A largely unexplored terrain, often by-passed by the many visitors to the Yorkshire moors and coast, The Carrs of the Vale of Pickering are well worth closer inspection as they are rich in a variety of wildlife, year round, (some seasonal highlights picked out here), especially since the blossoming of Higher Level Stewardship agreements over the last few years. Most of the Carrs are private farmland but a network of footpaths and bridleways provide access to some areas. The Carrs Wetland Project has focussed to date on the eastern part of the Vale, from the Sherburn-Brompton road eastward, in the area that is sometimes referred to as the Scarborough Carrs. Here are some suggestions for visiting wildlife watchers:
Star Carr / Seamer Carr / Flixton Carr areas
For public access to these sites from the A1039 at Flixton village, head north on Flixton Carr Lane (North Street). Park on North Street near Orchard Lodge and enjoy the walk down this green lane to Flixton Bridge and the Hertford Cut (TA 039811). It is possible to drive down the lane to Flixton Bridge but turning space and parking is limited. The lane is good for Tree Sparrows, particularly near the nest boxes and feeders by the picnic area. The Flixton Bridge gives a vantage point in the centre of former Lake Flixton. Water Rail, Otter, Barn Owl, Whimbrel, Lapwing and Whitethroat are among the treats in store. Note that direct access to Star Carr (the mesolithic settlement site) and Seamer Carr landfill site are not yet possible
Potter Brompton Carr / Sherburn Ings
Ruston Carr Bridge is a good vantage point at the northern end, turn north off A64 at Sherburn village, take the single track road next right after the level crossing. In about 1km park near the bridge over the River Derwent (SE 962795). Listen for Marsh Tits in Ruston Carr Plantation, or Curlew which sometimes nest in the arable land north of the bridge. The bridge is a prolific spraint site for Otter, so you might be lucky.
Only part of Potter Brompton Carr is viewable at present but at the wettest times in winter view from the public footpath just south of Hay Bridge (SE 978790). From the A64 follow the signs to Ganton Golf Course, continue down to the level crossing, beyond which the road becomes a rough farm track. Park and walk to Hay Bridge. The Bogg Hall barns near the level crossing hold Tree Sparrow and opposite them is a planted bird seed crop which attracts flocks of seed-eating finches and buntings. The website for Potter Brompton Farms contains a good write-up of the development of wetland fields in this vicinity and also an ornithological blog by their appointed bird-ringer Chris Bradshaw. Access to the PB farms site is strictly by permit only as explained here on thier website. (See also link to sensitive sites on Scarborough Birders blog at the end of this post.)
Cayton Carr and Folkton Carr
A pull-in down Carr Lane running between Folkton and Cayton villages is a good place to scan for wildlife on Cayton Carr or Loder’s Carr (TA 056809). A better parking spot is a small lay-by just north of the Water Treatment Plant on Carr Lane (TA 056806). Note here the dramatic peat shrinkage evidenced by the relative elevation of the Folkton Bridge (installed level in 1976). Sadly the lay-by also attracts fly-tipping but the mauve flowers of Water Violet in the adjacent ditch seem to come back each summer all the same.
Flotmanby Carr/Well Springs
The southern bank of the Hertford east of Folkton Bridge and the north bank to the west of it are passable at times when vegetation growth permits and sometimes walked by locals, eg linking with Flixton Bridge, but note that there is no formal public right of way. Another way to view Flotmanby Carr is from the gateway of Lingholm Estate just beyond the holiday cottages at West Flotmanby on the A1039 (TA 074796). With a telescope it is possible to view a flash on Lingholm farm from here. A little farther east at Well Springs is a similar area, best viewed from a public footpath running north-east from Manor Farm on the A1039 (TA 080798). You can make a great circuit on foot from Muston village, taking in a part of the Wolds Way offering superb views over this eastern limit of the Hertford peatland. (Read more about the Flixton peatland and land drainage elsewhere on this blog.)
Willerby Carr /Binnington Carr
Park near the church in Willerby village (TA 008791) and walk along the track (Wains Lane) westwards. Notice the large arable field west of the church has a wide fallow margin to provide refuge for rare arable flora in the seed bank. The sandy light soils here are conducive to annual ‘cornfield weeds’. (Read more about the work of The Cornfield Flowers Project here.) Where Wains Lane swings north toward the railway line the telegraph wires are a good site to listen for singing Corn Buntings.
Return to the church (stopping to note the linear scratch marks in the porch doorway reportedly from sharpening of arrowheads on the stonework) then walk Willerby Carr Lane, crossing some cattle pasture with breeding wader wetland scrapes and reach the Hertford Cut and boggy woodlands of Robin’s Bottom. Here you may find Sparrowhawk, Willow and Marsh Tits as well as Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Roe Deer. The public bridleway ends a little after the railway crossing, but locals use the river bank to make a return via Staxton Carr Lane two fields eastward (where there is a footbridge) or indeed cross via a stile to a footpath that traces back up to Ings Lane, halfway over that runs parallel. Both routes pass by fields with ground nesting birds, some with wetland scrapes. Here one is likely to encounter Skylark, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Brown Hare. Green Sandpiper, Barn Owl, Kestrel are possible too. If you pass the cow sheds on Ings Lane look for the Tree Sparrow colony using external and concealed nest boxes on the side of the barn. Fencing alongside the footpaths in this area was funded by HLS to help reduce disturbance to ground nesting birds and others such as Snipe in the winter months in these wet fields, as described in another blog post.
The Scarborough Birders blog offers a useful reference on several sensitive sites in The Carrs area with restricted access, including Potter Brompton, Wykeham South Lake and Flotmanby Carr.