For a landscape-based project finding a name can be a challenge. Names are important; they convey meaning, geographical scope and can carry some socio-political connotations. An ill-advised name may exclude people or communities which one wishes to embrace. ‘The Cayton and Flixton Carrs Wetland Project’, which operated between 2005 and 2013 was a case in point.
This name was coined in the early days when a Project Officer was first employed to work with landowners in the Vale of Pickering, just inland from the Yorkshire Coast between Scarborough and Filey. The aim was to encourage uptake of Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) wetland schemes on the peat floodplain of the Hertford River, (a canalized tributary of the Yorkshire Derwent, also known as the New Cut or Hertford Cut or simply The Hertford). The name reflected the original project area of some ten square kilometres, bounded roughly by the villages of Staxton, Seamer, Cayton and Folkton, more or less due south of Scarborough.
The Cayton and Flixton Carrs moniker was conceived to embrace both north and south sides of the River Hertford floodplain (Cayton being one of the villages to the north and Flixton to the south). It focused attention on the core area of deep fen peat soils to target farm schemes but steered away from names that might cause confusion with the landfill site named Seamer Carr and with the archaeological research project at Star Carr. The former is now capped off but forms a substantial artificial hill (see also The Higher Carr ). The latter, the Mesolithic settlement of Star Carr has been known since early work in the 1940’s but has risen to prominence through the latest discoveries including a rare engraved shale pendant, oldest known Mesolithic art in Britain. [Sadly there is nothing to see there on the ground today but check out some amazing images of the discoveries and excavations by the University of York on their dedicated website www.starcarr.com.]
After a few years of agri-environment advocacy in The Carrs area it soon became clear that a broader swathe of floodplain land needed to be included in the wetland project’s remit. This need was reinforced by applications for HLS schemes from Flotmanby and Muston to the east and from Potter Brompton further west. Thus the partnership came to represent the low ground of the River Hertford Carrs from Muston Bottoms in the east to Haybridge (near Ganton Golf course) in the west. For simplicity and consistency the Cayton and Flixton name remained for a further period to retain the identity and local recognition that the project had acquired.
Followers who came upon the project via social media will be much more familiar with the shorthand name ‘The Carrs Wetland Project’. This change kept the generic look of the project’s original logo, but reflected the broader geographic focus: that seam of low peatland and former marsh, drained by great communal efforts over decades. It was always my hope whatever the fate of the partnership project (or specifically the funding streams which had enabled it to come about) that the name would be something which could have greater longevity and encapsulate the opportunities to protect and restore this peatland which is so easily overlooked – driven past without a second glance in our hurry to the better known landscapes of the Yorkshire Coast, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds.
Although The Carrs Wetland Project no longer enjoys a Project Officer or any partnership funding from outside agencies, I sincerely hope that it has remained in people’s hearts as a cause – a project with a small ‘p’ if you will. For the Vale of Pickering needs friends and advocates. It truly is ‘An Extraordinary Place’; one which no doubt will continue to ascend in the public consciousness as the wonders of Mesolithic Star Carr continue to be expounded by the team of archaeologists at York University.
Keeping this blog live, albeit with rather longer spells between posts than I’d wish, is one way that I have attempted to keep the interest in and awareness of The Carrs in the minds of local people and interested parties. I would be very interested in reader’s thoughts.
Does ‘The Carrs Wetland’ still mean anything to you? Does it have any currency among landscape-scale conservation professionals? What about ordinary people and visitors to the region? If I’ve played a small part in forming a concept of The Carrs Wetland as a place rather than a project, as Scarborough’s lowland peat then I am a happy man. If people who drive past or across The Carrs now glance sideways expectantly, proudly, even fondly, as I do each time I travel the A64 between Staxton and Seamer or pass along the A170 or descend Staxton Bank into the Vale, then so much the better.