Connecting for Nature

Keeping Yorkshire folk in touch with their local biodiversity news

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Transform grants – but be quick about it

Malton station platformAre you looking for funding for a community environmental project, especially one focussing on habitats, species, reducing carbon emissions etc? Are you within 10miles of a Transpennine Express train route or station? Here is a quick heads up for ‘Transform Grants’ – the Transpennine Express Community and Environmental Grants. These come around every year it seems and always have a very short window for applications. They can grant up to £5,000 for a stand alone project. You have to get your skates on though it either closes 30th Aug or 27th Sept, depending how you read their guidance! (The website headlines imply deadline up to 27th Sept. but the guidance doc when you get into it says midnight on 30th  August!)  Also, welcome to the video age! Shortlisted projects must prepare a 30sec video pitch for the final selection process. 

Some of the key guidelines lifted from the guidance doc:

To be eligible to apply for a Transform grant, organisations must be a: • Charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) • Community Interest Company (CIC) registered in the UK with the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies • Community Rail Partnership(CRP) • School, Parent/Teacherassociation or educational establishment.

To be eligible to apply for a Transform grant, proposed projects must be: • Located within 10 miles of any line of route served by TransPennine Express train services. A map of our network and services can be found on page 6 • New activity, above and beyond the day to day operations of the organisation. Grants cannot be utilised to cover or contribute to overheads/running costs (e.g. rent, transport) or act as a contribution to existing/larger projects. • Completed no later than 31st March 2021.

Unfortunately, we are unable to support any projects or organisation which: • Are associated with or promote a specific political party, or demonstrate a political bias • Are associated with or promote a specific religion or requires beneficiaries to be of a specific faith, convert to that faith or accept information or teaching about that faith as a condition of taking part in or benefitting from programmes and or services. • Could be deemed to have a controversial or negative impact on the reputation of FirstGroup PLC or TransPennineExpress.


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Don’t get a ticking off…

20190725_105121Following a couple of recent incidents in North Yorkshire forest district where individuals have potentially contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite, this is a timely reminder to read up on the advice about precautions against ticks for those spending any amount of time among forest and grassland vegetation, especially if bare-legged.

Tick bites are not common and only a small proportion of bites are by ticks infected with the disease. Even then, if the animal is removed correctly within a few hours of attaching to feed it is unlikely to pass on the bacterium. If you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a tick, flu-like symptoms and tiredness are a warning sign to look out for. See a doctor asap if it develops a spreading circular red rash, often like a bullseye target.

Please don’t be alarmed but remember simple sensible precautions: Check and inspect for ticks at the end of a day spent in the field, consider using insect repellant and most effective of all wear long trousers and long sleeves, paying particular attention not to have exposed skin between your footwear and clothing. Two useful links are below.


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Beavering away in Cropton


Beaver Cam stills_day

The Cropton Beavers have been regularly captured by the fixed wildlife cameras in their enclosure on Sutherland Beck

An exciting ‘Enclosed beaver release trial’ got underway in Cropton Forest in April. Forestry England received a licence from Natural England to release two Scottish beavers into an enclosure centred on Sutherland Beck in their forest estate at Cropton. It is hoped the trial will demonstrate whether dams built by beavers can form effective and self-sustaining natural flood management (NFM) structures and whether beavers will adopt and maintain man-made structures on our behalf.  .

There are several regions in Scotland where there are now well-established wild populations of Eurasian beaver  including the renowned Knapdale release trial site and on Tayside. The breeding pair of beavers for Cropton were captured and removed from an area in Scotland where they were unwelcome, they were kept at Flamingoland zoo whilst the necessary health checks took place. The five-year trial will be closely monitored and will contribute to the national debate on beaver reintroductions, such as those in Scotland and in Devon.

Cropton Beavers Dam

Forestry England Ecologist Cath checks out one of the small dams built by the beavers since their release – these are providing Natural Flood Management benefits on the stream catchment. Note the beaver-gnawed tree in the foreground.

Man-made Natural Flood Management features, (typified by structures referred to as ‘leaky debris dams’)  are already deployed by Forestry England but are costly to maintain as they degrade over time. Projects such as the now famous ‘Slowing the Flow’ Project have established the benefits of NFM approaches, but it is hoped to learn more about the capacity that beavers, often called nature’s engineers, have to create and maintain systems of wood dams on a catchment scale. The small valley in which the beavers are at work is securely fenced and hidden wildlife cameras donated by NatureSpy have been installed to monitor the animal’s activities. Already the cameras have captured exciting scenes of beavers felling small saplings and dam building and even of the kits (young beavers) which the pregnant female gave birth to. Do check out the video showing the Beaver kits as featured on the BBC News website.

Beaver cam stills_night

A nocturnal still image from one of the NatureSpy video cameras installed to monitor the Beavers and their activities.

The Forestry England trial in Cropton has taken extensive baseline ecology surveys using volunteer local naturalists studying everything from bats and birds to ferns and flies. It is hoped that the baseline surveys will enable the impact of the beavers on the sites biodiversity to be analysed,  further monitoring of these species will be carried out throughout the 5 year trial.

The Project is part funded by the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire County Council and Forest Holidays. There is more info on the Cropton Beavers trial here on the Forestry England website.  You may also enjoy this press coverage: Yorkshire Post article on the Cropton release. 




Cropton Sutherland Beck

Sutherland Beck in Cropton Forest is part of the Derwent catchment.

Cropton beaver dammed pond

Since release in April the Beavers have already created ponds by damming up the stream. Naturalists are monitoring the local environment to see what effect the animals’ activities have on biodiversity.

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Farms and Fumitory on Film



Filming for the Turtle Dove Project video took us first to a fallow plot ideal for enhancement with a bespoke seed mix, funded by a conservation agreement with the North York Moors National Park

An early start with Turtle Dove Project Officer Richard Baines saw us meeting up with York-based freelance journalist Kevin Rushby to go and shoot some promotional footage on a farm near Scarborough. It was a pleasure to be out early in the morning  – on a day set to be the hottest July day on record – and get some interviews done before the heat set in and before the light was too harsh.


Great views towards Hackness, where Kevin films Mark and Rich discussing the setting of Spiker’s Hill Farm and it’s grazing land running down to the Derwent.

Our first destination was Spiker’s Hill Farm, west of Forge Valley just inland from Scarborough. I was helping with the capture of some video about the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. Our plan was to get an interview with the Project’s newest farmer recruit, Mark Hutchinson. The ultimate aim is for videographer Kevin to put together a short film about the Turtle Dove Project which will form part of new interpretation displays at Dalby and Sutton Bank. The film will also help to explain what the project has sought to achieve and hopefully assist in making the case for future funding when the current phase ends.


Establishing shots of Mark greeting Rich at the farmhouse.

At Spiker’s Hill, above West Ayton, Mark carries on the conservation-sensitive farming begun by his father Peter. The farm has a long association with Stewardship schemes including Countryside Stewardship, ELS and HLS but has always been run with a clear eye on long-term markets and profitability. Peter was a long-time supporter of the Cornfield Flowers Project, another local farmland species conservation initiative, targeting rare cornfield weeds. (If you are interested, read more here about rare arable flora and the latest incarnation of the Cornfield Flowers Project in our local patch.)

Spiker’s Hill is an 800 ha farm, mainly arable but with some grass for beef cattle and a range of stewardship options to help wildlife around the farm. Upon hearing that Turtle Doves breed nearby in the North Yorkshire Forest adjoining the farm, Mark was only too happy to add Turtle Dove measures to the portfolio of wildlife-minded farming. Following promotional mailings to farms in the target area he invited the Project Officer, Richard Baines to come and see what potential there was at Spiker’s Hill Farm.


Fumitory – an unassuming arable weed but one loved by Turtle Doves – and if its already in the seed bank that’s a very promising start.

Apparently, Rich nearly fell over with excitement on his first visit in June as one of the arable fallow plots Mark was offering for the ‘Turtle Dove treatment’ was already sporting a generous amount of Common Fumitory, one of the most sought-after species in the bespoke Turtle Doves seed mixes! On this visit we hoped to capture some of this excitement on film for the promotional video. The birds love to feed on sparse, open flower-rich habitats after breeding and fatten up on small nutritious seeds. This type of flowery habitat, great for pollinators too and a wide range of other red-listed farmland birds, is often associated with stony free-draining soils over limestone.

Other favoured plants, included in the specially-made Turtle Dove seed mixes include Birdsfoot Trefoil, Sainfoin and Black Medick. The presence of the purple-pink haze of Fumitory patches demonstrated the potential of the new flower plots on this farm. With careful cultivation, over-sowing of additional species and an annual management regime they can become even more attractive to the birds and more valuable to other wildlife and insects.


Filming beside a silted-up dew pond, ripe for restoration. This will offer a fantastic drinking water resource adjacent to the Turtle Dove feeding plot.

Mark even pointed out an old dew pond close by which he would be willing to restore. Drinking water sources are very important for Turtle Doves. As ‘obligate granivores’ – (exclusive seed-eaters) their diet makes them particularly thirsty, compared with other farmland birds which feed their chicks on insects and molluscs (Yellowhammer for instance or Song Thrush). A pond just yards from one of the new plots will be superb news for freshly-fledged Turtle Dove chicks, which need food and water close to their forest and scrub nest sites.


‘Can we just try that again’….Getting just the right footage of the farmer and the Project Officer discussing Turtle Dove wildflower plots!

With Kevin, a professional freelance journalist and videographer, renowned for his travel writing for The Guardian newspaper, we were able to capture some of Mark’s personal motivations for getting involved in the project and film some shots of Richard and Mark inspecting the potential Turtle Dove plot and former dew pond, as well as general shots of the farm. Further elements of the intended film will be an interview with a volunteer surveyor, with the artist designing the interpretive display panels for Dalby and Sutton Bank visitor centres and general introductory material with the Project Officer or Project Partners.

I hope that the video will do justice to the project and we were delighted that Mark makes not only such a positive farmer advocate for the project, but one willing to appear before the camera and talk so freely!



Counting Pyramids



A mass of Pyramidal Orchids growing together in one of the survey transects.

Yesterday,  on Scarborough’s North Bay a small number of stoic orchid-counting volunteers enjoyed the blazing sunshine to complete the now-annual tally of flower spikes on what has become known as ‘The Orchid Terrace’. It might perhaps be appropriately renamed Peter’s Terrace, for the yearly monitoring was initiated due to the great diligence of the late local naturalist and retired schoolmaster Mr Peter Robinson. Up until his death in February following a short battle with pancreatic cancer Peter, who was something of an orchid fanatic, had assiduously scaled the slope in two-metre transect strips to count the show of flowers. You may like to read accounts of earlier survey seasons elsewhere on the blog here including discussions about the management of the habitat there.

Close up of a bee orchid flower spike

Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera is so-named for its distinctive bulbous flowers which are reminiscent of a bumblebee’s body

This season was the first survey without Peter, but over the last few years the Scarborough Borough Council Parks Department has played a role in orchestrating the survey and rallying a handful of volunteers to help. Tim Burkinshaw and Helen Percival once again met willing helpers at the grassy slope above the North Bay beach huts, armed with a tape measure, string lines and recording sheet. (Our thanks go to Rita, Nick and Rich who each gave several hours to completing the survey and enabled us to complete the count of almost 90 transects in one day; Tim having counted transect 90, the revetment top three weeks earlier.) The fruits of our labours are the data as follows for 2019:

Total count of orchid flower spikes 1,873 of which the great majority by a significant margin were Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis (1,725). Next most abundant was Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii (a meagre 145 spikes this year) and last but not least the Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera, arguably the species for which the Terrace originally got its botanical reputation, with only 3 flower spikes this year. There will no doubt be further discussions with orchid experts (including Sheffield University’s Prof David Read,  who knew Peter Robinson quite well), on the possible reasons for the decline of the ‘Bees’ in recent years and on the best ways to try to manage the habitat for the continued benefit of a range of flora, but especially the orchids.

The Orchid Terrace count has featured previously in the Connecting for Nature blog here, Should you wish to read more I also wrote about it for the 30 Days Wild challenge in 2017 too, on my personal blog which you might also find interesting.

Previous survey years have seen much bigger counts of Bee Orchids, numbering several hundred and of Pyramidals attaining tallies of up to 8,000. Last year saw the introduction of experimental habitat management by ‘Spider’ mower. This is a new remote-operated mowing machine, recently acquired by SBC and particularly suited to steep banks where tractors or ride-on machinery is unsafe to operate. Scrutinising the historic data, a treatment regime was specified whereby alternate blocks of the banking were cut and raked-off or left unmown for comparison. It may be too early to see any response in the flora in this year’s count but it is hoped that continued surveys will help inform how best to manage the habitat for biodiversity.

Peter’s Terrace may be reknowned for its orchids, but certainly offers good spotting opportunities for a number of taxa – grassland plants, (eg Horseshoe Vetch, Mellilot,  Centaury and Restharrow), Lepidoptera (eg Six-Spot Burnet Moth, Small Skipper, Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies), Orthoptera (ie grasshoppers and crickets) and spiders (we saw some Nursery Web spider nests yesterday and other hunting spiders scampering over the ground.)

Besides some pretty flowers The Orchid Terrace is home to some great invertebrates such as the profusion of Six-Spot Burnet Moths found there.

Hopefully in 2020 a more encompassing natural history excursion can be arranged with Scarborough Field Naturalists, to compliment the orchid survey and bring this super little site to the attention of more people. Followers of this blog will naturally be notified of any opportunities to help with the count next year or indeed come along on an excursion to see what treasures ‘Peter’s Terrace’ holds.

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Year of Green Action Grants

cropped-img_5793.jpgDid you know 2019 is the Year of Green Action? Linked to the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan is the pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it in.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council recently announced a flexible small grant scheme for environmental projects, closing very soon. Interested groups or businesses who perhaps have an existing project idea and can act quickly may just make it! grants of between £200 and £1000 are available. The application deadline is 5pm on 7th July. Projects must be delivered by the end of the year, so anything which requires planning or statutory permissions is off the cards but a wide range of green improvement works are fair game as well as small schemes to green workplaces or engage employees with nature.

These can include organising and taking part in litter picks in towns, villages, or along the East Riding’s beaches, creating a nature area to attract wildlife such as frogs, newts and dragonflies, planting trees and pollinator-friendly flowers to supporting green infrastructure by installing green walls and roofs on buildings.

Businesses can also apply but must make it clear in their application how the project will benefit people and nature in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Do you have a litter picking project or a beach clean initiative in mind? What about a community greenspace that cries out for some tree-planting, pollinator-friendly plants or a small meadow creation? If you want to green up your workplace or get colleagues more engaged in environmental issues these are possibilities too. Anything which benefits ERYC Biodiversity Action Plan species or habitats is  likely to score well.

Anyone who interested in applying for a grant needs to register at  and then select the Year of Green Action Community Fund from the dropdown menu.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Sunday, 7 July and all projects that receive funding must be completed by 31 December, 2019.

For more information about the Year of Green Action www.yearofgreenaction.organd for more information on the Government’s 25 year environment plan go to

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South Cliff Gardens Vacancy

South Cliff Gdns websiteAn exciting vacancy has arisen for a Community Engagement Officer to join the Parks for People “Saving South Cliff Gardens” National Lottery Heritage Fund project.

Scarborough Borough Council received a Stage 2 pass from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in April 2019 and has been awarded a Delivery grant to restore the gardens on the steep hillside above the seaside town’s South Bay. For the right person this job is a prime opportunity to implement ambitious aspirations for revitalising the iconic coastal green space.
The main duties of the posts will be to co-ordinate, develop, manage and deliver the Parks for People project activity plan at the South Cliff Gardens, Scarborough. The post-holder will develop a creative and annual program of exciting events and activities within the Gardens to engage with a wide range of audiences. Central to the role is to co-ordinate the recruitment and leadership of volunteers, to create an environment where everyone is welcome and to address barriers for involvement in the gardens and the Park’s activities. The Community Engagement Officer will need the experience to mentor existing volunteers, support and encourage their personal development keep them engaged in meaningful activities.

It is anticipated that this will be a 4.5 year project with a fixed term contract. Salary: £24,313 – £26,317 per annum. Post to commence 7 October 2019 to 31 March 2024. 
For more information and to apply online, go to

You may also wish to visit the website and blog for the Saving South Cliff Gardens project.