Tag Archives: Landscape

Flixton Digs Open Weekend

Prof. Nicky Milner with members of the public at Flixton digs in 2013

Prof. Nicky Milner with members of the public at the Flixton Island open digs open day in 2013


Get yourself down to Flixton Bridge on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th Aug for a fantastic chance to meet the archaeologists digging the Flixton Island Stone Age site. Organised by the University of York and The Star Carr Project in collaboration with the Wetland Project. Aall events are free – just turn up and join a tour on Saturday or Sunday.

Guided visits to Flixton Island archaeological dig- a rare opportunity to observe this summer’s excavations at this important Mesolithic site. Meet the archaeologists conducting the dig, observe work in progress, view the finds from this summer’s investigations and find out why this site is so important to understanding the environment in the Stone Age.

Wetlands Ancient and Modern – interpreting The Carrs landscape. Join Wetland Project Officer Tim Burkinshaw (Sat morning) for a journey of discovery about Scarborough’s wetland heritage. Learn the origin of the black peat soils at Flixton, discover the fascinating history of the drainage of The Carrs, The River Hertford and the work of local farmers to restore a modern day wetland landscape.

Artist Ruth Collett will be on site on Sunday afternoon to talk about her work interpreting the excavation in film and sculpture. There will also be a chance to buy one of the Star Carr books or pamphlets, which are excellent by the way. (£13 and £2 I’m sure correct change will be helpful) Proceeds go towards future public events by the Star Carr team.

Provisional schedule:

9.30am (Sat only) Landscape interpretation talk. “From Stone Age to Drain-age – A potted history of wetlands and land drainage in the Vale of Pickering.”  (20mins, subject to demand, for those who cannot stay after digs tour.)

10.00am, 12.30pm and 3.30pm Tours of the digs (both Sat and Sun)  – Join a member of The Star Carr Project team for a tour of the excavations and quiz the archaeologists about the Prehistoric site of Flixton Island. Tours will probably last 30-40mins.

11.00am and 1.30pm Landscape history walk (Sat only) –“ Wetlands Ancient and Modern” Join Tim Burkinshaw from Scarborough Borough Council for a short easy stroll from Flixton Bridge around adjoining fields. The walk will put the Flixton digs in a wider landscape context, including the formation of the Prehistoric wetland ‘Lake Flixton’ and its importance for studies of past climate, and to our future climate. Learn about the historic drainage act which enabled the improvement of the land for farming and how some local farmers are helping to ‘put back’ habitats for wetland wildlife through stewardship schemes today.

Getting there: Access to the site is just south of Flixton Bridge (TA 039 812) where there is off road parking by kind permission of the landowner. Access by car from Flixton village down North Street is a single track lane with limited passing and turning space. Please proceed slowly and take care of pedestrians, dog-walkers etc. Alternatively park at the top of North St and walk down the lane. Local buses eg Coastliner 843 stop at the top of North Street. Allow 20-30 minutes for the pleasant walk to Flixton Bridge. The Foxhound pub (large car park for customers) serves food from 12.00pm.

What to bring: Sturdy footwear advised. The site is very open – dress warmly and bring a waterproof coat if rain is forecast. Well behaved dogs welcome but must be on a lead in the fields.

Our thanks go again to Mr Paul Chapman on whose land the digs take place, for granting permission for the archaeological investigations and for public access for the open weekend. Please be aware that this is private land, so this is a special opportunity to view the Stone Age site. Trenches will be filled in again after the open weekend to preserve the archaeology.

You may also like to read about last year’s open days elsewhere on the blog


Connecting for Nature…online

Dawn of a new partnership - The Vale of Pickering is a landscape connecting Scarborough, Ryedale and the Howardian Hills

Dawn of a new partnership – Morning mists in The Vale of Pickering -a landscape linking Scarborough, Ryedale and The Howardian Hills

The Connecting for Nature Facebook group is open for business. Why not take a look at it here ? Are you a member yet? You maybe live or work in Scarborough or Ryedale or the Howardian Hills and feel passionate about the natural assets of the area.* If you want to be involved in decisions that affect the fortunes of local wildlife and habitats, on land or sea in these places it would be worth your while make yourself known. An e-mail circular to new partnership members is in preparation for end of the month so be quick…

You might work in farming, forestry, or fisheries… you might be in a community group of some sort? You could be an educator, a group leader, a tourism provider…a local resident? Maybe an elected member or a parish ‘mover and shaker’?…A student…a blogger…an artist…? You might even be engaged in biodiversity action already?

“If you’re intrigued, then we probably want to have you on board and the Facebook Group can be a conduit for information or , we hope,  a gateway to more formal participation in the partnership’s work.”

*The geographical scope of the new biodiversity network, will exclude those bits within the North York Moors National Park boundary as they have their own, Biodiversity Plan, recently reviewed. The two local authorities SBC and RDC had their own LBAPs previously, but felt it would be better to join forces; Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty falls mainly in Ryedale District, with a small portion in Hambleton. The whole of the AONB will be fair game for this new collaborative Biodiversity network.

In times past, there was stronger government-led guidance on local biodiversity planning and nowadays this applies more to specially recognised areas such as NIAs, but for intervening areas we are more free to set our own agenda based upon local priorities. What are yours? Leave a comment here on the blog or on the Facebook group. We need to update our email contacts list for the new partnership, so if this is the first you’ve heard of it, get in touch. (We have well over 100 contacts already, 60 attended the summit in March.) A dedicated Connecting for Nature email address is imminent but in the meantime you can contact Tim Burkinshaw, details as per the Carrs Wetland blog.


Managing ditches for farming and conservation

Reed-fringed ditch near Seamer Carr

Reed-fringed ditch near Seamer Carr

The open-ness of The Carrs floodplain near Scarborough is what attracts many of our farmland bird species to nest here, but boundary features are important habitats too, none less so than the network of drainage ditches which form a distinctive element of the Vale of Pickering landscape.  These wet ditches are an important heritage feature in their own right and have been managed routinely since they were dug over two hundred years ago.

Ditch management, by which we mean the regular maintenance regime, carried out in autumn, winter or early spring, consists of cleaning out accumulations of silt, weed and vegetation in order to keep the water flowing. This is not merely a necessary operation for ditches which carry water from the land to the river system but it also performs a valuable role in managing them as wildlife habitats.

Some, which are important drainage arteries, may need to be maintained frequently – sometimes every year if the silation, debris or vegetation build-up is rapid. Those that are best for wildlife are managed on a rotational basis every few years, perhaps one in five or one in eight. Diversity and timing are key. Ideally a farm area would have a range of ditch habitats at different stages of succession – some just freshly cleaned and others at various stages of re-growth – hence diversity of habitats. Sometimes even longer rotations can be accommodated. In this way species which prefer clear, open sites and those which need choked well vegetated ditches will always have somewhere to thrive. Management in the winter has less impact upon ecology as a lot of wildlife is dormant. It is also helpful to wildlife if ditches which are immediately adjacent are not all done at once, potentially removing food plants and shelter. Cutting the banks or cleaning out only one side of a ditch one year and the other side the next, leaves undisturbed refuges.

Some of the best ditches for plants and invertebrates on The Carrs though are those which have an unusual origin – and the clue may be in the shape of the ditch. look on a map of The Carrs and you will readily identify lots of straight blue lines where artificial drainage ditches were cut when the large scale land drainage began after the 1800 Muston and Yedingham Drainage Act. This is the act of Parliament which paved the way for ‘the draining of the low grounds’ and the straightening of the Hertford and the part of The Derwent. At that time many subsidiary ditches were cut, draining into the New Cuts of the rivers. However in a few places there can still be found sinuous ditches which are relics of the former natural course of the Hertford. These older watercourses harbour some of the more notable wild plants and animals and may have greater ecological variety. Plants such as Water Violet, Water Whorl Grass and the primitive stoneworts are found in such places.

An Internal Drainage Board oversees the water level management of The Carrs including The Hertford Cut. Currently there are three IDBs in the Vale of Pickering (with Muston & Yedingham IDB being our local one) but they are preparing to amalgamate

HLF experts to visit the Vale

The Vale of Pickering from Sherburn BrowThe Partnership Board for ‘Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale’ met this week in Scarborough. A key item on agenda was the approaching visit on 1st Aug by staff from HLF to help them assess our Stage One lottery bid for the Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Thorny-Issue-Of-The-Day: how to showcase the ‘Hidden Vale’ landscape in an hour and a half tour…tricky when there are so many great vistas, diverse villages and interesting project proposals to choose from.

It was felt there are three essential messages to impart to the experts on this assessment visit. Firstly, what is this landscape unit that we have chosen to call ‘Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale’, and what are the special qualities and that are so overlooked? Not least by the visitors flocking to the coast who pass through the Vale of Pickering, unaware of its twelve thousand years of cultural heritage (think Star Carr, Lake Flixton, glacial lakes and moraines, drainage, peat and farming…).

If you were wondering by the way the proposed HLF project area is roughly speaking bounded by Brompton, Sherburn, Muston and Eastfield. You can read more in my earlier post Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale.

The second message we need to put across to these important visitors will be the threats or issues faced by The Carrs landscape, emphasising why it is urgent and timely to bring them to public attention and to find new ways of protecting the natural assets in ways which nurture the rural economy. I wrote about the threats to the peat soils for example in Vanishing Peat.

The third ‘message’ is to show examples of what funds from HLF, carefully deployed, might enable to happen and how this will secure long term benefits, not only for the landscape, but for the people and communities living here as well.

A tall order? Let’s hope that we can rise to the challenge and help the Vale of Pickering sell itself as a fitting candidate for the Landscape Partnerships Scheme.

Local Heritage Day

775186_410525529024937_585619170_oIf you live in the Vale of Pickering please come along and share what the landscape means to you along with and old stories you may have about the area. You can also bring along any artefacts or photos you have to share. There will be experts there to see what you have brought and local groups with displays about the landscape, history and wildlife of the area. As part of the Lottery fund bid we are trying to build evidence about the area so would really appreciate anything you have to share.