Loving every day

Ellie Davison – Conservation Trainee

Hi!  My name is Ellie Davison. I graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Biology and then spent a couple of years working as a laboratory technician in a microbiological food testing facility. I always knew I wanted to get into conservation but found it hard to break into the competitive job market so although I kept volunteering in my spare time with the Wildlife Trust and various smaller charities, it remained something of a pipe dream. Once the pandemic hit, a lot of us (including me) were forced to reconsider our priorities. Why was I putting all this time and effort into a job that wasn’t for me when I could be going after my dream career?  After a lot of hard work, I was super excited to get on a six month traineeship on a red squirrel conservation project in Knowsley. This boosted my confidence in myself and my decision to switch careers. When the squirrel project ended, I was ecstatic to begin working with the North York Moors National Park as a Conservation Trainee.

So what sort of things have I been up to so far?

My role as a trainee is super varied and I get the chance to learn all sorts of new skills in some beautiful parts of the North York Moors.

I have had great fun working with some of the National Park’s fantastic volunteers. We have been electro-fishing, peat dipping, tree guard removal, fencing, restoring ponds and undertaking lots of vegetation management to help restore grassland habitats or to give newly planted hedgerows a good chance to establish. I really enjoy the job satisfaction of the practical side of conservation and love seeing the difference one day and one group of dedicated volunteers can make to a site. I am looking forward to upcoming training sessions, particularly one in dry stone walling.

I’ll be continuing to work closely with our volunteers and eventually leading sessions for my own projects.

One of my personal highlights so far has been visiting Forestry England’s Cropton Forest. I got to see first-hand the impressive impact the introduced beavers have had on their surroundings since their release into an enclosure there in 2019. Their dams and carefully placed channels to slow water flow and raise water levels have completely transformed the whole area. Beaver activity has had a huge increase in biodiversity on the site. Felling trees near the water opened up the area to sunlight which led to more plant species. Larger and deeper pools have encouraged an increase in frogs, toads and insects which resulted in an increase in birds and bats on site. The beavers have had an impact on humans too – residents in towns downstream of the site have noted a decrease in flooding frequency. This is a wonderful project and I can’t wait to see what happens with it in the future.

I have long been fascinated by fungi and so joining the conservation team during mushroom season has been a real treat!  On my various site visits I’ve been lucky enough to see all sorts, including waxcaps, mottlegills, milk caps, stinkhorns, ink caps, parasols, earth stars, puffballs, vomiting russulas, beefsteak and many, many more. I enrolled on a remote lifelong learning course with Aberystwyth University, “An Introduction to Fungi”. This course has improved my ID skills and enabled me to learn a lot more about the biology, ecology and uses of fungi, and I’ll gain a qualification in something I love at the end of it!

Without trying to sound too clichéd, it is true that no two days are the same here at the North York Moors National Park. If you are passionate about conservation and are looking for a chance to get into this competitive field, I cannot recommend this 2 year traineeship post enough!

N.B. A few types of wild (uncultivated) mushrooms are edible, many taste of nothing, and others are toxic and quite often deadly. You always need to be absolutely sure which are edible if you’re intending to eat one.

Also picking mushrooms won’t necessarily damage the fungi they’re attached to but the more that are picked the less chance the fungi has of reproducing.

Biological recording for the soul: recording nature – Part Two

“Biological recording on a national scale enables effective nature conservation”

Sam Newton

Sam Newton – Land of Iron Natural Heritage Officer

Like I said last time you still don’t necessarily need to go far to observe nature.

If you can identify wildlife as you come across it then you can add to a growing wealth of knowledge. The basic ingredients you need are:

  • what you saw
  • where you saw it
  • when you saw it
  • who saw it

Then all you need to do is submit these details. There are many different recording societies and schemes, but if you are new to biological recording, the easiest way to start is uploading records to iRecord (also available as an App). Uploading photos with your records will help the experts who will check your records. iNaturalist is an alternative for uploading pictures of species you have not been able to identify, and then other users of the site can try and identify them with you.

Please note – we do know what most of these are – but we left them un-named so you can have a go yourself.

Being able to observe and identify a plant or animal species, and in doing so understand a bit more about nature, can be incredibly satisfying. But you don’t need to act in isolation – other people are already doing this and can help and encourage with their expertise, experience and enthusiasm. There are a number of really great local and regional naturalist groups that are interested in the species you are perhaps most likely to encounter in your garden and nearby outdoor spaces. Things to remember are that not all species can be identified from photos, and if you use one of these sites, please read any introductory information or pinned posts to find out precisely how they operate.

For general wildlife in and around the North York Moors
Check out the Ryedale Natural History Society, Whitby Naturalists, Scarborough Field Naturalists, and Cleveland Naturalists Field Club for links and information. You could also follow the Whitby Naturalists and Scarborough Field Naturalists on Facebook. Also have a look at the Yorkshire Naturalists Union, who as an organisation study and record Yorkshire’s Flora and Fauna – look for their latest news, wildlife sightings, their Twitter, their Flickr Early purple orchid on a road verge near Sam's house. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.and they also have a list of the wider Yorkshire groups and societies.

For general plants in and around the North York Moors
Look out for a copy of one of the late Nan Syke’s books, such as A Picture Guide to the Wild Flowers of North East Yorkshire (now sadly out of print*) or Wild Flowers on the Edge: The Story of North Yorkshire’s Road Verges. Maybe join North East Yorkshire Botany on Facebook.

For local invertebrates
Have a look at Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire, and their publication The Butterflies of Oak Beauty Moth from Sam's home moth trap. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.Yorkshire, which brings together a huge amount of identification and ecological detail. Also consider joining the Butterflies and Moths, North and East Yorkshire Facebook page. There are around 2,500 British species of moth. I’m keen on moth trapping which allows more time for identification – the moths are released without being harmed. You can use a purpose made moth trap, or check out the BBC’s Springwatch Blog on Moth Trapping for Beginners. To find out more about dragonflies have a look at the species information and other resources on the Yorkshire Dragonfly Group website, and maybe join Yorkshire Dragonfly Group on Facebook.

For nearby birds, fungi, bats, other mammals and more
There are a multitude of other local websites and groups to follow, such as Scarborough Birders, the North East Fungi Study Group, North Yorkshire Bat Group, the Yorkshire Mammal Group – to name just four! To keep up with local biodiversity and nature news, follow Tim Burkinshaw’s Connecting For Nature Blog, and have a look at Yorkshire Coast Nature’s Blogs and News.

These are resources from around the North York Moors but if you’re from further away there will be similar local and regional naturalist groups for you too. Recording nature is something to do together for a shared purpose without actually needing to be side by side.

When you’re out and about, having a look around, always remember to stay safe during the present Covid-19 pandemic. To keep up to date with the latest National Park response to Covid-19 – see here.

*Good news – this book has recently been republished and is available through the North Yorkshire Moors Association.

Looking forward to June

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant, and Sam Newton – Sam Newton – Land of Iron Natural Heritage Trainee

Surrounding the remarkable built heritage remains of the Land of Iron is a patchwork of habitats and species that have withstood the industrial exploitation and managed to find a niche in the landscape left behind. The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund, is working to maintain these habitats and species. Ancient woodland, upland hay meadows and salmon rivers are being enhanced, and by addressing gaps between good habitat the connectivity through the landscape is improved helping wildlife move more freely.

To celebrate the natural heritage of Rosedale, one of the key areas of the Land of Iron, a free to attend Wildlife Week is happening from Sunday 23 to Sunday 29 June 2019. The Updale Reading Room (YO18 8RQ) in Rosedale will be the main hub but there will be activities taking place across the dale. This family-friendly week will be full of opportunities to learn all about the remarkable animal and plant life right here in the North York Moors.

Rosedale Wildlife Week poster. Copyright NYMNPA.

Join us during our Wildlife Week as we celebrate the natural heritage of Rosedale by encountering a wide array of habitats and species under the guidance of local experts. By identifying and recording what we find during the week you will be helping to further understand, and therefore help protect, the diverse wildlife of this area of past ironstone industry into the future.

The kind of things that are going to be happening include:

  • Aquatic Rosedale – spend the morning visiting some fantastic wildlife ponds and the afternoon identifying aquatic invertebrates;
  • Bats of the Abbey – stay out till midnight to see what happens after dark in Rosedale Abbey village, guided by a local bat expert;
  • Fabulous Flora – learn to recognise wildflowers and grasses in the historic Rosedale Abbey churchyard;
  • Moth Mornings – a great way to discover some of the 2,500 species we have in the UK;
  • Tantalising Talks – from photographing wildlife to goshawks and humpbacks, listen to our experts share their experiences in the wild;
  • Rosedale Abbey Short Nature Walk – a short nature and history-themed walk, accessible to all around Rosedale Abbey village;
  • Wildlife Walks – wildlife-themed walks visiting hidden Hartoft and up-dale Rosedale.

Curlew - image credit: Steve Race.The moorland edge of Rosedale and Hartoft provides great habitat for Curlew. For a chance to view these birds, come along on the Rosedale Wildlife Walk (25 June) or the Hidden Hartoft Wildlife Walk (27 June). Image credit: Steve Race.

Hay Meadow - image credit: NYMNPA.

Rosedale is home to some of the North York Moors’ best remaining species rich grasslands, like this fantastic traditionally managed hay meadow. Come and explore this diverse plant life on the Meadows and Pastures of Rosedale (24 June) Image credit: NYMNPA.

Wood Tiger Moth - image credit: Allan Rodda.

Rosedale’s rich mosaic of habitats will support a wide variety of moths, such as this Wood Tiger. To see what moths we can find, come along on one of the Moth Mornings (23 and 29 June). Image credit: Allan Rodda.

Keep an eye on the Land of Iron website or the National Park’s own What’s On page for programme updates, or else telephone the Land of Iron team on 01439 772700 to find out more. Please note that certain sessions will be unavoidably inaccessible to wheelchair users due to rough and rugged terrain.

To book onto a session please visit our Eventbrite page and reserve your space to avoid disappointment.

If you are travelling into Rosedale from further afield please think about using the local Moorsbus and other public transport – because its good for the environment, and also because Rosedale has narrow roads and limited parking.

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A to Z: a rabble of Rs

R

RABBITS

Hares are native to Britain, but rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are not considered to be native at least not since the last Ice Age. Rabbits, also known as coneys, were introduced first by the Romans and then imported by the Normans in the early medieval period. Rabbits were valued for their meat, fur and skin. On southern facing slopes of the North York Moors, rabbits were farmed from the medieval period through to the 20th century using warrening structures. Warrens were artificially constructed with embankments, ditches and ‘pillow’ mounds. Particularly common were ‘Rabbit-types’ where rabbits were caught through trap doors which released into pits.  These artificial warrens allowed the rabbits to be managed (farmed) efficiently on a large scale.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries felt from rabbit skins and fur was an important money making product for the south east corner of the North York Moors. Felt was in demand for hats and rabbit was an alternative to beaver. The industry slowly declined with the last warrener working up until the 1920s.  Many warrening sites have been lost as land has been re-used, but some large scale warrening complexes can still be traced in the Forestry Commission owned forests such as Dalby and Wykeham.

Rabbit, Westerdale. Copyright Ami Hudson, NYMNPA.

Wild/feral rabbits are now a particularly successful non-native invasive species, despite there being a number of native predator species.

Ranunculus sp.

As winter is losing its grip, hopefully the photo below will help brighten your day.

Grassland with buttercups. Copyright NYMNPA.

Ranunculus is the plant genus which includes our buttercup species and provides our countryside with vivid displays of yellow during the summer months.  There are lots of different species, and here are but a few found across Britain including the North York Moors, all with sunny yellow flowers.

Meadow buttercup R.acris: Look at a hay meadow in the summer and the chances are that it is this species that is predominant. It is an indicator of moist unimproved grassland, and although it grows in a wide range of soil types it is not tolerant of high nutrient levels. As it can survive cutting and is not palatable to grazing stock, old meadows and pastures are where it thrives best.

Creeping buttercup R.repens: This buttercup can, from a distance, give the impression that you are looking at a species rich hay meadow. The reality can be very different though as this plant is very tolerant of high nutrient levels and disturbed ground and is sometimes considered a problem weed. It is often found around field gateways where poaching and tramping make it difficult for other plants to survive, and in overgrazed fields where it remains untouched by stock and readily out competes less tolerant plants. One of the key differences between this species and meadow buttercup is the presence of rooting runners which allow this plant to spread very effectively and quickly cover bare ground. The species’ method of reproduction (cloning) meant it was used a few years ago for an interesting study into aging meadows. https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2009/june/title-77794-en.html

Bulbous buttercup R. bulbosus: This species prefers much drier conditions and, like meadow buttercup, is an indicator of unimproved grassland with a low tolerance to fertilisers. It is common on well drained neutral or calcareous soils and can be identified by its downturned sepals (when flowering) and a swollen stem base which can be identified by carefully scratching a small amount of soil away from the base of the plant.

But it’s not just buttercups. Also in the same Ranunculus genus, and providing a splash Lesser spearwort. Copyright NYMNPA.of colour in the early days of spring before the other Ranunculs is Lesser Celandine (R.ficaria). This is easily identified by its narrow, glossy yellow petals, low-growing form and heart-shaped mottled leaves. It’s usually noticeable as it is in abundance when other plants are still tentatively emerging from their overwintering.

Finally, brightening up bogs in the summer is Lesser spearwort (R.flammula) which thrives in wet places and can often be found growing with soft rush in unimproved habitats. The flowers look very similar to a buttercup, but it has spear-shaped leaves.

READING ROOMS

In the 19th and early 20th century there was a trend for the better off in society, to provide the means to try and ‘improve’ their local workforce i.e. the not so well off. Rather than people gathering in public houses to drink, debauch and mutter – the idea instead was to provide an opportunity for social, moral, intellectual and spiritual improvement for the local community. ‘…the more he knows, the less hasty, the less violent, and the more correct will be his judgment and opinions’ (from the Manchester Spectator 1849).

The philanthropic benefactors would be local landowners, local business people on the rise, new industrial entrepreneurs, and often the local Church including non-conformists e.g. the Methodists. Individuals or local committees of bigwigs, would gift their local community a Reading Room, first in growing towns and then also in rural villages. Any local community who wanted to think themselves liberal and progressive needed a Reading Room. The provision of a building where men could read instructive newspapers, educational periodicals and improving books promoted the popular ideas of self-improvement and self-help. Reading Rooms were the forerunners of public libraries. It wasn’t all reading – they also hosted useful lectures and respectable entertainments as well.

There are a number of Reading Room buildings remaining in the North York Moors, some still used as community buildings and others converted. It is interesting that a number are clearly connected to industrial populations such as that in Rosedale, but others are located in more rural communities such as Boltby, Lastingham and Runswick Bay.

ROBERT HESELTINE HUDSON

“Rarely does a case, even of murder, excite such an intense interest as that which has been taken by the general public in the charge against Robert Heseltine Hudson, of the wilful murder of his wife and child on Roper Moor, near Helmsley, on the 8th of June last.”

 “Accused was accommodated with a chair and remained remarkably quiet throughout the trial. He certainly had not the look of a murderer. There was nothing dreadful in the dark sallow countenance, nor repulsive in the black hair, eyebrows, and bearded face, with cultivated moustache trimmed in imperial fashion. The eye was steady and the body restful, and an expression of ease and indifference seemed reflected in a faint smile upon the lips which looked more natural than feigned. Hudson, for some reason, had practically nothing to say. He sat throughout the evidence without manifesting any perceptible distress and it was impossible to judge of the man’s inner consciousness from his appearance…What did seem probably to many observers was that Hudson had quietly resigned himself to his fate…”

From the Yorkshire Gazetteer Saturday 27 July 1895

Robert Hudson’s family was from near Helmsley, he went to school at nearby East Moors. His parents then moved the family to Darlington and as an adult Robert Hudson worked in Liverpool, Sheffield and Nottingham. However in May 1895 Hudson, then a house furnisher’s assistant, brought his wife Kate and their son Heseltine who was not yet one, back to where he had started from. They lodged in a house on Bondgate, Helmsley.

Robert Hudson took his family out for walks and drives in the local countryside – it was reported that Mrs Hudson complained that the places they visited were lonely. On 8 June Mr Hudson returned but his wife and child did not. He told his landlady that they had gone to visit an aunt in Hovingham. Hudson then swiftly disappeared on the 3.39 train to York. Suspicions were aroused resulting in a search of the lonely local countryside. After a while a recently dug hole was found under a clump of trees on Roppa Moor. The bodies of Kate and Heseltine Hudson were found together in the hole covered by a thin layer of soil. Their throats had been cut with a carving knife; Mrs Hudson’s hands were terribly injured suggesting she had struggled to stay the knife.

Hudson was tracked down to Birmingham and arrested, he was brought back first to Helmsley to be committed for trial and then taken to York Crown Court. The evidence was pretty overwhelming. Hudson had bought a spade from a Helmsley ironmonger and was seen cycling about with the spade tied to his bicycle. The spade was later found on Roppa Moor. A local man had come across the hole on Roppa Moor a couple of days before it was used as a grave. Various other local people identified him as a man they had seen acting suspiciously on and around Roppa Moor. Soon after the ‘disappearance’ of his wife Robert Hudson was advertising for a new wife “Bachelor, tall, dark, age 27, wishes to meet with lady of some means, with a view to early marriage”. There was also a pocket book in which Mr Hudson had written on 15 June – “One week from the saddest event in my life, at ten to one o’clock, and I am living yet”. The jury considered their verdict for c. 6 minutes. Robert Hudson was found guilty.

Robert Hudson did not directly confess to the murders, but he did blame bad company for his predicament and expressed repentance. He was hanged at York Castle on 13 August 1895.

ROMANS (1st to 4th centuries AD)

Following on the heels of trading links the Roman invasion and then entrenchment across most of Britain  started with temporary military installations and infrastructure including connecting roads to maintain control. This was overtaken with more permanent military bases, as well as the establishment of towns, industrial centres and civilian farmsteads. Romanisation of society was backed up with military might, but at the same time the lure of Roman luxuries, the value of Roman technologies, and the promise of Roman advancement and power very much helped its spread.

Unlike the Iron Age native population, the Romans weren’t interested in living on the moors part of the North York Moors. Most Roman related remains are along the southern edge, close-ish to Malton and York which were major Roman towns. There are a number of minor “villa” complexes (Romano-British farmsteads) at Beadlam, Spaunton and Blandsby Park and the remains of two forts and a military camp at ‘Cawthorn Camps’.

Romans at Cawthorn, 2010. Copyright NYMNPA.

There is another early fort at Lease Rigg in the north of the North York Moors. This site includes ramparts, barracks, stables, a granary, a praetorium (Officer quarters), and a principia (main building for admin and religion). The forts at Cawthorn and at Lease Rigg are connected by Wheeldale Road/Wades Causeway, which is recorded as a Roman road. Because of the lack of quality it has been suggested it isn’t actually a Roman road at all.

The North York Moors Historic Environment Record includes a number of Roman finds including pottery, tessalie (mosaic tiles), coins, armilla (metal armband), beads, weights, pins, and altars.

There are also a number of Roman signal stations along the coastal cliffs from the 4th century. The best example in the North York Moors is at Goldsborough. There might also have been a signal station at Ravenscar – the evidence for this is an engraved dedication stone identified in the 18th century, but this might have been brought onto the site from somewhere else after the Roman period. The stone reads IVSTINIANVSPP VINDICIANVS MASSIERIV(RR)/(PR) MCASTRVMFECIT A….0. (JUSTINIANUS COMMANDER  VINDICIANUS…PRAEFECT OF SOLDIERS BUILT THIS TOWER AND FORT FROM GROUND LEVEL). Signal stations were built towards the end of the Roman period to guard against the growing threat of Angles and Saxons from the sea. By this time people on the edge of the Roman Empire were having to look after themselves because as the empire contracted it was clear no one was going to come and rescue them. The end of the Roman period fizzled out slowly. Often the new invaders would use the same sites, carefully chosen for their resources and setting. For example there is evidence that Cawthorn Camps was subsequently re-used as an Anglian settlement.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O , P, Q

Following in the footsteps

Elspeth Ingleby – Natural Heritage Officer, This Exploited Land of Iron

Wildlife can be wonderfully conspicuous – in the UK there are lots of places where you are assured a wealth of wildlife before your very eyes, be it throngs of guillemot on a sea cliff, ducks and geese scrambling for titbits at a local park, or even clouds of the infamous Scottish midge. However many other species can be much harder to discover, whether because of where they live, what they eat or their sensitivity to disturbance.

But with a little effort and some detective work, you can discover a whole new world of wildlife. Spring is a great time to look a little more closely and see what you can find.

Prints, tracks and signs

You can pick up guides to some of the more common prints and signs (the Field Studies Council produce several) and then with a little practice it is possible to find and follow the footsteps of your local wildlife seeing how animals are using the landscape which is their home. Things to look out for include:

  • Bare ground, turned earth or puddle edges which are great for retaining foot prints of passing wildlife – head out a few hours after rain (or snow!) to see what has passed by in the recent past.
  • Patches of white splattered on the ground, branches or tree trunks that are a dead giveaway for a regular perch or roost where the resident has lightened the load before taking flight.
  • The bottom of fences and around the base of trees which can provide rich pickings of hair tufts which can identify who has been there.
  • Holes in the ground that can indicate where a pheasant has scratched, or a badger has dug after worms.

Pellets and poo

You can tell a lot about wildlife from the physical remains they leave behind. Looking a little closer at droppings or the regurgitated pellets of raptors can yield a wealth of information, not only about the eater, but also about the eaten.

At our recent This Exploited Land of Iron launch weekend, we challenged young wildlife explorers to see what they could find within Barn Owl pellets. Within minutes we had identified remains of Field Vole, Common Shrew, Wood Mouse, Robin and Frog showing just what a range of food owls will eat. It’s also fun trying to see how many skulls you can find, or identifying the different bones of the victims’ anatomy!Getting hands on at the Land of Iron launch event (copyright NYMNPA) and photo of Barn Owl (copyright Brian Nellist).

Many of our native predators use scats (animal excrement) as sign posts advertising their presence and territory to others. Surveying some of our shyest mammals is often done almost entirely by poo alone. The distinctive ‘tic-tac’ Water Vole droppings can identify not only where a population is, but also size of inhabited area, number of population, whether breeding or not – where you could be walking every day and never actually see ear nor tail of a Water Vole.Water Vole by WildStock Images

Smell can be a great way to tell different species apart as a careful sniff can tell you a lot. For instance Otters will leave ‘Jasmine scented’ scats often containing fish bones and scales, on prominent rocks in a stream, whereas Foxes will leave grey, foul smelling scats with wisps of hair, bone and beetle shells in the middle of a path giving clues to their daily haunts and diet.

Camera tracking

Trail camera. Copyright NYMNPA.A slightly less ‘hands on’ approach is to wait for the wildlife to come to you. As technology progresses and costs fall, remote cameras are becoming much more accessible – whether you are hoping to learn about a particular species, or simply work out what is digging up your vegetable patch! Our Land of Iron Programme has recently invested in a number of cameras to help us find out more about the shy and elusive Ring Ouzel which breeds around the moorland edge, and is also known as the Mountain Blackbird. The local population in Rosedale has been vulnerable to nest predation in recent years and we are hoping to catch the Ring Ouzel with its distinctive white chest. Copyright North East Wildlife.culprits in the act by staking out key nest sites. We are also expecting these cameras to give us real insights into Ring Ouzel behaviour, informing how we can best support and bolster the population of these beautiful birds. The best bit? – we don’t have to spend the next three months sitting behind a bush to find out!

Rosedale with Rowan in the foreground. Copyright Tom Mutton, NYMNPA.

Animal tracking can be incredibly rewarding, and a great activity to do when you’re out and about – particularly with kids. You can get involved for yourself by joining This Exploited Land of Iron at the upcoming Rosedale History Society Festival on 22 and 23 April where we will be busy dissecting owl pellets, or taking part in one of the family friendly events at The Moors National Park Centre over the Easter holidays, or just heading out yourself for an explore! However when you’re exploring please remember that most of the North York Moors is privately owned and you’d need permission from the landowner to explore over private land.

This Exploited Land of Iron LPS logos

 

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.

Beside the sea

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

The spectacular coastline that makes up the eastern edge of the North York Moors National Park consists of a great number of composite habitats which in turn are home to a great number of complex plants and animals. The number of habitats – from grasslands to woodlands, farmland to coastal slope, rocky shore to marine environment – means the biodiversity interest on the coast is particularly abundant.

North York Moors coastal landscape - looking out to sea - NYMNPA

On the clifftop farmland plateau, a network of traditional field boundaries provide corridors for a variety of wildlife. Small mammals such as Field voles, Mice and Shrews take advantage of the cover that old walls and growing hedges offer, whilst high in the hedgerows farmland birds such as Yellowhammer, Linnet, Whitethroat and Goldfinch call out to mark their territories and deter predators from their nest sites. Old stone walls and also buildings offer cover for herptiles along the coast such as Slow worms and Adders. The large open fields on the clifftop are often lookout points for Brown hare and Roe deer at dawn and at dusk.

Yellowhammers - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/

Slow worm - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/Hare - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/Intersecting the plateau there are coastal woodland gills (narrow valley with stream) running down to the sea which contain their own microclimates. Sycamore often dominate the frontage to coastal gill woodlands as they seem to tolerate the cold north easterly winds; further up the gills where the growing conditions are less harsh, indicators of ancient woodlands are prevalent. English Oak and Ash are common along with a healthy understory of Hazel, Holly, Hawthorn and Blackthorn. Below this layer during springtime a plethora of ground flora comes to life with Wild garlic, Lesser celandine, Wood anenome and Dog-violets providing dashes of colour to the woodland floor.

Wild garlic - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/

Hayburn Wyke near Cloughton retains many native tree species growing alongside more recently planted introductions such as Larch and Rhododendron, a Victorian favourite! Introduced into the United Kingdom from Southern Europe and South East Asia in the late 19th century, Rhododendron flowers may be pretty, but the plant has become a serious problem in many woodlands due to its vigorous ability to colonise via seed and underground suckers. In doing so the evergreen canopy of the bush shades out much of the native ground flora leaving a barren ground layer below. Which is why the National Trust at Hayburn Wyke are actively controlling this non-native invasive species and bringing the native ground flora back to life.

Magic wood of Hayburn Wyke by robiuk - http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/United_Kingdom/England/North_Yorkshire/Cloughton_Newlands/photo155135.htm

The coastal cliffs and crags are temporary homes to seabirds such as Kittiwakes, FulmarsCommon gulls and Herring gulls before they take to the wing and patrol the waters below. Sand martin colonies also exist in the soft cliffs if you know where to look. Kestrels and the occasional Peregrine falcon will also use the craggy outcrops as they search for prey on the undercliffs and rocky shore.

Kittiwakes - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/

Coastal slope grasslands on the undercliff (below soft cliffs) offer some of the most unimproved habitats in the whole of the National Park. They have evaded the plough and fertiliser spreader and have therefore remained an almost natural habitat with an abundance of wild plant life. The grasslands are home to a variety of orchid species but these can become choked by ranker vegetation such as bracken and bramble. This is where management is needed to conserve the best features of the habitat through grazing by livestock to keep the invasive domineering species in check. In the sheltered hollows within the cliffs mosses and lichens grow, the lichens being good indicators of unpolluted, clean air in the atmosphere.

Exmoor ponies grazing the coastal slope - NYMNPA

Butterwort, Beast Cliff - NYMNPA

Marine life abounds along the rocky shore between land and sea – intertidal habitats. Covered by seawater twice a day, plants and animals that live in the rock pools are super resilient and have adapted to the constant flooding and desiccation that the harsh coastal environment brings. Barnacles, Blennies, Butterfish, Anemones, Periwinkles, Dog whelks and Limpets have all developed intricate methods of survival as the tides recedes for 6 hours before returning to overtop their pools and hiding places and plunge them underwater again. Common seals and Grey seals also regularly visit our shores during the summer and autumn months, hauling out at the remotest headlands to rest and give birth to pups.Rocky Shore - tide out - near Port Mulgrave - NYMNPA

Periwinkles - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/Marine mussles - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/Limpets - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/

Out into the sea along the North York Moors coast marine cetaceans thrive during the summer months. Along with Bottlenose dolphin and Harbour porpoise, five different species of Whale have been recorded off the coast not that far from the shore – Pilot, Fin, Sei, Minke and even Humpback whales – as they follow the herring shoals around the North Sea.

Dolphin - http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/

What with cliffs, crags, caves, coves, crabs and cobblestones this post on the coast was meant to be part of the next instalment of our North York Moors National Park A to Z – but it just felt like it needed its own space.

North York Moors Top 10 flora

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Ami Walker – Lead Land Management Adviser These are my Top 10 of wild flowers and grasses that you can see round about now in the surviving meadows, uncultivated grasslands and road verges of the North York Moors. These are some … Continue reading

Before and After

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant

Land managers and local contractors across the North York Moors have been working hard throughout the year, despite the adversity of torrential rain, deep mud, and endless gale-force winds, to keep the hedges and walls of our National Park going.

In addition to being a great landscape feature, the hedge and wall boundaries provide a long list of benefits to land managers, livestock and wildlife. Here are a few of the benefits (you might be able to think up more):

  • Wind break (crop and livestock protection)
  • Long-lasting livestock retention (outlasting fences by many years!)
  • Soil erosion prevention
  • Wildlife corridors
  • Shelter for livestock and a range of wildlife from snakes to ladybirds
  • Nesting areas for wildlife such as birds and voles
  • Pollen and nectar for bees and other insects
  • Food for wildlife (and foraging humans!)
  • Diversity of vegetation, within the hedge and in the sheltered areas at the foot of hedges and walls, in addition to fungi and lichens

A number of land managers applied for grant aid via our Traditional Boundary Scheme during the year. It was my job to initially assess each site, run a constraint check to make sure that what we were going to grant aid wouldn’t have a negative effect, and draw up the grant-aid agreements. I’m now rushing around checking up on grant claims before the end of the financial year.

Here are some of the before and after shots from the Traditional Boundary Scheme so far.

Thanks to all the land managers who have been involved in the Scheme over the last year, and well done everyone who’s completed so far; the renovated boundaries are looking good (the hedgerows always take a bit longer to look good than the walls)! Keep an eye out on our website, our Twitter and Facebook sites, and in the local press, for how to apply for the Traditional Boundary Scheme next financial year.

Not too late for water voles

Rona Charles – Senior Ecology Officer and Laura Winter – Aquatic Mammal Specialist and National Park Volunteer

There is often a gloomy tone to reports on Britain’s water vole (Arvicola amphibious) populations. For example, an Environment Agency spokesman has said that numbers in the UK are thought to have fallen by over 95% since the 1970s and a further 20% since 2011. But recent work by University of Aberdeen researchers shows that water voles can move from further from place to place than had been thought previously. This behaviour could give them a better chance to adapt to changing conditions, but only if there is still suitable habitat to act as corridors for them to travel through.

Despite difficult weather conditions over the last few years, and the presence of predatory mink, we believe that the North York Moors water voles are hanging on here in the uplands more successfully than in some other parts of the country. The best area here is in the east of the North York Moors, centred on Fylingdales Moor and Langdale Forest. The nature of this area means that the water voles are able to move and recolonize other sites when environmental and predation pressures render their usual habitats inhospitable. This is because

  • there is a large number of tributaries, ditches and headwaters connecting two river systems in the area;
  • there are large expanses of heather and forest providing cover for movement as well as pockets of water vole favoured habitat;
  • and importantly, the major landowners in the area, are sympathetic to the needs of the animal and try to manage their land accordingly.

Water voles need lightly-grazed wetland habitat extending beyond the immediate banks of slow flowing becks and rivers. Legal mink control can give the water vole a better chance of survival, although good wetland habitats provide better cover for the voles to escape the attentions of all potential predators.

We’re definitely not complacent though.

The habitat connectivity programme we’re rolling out in the North York Moors will help to reconnect fragmented areas of valuable habitat and should give the water vole more chance to safely relocate and hopefully spread out. Peatland restoration on a number of moors over the last few years, plus the ‘Slowing the Flow’ project above Pickering, is resulting in water being held back for longer on the higher ground and the run off during heavy rain slowed. This is an advantage for water voles (slower-flowing watercourses and less flash flooding of their burrows), as well as hopefully for people living further downstream.