A to Z: a lump of Ls

L

LAMINARIA

Laminaria is a genus of 31 species of brown algae commonly called Kelp. Some species are also referred to as Tangle. They are characterized by long, leathery laminae (leaf blades) and their relatively large size. There are two common Laminaria that grow along the North York Moors coast.

Laminaria digitata or Oarweed is commonly found along the local coastline and grows in the transition zone between the open sea and the deeper part of the rocky shore. The plant can grow up to three and a half metres long.  The fronds of the plant are hand shaped with fingers hence its species name digitata. They are sometimes (but not always) found still attached to the stipe or stem secured by a ‘holdfast’ at the bottom of the stem to a rock or ledge. After heavy storms this Laminaria can often also be found washed up on beaches after being ripped up by the strong waves and currents.

Laminaria digitata - image from The Seaweed Site: information on marine algae http://www.seaweed.ie/descriptions/laminaria_digitata.php

Laminaria saccharina or Sugar Kelp is another common kelp from the same transitional zone on the foreshore. This single stemmed seaweed can grow up to four metres long. It has a long leathery blade – unbranched and without a midrib – about 15 centimetres wide. The blade is flat but wrinkly and with wavy margins. It is also known as Poor man’s weather glass as it was used to forecast the weather: if it dries up the weather will be fine; if it swells up and becomes damp, rain is on its way.

Laminaria saccharina also known as Saccharina latissima - image from The Seaweed Site: information on marine algae http://www.seaweed.ie/descriptions/saccharina_latissima.php

Laminaria is an economically important genus. In the 18th century seaweeds were burnt to extract potash (potassium) for use in the glass industry to make the glass stronger, and in the 19th century iodine was extracted for medical usage e.g. as a disinfectant. Seaweeds have long been used as an organic fertiliser and spread on the land, because of the minerals they contain. Seaweed is also now used for the extraction of alginic acid used in medicine; in the manufacture of toothpastes and cosmetics; and in the food industry for binding, thickening and moulding. Please not that like most plants, seaweeds can also have detrimental (poisonous) effects.

LASERS at LASTINGHAM

Lastingham Abbey was originally founded in the mid-7th century AD by St Cedd of Lindisfarne as a Christian monastery. St Bede described the site as ‘among some High and remote hills, which seemed more suitable for the dens of robbers and haunts of wild beasts than for human habitation’. For whatever reason (Vikings have been suggested) it subsequently fell into eventual ruin. Monks from Whitby then re-established a new monastic foundation in 1087 but again it was abandoned as the monks moved on, with the work left unfinished.

St Mary's Church, Lastingham - copyright NYMNPA.

What is left on the site is St Mary’s Church, now the parish church of Lastingham. The building is mainly early Norman but with Victorian transverse arches and a vaulted roof added in 1879. The subterranean crypt beneath the church building – is particularly atmospheric. The dating of the crypt (e.g. whether it dates back to an original Anglo-Saxon building) and the usages of the crypt (e.g. whether St Cedd was reinterred there, making it a shrine) have long been debated.

Archaeological debates rely on evidence and data collection. In 2008 ‘early’ laser scanning of the crypt was undertaken by the University of Siena and the Landscape Research Centre. It was one of the coldest, dampest days imaginable on the Moors – so much so that the survey team (and the kit) needed to ‘defrost’ in the warmth of the nearby Blacksmith’s Arms pub afterwards. A short film clip – here – shows the scanning being carried out – it is clear that the technology has moved on a lot since. Back in 2008 the juxtaposition of the modern and ancient seems to add to the sense of eeriness.

LAURENCE STERNE
“I take a simple view of life. It is keep your eyes open and get on with it”

Laurence Sterne was born in Ireland in 1713. He came to the village of Coxwold on the south west corner of the North York Moors to be the Anglican Rector in 1760. He had previously attempted to supplement his clerical income with farming for a while but then tried his hand at writing instead, publishing a number of sermons and a critical pamphlet which was promptly banned. His first and most successful novel was ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’. He had written the first two volumes as family members died around him and his family life collapsed. Fortunately on publication in 1759 which Sterne paid for himself, ‘Tristram Shandy’ was an immediate success.

‘Tristram Shandy’ leaves out the strictures of ordinary linear plotting, and has no great conclusion or moral – instead “it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retired thatched house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles, – but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life” (Sterne’s dedication of Tristram Shandy to the Right Honourable Mr Pitt).

Sterne took very well to being a celebrated author both in London and the Continent. At the same time his fame meant that in 1760 he was appointed to a good living at Coxwold for the rest of his life with the security that entailed, and he could leave most of his clerical duties to his Curates. He published nine volumes in all of ‘Tristram Shandy’, the last in 1767, as well as ‘A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy’ (a spin off). Laurence Sterne died in London in 1768. Keeping with the tragicomedy of his life and work Sterne was initially buried in London – he may then have been dug up by Resurrectionists before being partly? reburied – but a skull and femur presumed to belong to Sterne were later removed and interred in the Church at Coxwold, whether he liked it or not.

Portrait of Laurence Sterne by Joshua Reynolds, 1760. Being painted by Joshua Reynolds is confirmation that Sterne was definitely a celebrity of his age. Laurence Sterne Trust.

Along with the Rectorage at Coxwold came Shandy Hall. This is the house where Sterne lived and wrote, in between sojourns in London, France and Italy. It is now the home of the Laurence Sterne Trust and is open to the public during the summer.

LAWTON REPORT

Professor Sir John Lawton chaired a panel considering “Do England’s wildlife sites comprise a coherent and resilient ecological network? If not, what needs to be done?” The panel’s report – Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological networks – was published in 2010.

One of the starting points was that in many cases habitats for wildlife were usually small and fragmented, missing the coherent and resilient ecological habitat connections across the landscape that would enable wildlife to spread and to move in reaction to change.

The report set out three objectives:
“1. To restore species and habitats appropriate to England’s physical and geographical context to levels that are sustainable in a changing climate, and enhanced in comparison with those in 2000.
2. To restore and secure the long-term sustainability of the ecological and physical processes that underpin the way ecosystems work, thereby enhancing the capacity of our natural environment to provide ecosystem services such as clean water, climate regulation and crop pollination, as well as providing habitats for wildlife.
3. To provide accessible natural environments rich in wildlife for people to enjoy and experience.”

The answer proposed by the report were that “To make space for nature we need more, bigger, better and joined up sites to create a sustainable, resilient and more effective ecological network for England…we need to do more to: 
i) Improve the quality of current sites by better habitat management.
ii) Increase the size of current wildlife sites.
iii) Enhance connections between, or join up, sites, either through physical corridors, or through ‘stepping stones’.
iv) Create new sites.
v) Reduce the pressures on wildlife by improving the wider environment, including through buffering wildlife sites.”

Figure 5 Enhancing ecological networks from 'Making space for nature' Report 2010

For the necessary management, restoration and creation of wildlife habitats the report suggested a number of approaches – including using levels of legal protection and designation, making the most of publically owned land, paying for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting, providing incentives through agri-environment schemes and the tax system.

The report offered a landscape vision of nature alongside people and it presented the encouraging idea that we can do things to make the situation better. It spelled out the interconnected benefits from, and the values of, the natural environment to wildlife and to people, including the possibilities of deriving multiple benefits from land-use so that everyone gains.

“It is a long-term vision, out to 2050, and defines a direction of travel, not an end-point. This vision will only be realised if, within the overall aims, we work at local scales, in partnership with local people, local authorities, the voluntary sector, farmers, other land-managers, statutory agencies, and other stakeholders. Private landowners, land managers and farmers have a crucial role to play in delivering a more coherent and resilient wildlife network.”

The Lawton Report was well received on publication. Many environmental organisations have set out their responses to the report since and are working in line with the principles set out within it. The North York Moors National Park Authority put the principles at the heart of our Management Plan in 2012 – our current habitat connectivity initiative is aimed at achieving long term effective wildlife connections along a number of strategic corridors.

LYKE WAKE WALK

The Lyke Wake Walk is a forty mile moorland crossing over the top of the North York Moors from Osmotherley on the western edge to Ravenscar on the coast in the east. The
idea came from a local man called Bill Cowley who issued an open challenge in The Dalesman in August 1955 to cross the moors on foot from west to east within 24 hours, and its continued as a standing challenge ever since. Everyone who completes the Walk within the 24 hours is entitled to become a member of the New Lyke Wake Club. Lately the Club has been working with National Park Authority Volunteers to ensure the classic route for the Walk remains accessible and erosion problems are tackled.

A ‘Lyke’ is a corpse, and a ‘Wake’ is the watch over a corpse before burial, so the Lyke Wake Walk should therefore be an historic route for carrying the local dead to their final resting place. Except that it actually isn’t. Instead it’s an evocative name given to a recent concept to bring people together to take up a challenge and to champion the North York Moors.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K

Summer days

Kate Bailey – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Grasslands are important habitats in the North York Moors supporting a wide range of plants and wildlife. They’re habitats that have suffered severe declines all over England in the past decades. Therefore conserving, restoring, creating linked grassland habitats is one of the key focuses of our Habitat Connectivity initiative.

National Park Volunteers carry out regular tasks like scrub control in order to maintain and restore grassland sites. But volunteers are also essential when it comes to monitoring our grassland sites. Botanical monitoring is a key tool to ensure that the prescribed management is having a positive effect on the site, and the information collected through the annual monitoring process ensures management can be tailored to each site to help ensure each is in the best condition they can be or are at least moving in the right direction. Repeat annual monitoring means changes, good or bad, can be quickly identified.

Our Linking Landscapes Grassland Volunteers have been across the National Park this summer monitoring grassland habitats. We currently have ten enthusiastic volunteers who kindly give their botanical expertise and diligently undertake an annual botanical survey at their ‘adopted’ site/s.

Back in June the LLG Volunteers attended an informal workshop to work through the survey methodology and brush up on field identification skills before embarking on their own surveys for 2016. Copyright - NYMNPA.

This summer I’ve also been out surveying a number of grassland sites which hadn’t been surveyed previously; getting to visit some lovely spots whilst improving my botanical identification skills and collecting information.

Common spotted orchid in an old limestone quarry sites - nearly twice as tall as my clipboard! Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Both the volunteers and I have followed the same simple methodology for monitoring our site/s. A walking route is marked out on an aerial photograph for the surveyor to follow – the approximate ‘W’ shape ensures that a fair representation of the site is surveyed. The surveyor walks along the route stopping at regular intervals – ten stops is usually adequate. At each stop a square metre (quadrat) of vegetation is assessed and each species present is noted down – this is usually where the ID books and hand lens are invaluable.

The monitoring route for an area of species-rich grassland at Sutton Bank National Park Centre. Aerial photography copyright GeoPerspectives 2009 all rights reserved.

At the end of the ‘W’ shaped monitoring route, a survey sheet will look something like this.

One page of the grassland survey sheets - filled in - NYMNPA.

Because we’ve recorded which species are present in each quadrat at each of the ten stops we can work out the frequency of each of the species:

A species is rare (R) if it occurs in one or two stops out of ten;
It is occasional (O) if it occurs in three or four stops out of ten;
Frequent (F) species occur in five or more stops out of ten.

Common spotted orchid and Betony. Copyright NYMNPA.

Additional information is also recorded, including the amount of bare ground and height of the sward, the amount of scrub and bracken on site, and the presence of pernicious weeds (such as thistles, nettles and docks). Lots of photos are helpful, plus any sightings of notable wildlife!

All this information allows a site to be assessed and assigned one of the following categories:
Good quality species-rich grassland;
or
Good quality semi-improved or degraded grassland of high species-richness;
or
Semi-improved grassland of moderate species-richness;
or
Species-poor semi-improved grassland.

The National Park is keen to see an increase in the area of species-rich grassland. For the North York Moors that means the priority habitats lowland meadow and lowland calcareous grassland. By this regular monitoring we can get a clearer picture of the changing status of each site and use it to advise restoration methods. Altering the grazing regime, clearing bracken and scrub and/or sowing locally sourced wild flower seeds/spreading green hay can improve the quality and diversity of a grassland site with the ultimate objective of achieving and maintaining good quality species-rich grassland.

Ragged robin and Greater bird’s-foot-treofoil- indicators of the Lowland Meadow priority habitat. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Common bird’s-foot-trefoil, Knapweed and Field scabious on a species-rich area of calcareous grassland. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

We’ll be out again next summer, doing it all again.

Saving up for the future

Sam Witham – Conservation Research Student

This summer I collected 10,000 (approx.) native raspberry seeds Rubus idaeus from the North York Moors for the UKNTSP (UK National Tree Seed Project). This is a project run by Kew to collect tree and shrub seeds from different regions of the UK in order to build a genetic representation of all UK tree/shrub species in the country. I first got involved with the project when I first started with the National Park last autumn.

Collecting wild raspberries in the North York Moors for the UKNTSP - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

A couple of weeks ago I got to visit the Kew Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex to drop off the raspberry seeds and see behind the scenes. Bede West, a field officer for the UKNTSP, kindly gave me a tour of the Seed Bank, and explained the processes involved.

Kew Millennium Seed Bank - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Collected seeds are sent, along with a herbarium (plant) specimen, to the Millennium Seed Bank. The herbarium specimen is used to determine the correct plant species and is then stored at the Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

If seeds are not yet ripe, they are ripened in a ripening room.

Millennium Seed Bank - a zigzag aspirator - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Once the paper work has been checked over, the seeds are extracted from casing or fruit, and washed using inventive methods such as squashing them while wearing wellies, scrubbing them on a rubber car matt, sieving them, and rinsing them in the sink. A zigzag aspirator can be used to separate seeds by size.

Most seeds are then x-rayed. Seeds can be infected by pathogens such as grubs, fungi, viruses and bacteria, reducing their viability. Viruses can be hard to detect in the x-ray so a sample of seeds can also be looked at under a microscope.

Millennium Seed Bank - x-raying seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

There are orthodox, recalcitrant or unorthodox seeds, along with intermediate seeds. Orthodox seeds can be dried to 5% moisture content or lower and then frozen. Relcalcitrant seeds will not survive if their moisture content drops below 40%. Intermediate seeds are someway inbetween and can be dried somewhat.

Millennium Seed Bank - seeds from all over the world are dried in the same room - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Millennium Seed Bank - Sam's NYM raspberry seeds in the drying room - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Orthodox seeds are placed in a temperature and humidity controlled drying room where the seeds are gradually dried to 5% moisture or lower. Certain seeds can take more than six months to dry out. The seeds needs to be dried so that damaging water crystals do not form when they are frozen.

 

At some point before the seeds go into storage, 50 seeds from a collection are weighed and then the whole seed collection is weighed. From this the mean seed weight is calculated.

Millennium Seed Bank - storing seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Millennium Seed Bank - storing seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.When the seeds are ready, they are put in jars and then stored at -20oC in an underground vault.

 

 

Millennium Seed Bank - underground seed vaults - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

There are two types of vault rooms – active rooms and base rooms. The seeds in the base rooms are left undisturbed, while seeds from the active rooms are used for research and regular monitoring. After seeds have been frozen, an initial seed sample is warmed up and germinated to test for viability. Samples are then taken from the underground freezer every ten years and germinated in order to monitor their continuing viability. This is done until there are no longer enough active room seeds to do this. The remaining frozen seeds are then moved to a base room and are also left undisturbed. At this point it’s time to collect more seeds from the wild.

Seeds are germinated on agar, a jelly-like substance taken from algae. Certain nutrients can be added to the agar to meet the requirements of the seeds. The seeds are kept at temperatures and humidities matching their country of origin, and some seeds are moved from light rooms to dark rooms to simulate day and night. Some seeds can be more demandng and extra steps need to be taken to improve germination such as subjecting them to different climatic conditions and adding chemicals.

Millennium Seed Bank - germinating seeds - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

Millennium Seed Bank - seed incubators for germination - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.Once the active room seeds have been germinated and counted they are often destroyed, although Kew is looking into being able to grow more of them on in a nursery. Some seeds are grown on in greenhouses to definitively ascertain species and to create herbarium specimens, and also if they have been requested by outside organisations.

Millennium Seed Bank - growing seeds on in greenhouse - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

The recalcitrant seeds that could not survive the drying and freezing processes include coconuts, brazil nuts and acorns. Currently these seeds are germinated and the embryos are then cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196oC. This method is being actively researched and developed because as yet its not been that successful.

Millennium Seed Bank - recalcitrant seed embryos stored in liquid nitrogen - Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

The value of the seeds stored at the Millennium Seed Bank is as a research resource, and as a living natural heritage archive which can be used to boost wild plant populations if plants become rare.

Sam, on location at the Millennium Seed Bank.

Thanks to the Millennium Seed Bank, and thanks to the Society for National Park Staff for paying my expenses.

Patience and perserverance

We’ve launched a new concerted effort against two of the most threatening non-native invasive plant species in the North York Moors, bolstered by funding from Yorkshire Water over the next four years. We’re chasing down Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in the River Esk and River Rye catchments.

As well as damaging existing ecosystems and decreasing diversity, both these species tend to overwhelm other plant species along river banks and the danger from this is that during the winter when these non-natives die back the banksides are left bare of vegetation so subject to erosion which increases the sediment getting into watercourses and smothering the water habitat.

Both plants are vigorous growers and virulent spreaders. Himalayan balsam disperses thousands of seeds per plant through exploding seed pods that can propel the seeds metres from the original plant. If the plants are next to watercourses the seeds can be carried downstream to colonise new areas. Japanese knotweed spreads through its underground rhizomes which are so effective that all remnants of the plants need to be carefully disposed of because even a small fragment of rhizome if given the chance to re-root will form a new plant.

The only way to have any real impact on the plants is to tackle them systematically starting at the top of catchments and moving downstream, and repeating the control year after year to remove any vestiges of the plants. This new funding will provide a much needed boost to efforts made over the last few years.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - it has a sickly, sweet smell, pink flowers and a bright green hollow stem. It can grow up to two meters tall. Copyright - NYMNPA.

Japanese knotweed grows to around three metres tall and has large alternate heart shaped leaves and a characteristic zigzag stem covered in purple speckles. Its flowers, which appear in late summer, consist of clusters of tiny creamy-white flowers. Copyright - NYMNPA.

We’ll be surveying the current extent of the plants and then resurveying each year to monitor the effects of the control. We’re using tried and tested control methods – hand pulling the Himalayan balsam before it gets the chance to seed and propogate, and treating individual Japanese knotweed plants with directly administered glyphosate injections to carry the chemical down into the rhizomes. We’ll be using contractors and volunteers to carry out the work coordinated by National Park staff.

Controlling and hopefully eradicating non-native invasive species in an area takes a long time. Simon, our River Esk Project Officer, is a real enthusiast for non-native invasive species control because he sees the detrimental effects the plants have on the river environment and on his beloved Freshwater pearl mussels. He can see the years of attrition starting to pay off as native vegetation starts to recolonise sites where invasive species have been removed.

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose” — Benjamin Disraeli

Calyx, panicle, auricle and glabrous

Roy McGhie – Conservation Project Assistant

As my role in the Conservation Department develops I am getting more involved in woodland planting/creation, and woodland habitats. To this end, I recently attended a Field Studies Council weekend course on Identifying Woodland Plants. Over the three days we looked at not only typical woodland wildflowers and trees, but also the bryophytes, ferns and grasses which make up an important part of any woodland ecosystem. Plant identification enables a recognition and understanding of a habitat which then helps inform management.

In the North York Moors we have a lot of ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) as well as what is known as plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS) where semi natural woodland has been planted up with commercial forestry in the past but where ancient woodland features still persist.

If you walk through a woodland and see combinations of bluebells, daffodils, yellow archangel, celandine, wild garlic you might be forgiven for thinking you are in an ancient woodland because you are looking at typical ancient woodland ground flora. However, all of these species have garden imposters which look similar, and might have been introduced. Yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp. montanum) for example, is an ancient woodland indicator species, whilst the garden variety of the plant (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp. argentatum) is an invasive plant usually grown as ground cover in gardens. This garden variety of Yellow archangel is classified as a Schedule 9 plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning it is an offence to release it into the wild. Quite often the garden imposters are brought into woodlands by people dumping garden waste or tracking seeds in on boots or vehicles. They are therefore usually found on the edges of woodlands at first, but can very quickly colonise inwards.

We spent a large part of the course looking at the species that can be easily confused. These include examples such as Wood speedwell and Germander speedwell, Yellow pimpernel and Creeping-Jenny, Wild strawberry and Barren strawberry as well as trees such as Beech and Hornbeam. When plants are in flower identification can be easy enough but we also focused on vegetative characteristics so as to be able to recognise plants when not in flower. For example, the terminal tooth on Barren strawberry (Potentilla sterilis) leaves is generally shorter than the two surrounding side teeth, whereas on Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) the terminal tooth is longer than the side ones. This is an important distinction to make as Barren strawberry can be a good ancient woodland indicator species, whereas Wild strawberry tends to be less so.

Wild strawberry in flower with Barren strawberry growing right beside it - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Identifying different oaks on site - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.Another element of the course was learning to describe why a particular species had been identified as one thing rather than another. It was not enough to point at an English Oak (Quercus robur) and say what it was, we had to explain that it could not be a Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) because there were intercalary veins (between the apex and the base) on the leaf, leaf auricles strongly present (ear shaped lobes), and a petiole length of approximately 2-5mm (that’s the leaf stalk). Interestingly, we found stellate (star shaped) hairs on the underside of almost all the English Oaks we looked at, suggesting that they were in fact hybrid oaks (Quercus x rosacea), albeit leaning strongly towards English Oak.

Many botanists currently rely upon Clive Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles for their plant ID, and recent taxonomic changes caught out some of the more experienced participants on the course who were more familiar with previous texts. Taxonomy is the hierarchical system used to classify organisms to a species level; it was initially developed during the 18th century and has been adjusted ever since. With the advances in genetic science a number of plants have been reclassified lately according to genetic, rather than morphological, similarity. For example, in the 3rd edition of Stace, Lime trees are now part of the Mallow family (Malvaceae) rather than having their own Tiliaceae family, the Maple family is now Sapindaceae instead of their own Aceraceae family, and Bluebells have changed from Liliaceae (Lilly family) to Asparagaceae (Asparagus family).

Studying bryophytes was a completely new experience for me, and it was fascinating area to investigate. We looked at the main differences between mosses and liverworts, and then broke them down into acrocarpous/polycarpous (depending on location/number of reproductive parts on the plant) and thalloid/leafy groups (depending on plant structure or lack of it). This allowed us to more quickly use a key to then identify what we were looking at. Out of all the ones we identified my favourite was probably Thuidium tamariscinum; it is tripinnate (the layout of the leaflets) and regularly branched giving it a feathery, almost fern-like appearance.

Identifying a bryophyte back in the classroom - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Ferns were also rewarding. We were able to break these down into groups based on how pinnate (compound leaves with leaflets on either side of axis) they were, and how the sori (clusters of sporangia in which the spores form) on the back of the fronds were shaped. For example, the Dryopteridaceae family we looked at were bipinnate and had kidney shaped sori arranged in a row on either side of the mid-rib of the pinnule (division/sub division of a compund leaf). Male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) was one such member of this family. It was similar to the scaly male-fern (Dryopteris affinis agg.) but had fewer golden scales, lacked a small dark mark at the rachis (leaf axis) join and the pinnules tended to taper inwards more towards the apex.

Hard fern (Blechnum spicant) showing the fertile (lighter in colour and more upright) and sterile (darker) fronds on the same plant. Copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Grasses, rushes and sedges can also be ancient woodland indicators. Some of them, such as Pendulous Sedge (Carex pendula) are also common in gardens (and therefore liable to colonise woodlands through being dumped as garden waste), and this served to highlight the importance of always doing a broad survey of any woodland and not assuming it has ancient characteristics based on the presence of only one or two indicator species.

Pendulous sedge (Carex pendula) growing beside a footpath - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

The course finished with a two hour exam in which we had to identify and justify our reasoning for twenty different woody and herbaceous plants. Whilst two hours initially sounded like a lot of time, it meant only five or six minutes per plant, and the time quickly flew by! I actually enjoyed it.

Despite having never previously looked closely at bryophytes or ferns before, let alone encountered terms such as calyx, panicle, auricle and glabrous*, the course had me completely hooked. Some people have dedicated their entire lives to studying single plant families, and new discoveries and species are not infrequent. Now whenever I go into a woodland I’m going to be carrying a hand lens with me – if you do the same you might find that there is a whole world to discover.

*If you want to find out what these words and a host of other botanical terms mean – try here.

Please note that it’s always best to try and identify a plant in the field if possible – take an ID key and a lens out with you. Collecting small amounts of plant material for identification purposes is usually okay, except in the case of protected or (rare) Red List species. But please don’t pick plants if  the population at the location is very small and may suffer as a result. If a specimen really is needed for identification, remove the minimum quantity necessary. Please note it is illegal to uproot most wild plants without the express permission of the landowner.

 

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 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 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

Operation Luzula

Kate Bailey – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Since starting as the Conservation Graduate Trainee last September, I have had lots of opportunities to get out and about with our hardworking National Park Volunteers undertaking practical conservation tasks across the National Park.

Last week, I joined the River Esk Volunteers for a day planting woodrush along the banks of the River Esk. Greater woodrush Luzula sylvatica is a native, perennial member of the rush family which grows in damp shady places. It thrives along river banks in the North York Moors, where it grows in tussocks providing great ground cover which helps stabilise the river bank.

A good example of Luzula sylvatica growing along the River Esk - copyright NYMNPA

However there are sites along the River Esk where the banks are void of any vegetation. When stock have access to the river, any natural regeneration gets nibbled off and the river banks are left bare and susceptible to erosion leading to sediment entering the water and choking the river habitat. Woodrush planting coupled with river side fencing to exclude stock and create a bankside buffer strip is potentially one of the solutions to this problem.

Planting woodrush as a means of stabilising the river bank has not been carried out before in the National Park. Simon, our River Esk Project Officer, identified a trial site which could benefit greatly from some conservation effort. The river was fenced off over winter, excluding stock from the damaged river banks and young trees – Hazel and Oak Luzula sylvatica being grown at Mires Beck Nursery– were planted. Last summer National Park Volunteers had helped collect woodrush seeds from other sites along the River Esk (to maintain the local provenance) which were then sent off to the Mires Beck Nursey near Hull. The Nursery primarily produces wildflowers for conservation projects whilst providing opportunities for people with learning difficulties to get involved with horticulture. Our woodrush seeds spent the last eight months being grown on and cared for by the knowledgeable staff and volunteers at Mires Beck Nursery. The plants were delivered back to the North York Moors last week, ready to be planted.

Woodrush planting task - copyright NYMNPA

It was an extremely well attended planting task for a Monday in March – and it was sunny. The River Esk Volunteers were joined by three members of staff from Mires Beck Nursery who made the journey up from Hull to deliver the 3600 woodrush plants. Hopefully the newly planted woodrush will flourish and the river banks will be covered in vegetation once more, safeguarding the River Esk habitat and all its associated species.

Planted woodrush on the banks of the River Esk - copyright NYMNPA

Woodrush planting is one element of the Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project which is working to sustain Yorkshire’s last remaining population of Freshwater pearl mussels Margaritifera margaritifera. The River Esk Project has been boosted with a £300,000 grant from Biffa Award. The grant forms part of a larger £1.5 million Biffa Award project led by the Freshwater Biological Association that involves river restoration in a number of Freshwater Pearl Mussel catchments in the country, including in Cumbria and Devon, as well as Yorkshire. “This project is an exciting opportunity to save one of the most long-lived animals from extinction; the freshwater pearl mussel can live for more than 100 years and is internationally protected” – Gillian French, Biffa Award Programme Manager,

Biffa Award logo

Biffa Award is a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. More information on the award is available at www.biffa-award.org.

A botanical Christmas

A festive rattle through some of the plants associated with Christmas – some of which, but decidedly not all, grow in the North York Moors…

Sam Witham – Conservation Research Student

Holly in the North York Moors - copyright Kirsty Brown, NYMNPA

Common holly Ilex aquifolium

Christmassy fact: Holly is well known as a festive winter decoration. The Romans sent holly branches with presents during the December festival of Saturnalia.

Other facts: ‘Holm’ is an old name for holly and is seen in place names such as Holmwood and Holmsdale.

UK Habitat: Woodland and hedgerows – it is commonly found as an understorey tree or shrub in oak and beech woods.

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Ivy in the North York Moors - copyright Kirsty Brown, NYMNPA

Common ivy Hedera Helix

Christmassy fact: Traditionally ivy is associated with holly (hence the song) and used in festive winter decorations.

Other facts: Ivy can be mistaken for two different species as the juvenile leaves look totally different to the adult ones. In some countries, where it has been introduced, it is classed as an invasive species.

Young ivy plant - http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/english-ivy.aspx Older ivy plant - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedera#/media/File:Ivy_fruits.JPG

UK Habitat: Woodland and hedgerows, pretty much everywhere.

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Mistletoe - https://www.flickr.com/photos/50780708@N02/23233931062/in/photolist-Bp6Yfj-BUDacy-4j9yvv-gBaopM-8ZVcso-s2yumx-4bLMCN-aZ6L4p-5LLkCB-dX8H2z-rvpSYJ-inXCLu-7jnCE2-i9FvW6-4749S1-qT5sxw-uvftw9-dCCFCR-pLtrdq-7ff4Cb-qk3uuR-7rSpe4-99CRPd-pvetfG-7hhVUi-r1Ebdt-5LyxL3-poSS8o-uw45F-iW6fWi-fgguG2-qxKiPX-aVetnt-qFU2gt-qpuLhQ-fPBXx8-pHEZAP-5MQ7pN-cqoujm-nLzs9D-6UU2jB-dneBvf-aUKdwz-7mH6Pj-57xvpx-hLjsHq-nsiRC6-qstbSm-ehkmaP-AKXPia

European Mistletoe Viscum album

Christmassy fact: Mistletoe is used as a Christmas decoration and there is a long-held tradition of kissing underneath it. For each kiss made under a bough, a berry was removed.

Other facts: Mistletoe is semi-parasitic. In the UK, poplar, lime, apple and hawthorn are common hosts. Druids apparently used the plant as an aphrodisiac hence the association with kissing. The folklore around mistletoe is endless.

UK Habitat: Trees and Woodland, more prevalent in the south of Britain.

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Veteran Oak - Deer Park, Helmsley - copyright NYMNPA

Pedunculate oak Quercus robur

Christmassy fact: The Yule log, a special log burnt through the Christmas season, was traditionally cut from oak. Each Christmas a piece of the Yule log was saved to light the next year’s Yule log.

Other facts: Oaks are home to many species of wildlife and can live to a great age. The Oak plays an important role in British history/culture as a symbol of strength and steadfastness.

UK Habitat: Woodland, Wood Pasture and Parkland

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Growing 'Christmas Trees' in Scotland - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-35050437

Christmas trees Various species including several Firs, Pines, Spruces, Cypresses and Cedars

Christmasy fact: The idea of the Christmas tree began in Germany as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries, where Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Traditionally the tree was decorated with edibles such as apples, nuts and other foods. An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree to represent the Archangel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.

Other facts: There are about 600 conifer species and the group contains the world’s tallest tree (Redwood Sequoia sempervirens) and oldest tree (Great Basin bristlecone pine Pinus longaeva).

Habitat/distribution: Conifers occur on all continents except Antarctica, and are found in a wide range of habitats.

Other Christmas Trees…New Zealand Christmas Tree (Pōhutukawa) Metrosideros excelsa and the Western Australian Christmas Tree Nuytsia floribunda

New Zealand Christmas Tree - http://www.fotolibra.com/gallery/88939/pohutikawa-trees-in-blossom-new-zealand/

Western Australian Christmas Tree - http://www.floristtaxonomy.com/category/nuytsia

Christmasy facts: These trees flower from October/November to January, hence being known as Christmas Trees.

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Frankinsence trees - http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/boswellia-sacra-frankincense

Frankincense tree Boswellia sacra

Christmassy fact: Frankincense is the valuable oily gum resin from Boswellia trees, named in the Bible as one of the three gifts given to the baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men.

Other facts: In ancient Egyptian mythology Frankincense was believed to be the sweat of gods fallen to earth. The legendary phoenix bird was believed to have built nests out of Frankincense twigs and feed upon ‘tears’ of the resin. In some Arab communities the gum is chewed to treat stomach problems. The gum can also be burnt as incense.

Habitat/distribution: Desert woodland, on rocky limestone slopes, and the ‘fog oasis’ woodlands of the southern coastal mountains of the Arabian Peninsula. Here in the summer months the mountains are covered in thick fog allowing a rich woodland flora to develop. Also native to Native to Ethiopia, northern Somalia, south-western Oman and southern Yemen.

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Commiphora spp - http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/commiphora.htm

Myrrh tree Commiphora guidottii

Christmassy fact: This particular myrrh tree is the source of the oleo-gum-resin (a mixture of volatile oil, gum and resin) known as scented myrrh which is suggested to be the myrrh named in the Bible as another of the three gifts the Three Wise Men presented to the baby Jesus.

Other facts: Together with Frankincense, myrrh is a common incense ingredient used in religious ceremonies. Ancient Egyptians used the gum resin to preserve mummies. Its antibiotic properties reduced decay and gave a sweet scent.

Habitat/distribution: Somalian and Ethiopian bushland.

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Helleborus niger - http://europe.floraveronese.net/helleborusniger.htm

Christmas rose (also known as Black hellebore) Helleborus niger

Christmassy fact: According to legend, a young shepherdess named Madelon was tending her sheep one cold and wintry night. As she watched over them, a group of wise men and other shepherds passed by, bearing gifts for the newly born Jesus. Madelon wept, because she had no gifts to bring the New-born King, not even a simple flower… An angel, upon hearing her weeping, appeared and brushed away the snow to reveal a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink – the Christmas Rose.

Other facts: An overdose of Hellebore medication has been suggested as the possible cause of death of Alexander the Great. The Christmas rose does not belong to the rose family (Rosaceae) – it in fact belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)

Habitat/distribution: Mountainous woods and slopes. It is found in Switzerland, southern Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and northern Italy.

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Winter view looking south down Rosedale - copyright Ami Walker, NYMNPA

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the North York Moors National Park

A to Z – a collection of Cs

C

CANON ATKINSON – a literary celebrity

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

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

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

CLAPPER BRIDGES

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

Clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPA

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

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

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

CLEVELAND PRACTICE

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

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

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

COMMUNITIES…in general

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

COASTAL COMMUNITIES…in particular

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

Fishing coble at Staithes - copyright Brian Nicholson, NYMNPA

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

COMMON COTTON GRASS Eriophorum angustifolium

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

Cotton Grass - copyright NYMNPA

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

CONNECTIVITY

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

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BETTER ecologically valuable habitat sites through improving condition

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BIGGER ecologically valuable habitat sites through expansion and bufferingSlide 3jpg

MORE ecologically valuable habitat sites through creation and enhancement

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

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

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CROSSES

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

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

Old Ralph Cross - copyright Tammy Andrews, NYMNPA

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

Lilla Cross - copyright Mike Kipling for NYMNPA

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

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

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