Looking after Levisham Estate

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

I recently carried out the Levisham Botanical Survey for this year with the help of Dawn Rothwell, our current Volunteer Service Assistant and a keen Volunteer herself, and Sam Lightfoot, LEADER Volunteer.

Levisham Estate is one of the very few areas in the North York Moors actually owned by the North York Moors National Park Authority. It’s just north of Pickering and the land holding is made up of c. 1,360 ha of moorland, woodland, and upland farmland..The overall aim of management on the Estate is to maximise the contribution of the Estate to National Park Purposes

The purpose of the annual Levisham Botanical survey is to ascertain if bracken/scrub encroachment and over grazing are still having a detrimental effect on sites which had been identified as being species rich and of high botanical interest in the past. The Survey has been carried out most years since 2006 and the results help inform us on further management, or suggest changes to the current management, in order to improve the botanical value of the sites.

Three specific exclosures (4m x 4m) have been set up in Levisham Bottoms, the Hole of Horcum and on Levisham Moor. The exclosures are monitored each year to compare species diversity within the exclosures where grazing is eliminated compared to the surrounding area where grazing continues.

Over the years since 2006 the areas outside the exclosures have greatly improved due to the change in grazing pressure on Levisham Estate. A balance is needed between over grazing/management and not enough management allowing scrub to build up at the expense of other habitats.

Ragged RobinRagged Robin 2Ragged Robin 3This year six additional sites were surveyed that hadn’t been monitored since 2007. These sites had previously had an indication of over grazing and bracken encroachment/shading. Some of these additional sites are still species rich but others are suffering from overgrazing, resulting in species being miniature in appearance. Some sites are under severe threat from bracken and gorse encroachment and have reduced in size since they were previously surveyed.

All in all however sites have greatly improved as a result of active management – bracken and scrub clearance – that has been carried out in the last few years. These sites, such as a species rich flush in the Hole of Horcum and a roadside flush near Levisham Station, are really special. A flush is an area of wet ground fed from ground water. Plant species such as Black bog-rush, Round-leaved sundew, Common butterwort, Bog pimpernel and Ragged robin have been found in good numbers. These areas are also attracting other species such as the Small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, Golden-ringed dragonfly and the Common lizard.

Return to Fylingdales Moor

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

A week or so ago Kirsty Brown, our Conservation Projects Assistant, and I carried out our second bird survey for the Hawk and Owl Trust, covering a one kilometre square on Fylingdales Moor in the North York Moors. It was a perfect early morning – the sun was shining, the wind was calm and the birds were singing! We recorded all the birds we could see, including those in flights and any we could hear. The most abundant bird we recorded was Meadow pipit, closely followed by Skylark, both are beautiful little birds frequently seen on our moors, with characteristic calls and flight. Both species are in decline nationally.

Linnet, siskin, stonechat and willow warblers were some of the other species we recorded. Six mute swans also flew overhead which is a first for the Fylingdales Moor Bird Survey.

These results combined with the results from our first survey in June have been sent to Dr John Edwards of the Hawk and Owl Trust. Dr Edwards compiles an annual report, looking at the numbers of different bird species present on this Moor as reported by a number of surveyors, and compares the results to previous years. The survey will run again next year which will be the tenth year in a row of the survey – a fantastic achievement. Consistent repeat surveying can build up evidence of trends. This research is used to help manage Fylingdales Moor in the best way for biodiversity to flourish.

During our survey it wasn’t just us and the birds that were out and about – amongst the heather and cotton grass we also encountered a common lizard, tiger beetles, a noctuid moth larvae, many Northern/Oak eggar moth caterpillars and several spiders!