMNPAPollution incidents – we have established a team of local people to act as Riverfly Monitoring Volunteers to assess water quality on a monthly basis by monitoring aquatic invertebrates that are very sensitive to water quality. There are 30 sites being monitored across the catchment, including sites in Glaisdale, so if the number and diversity of aquatic invertebrates drop the Volunteers can alert YERT of any apparent pollution or other trigger incidents so the source can be tackled quickly and the effects limited.

 

Habitat deterioration both in-channel and along the riparian corridor – working with local farmers capital works will be undertaken over the next few months which will help to improve the water quality and riparian habitats of Glaisdale Beck:

  • 2,481 metres of fencing adjacent to Glaisdale Beck will prevent livestock  Example of stock fencing and riparian buffer in Esk Catchment - copyright NYMNPAaccessing the beck and stop stock excrement entering the river, and also stop the bank sides becoming broken up and bare of vegetation because of stock. The newly formed buffer strips within the fencing will allow riparian vegetation to develop and trees to become established, stabilising the banks and catching sediments and nutrients that may run off neighbouring fields.
  • 5 drinking bays and 2 cattle pasture pumps will be installed because we’re fencing off the access to Glaisdale Beck so we obviously need to install new water supplies for stock.
  • 2 crossing points will be strengthened where there are pinch points in the landscape which livestock pass through on a regular basis. Crossing points can become poached (muddy and eroded) and loose sediments are then easily washed into any nearby watercourse. Crossing points benefit from the laying of hard surfaces such as concrete sleepers to lessen the poaching.

Example of crossing point in Esk Catchment - copyright NYMNPA

Example of improved crossing point with concrete sleepers in Esk Catchment - copyright NYMNPA

  • 60 trees will be planted to bolster the age structure of riparian trees in the dale and help stabilise the banks with their impressive root systems.

Example of new tree planting in Esk Catchment, for stronger banksides - copyright NYMNPA

As usual, teams of National Park Volunteers have already been hard at work in the catchment doing management tasks that make such a difference such as removing derelict fences, repairing existing fence lines and installing new ones. Over the next couple of months they will be carrying out other tasks such as tree planting too. As always, thanks to all of them for their hard work!

National Park Volunteers installing riparian fencing - copyright NYMNPA

National Park Volunteers installing riparian fencing - copyright NYMNPANational Park Volunteers installing riparian fencing - copyright NYMNPA

Missing links

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

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

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

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

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

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

New hedgerow planted near Cowbar - copyright NYMNPA.

Connectivity efforts continue and I’ll keep you posted.

Shared learning

Roy McGhie – Conservation Project Assistant

I’ve taken over the role of Conservation Project Assistant from Kirsty who left the National Park Authority earlier this year for pastures new.

Roy McGhie - learning to scythe at Ryedale Folk Museum - copyright Roy Hampson

I have had a fairly diverse career so far. I am a qualified primary teacher, have worked in business and manufacturing, and have spent more time studying than I care to think about! I have always had a passion for the natural environment, and volunteered whenever and wherever I could. A recent move to North Yorkshire enabled me to retrain in this sector, and now I find myself working for the National Park Authority, which is a dream come true. I love being able to meet the people who manage the land in the National Park, helping them to conserve and enhance the North York Moors in a way that is beneficial to both people and the environment. So far I’ve been largely concentrating on turning Traditional Boundary Scheme (TBS) applications into agreements to help restore boundaries that are so important to the landscape character of the North York Moors.

North York Moors National Park landscape - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA

Amidst my TBS efforts, a couple of weeks ago John (Land Management Adviser) and I attended the annual Farm Liaison Officers conference hosted by the South Downs National Park. This event is an opportunity for agri-environment staff from all 15 of the UK’s National Parks to meet and discuss common issues and difficulties that we face, as well as to find areas of best practice which we can take back to our own National Parks. Whilst the job titles differ from Park to Park it was clear that what we all shared was a passion for working with land managers to achieve mutually beneficial conservation goals.

The first full day was filled with site visits – even if the specific habitats and species we saw were sometimes different to those in the North York Moors, the issues around land management and competing pressures are similar to those we face here.

Tom Tupper - South Downs NP, Farm Liaison Officers Meeting 2015 - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPAThe first day started with a visit to Bignor Farm near Pulborough. Here, Tom Tupper, a local landowner, introduced us to the chalk grasslands, known as downlands, that make up much of the iconic character of the South Downs. During World War II the South Downs lost about 80% of its grassy downlands, partly to intensive agriculture for food production, and partly to military training. Today, only about 4% of the South Downs remain as chalk downland.

Tom also took us to Bignor Roman Villa, which has been in his family’s stewardship since it was re-discovered over 200 years ago. The site is renowned for having some of the best Roman mosaics in the country, both in terms of detail and preservation. Our stop at the villa allowed us to discuss the intricacies of preserving monuments alongside the public (and often financial) requirement for interpretation and access. There are similar issues at Cawthorn Camps, a Roman site on the North York Moors.

Roman Villa - South Downs NP, Farm Liaison Officers Meeting 2015 - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA

We visited Peppering Farm on the Norfolk Estate. The Estate is currently in a Higher Level Stewardship agri-environment agreement, but carries out more conservation work than it receives money towards, for instance in regards to reversing the decline of the Grey Partridge. This highlighted the ongoing issues that arise from trying to balance landscape enhancement with the need for productive practical agriculture. We also saw a restored dew pond. Dew ponds have been dated as far back as Neolithic times, and are a source of much debate as to how they traditionally filled up with water. Landscape archaeology suggests they were used for watering cattle and were lined with clay to hold the water. As we saw, they are always a popular haven for wildlife. There are number of such ponds in and around the North York Moors.

Dew Pond - South Downs NP, Farm Liaison Officers Meeting 2015 - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA

We also visited Pepperscombe on the Wiston Estate. Here we were introduced to the Steyning Downland Scheme which aims to reconnect people, particularly children, with the countryside around them. The Scheme partly came about because of increased visitor pressure on the South Downs Way, which runs through many farms and fields, as well as mountain biking and dog walking issues. Today there are Trustees and a steering group to represent the needs of the local community, which has seen a designated area created for bikers, the establishment of a team of local volunteers to monitor the plant life, and the opportunity for school children to enjoy creative educational days out on site.

Cattle are used to graze the scrub. The photo below shows the effect just a small number

Conservation grazing - South Downs NP, Farm Liaison Officers Meeting 2015 - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA

of cattle can have. The area on the left in the foreground was grazed by just six Dexter cattle for only 3 weeks. The area on the right in the background is a new area of scrub the cattle have just moved in to. The difference is remarkable. Dexter cattle are the smallest of all European cattle breeds, and can be particularly suited to conservation grazing with public access because the animals are less intimidating to members of public than larger breeds.

South Downs landscape - South Downs NP, Farm Liaison Officers Meeting 2015 - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA

On the second day, we were back in doors talking through shared subjects such as funding opportunities under Rural Development Programmes and transition from the current national agri-environment schemes (Environmental Stewardship) to the new Countryside Stewardship scheme. Overall the conference proved to be very informative, and I think we all took away knowledge that will help us with our work with land managers to enhance the qualities of each of our wonderful National Parks.

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!

Slowing down

Taken mainly from the final report for the ‘Slowing the Flow’ Project

The ‘Slowing the flow’ project is now completed, ahead of approaching winter. The purpose of the project has been to reduce the risk and severity of flooding in Pickering and nearby Sinnington.

The approach has been to slow the flow of water from off the moors into Pickering Beck and the River Severn and subsequently down into the settlements below.

The last element has been the creation of a flood storage area at Newbridge, upstream of Pickering – a site to hold up, and so slow down, extreme flows of water. It can hold up to 120,000 m3.

The ‘Slowing the Flow’ project was one of a number of Defra pilot projects looking into reducing flood risk and impacts. The idea was to make the best use of natural processes by adapting land use and land management to slow down and delay the passage of water.

Phase 1 of the project concentrated on building up a working partnership including with the local community. The National Park Authority were heavily involved in Phase 1 of the project as a major landowner in the area. The National Park Authority owns Levisham Estate upstream of Pickering and a number of tributaries into Pickering Beck arise on the Estate’s moorland.

View of Hole of Horcum (part of Levisham Estate) - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

The land management work undertaken in the two sub-catchments included establishing no burn buffers along moorland watercourses to protect soils and retain vegetation, impeding moorland drains using heather bales to lessen erosion, constructing ‘woody debris dams’ which slow but don’t halt watercourse flow, creating riparian buffer zones in forestry, and large scale tree planting and long term woodland creation because trees prevent sediment runoff and hold and use more water than other habitats. Two timber bunds were also constructed in the River Severn catchment. 

Large woody debris dam during flood - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015

Large woody debris dam secured by angled posts and wire on Pickering Beck - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015Face of upstream timber bund within Forestry - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015Small woody debris dame - Horcum, Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

 

 

Heather bale 'check' dams within moorland drain - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015

Drainage channel - Fen Moor, Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

Slowing the Flow in action - Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

 

 

 

Slowing the Flow tree planting - Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

Phase 1 (2009 – 2011) led to Phase 2 (2011 – 2015) which allowed for the implementation of the outstanding land management interventions planned. One of the lessons learned was that five to six years is a more effective time scale for delivering a demonstration project, especially one that includes persuading landowners to change land use. Another lesson is that the measures undertaken have to be at an effective scale – the bigger the contribution to flood protection required, the larger and/or more extensive the measures need to be at the catchment level to make a difference.  The use of smaller, more diffuse, storage features can collectively contribute a sizeable flood storage volume, depending on their design and management – however catchment level planning/modelling is needed to guide and achieve the optimum placement and combination.

The ‘Slowing the Flow’ project was led by Forest Research, and the partnership that made it happen included the Forestry Commission, the Environment Agency, Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Durham University, Pickering Town Council and Sinnington Parish Council and the local community including vital landowners, and us. The project was possible only because of this joined up and inclusive approach to flood, water and land use management. Another lesson from the project is that efforts to reduce flood risk via land management interventions can be accidentally counteracted by other activities in the same catchment.

Although the main purpose of the project was to lessen the risk of flooding in Pickering, and also the village of Sinnington, the methods used will provide added benefits to biodiversity and the wider ecosystems. The piloting of the practical demonstrative measures have allowed the sharing of good practice, knowledge and skill development (e.g. NYMNP Apprentices).

Some issues…

Concerns over the stability of ‘woody debris dams’ and the potential for debris to wash out and damage downstream structures need to  allayed by the construction methods that use slot trenches and bracing logs to attach the structures to the banksides.

Having a National Park – a designated landscape – in the north of the sub-catchments had implications for the siting and design of land management interventions. For instance from a National Park point of view there was a limit on how much tree planting could be/should be accommodated on the Levisham Estate because of the ecological value of the existing moorland habitats which are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and in some places also a Special Protection Area/Special Area of Conservation.

Persuading people to create woodland can be difficult. The selection of Pickering Beck as a demonstration sub-catchment was partly because of the relatively high level of public land ownership e.g. National Park, Forestry Commission. In the future achieving the necessary sizeable level of change on privately owned land is likely to require greater financial incentives. The new, integrated, Countryside Stewardship scheme should help by providing grant for planting that provides benefits, including reducing flood risk and diffuse pollution.

Conclusions…

Land management measures can make a significant contribution to downstream flood alleviation. They vary in type, size, scale of operation and mode of action but are most effective in combination as part of a whole catchment approach to managing flood risk. More modelling and experience of actual flood peaks is required to better understand the cumulative effect of the measures. In view of the level of commitment and investment required, resources are best focused on small to medium sized catchments that can be expected to deliver large-scale changes in land use and/or management.

It is not suggested that the ‘Slowing the Flow’ project will prevent all flooding in the two sub-catchments, but it is anticipated that there will be less flooding. It has been suggested that the previous 25% chance of flooding in any given year in Pickering, has now been reduced to a 4% chance or less…

Guardians of the Prehistoric Park

Jo Collins – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator

There are 840 Scheduled Monuments in the National Park; they include the remains of prehistoric settlements and burial mounds, medieval monastic sites, alum and iron ore workings, and World War II radar and decoy sites. Malo Cross near Saltergate - NYMNPA

Three years ago 15% of these monuments were classified as ‘at Risk’ by English Heritage (now Historic England). Through the work of our Monument Management Scheme (MMS) this has been reduced to 8%. This is due in no small part to the work of the Historic Environment Volunteers, who help us keep an eye on the large number of monuments in the park.

During the previous two years 43 volunteers have visited and surveyed 391 monuments; an considerable achievement, THANK YOU!

Historic Environment Volunteers visit a Scheduled Monument, fill out a short report and take a photo for the record. Part of my job is arranging permission to access the monuments beforehand and making sure the volunteers have the right information and maps so they know where they’re going. The monuments can be a short walk from the car, or high on exposed moorland with a long walk in, or across private farmland; all are accessed with the kind permission of the land owner. The volunteer’s reports and photos have highlighted some monuments that are in better condition than expected (🙂 ) and some monuments that are in worse condition than expected (😦 ). As a result eight have been completely removed from the ‘at risk’ register with a further eleven now classed as ‘low risk’. Bracken growth is the main reason for a worsening condition and we have been able to tackle this through the MMS.

A small sub group of volunteers have also been involved in surveying badger activity on 17 round barrows and dikes in the National Park – round barrows are burial sites dating from the Bronze Age and Dikes are linear earthworks which were built during the Bronze and Iron Ages, probably to indicate territory boundaries. These ancient monuments have since been exploited by people and nature, with badgers being some of the most recent explorers. Volunteers have so far found paw prints, ‘snuffle holes’, bedding airing, fur, tracks, and setts. The monuments are visited about four times a year by a dedicated volunteer. It’s early days for this project but so far so good; apart from the obvious damage caused by the existing setts there appears to be relatively little new digging and no exposed archaeology.

In addition a small group of volunteers help directly with practical management on
monuments; the majority of tasks involve cutting back growing vegetation which causes Danby Rigg - NYMNPAdamage to archaeological remains. This is a new group and we are hoping more people will be up for joining in the future. Two such volunteer tasks on Danby Rigg have contributed to a much bigger project to improve the condition of this prehistoric cairnfield – cairnfields are field systems dating from the Bronze Age; stones were moved and piled into cairns to make space for fields but the Danby Rigg - NYMNPAremains of burials and settlements are often found there too. The problems here were being caused by erosion by people and the flowing water running over site which had damaged and even destroyed some of the cairns. The project to improve the drainage and repair the bridleway was developed with our Northern Area Ranger, Naomi Green, and different National Park volunteer groups were roped in to add heather bales eroded path around ring cairninto small drainage ditches to slow the flow, infill some of the deep ruts and scours and then to spread heather brash over the bare areas. The vegetation will take some time to recover but the area should look as it used to in a short while and the archaeology will be defended from further damage.

Danby Rigg, one of the various volunteer tasks - NYMNPA

Mags, the Monument Management Scheme Officer, and myself were recently asked to share our experience with our neighbouring designated landscape, the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and to help with training their new group of volunteers. The Howardian Hills AONB is currently setting up their own Monument Management Scheme for their area and wanted to find out how we have been using volunteers. We started with a classroom session at Coxwold Village Hall and spent the afternoon visiting 4 round barrow sites to practice their volunteers’ new survey skills. We’d like to wish the AONB the best of luck with their MMS (although I’m sure they won’t need it!).

HE Volunteers working at a monument near Sutton Bank - NYMNPA

And so what’s the future? There are still those 8% of monuments ‘at risk’ and with the help of our volunteers we’re hoping to care for them to conserve our heritage for future generations. Without the help of volunteers it would simply not be possible to achieve everything the scheme has been able to. So here’s to our volunteer guardians of the prehistoric park! And if you would like to join us please do get in touch.

Horcum Dyke - NYMNPA

Monument Management Scheme (MMS) – Scheduled Monuments are assessed as being ‘Low Risk/Not at Risk’, ‘Vulnerable’, or ‘At Risk’ for a variety of reasons. Historic England (previously English Heritage) publishes an annual Heritage at Risk register to highlight the ‘At Risk’ monuments. The MMS is a joint funded project between Historic England and the North York Moors National Park Authority with the aim of reviewing and tackling the condition of these monuments at risk within the North York Moors. Historic England have recently agreed funding for a third phase of the scheme which will run until March 2018. The new programme will continue to work to improve the condition of Scheduled Monuments and remove them from the Heritage at Risk register and it will be looking for ways to keep them in good condition and well managed into the future – hopefully for the long term.

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.