This is why I love The Carrs so much. Morning mist, a sleepy flock of Teal plinking away in the distance on the Hertford Cut, hoar frost on the ground and chacking Fieldfares on the fields down the lane to Flixton Bridge. Several thousand molehills down there too. They love the soft, deep peaty soil of The Carrs. This is neutral fen peat, not the acid blanket bog of the uplands.
Frosty dawn over Flixton Carr, 22/01/16
It is a while since I last went down to Flixton Bridge. The lane was bumpy as ever, indicative of the slumping land surface of the peat. The Hertford was quite full but flowing freely. I checked out the fields containing Flixton Island (site of digs in 2014) and No Name Hill, the prehistoric islands in what was then Mesolithic Lake Flixton. A flock of Lapwing rose from wet pasture to the east and flapped in a slow circuit over my head. I tried repeatedly to count them but the shifting shape and direction of the flock presented a challenge. I estimated about 90 plovers in total. Come the spring Lapwing disperse to the breeding grounds on the Moors , the Wolds and across the patchwork of arable and pastoral land in The Vale of Pickering. Their fortunes are not looking too rosy at the moment, (see Hoping for a Lapwing Spring where I discussed this topic before on this blog.)
Last month The Carrs played host to some students from Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL) who made the trip up north especially to take soil core samples from fields in the vicinity ofStar Carr. Over the course of several days they honed their craft in Holocene Sediment Coring.Why come all this way to study some sediments and what makes these ones so remarkable?
There is a branch of geography concerned with the climatic and environmental history experienced by humans in the past. Clues may be found and interpreted within the layers of sediments deposited in lakes and bogs – where thick piles of mud or sediment have accumulated over thousands of years. The Flixton Basin is one such place and possibly among the best in Northern Europe for the study of sediments from the Holocene epoch (that is, the last 12,000 or so years).
Read more about Holocene Sediments in a brand new post on the Heritage section of the website.
HLF experts to visit the Vale
The 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.
At this time of year arable farmers in the Vale of Pickering can be found cultivating for spring crops. This is often on the land that sits too wet to plough it in autumn when modern cereal and oilseed crops are planted. After an exceptionally wet year many areas remain too soggy to drive machinery over without damaging the soil or getting bogged.
Let us not forget however that at critical growth stages a shortage of water can be equally damaging to crop yields. We had official drought orders in place in Yorkshire only a year ago. Lighter soils, such as sands and peats, both found in quantity in the Vale of Pickering are very prone to blowing away when dry. If strong winds coincide with dry conditions just after cultivation this can cause mass wasting of soils by wind erosion. It is not uncommon for farmers to have to re-drill crops on blow-away soils if rain fails at the critical time. Scenes like the one here near Killerby Carr, emphasise the vulnerability of peat soils not only to land drainage and subsequent shrinkage but also to wind erosion.
Soil is a precious and limited commodity. Peat soils on The Carrs are especially precious, due to the carbon they hold, the heritage record within and their biodiversity potential. Yet how many of us give soils a second thought? Are they another aspect of our overlooked heritage in Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale?
A dust cloud of peat tells a dramatic story of peatland erosion during a dry spring on The Carrs