Revitalising the Rye

Tom Stephenson, External Funding Officer

There must be something in the water in the North York Moors, having just started delivering the This Exploited Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, the National Park Authority and its partners* have also been successful at the first stage of securing a further £2 million of Heritage Lottery Fund money to develop our next Landscape Partnership SchemeRyevitalise.

The River Rye and its tributaries rise on the moorland of the North York Moors, flowing through fast and clear upland becks that carve out steep sided dales until the land flattens and the river slows and broadens taking on the character of the undulating Howardian Hills and the flat lowlands of the Vale of Pickering. The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme under development will help appreciate and enhance the Rye’s verdant landscape and clear waters which have been prized for millennia for their beauty and tranquillity resulting in a more natural, better functioning and better understood landscape.

Planned projects will cover four themes:

  • Water Environment, looking at aquatic habitats of the Rye and rare and threatened species;
  • Water Quality, working with land-owners and managers to reduce pollution;
  • Water Level Management, working alongside our delivery partners to harness natural processes to manage the sources and pathways of flood waters; and
  • Reconnecting People, improving the understanding of the river landscape by telling the story of its evolution and helping people to protect their heritage.

Without wanting to spoil the surprise of future blog posts, below are just some of the particular issues we are aiming to address through Ryevitalise scheme projects if we’re lucky enough to be successful in our Stage 2 application due in October 2018.

The wet…

Water is the major theme of Ryevitalise. Through the Ryevitalise scheme, from the high moorlands to the lowland wetlands, we will identify priority areas of riparian habitat for restoration to ensure existing high-value habitats (and their species) are in positive management and can act as nodes from which to extend outwards by creating ‘stepping stones’ and connections between these habitat sites.

Wetter still, we will assess the geomorphology and key features of the aquatic environment and target areas where aquatic habitats could be improved by creating changes to the channel through creating gravel bars, by placing debris to create slacks or by making changes to river bank profile. This work will include a survey of the habitats and species of the oxbow lakes in the lower Rye, and also the collecting and analysis of sediment cores to look for valuable paleoecological data which might shed light on how the local landscape formed.

The dry…

We have previously reported on the problems that fluctuating water levels in the River Rye
in Duncombe Park has on the White-clawed crayfish, the only native crayfish in the UK, White-clawed crayfish - during 2016 rescue in Duncombe Park. Copyright NYMNPA.which is suffering from a “perfect storm” of threats. Ryevitalise will prioritise protective measures for the existing population and carry out a feasibility study to identify where potential local ark sites might be located. Ark sites for White-clawed crayfish would allow populations to become established in isolation, separated from the threat of non-native crayfish and the crayfish plague they can carry.

The small…

Alcathoe bat. Copyright Cyril Schonbachler.One of the Rye catchment’s smallest inhabitants is the Alcathoe bat. Relatively new to science, having been first identified in 2001 and only recently becoming the latest addition to the UK bat family, this little creature has only been found at two other sites in the UK so far. Ryevitalise will seek to establish a deeper knowledge of where colonies of the Alcathoe bat and other key bat populations are, along with the requirements to support their survival.

The tall…

At the other end of the size spectrum and intrinsically linked to bats are some of the Rye catchment’s largest residents – its ancient and veteran trees. The area is a national hotspot for these giants that not only give an air of majesty to the landscape as living witnesses to history but also provide important habitat for many invertebrate species as well as providing important roosting sites for Rye bat populations.

The old…

Not only is the Rye catchment home to iconic built heritage like Rievaulx Abbey, Rievaulx Terrace, Duncombe Park and Nunnington Hall but it also contains a wealth of less obvious heritage that traces vernacular land use and tells the story of the working River Rye. Working with local history groups, Ryevitalise will record the remaining evidence of man’s relationship with the river over the centuries, surveying and recording the traces of the former agricultural and industrial settlements along the river banks. Accurate 3D models will be produced of the principal remaining watermills, iron working sites, water races and leats. Essential conservation and consolidation work will be identified from the surveys carried out.

The new…

Meanders in Rye near Sproxton - can see the water crowfoot beds within the river, September 2016. Copyright North East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre.Like a lot of watercourses, it is not practical to access the river in its entirety at ground level. So as part of the Ryevitalise scheme an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight will record the entire 50km main river from its moorland origins all the way downstream to where it
meets the River Derwent. This will produce an invaluable record and will provide an insightful journey along the river for local communities, highlighting how this vital artery connects them all. Tailored sections of flight data will be made freely available to local schools, businesses, and community groups as a community resource; it will also form part of the scheme’s wider education programme.

We are all really excited about the next steps in developing the Ryevitalise scheme; the opportunity to make the most of the wealth of habitats, species and history surrounding the river; the potential to make a lasting difference to this wonderful landscape, and the chance to create a real splash.

HLFNL_2747

* Partners currently include East Yorkshire Rivers Trust, English Heritage, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Howardian Hills AONB, National Trust, Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, Woodland Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, as well as local communities.

A to Z: a gathering of Gs

G

GARDENS

The Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England, was established in 1983 (National Heritage Act) and is managed by Historic England. It currently identifies over 1,600 significant sites across the country, ranging from the grounds of large stately homes to small domestic gardens, as well other designed landscapes such as town squares, public parks and cemeteries. The register aims to “celebrate designed landscapes of note, and encourage appropriate protection” so as to safeguard the features and qualities of these key landscapes into the future. The designation is on a par with scheduling and listing and therefore provides legal protection which means it is a material consideration in the planning process.

Within the National Park we have four entries on the national Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Arncliffe Hall – A small 3 hectare site, Arncliffe Hall gardens include two walled enclosures, grass terraces, a summerhouse, and two L shaped canals. The Hall was built between 1753 and 1754 and the gardens and pleasure grounds had been laid out by the 1770s. Alterations have since been made, although the structure of the gardens has remained broadly intact.

The Hall gardens are not open to the public.

Duncombe Park – This 285 hectare park was created in the early 18th century and early to mid-19th century on the site of a medieval deer park associated with Helmsley Castle. It was described as “pleasure grounds” with a curving terrace, blocks of woodland with curving paths and a serpentine ha-ha. It is one of the earliest examples of a ha-ha in the country (around 1718-23) – the walled ditch demarcates between the garden and the thrilling ‘wilder’ landscape beyond without breaking up the important vista. The Park retains elements of both the formal, symmetrical garden style and the later more picturesque “English garden” style.

The Park still contains a large number of veteran trees and is considered the most important parkland in the north of England for dead-wood insects.

The Duncombe Park gardens are open to the public – please see the Duncombe Park website.

Rievaulx Terrace – This 23 hectare site forms a terrace laid out in about 1758 with views of the valley of the Rye and the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. The layout of the Terrace with the emphasis on unfolding views rather than formal axes was departure at the time and has been described as ‘a landmark in the development of English Landscape style’ and ‘a superlative example of large-scale landscape gardening’. The Terrace was part of the Duncombe Park Estate and the picturesque dramatic ruins of Rievaulx Abbey presented the ultimate landscape Folly.

The Terrace is open to the public – please see the National Trust website.

Mulgrave Castle – A 350 hectare park which was laid out by the first Earl of Mulgrave in the late 18th century and early 19th century incorporating proposals of Humphry Repton (the last great English landscape designer of the 18th century, often regarded as the successor to Capability Brown). A series of drives took in the most dramatic and aesthetic features. The Park makes full use of its ‘wild’ rural setting and encompasses the steep valleys of the Sandsend Beck and East Row Beck, as well as the romantic ruins of the old Castle.

The Park is occasionally open to the public, by invitation.

GEOLOGY and GEOMORPHOLOGY

‘The region forms one of the most natural divisions of Yorkshire possessing its own special physical boundaries’ Frank Elgee, 1912.

The North York Moors stands out from the surrounding lowland landscape to the north and west, stands up against the North Sea in the east, and to the south slopes more gently down into the Vale of Pickering. The North York Moors were originally designated as a National Park because of its landscape. The land forms and land management which result in the changing landscape are a result of the underlying geology.

From Geology of the North York Moors by Alan Staniforth, North York Moors National Park 1990

The geology of the North York Moors is made up largely of layers of sedimentary rock formed under water during the Jurassic Age. The exception is the Cleveland (Whinstone) Dyke which cuts across the area and is an igneous seam forced vertically upwards as molten lava. The last Ice Age, around two million years ago, meant the North York Moors plateau was surrounded on three sides by ice sheets. The effects of the ice itself, and then as it retreated, had huge effects on the land forms along the edges e.g. the western scarp, the Newtondale and Forge Valley glacial meltwater channels. Sedimentary rocks continue to erode over time, due to the wind, rain and the sea, and so the landscape continues to morph – this can be seen most dramatically now along the coastal edge. In a number of places where softer shale rocks have eroded away, the harder sedimentary rocks remain as outcrops e.g. Bridestones.

Formed under water sedimentary rocks contain the fossilised remains of animals and plants deposited on the sea floor which is why this area is so well known for fossils. There was a thriving industry on the coast in the 19th century where dealers were happy to supply real, and not so real, fossils and other historic artefacts to collectors.

Geology shaped in prehistory continues to affect the more recent history of the North York Moors. The sedimentary rock groups include elements which have been quarried and mined, and vestiges of these industries can still be seen today. These minerals, valuable enough at one time or another to encourage exploitation, have included jet, coal, alum, and ironstone; as well as limestone and whinstone for building materials. The needs of the industrial revolution led to advances in geology/geomorphology because it was financially important to be able to understand and identify where the best mineral seams could be most easily accessed. The latest minerals of the North York Moors area to be valued are potash and polyhalite. Oil and gas (created by fossilisation) are also present in the sedimentary rock stratification.

GOLDEN-RINGED DRAGONFLY (Cordulegaster boltonii)

Female adult golden-ringed dragonfly - from yorkshiredragonflies.org.ukThis particular dragonfly species favours watercourses and waterbodies in upland heathland areas, including the North York Moors. One of the places it can be seen is the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Fen Bog Nature Reserve.

The majority of the life of a dragonfly is spent as a nymph living in water and predating on other creatures including fish. The short lived adult emerges from the larval stage when it leaves the water, begins to breathe and breaks out of its old skin. Adult dragonflies are a spectacular summer sight in England where native wildlife is seldom flashy, because of their unusual size and their eye catching bright colours.

GOLDEN PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

Golden Plover - copyright Mike Nicholas

The Golden Plover is a wading bird. A wader is any species of longish legged bird that feeds in shallow water. The Golden Plover is one of a number of wader species that breed on the North York Moors – the other main species being Lapwing, Curlew and Snipe. Golden Plover spend spring and summer on the moorland and along the moorland/farmland edge (inbye). They are a ground nesting bird preferring shorter managed vegetation so they can see approaching predators. Like most ground nesting birds they are often more easily heard than seen.

The major moorland area of the North York Moors National Park is an internationally important habitat for Golden Plover and because of this Golden Plover population (as well as its Merlin population) the area has been designated as a Special Protection Area. Our most recent Moorland Breeding Wader survey (2014) found the highest densities of Golden Plover on record in this area.

Goldilocks Buttercup - copyright Sam Witham, NYMNPAGOLDILOCKS (Ranunculus auricomus)

The Goldilocks Buttercup (sometimes known as Wood Buttercup) is a small low growing straggly plant that flowers in April/May. It has bright yellow flowers with uneven misshapen looking petals. It is often found in Ancient Woodlands sites growing in moist glades, on hedge banks and along shrubby margins, and as a ‘calcicole’ it thrives on chalk, limestone and other basic soils.

There are orphan Goldilocks within Helmsley Churchyard. To the north of the churchyard is Beckdale which is still wooded and here the plant grows alongside the beck – just downstream the same beck runs through through a culvert in the Churchyard. The Goldilocks could be a surviving remnant from woodland on the site over 1,000 years ago.

GOOSEBERIES

The Egton Bridge Gooseberry Society has maintained the competitive northern tradition of showing and comparing the heaviest gooseberries grown, since approximately 1800. The Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show is held every year on the first Tuesday in August – and is all about this deliciously juicy cultivated fruit.

The wild relation (Ribes uva-crispa) can be found occasionally in old hedgerows.

GOTHSIllustration by Abigail Rorer from Dracula - www.foliosociety.com

The Goths, or Visigoths, were a Germanic Tribe largely responsible for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But it’s not that type of Goth that congregate in Whitby at least twice a year. Our Goths are those who celebrate the darker side of existence and share an appreciation of the morbid and the beauty of horror, and you couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of people. They are drawn to Whitby because of its association with Dracula, a personification of the Gothic. Hopefully on their way over the moors to Whitby they enjoy the dark brooding skies and the grim lonely landscapes of the North York Moors.

GRASSLAND

2014-06-30 Species Rich Grassland at Sutton Bank - Red Clover, Quaking Grass, Fairy Flax - by Kirsty Brown, NYMNPAGrasslands are extremely important habitats supporting a wide range of plant and animal species. A large part of our grassland habitats resource has been lost in the National Park, like elsewhere in the country, through agricultural intensification where land has been ‘improved’ by using fertiliser and re-seeding to increase productivity and make a better living. Species rich unimproved grasslands still exist in the National Park, though they are now often small and isolated remnants of habitats that used to be widespread – in 2012 it was calculated that of the 45,000 hectares of grassland in the North York Moors only approximately 1,150 hectares were species rich grassland. These small areas hang on where their location or terrain has made it difficult to intensify management, for example on steep banks and in awkward field corners. Roadside verges can also retain valuable grassland flora.

In the Tabular Hills, along the southern edge of the North York Moors, diverse species-rich calcareous grasslands can still be found. However, these grasslands are at risk; under grazing can lead to scrub encroachment, whereas over grazing can cause erosion and loss of vegetation structure and plant species. Lowland Calcareous Grassland* is a priority habitat that the National Park seeks to conserve, restore and where possible create.

Locally, there is a lot more good quality, semi-improved grasslands in the North York Moors which despite being species rich, do not qualify as a species rich priority habitat because they don’t reach the abundance threshold. Instead these grasslands are classed as ‘good quality semi-improved or degraded grassland of high species richness’, or ‘semi-improved grassland of moderate species richness’. These grasslands are often farmed but just aren’t ‘improved’ to the level of other fields.

Our grasslands may have been slightly more species poor historically than grasslands elsewhere in the country e.g. the Yorkshire Dales because they are close to acid moorland soils and not surrounded by calcareous geology and consequently do not typically have an abundance of calcareous (limestone) species. However, for this National Park they are still locally valuable habitats supporting a diverse flora and associated species and well worth conserving for biodiversity and landscape reasons. This is one of the main aims of our Habitat Connectivity initiative.

*The North York Moors is mostly under 300 metres altitude which is the approximate dividing line between ‘lowland’ and ‘upland’ habitats.

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

Peculiarity of Character: part 2

 Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation)

Following on from our previous post – here are few more of the sometimes weird and always wonderful listed ‘buildings’ found in the North York Moors.

Telephone Kiosks

untitledWhilst the traditional red telephone box is an iconic English feature a green one is even more unusual. This telephone box at Fangdale Beck is a classic K6 type, designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and made by Macfarlane of Glasgow. We think its green colour was the result of a competition for local school children who were given the opportunity to choose its colour.

There are also several listed red K6s in the North York Moors. Many K6 telephone boxes have been recently decommissioned and as a result some have been destroyed. In other areas local communities have adopted them turning them into village information points or lending libraries. A good example is at Oswaldkirk which has been restored to a high standard by local volunteers.

Collecting Box, Robin Hood’s BayDSCF0442

Standing in front of the Old Coastguard Station at the top of the slipway which was formerly used by the village’s lifeboat and fishing fleet, this curious cod structure is in fact an Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) collecting box. It was donated by the family of a local ship owner, Isaac Mills, in 1886. The cod was ‘fish-napped’ by local pranksters in 2006 and its brief absence galvanised local feeling towards the fishy curio. On its return the Parish Council successfully applied to English Heritage to have the structure listed. It is thought to be one of the DSCF0443oldest collecting boxes still in service for the RNLI.

A partnership scheme funded by the North York Moors National Park and English Heritage paid for the collecting box to be restored and the sign above it, which was missing, to be re-made based on historic photos of the feature.

Capture1

Ice Houses

Ice Houses are generally an 18th and 19th century feature and as their name suggests, they were purpose-made buildings used to store ice. They were therefore a feature which only the landed gentry would want or afford – the examples shown here are at Hackness Hall and Duncombe Park. Their main purpose was to store perishable foods and was a ‘must have’ feature when ice-creams and sorbets became fashionable in the 18th century. Ice Houses were used up until domestic refrigerators became available in the early 20th century.

Usually located close to lakes and fish ponds, the ice and snow which formed over winter would be collected and stored in the ice house, often insulated with straw or sawdust, where it would remain frozen during the summer months. In some cases ice was delivered from further afield and even imported from Scandinavia. Various types and designs of ice houses exist but they were commonly brick lined domed structures; some more elaborate than others.

Similarly there were also more mundane sounding Root Houses, built to provide dark spaces for the storage of root vegetables.

5 August 2009 073Ice%20House%20ceiling[1] 4335794[1]

 

 

 

 

 

Swallows and Amphibians (and ponies)

John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer

The six ponds installed last year through our Habitat Connectivity programme (“Linking Landscapes”) are thriving with life this spring. I’ve just returned from a site visit to the area north of Robin Hood’s Bay and found the ponds full of tadpoles, water boatmen, backswimmers and whirligig beetles. It’s a marvellous sight given that these shallow hollows in the landscape previously held no water at all and contained very little in the way of wildlife.

We arranged the project with the landowner (National Trust) and tenant, and paid for the contractor with his mini digger to form these scrapes and ponds. The ponds were fenced off to allow the vegetation around them to grow up and not be grazed off by stock. This type of habitat should be ideal as breeding sites for amphibians.

Whilst looking for submerged wildlife, I also saw my first Swallow of the year as it swooped to drink from the ponds freshwater after its long journey of migration. The Yorkshire Coast must have been its first landfall for thousands of miles. It’s incredibly satisfying to think that you’ve added to the whole biodiversity and wildlife interest of the area with a few scoops from a digger.

Further up the coast at Wrack Hills near Runswick Bay, hardy Exmoor ponies are settling in well on the undercliff grassland. Undercliff habitat is found alongside soft cliffs where the land has slumped and settled, and been recolonized by vegetation over time. During the winter we’ve fenced off part of the existing SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and installed a watering point. The fencing, in part, follows an historic fence line which implies that there was stock in the past on this useful, if difficult to access, rough pasture. We were previously talking about putting cattle on the undercliff but instead the land manager has managed to arrange for Exmoors to begin to tackle the coarse grasses and scrub that have been taking over the site. This conservation grazing regime is aimed at halting the decline of the patches of species rich grassland that are left here. Big thanks to the land manager and the Exmoor Pony Trust for taking on this challenge. We’re promoting this type of grazing management on the National Park’s coastal undercliffs wherever possible.

The two ponies (one small mare and one larger gelding) were introduced to the site in April. Since then the paths they’ve made (and dung piles they’ve left!) show that they’ve explored much of the site and have started to make an impact on some patches of grassland. Encouragingly there are plenty of primroses, bluebells and a few early-purple orchids in flower, so it doesn’t look like the ponies are eating the flower heads.P1030889

It might be good to have more ponies on the undercliff when the ground is drier and less liable to poaching up. Otherwise combining ponies with the land manager’s own shorthorn cattle might be advantageous. Mixes of ponies and cattle have an added benefit that ponies can graze the best grass very tightly, which encourages cattle to tackle the rough stuff before the ponies might get round to it. In addition, after the bird breeding season, if human labour is available, it might be worth strimming some of the edges of the bramble patches, or creating routes though them which the ponies can then expand. The same could apply to bracken patches, although I hope the ponies might make inroads there themselves.

Looking after Scheduled Monuments

Mags Waughman – Monument Management Scheme Officer

A green bracken covered hillside in the sunshine would be seen by many visitors to the National Park as an unspoilt piece of countryside, but how many would imagine that bracken is actually Public Enemy No. 1 for rural archaeological sites?

Bracken has its place in biodiversity, but in the wrong location it can be very destructive for the historic environment. Because of the way the underground parts of the plant (the rhizomes) develop and spread, this inoffensive looking plant can cause enormous damage to fragile deposits and features below the ground surface. So the alarm bells start ringing when I see bracken growing on some of the best-preserved sites across the National Park, many of which are protected in law as Scheduled Monuments because they are considered to be nationally important.

Organising the treatment and control of bracken growing on Scheduled Monuments has been a big part of my work as Monument Management Scheme Officer over the summer. I’ve often felt daunted by the sheer expanses of bracken hiding what I know to be wonderful archaeological sites and have had a number of unpleasant experiences pushing my way through waist-high bracken fronds. However, with a little perseverance and the goodwill and cooperation of very many people we’ve arranged for bracken to be sprayed on 35 Monuments this summer and I think we’re starting to have an effect. Landowners and farmers, partner organisations such as Natural England, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission, archaeological consultants, land management contractors and my colleagues in the National Park have all helped in the targeted battle against the bracken. From Bronze Age burial mounds and prehistoric field systems to medieval rabbit warrening features and 18th century alum working sites – many different types of site have needed attention and I’m hoping that when I go back to these Monuments next summer I will be able to see archaeology where I could only see bracken this year. Our fight against the bracken has been possible because of the North York Moors National Park Monument Management Scheme (MMS). This programme was set up in 2009 in partnership with English Heritage in order to improve the condition of Scheduled Monuments on the Heritage at Risk register, which is published annually by English Heritage to highlight the Monuments across the country considered to be most under threat. The aim of the MMS is to remove as many Monuments as possible from the Heritage at Risk register by improving their condition. The risk is the possibility of the destruction and loss of nationally important Monuments. The MMS is now into its fifth year and it’s working very well – helping landowners and farmers to improve the condition of Monuments on their land by arranging for management and repair work to be carried out. Usually we commission an archaeological consultant to draw up a Management Plan identifying the work needed without causing further damage to the Monument, and supervise contractors to carry out the work once everyone is happy with what has been proposed. With bracken control and other vegetation management work, it’s very important that treatments are repeated in subsequent years in order for it to have a full effect.

Extra feet on the ground…..

The National Park has a group of Historic Environment Volunteers and they’re fully involved in our drive to remove Monuments from the Heritage at Risk register. In the spring our enthusiastic volunteers were trained in what to look out for and now we have Jo Collins who works for the MMS two days a week coordinating their efforts out in the field. The Volunteers have been busy over the summer visiting Monuments to give us an up-to-date record of their condition. This is immensely helpful as we have a huge number of Scheduled Monuments in the National Park (840 – the highest density within the Yorkshire region, and second in number to only one other National Park). Many of these Monuments haven’t been visited for several years and have almost fallen off the radar for regular monitoring, but with the help of the volunteers we can identify any problems developing and then try to address them through the MMS.

136 Scheduled Monuments were on the Heritage at Risk register before I started work on MMS – we’ve removed 38 since then, but we still have a long way to go!

A word about the photographs – some archaeological features are sometimes difficult for non-archaeologists to make out – but if you can get your eye in and learn to recognise different shapes on the ground …..

Developing connections

The objective of our Connectivity programme, put simply, is to protect and enhance the best bits, and to extend and connect them to other sites where possible. To do this we’re going to be working in the National Park towards:

  • improving the quality of current wildlife sites by better management;
  • increasing the size of existing wildlife sites;
  • enhancing connections between sites, either through physical corridors or by ‘stepping stones’;
  • creating new sites; and
  • reducing the pressure on wildlife by improving the wider environment.

Our Management Plan illustrates the strategic corridors (“wildlife super highways”) in the North York Moors, and we’ve come up with specific areas along these corridors where we’re going to concentrate efforts for the next few years. Different people in our Conservation Department have been allocated different ‘polygons’ (target areas) to lead on.

We’ll be keeping you up to date with what is happening on the ground.

Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser

I’m well underway with Connections 5 to 8 which run from Dalby to Levisham (in the south east of the National Park). The first step has been to ascertain which habitats and species are found in this part of the North York Moors and to see if the current management is beneficial or detrimental to these interests.

2013-05-17 Polygons 7 & 8 - Lockton

Species rich grassland areas and road verges are just one of the important habitats in this area. I’ve been surveying those that we are already aware of to make sure they are in tiptop condition and I’ve been looking for any potential to extend these assets further. There is a particular site just outside Lockton village that has got that potential! It is a steep grassy bank which lies between a road verge with lots of flowering plants and another area of flower rich grassland. Managing flowering grassland by cutting or grazing is necessary to maintain the diversity of this habitat or else it will be overcome by rank grass and scrub. By getting this intermediate bank site into good management using a positive grazing regime, in this case with native breed sheep, the flowering plants will be given a chance to flourish so increasing the good habitat for pollinators, such as bees and hoverfly, which birds and other animals feed on; and linking up two separate sites of species rich grassland into one larger extent.

In the same target area, I’m going to be trying to extend the valuable habitat at Sieve Dale Fen SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) by setting up a National Park Authority Land Management Agreement to conserve and encourage the wetland plants in the next door field to the SSSI and so increasing the extent of this diverse wetland habitat.

There are also deciduous woodlands in the wider area which mainly run in a north/south direction. Where new actual tree planting isn’t appropriate there is still the possibility to strengthen the hedgerow links (east/west) around Lockton and Levisham instead, in order to connect up the wooded areas in Dalby to those in nearby Newtondale.

Lockton and Levisham village both have large areas of communal/amenity grassland and I’m thinking there may be potential to turn some of this 2013-05-17 Polygons 7 & 8 - Lockton - Geotrupes stercorarius Dor beetlegrassland in to village nature areas. While I’ve been out surveying with my clip board I’ve been approached by locals and visitors who’ve all been receptive to the ideas behind what I’m trying to do. It’s really important to get local people on board as well as specific land managers and I’ll definitely be reporting back to the local community on how the project progresses in their area and the wider National Park. Village nature areas would be a great way of getting local people involved, if they’d like to.

The next phase is to start doing practical work on the ground such as grassland management and enhancement, installing fences so that positive grazing regimes can be instigated, and setting up the hedge planting for the 2013-05-17 Polygons 7 & 8 - Lockton - Early Purple Orchid 1autumn. In most cases this will be done through agreements with land managers and farmers. Money from national schemes and National Park grants will assist by paying a contribution to help cover the cost of capital works and acknowledge profit foregone.

John Beech – Coastal Project Officer

I’ve been out ground truthing a target area round Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast, with an emphasis on reconnecting existing habitats. A mixture of grasslands, hedgerows, wooded gills, wetlands and streams all provide scope for improvement works to connect, extend and create a more robust mosaic of habitats.

I’ve been talking to landowners in that area to identify work which we want to support and which they are happy with. I’ll be working up the details in the next few weeks with an idea to implement the work over the coming autumn/winter.

Whilst out and about a further two project ideas (pond creation, species rich grassland donoring) have come up in previously surveyed areas  – proof that the connectivity message is spreading!

We’ve already installed six new ponds close to Robin Hood’s Bay, and now that it is summer they are already attracting aquatic life including invertebrates such as greater water boatmen, whirligig beetles and pond skatersCurlew, Swallow, Grey Wagtail and Snipe have also been seen using the ponds. In partnership with the National Trust (land owners) and the tenant farmer, the ponds have now been fenced to prevent cattle and sheep accessing them which has solved the siltation and effluent problem.

Coastal grassland - Kingston Field, Fylingthorpe

Induction into National Park thinking

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

Plas Tan Y Bwlch Training Centre

Plas Tan Y Bwlch Training Centre

In April we attended a three day National Park induction course at Plas Tan y Bwlch in Snowdonia National Park. The course is held every now and again for new National Park staff and is aimed at sharing the National Park ethos and making connections between different Parks.

Some of the main themes we considered included UK National Park legal purposes which are:      

  • To conserve & enhance natural beauty, wildlife & cultural heritage.
  • To improve understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities by the public.

National Parks also have a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities. If these purposes ever come into conflict, the first purpose should be paramount.

UK National Parks are about cultural heritage and character rather than wilderness per se, and they fall into the United Nation’s Protected Areas Category V. Most UK National Parks are man-made and man-managed landscapes.

We looked at a number of case studies focusing on the village of Beddgelert –

  • Rhododendrons: There is a conflict of interests between tourism bringing coaches of visitors in to admire the masses of rhododendrons on the mountainside in flower over a few short weeks a year, versus conservation of the native species by the National Park through invasive plant species removal. National Park staff in Snowdonia think they have gradually won local people over to backing the protection of their native plants through education on their benefits, including a far longer flowering period from heather!
  • Gelert’s Grave: The story of a faithful dog and its final resting place is not entirely true, being based on myth and legend, yet tourists flock from all over the world to visit the dog’s ‘grave’, sometimes in floods of tears. Should the National Park Authority as a public body always strive to convey the facts/provide correct information, or is it fair enough to encourage the colour and character surrounding the local culture to thrive?
  • Tourism: In small villages parking and road capacity can be a big issue. Where as some locals want to increase tourism and depend on it for their livelihoods, others are fed up with the stress and hassle in the high-season around their homes. What stance should the National Park Authority take?
  • Second homes: Many of the villages in Snowdonia National Park include a substantial number of second homes, which have artificially raised local house-prices, resulting in locals being unable to afford housing in their own patch. Affordable housing schemes have been introduced, however often the resulting architecture/styling is not so aesthetically pleasing as the traditional buildings. Is this an addressable?

One of the most interesting projects in action involves the National Trust who have purchased a lake-side farm in Snowdonia National Park with the aim of taking on an apprentice annually to run the farm. The intention is to encourage young people to take up farming because farming is in decline amongst the young, and allow them to practice before they take on a ‘real’ farm. 

Our discussions revealed how similar the issues are across all of our National Parks, and the overall conclusion was that we need to work together to generate ideas and resolve problems. As National Park staff, together we have a wide range of experience, and cover vast tracts of land and water-way in the UK. Where there is an issue, another National Park has probably already tackled it and we should be linking up to move forward in each of our own Parks.

View of Snowdonia National Park

View of Snowdonia National Park