Tag Archives: Scarborough

Have you seen Willow Tits?

Willow tits have been found in recent years on some farm holdings straddling the boundary of Ryedale / Scarborough local authority areas, amidst HLS wetland schemes under the Carrs Wetland Project banner. Parts of the Derwent riparian corridor support occasional breeding pairs and some isolated farm woodlands which are quite wet and scrubby. This species featured on the old Ryedale BAP (and Wet Woodland, a classic setting for nesting Willow Tits, was a named habitat for Ryedale too).
The bird excavates nest holes typically in rotten trees or stumps such as willow, alder and birch. It is known from research on the species’ habitat preferences that as scrub matures and larger-trunked trees establish, they become attractive to a key predator of Willow Tits – the Great Spotted Woodpecker. Thus keeping a suitable site free of mature trees could help.

Willow Tit © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Willow Tit © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In places HLS woodland management options were agreed on Carrs Wetland farms, mindful that Willow Tits might benefit in the longer term by maintaining suitable nesting habitat. Some areas were thus earmarked for rotational coppicing to keep a younger age structure to the scrubby wet woodland. On Willerby Carr even some woodshaving-filled nestboxes were put in place in the hope that they could be used by Willow Tits.

Do you know of any good Willow Tit sites in the Ryedale or Scarborough patch? (or sites where they used to be?) Following a discussion with Chris Bradshaw, a local ornithologist and member of Scarborough Birders group, we wondered whether an attempt to track down breeding Willow Tits would be a good idea this year, to assess local populations. In many parts of the UK this species is in serious decline, hanging on in parts of its range. Given that it is present in the Scarborough area and Ryedale too it would be valuable to hear of recent records. We should take care to not to give precise locations in the public domain, however, considering the scarcity and sensitivity of this species. Many sites will be on private land anyway, but if you have helpful ‘intelligence’ on their whereabouts, such as recent sightings in the last 5 years or sites that you know used to have them but may no longer, then please contact Tim on tim.burkinshaw@scarborough.gov.uk


Meadow Restoration at The Dell

The Dell, Eastfield, Scarborough. A valuable sub-urban greenspace

The Dell, Eastfield. A valuable sub-urban greenspace

Project management experience comes in handy in my job. After several years working with local farmers implementing their wetland HLS schemes on The Carrs, I’ve picked up a thing or two. Thank goodness… for this month I’m applying my particular skillset to a sub-urban green space in Eastfield to the south of Scarborough, barely over a mile from the Hertford floodplain I’ve grown so fond of. This takes a good degree of understanding about habitat restoration, organizing contractors, scheduling volunteers and and local farmers to help carry out the restoration work.

‘The Dell’ is the first Local Nature Reserve in the Borough of Scarborough. This small grassland valley, with the Eastfield Beck trickling quietly along the bottom, forms a wedge of green extending from Deepdale into the housing estates of the Eastfield community.  A few years ago The Dell was an under-appreciated valley of short-mown ‘amenity’ grassland but the ‘Dell’ve into Nature’ project, with funding from an Access to Nature grant and spearheaded by Groundwork North Yorkshire and partners injected new life and interest in this modest 12 acre site. Rangers employed by Groundwork for the Dell project worked with the local community to design improvements such paths and a boardwalk, a small pond and dipping platform. They planted hedgerow trees along the stream and fished discarded mattresses and shopping trolleys out of it. A series of educational and practical events were organized, including volunteer work parties and wildlife surveys of the birds, butterflies and botany of the site. The cessation of regular mowing brought a flush of native wildflowers on the grassy slopes. A botanical survey confirmed the presence of a habitat classed as MG4 and MG5 grassland – essentially lowland meadow, in a quantity that is rarely discovered so close to an urban area.

The Dell’ve into Nature project culminated in the designation of The Dell as an LNR a couple of years ago and the successful application for a 10-year HLS restoration scheme, with management subsidies from Natural England. SBC Parks staff are busy at The Dell over the next few weeks masterminding some hay meadow restoration prescribed under Higher Level Stewardship. The Council do have tractors but not the specialist machinery needed for hay-making, seeding, scarifying etc, so we have roped in a couple of local farmers with experience and the right kit they can deploy for us.

Work scheduled in the coming weeks includes making and baling hay from the site, raking the slopes to open some bare soil and applying a bespoke mix of native wildflower seeds, prescribed by Natural England. The seed mixes include traditional meadow flowers such as Yellow Rattle, Ox-eye Daisy and Field Scabious to boost the existing flora of this unimproved grassland. The meadow species will thrive under a new annual hay-making regime with a late summer cut, after mid August each year when most flowers have set seed.

Meadow species thriving at The Dell include Black Knapweed

Meadow flowers thriving on the east slope of The Dell Local Nature Reserve include Black Knapweed.

The eastern slope is already quite well-populated with meadow species, so we are also orchestrating some hay-strewing. This meadow restoration technique involves taking hay full of ripe seed heads of grasses and flowers and spreading thinly on another site. It can be done entirely by hand, with scythes and hay-forks and wheelbarrows, but to make the process more efficient we are transporting some of the hay bales from the east side and attempting to roll them out on the (scarified and roughed-up) west side. This is where volunteers come in.

We reckon that a big round hay bale needs three to four people to efficiently manhandle and dispense thin layers of the hay across the receiving site. The idea is to space them to create parallel strips across the slope. Using rakes, hay forks, garden forks or even bare hands we can then distribute the strips on the intervening gaps. This is the theory. in practice the more people we have available the easier it will be to cover the whole area. Sounds like fun? Come and join us!  We have a local farmer baling the hay this week, then another farmer will bring a pasture scarifier (think giant rake, pulled by a tractor) preparing the slopes to receive seed.  After this, seed mixes with be broadcast – possibly at the same time as scarifying, but in any case we have some smaller quantities of seed of particular species to broadcast by hand in discrete patches.

Lots going on then! Come and join Scarborough Conservation Volunteers on Weds 10th Sept from 10.30am at the entrance to The Dell off Westway. Meet at the Westway cul de sac. (Nearby post code YO11 3EG.) You may like to bring a rake or a fork!

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.


Brief Biography of a Wetland Project Officer

Project Officer Tim Burkinshaw

Project Officer Tim Burkinshaw

Tim Burkinshaw took up a fixed-term post as Wetland Officer with Scarborough Council in 2007. Six years on working on with The Carrs Wetland Project he’s pleased to be still at the Council’s Parks Department in a broader interpretation of the role, advocating landscape conservation and partnership working in the Vale of Pickering. Here he gives a brief bit of biography…

“I grew up in Huddersfield and I remember, as a teenager, coming on birding coach trips to North Yorkshire with an RSPB members group. I was probably the youngest member on the trips and often the older chaps would look after me. The main thing I recall was being wrapped in copious layers of woolly jumpers for the winter weather and being hot and itchy on the return journey.”

“My interests in natural history led to a Natural Sciences degree in Cambridge. It was here that geology captured my interest and became my new passion. Field courses took us to many places including the Yorkshire coast, this time paying more attention to the cliffs than the birds and flowers living on them.”

After starting out in outdoor education, Tim spent time as a field studies tutor at Cranedale Centre on the Wolds, zipping about the moors and coast with nets and quadrats in minibuses full of students. During this time he could equally likely be found standing welly-deep keying-out aquatic invertebrates in Brompton Beck or braving cold easterlies at Flamborough while demonstrating beach profiling to geographers. A happy opportunity arose ‘on the back doorstep’ in the form of the Wetland Project, which brought him to his current role.

Tim lives in Stamford Bridge, on the River Derwent near York, so finds himself taking interest in conservation matters at both ends of the catchment, upstream on The Carrs and downstream with Stamford Bridge in Bloom, coordinating  conservation activities with young people.

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.

Reflections of a wetland officer

A jungle of hemlock on an abandoned arable field near Star Carr was the daunting starting point five yrs ago this autumn for a wet grassland creation site. This 40 acre lump of Carr land belonging to Scarborough Borough Council was the first location where, as a newly recruited Wetland Project Officer I was expected to demonstrate the viability of Higher Level Stewardship schemes in our small part of the Vale.

I think it’s fair to say that there were those who voiced their doubts and concerns at the time and indeed there may be plenty of people even now who upon seeing the site today will wonder and ask what all the fuss is about. I don’t mind admitting that there were moments when even I had my doubts whether this wet grassland restoration lark was going to prove viable on The Carrs in the face of strong economic pressures on farms to boost food production, grow energy crops or invest in re-draining of arable floodplain land.