Tag Archives: floodplain

The Higher Carr

sunrise landfill

Daybreak over Seamer Carr

While Scarborough’s ‘carr’ land is mostly flat, expansive and low-lying, occupying that wedge of little-explored terrain between the Yorkshire Wolds and the rising ground towards The North York Moors, there is one notably elevated ‘carr’ which stands out from the Vale of Pickering, above other carrs, in a very literal sense. Were it open to public access, one would break quite a sweat to get to the top. That place, the Higher Carr I refer to, with topographic elevation to set the pulse racing, is Seamer Carr.

Jul09 reseeded landfill

Southern part of Seamer Carr in 2009 after re-seeding

Seamer Carr was not always a hill though. It too was once low and gently undulating like its neighbouring floodplain. Indeed it has yielded its fair share of Mesolithic secrets in its time, being close to the reknowned stone age site of Star Carr and part of the associated landscape of Palaeolake Flixton – marked today by the seam of dark peaty soils between Flixton and Cayton.

Seamer Carr today is a landfill site which served Scarborough and district for some decades, under the management of Yorwaste Ltd. It presents itself as a prominent hill occupying a triangular patch of land to the south of the Scarborough Business Park and visible on your right approaching the town on the A64 trunk road. The landfill site at Seamer Carr was recently closed to general waste  but the resource recovery centre remains in operation, recycling and reclaiming value from modern waste streams arriving by wagon or via the household waste site skips. Activity on this artificial hill today is focussed on shaping the land contours into their final geometry and capping the site with inert material.

One day, in the not-too-distant future, we hope it may be possible to gain public access onto this man-made-mount. When landscaping works are finished and the site is safely capped in a green blanket of living habitat once more it will be safe to open up some public access routes on the site. I count myself among the priviledged few who have been escorted to the top, clad head to toe in safety gear to admire the potential of this vista across the vale. It offers a rare vantage from the north side of the Hertford floodplain, directly adjacent to Star Carr. For the time being though, we must wait and anticipate and even, perhaps, salivate at the thought of the delicious panoramas that could reward future visitors to this man-made mound – a testament to the mark of human settlement on this landscape which first began around twelve thousand years ago…

litter issues

Seamer Carr landfill in July 2009

Covering part of the site with protective membrane, 2009

Covering part of the site with protective membrane

May 2013 Seamer Carr HLF visit

HLF visit to Seamer Carr, May 2013

excavators, dusty diggers

Landscaping on Seamer Carr,  May 2013


Listening for Lapwings

As spring approaches and farmers begin tilling the fields and finish their hedge-trimming work we look and listen in anticipation of the first signs of Lapwings selecting breeding sites on The Carrs.

Lapwing in flight

Lapwing in flight      Image: Chris G Bradshaw

Also known as ‘Teeafits’ or ‘Peewits’, the distinctive calls and tumbling display flights of these iconic farmland birds are a sure sign they are interested in nesting on the field below. Ornithologists call this species Vanellus vanellus or Northern Lapwing, while country names in some parts of the UK include ‘Ullat’, ‘Tumbler’ or ‘Green Plover’ . The local Yorkshire dialect name of ‘Teeafit’ is one I have only encountered since working with farmers near Scarborough. Where I grew up in West Yorkshire ‘Peewit’ was the favoured term. What name do you call them by?

Whilst in winter months large flocks of up to several hundred are not unusual on flooded fields in farmland areas, they begin to disperse to seek breeding territories as winter gives way to spring. Grazing pasture on The Carrs or arable land with lingering patches of shallow flooding are some of the areas that attract these charismatic birds. East of Sherburn and Brompton we have approximately 150 pairs breeding on The Carrs. Survey work undertaken in spring 2011 for the Wetland Project found half of these breeding pairs choosing fields in the Higher Level Stewardship wet grassland schemes. As the schemes only cover a selection of sites along the Hertford and Derwent floodplain, there is good potential, with sensitive management, for this population to increase.

Rivers in the Vale of Pickering

Nov 2012 Yedingham Bridge Derwent
Derwent sunset, Yedingham Bridge. For much of its length through the Vale of Pickering the Derwent flows in an artificially straightened channel.

The Vale of Pickering is a place of many watercourses. Some are ‘proper’ rivers, in name and in appearance – all wiggly meanders, pools and riffles, natural banks. Others rather blur the distinction between a river and a drainage channel.

A cursory glance at a map will reveal there are many alternative names for watercourses and drainage ditches in the vale, including becks, dykes, cuts, drains and delphs.

In Yorkshire a beck is another name for a river or stream and many of the settlements peripheral to the Vale of Pickering have their own beck, indeed it may have played a defining role in the formation of settlements in ancient times.

In the Vale of Pickering I would suggest that a watercourse named a beck is likely to be a natural one. In contrast a cut, dike/dyke, drain or delph indicates a man-made channel, perhaps hundreds of years old but engineered to move water efficiently away from the land around it. The history and evolution of land drainage makes a fascinating subject – certainly I’ve had many revelations and surprises as I learnt about the carrs.

The Hertford River or as it is sometimes called the ‘New Cut’ is both a river or a drainage channel.

Some artificial drainage channels carry significant flows. The larger ones, which one might call ‘arterial drains’ are important for conveying water away from the fields. Even a small blockage or impediment causing water to back up a few inches can push water tables up in the middle of fields and result in surface flooding. This presents problems for harvesting or other agricultural operations. It is no accident that Internal Drainage Boards are funded by drainage levies from the landowners in their catchment.

Conversely it means that by controlling water levels in drainage ditches, one can deliberately cause splashy flooding on the land where it may benefit wetland species, such as breeding waders. There are some information on the practical methods for doing this on the Resources page.

Further info on the mechanics of land drainage and its history locally can be found on the land drainage page.

How well do you know the rivers in the Vale of Pickering? Here are a few examples:

‘Rivers’ – River Hertford, River Derwent, River Rye, River Seven, River Dove, River Riccal.

‘Becks’ – Pickering Beck, Costa Beck, Thornton Beck, Scampston Beck, Rillington Beck, Wintringham Beck, Holbeck, Hodgebeck, Brompton Beck, Ruston Beck, Beedale Beck, Weldale Beck, Cripple Beck, Difford Beck, Ellis Beck, Marrs Beck.

‘Drainage ditches’ – Loder’s Carr Drain, Pry End Drain, Black Dike, New Dike, Double Dikes, Red Bridge Sewer, Sherburn Cut, Twelve Foot Cut, South Delph.

I suspect that whilst many people are aware that the Vale of Pickering is a floodplain, few are aware just how many watercourses there are, natural and made by human hand.

Good enough for Welcome to Yorkshire

An autumnal sunset over the Derwent, snapped by the Project Officer on his way home was selected for Welcome to Yorkshire’ November facebook album. Taken at Yedingham Bridge, North Yorkshire at the historic head of navigation on the Yorkshire River Derwent. The sign hanging from The Providence pub, right beside the river features two narrowboats carrying freight. For much of its working life however the effective head of the Derwent Navigation was at Malton, a dozen miles downstream because cargoes had to be transferred to vessels of smaller draft (which was no accident on the part of the canny Earl Fitzwilliam!) See this picture in Welcome to Yorkshire’s November Timeline album on Facebook.