Connecting for Nature

Keeping Yorkshire folk in touch with their local biodiversity news


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Buckthorn for Brimstones

A new and innovative project, spearheaded by Whitby Naturalists Club is hoping to benefit the expansion of the breeding range of Brimstone butterfly by providing the foodplant for it to lay egg on. Brimstones are at the edge of their range here in North Yorkshire, though adults are regularly recorded in the Whitby area and across the region.

By planting Alder Buckthorn, a native but uncommon moisture-loving shrub (Frangula alnus confusingly neither thorny nor an Alder), the group hopes to provide stepping stones of habitat for it northward spread. A number of countryside sites including Calla Beck and The Cinder Track will be planted with Alder Buckthorn, with funds from Butterfly Conservation through their Yorkshire Branch, who are fully supportive of the venture. Scarborough Borough Council have obtained 300 bare-root whips of the shrub on behalf of the Club and already the first conservation task has begun the job of planting, with the help of  The Cinders volunteers on 7th March, as part of a habitat improvement task at Middlewood Lane, Fylingthorpe.

The next task with The Cinders, also involves alder buckthorn planting, at Ravenscar station and the approaches to the old tunnel, where Brimstones have been recorded. To join in with this task meet at Station Square in Ravenscar on 28th March at 10.30am, or contact volunteers@northyorkmoors.org.uk to register with the Cinders group for notifications of all their future tasks on the old railway line.

Numerous members of Whitby Nats have pledged to plant Alder Buckthorn in their garden or land. We may not know if this mission is successful for several years, but BC Yorkshire reps are confident there is every chance it will help the species expand its breeding range. Naturally if you do spot a Brimstone butterfly, do please report it using i-Record or your local Naturalist’s society recorder.

More info on this pdf article by Whitby Nats: http://whitbynaturalists.co.uk/files/buckthorn_for_brimstones_project_sheet.pdf

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The First Buckthorn for Brimstones tree planting site at Middlewood Lane, Fylingthorpe

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Ravenscar conservation task

 

20190207_135944Earlier this month a record-breaking turnout of Cinders volunteers braved a wild and wet start to the day at Ravenscar old station. The premise of the task was tree planting to the south of Ravenscar, but in view of the weather we elected to stay close to the vehicles and start the task with some clearance work at the station itself. This in the end proved to be very satisfying and rewarding work as we cleared brambles from the old track bed, scraped moss off the platform, cut back fallen trees and planted some holly and birch to improve the understory in the Scots Pine shelter belt.

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20190207_111354We also uncovered a footpath ramp leading down off the platform and our chopping and raking revealed some promising grassland which we hope can be managed annually hereafter and even has good potential for a picnic table or two. Including leaders there were sixteen people out on task, which eclipses other popular tasks such as Hawsker Sidings and Fylinghall Station. The Cinders group is really gaining some momentum now, following its launch in September and we look forward to seeing both regular faces and new faces at future tasks.

img_20190207_220255_572-1After lunch we switched locations and walked down the railway line to Bent Rigg Lane, the first bridge over the track going south from Ravenscar. Here in a wide grassy cutting we set to work planting a mixture of tree species including birch, crab apple, dog rose, field maple and cherry. The stretch between here and Ravenscar is one of the most open and tree-less parts of the railway line. Further planting will seek to create pockets of shrubs and trees to improve the connectivity of the wildlife corridor, whilst retaining open views to the sea and the old listening station.

The volunteers really enjoyed themselves and several commented afterward what a varied and interesting task it had been. May all our Cinders activities be so blessed!


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Centenary Wood, Scalby

Centenary Wood will occupy these former meadows at Scalby Mills, North of Scarborough.

A new woodland, commemorating the Centenary of the First World War Armistice

Former meadows close to the Cleveland Way at Scalby Mills are being transformed into a brand new woodland for Scarborough. The Armistice Centenary Wood, begun in 2018 with a symbolic planting of the first one hundred trees, commemorates the end of the Great War. This mixed native woodland will in time grow up to form a wonderful new habitat on former stewardship land just north of Scarborough, extending from the wild, wooded slopes of the Scalby Beck ravine.

You can help by coming to a Community tree-planting event on 16th Feb. The Saturday tree-planting drop-in will run all day from 10am until 4pm. Bring a packed lunch if you fancy getting stuck in for the full day or pop by for half an hour or so and plant a few trees.

Families are welcome for the tree-planting day – we have already had help from children from a local pre-school to plant up a corner and they did a super job! There will be tools and expert guidance provided – though you may bring your own gardening gloves if you wish, or even a spade! Wrap up warmly and wear sturdy footwear as it could be muddy.

 

Scalby Beck ravine forms will adjoin the southern edge of Centenary Wood.

Where is Armistice Centenary Woodland?

The arrow shows the middle of the new Armistice Centenary Woodland, occupying a strip of land between the footpath and the Sea Cut.

Heading north on the coast road out of Scarborough, just after crossing Scalby Beck the A165 swings round a tight left-hand bend and begins uphill passing Scalby Manor pizza and carvery towards the caravan site. On the left is a layby and opposite that a trackway leading to the meadows. Scalby Manor restaurant has given consent for tree-planting volunteers to use their car park. (They have a ‘half-term’ offer at the moment, until 2nd March, for kids to eat for £1 with an adult main, which families might like to avail themselves of.)

UPDATE: Scalby Manor has agreed a 10% discount off food for tree-planting volunteers on Saturday. Ask for a voucher when you come to the tree planting if you wish to take up this offer.

Scarborough Conservation Volunteers have made a fantastic start on planting the 3000 bare root trees at Scalby Meadows

 

Scalby Mills meadows used to be regularly cut in late summer but due to their tremendous popularity for exercising dogs Scarborough Borough Council had to stop managing them as meadows. A few years ago the last contract farmer willing to manage the site by taking a hay crop for animal feed gave notice that he could no longer take the hay, owing to contamination due to dog fouling. This sad state of affairs reflects unfairly on the hundreds of dog owners who do clean up after their pets, but the Council’s Parks department has been scratching heads over what to do with the site ever since. In 2018 when some funding for tree-planting within the Borough was secured from North Yorkshire County Council, the idea of Centenary Wood was born.

An oak sapling inside its tree shelter at Centenary Wood

A mixed-species native woodland

Oak saplings were planted first to form a basic structure with much of the work spearheaded  by Scarborough Conservation Volunteers in recent weeks. Thousands more bare-root ‘whips’ of species such as hazel, birch, field maple, bird cherry and crab apple are still to be planted before spring arrives. Ideally bare-root trees should be planted before the end of March. Salt-tolerant sea buckthorn and sycamore have been included in the mix for the seaward end but the very last meadow before the clifftop will be left as rough grassland and has slightly better potential for wildflowers than the other fields to be planted.

Follow the progress through updates on the Connecting for Nature blog. You can also sign up to occasional Connecting for Nature updates by email using the link www.bit.ly/CFNsignup

A view of the site before the planting of Armistice Centenary Woodland.

The former meadows form a link between the A171 coast road and the clifftops just north of Scalby Mills.

The structure of the woodland was set out with oaks. Smaller species will be planted between, with the help of community volunteers.


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Volunteer with ‘The Cinders’

This year why not get some fresh air, meet new friends and do something practical to improve your local environment? The Cinders is a new conservation volunteering group set up jointly by the North York Moors National Park and Scarborough Borough Council. Its aim is to carry out habitat improvements on the old railway line, or ‘Cinder Track’ as some call it, between Whitby and Scarborough. The line closed to trains in 1965 and subsequently became a permissive bridleway owned by SBC. A fabulous linear habitat of scrub, grassland and trees has grown up on either side of the trail and it forms an important north-south linkage for wildlife.

The Cinders group already has a few tasks under its belt, thanks to some activities in autumn 2018, which you can read about elsewhere on the blog (Hawsker Sidings), (Stoupe Brow) and (Fylinghall old station). A small number of regular volunteers are already turning out for these monthly tasks, but there is space for more. You don’t need to have special skills or prior experience of conservation work. Trained leaders, such as the National Park Coastal Ranger will provide on-site instruction and tools. You don’t even need to be conservation-minded, though you are sure to meet like-minded volunteers if you are!

If you fancy coming out all you have to do is to turn up at the meeting place – tasks will be spread out along the 22 miles of the railway line focusing on the most ecologically valuable habitats. Tasks will be advertised on the Cinder Track Facebook page, on this blog and posted on ‘My Volunteer’, The National Park’s online portal for volunteers. This is by far the recommended approach as you get the earliest notice of tasks and a chance to claim a place as soon as the tasks are set. My Volunteer will directly notify volunteers who register their interest in The Cinders tasks. To enquire about signing up to this service contacting the Volunteering Service at the National Park by emailing volunteers@northyorkmoors.org.uk which will be picked up by Chris or Jo, their dedicated volunteer admin team. Once Jo and Chris have put you on the system they can explain how you can register for tasks and get all the details directly to your phone, tablet or computer. There is no obligation to come to all the tasks, it simply notifies you so you can choose where and when to volunteer. Incidentally the My Volunteer portal will also display volunteering opportunities open to all right across the National Park, so if you get a taste for more, there is plenty of scope.

The next task will be on Thursday 7th February at Ravenscar, meeting point Station Square, Ravenscar (the site of the former station on the Cinder Track). Coastal Ranger Bernie McLinden will there to welcome you and I will be there too to explain the motives of the task. We will be carrying out some tree planting along a stretch which currently has very little tree cover for wildlife. Since the Cinder Track is such an important corridor for wildlife to move along this work will bring great benefits in the future…and a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction to the volunteers who can say in years to come ‘I planted those trees’! I hope to see you there!

EDIT:

Join us for the next task on March 7th, which will focus on an important stretch of the line for helleborines (a shade-loving variety of orchid). Meet where the Cinder Track crosses Middlewood lane in Fylingthorpe at 10.30am.

 


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Conservation Task at former station

Clearing vegetation revealed the original platform edge of the station which last saw trains in 1965

In early December a small team of volunteers known as ‘The Cinders’ met up to carry out conservation work at an old station near Robin Hoods Bay.

Fyling Hall Station was one of the stops on the former railway line between Scarborough and Whitby, which is now a popular walking and riding route for local people and visitors alike. The Old Railway Line, as it is known locally was branded ‘The Cinder Track’ a few years ago in a nod to its original surfacing material.

The work party originates from a new partnership between the North York Moors National Park and Scarborough Borough Council to encourage conservation volunteering along the 21.5 mile route. A key objective of the collaboration is to harness the successful volunteering formula developed by the National Park and target the restoration of the most valuable habitats along the old railway track. The initiative will focus efforts on the patches of trackside land with botanical or other species interest, such as wildflower rich grassland that has suffered from lack of management. The new volunteer group will be deployed at the very best sites along the Cinder Track for flora and fauna and will return annually to manage specific sites where the habitats need a little extra conservation effort to restore their botanical potential.

Tools and instruction are provided. Volunteers provide the muscle.

With the National Park having so many successful volunteering groups already thriving, the Borough Council is really excited to launch this joint initiative. A great deal of interest and passion for the Cinder Track was demonstrated by local people as a result of recent consultations on a restoration plan. The Cinders task programme offers a brand new opportunity for local people to volunteer to improve their much-loved route.

This month’s work focussed on the old platforms lying adjacent to the Cinder Track permissive bridleway. They had become so overgrown that people could walk right past without recognising their former purpose. The verges at the old station are also a habitat for a scarce type of orchid called the Broad-Leaved Helleborine, but have become colonized by brambles in recent years, so work also focussed on improving habitat for this botanical interest too.

By training as a Task Day Leader you could help to run one of the future Cinders tasks

Eight volunteers cleared a pathway along the old track bed so that people can see and appreciate the platform structure. They also carried out vegetation management for ground flora. It was particularly pleasing to see Broad Leaved Helleborine bearing seed and Sweet Woodruff as well as violets among the wildflowers waiting to capitalise upon the newly cleared areas.

The platform itself is now more visible and more accessible, with a walking path along the old track bed where trains once pulled up. A little more clearance work is needed to make it possible to walk along the top of the old platform but we tried to strike a balance between opening the site up and retaining the overgrown, ivy-clad charm. Who knows, maybe next spring we shall see more Helleborines at the station?

The station platform in summer 2018, illustrates how overgrown it had become

There are openings for more volunteers to join the group as well as for those with previous experience to train as volunteer ‘task day leaders’ (Free training organised by the National Park). The next task will be early in the new year. Feel free to come along and give it a try. There is no obligation to attend regularly, though we hope you want to. The only requirement is to bring a packed lunch and some old clothes and sensible footwear. All instruction and tools are provided as well as fresh air, good company and a little ecological insight about the species we are helping to benefit thrown into the bargain.

An old mattock head was found half-buried on the platform.

Interested volunteers are invited to register with the North York Moors National Park volunteers service, so that they can be notified of future tasks and receive their personal login for the My Volunteer portal. Email the volunteering team at the National Park on volunteers@northyorkmoors.org.uk.

The benefit of registering is that ‘My Volunteer’ alerts you to further opportunities as soon as they are posted on the system, both for the Cinder Track and across the National Park. The National Park’s dedicated volunteer coordinators, Chris and Jo will be happy to explain how it all works and take you through the registration process.


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Betty’s Trees for Life fund

 

A call for applications has gone out to community and greenspace groups in Yorkshire for the Betty’s Trees for Life Fund. This is suitable for the likes of Bloom groups and Friends groups for parks and green spaces as well as Parish Councils, CICs, schools and social enterprises.

The fund aims to support groups working to improve local green spaces and wildlife habitats through tree planting projects, improved access to woodland and environmental management and education projects. The link between accessible green space and well being is well documented and the fund is also interested in projects that aim to use environmental activity to promote good physical and mental health. Improvement projects could also focus on invasive species removal, wetland enhancement

Grants are available from £500 to £4000. The fund is currently accepting applications and there will be two grant rounds in 2019 with decisions on applications for grant awards made in March 2019 and September 2019. Deadlines for applications will be:-

25th February 2019 (for March 2019 panel)

26th August 2019 (for September 2019 panel)

Applications which miss the deadline date will be put forward into the next funding round subject to available funding.

More info and application details on the website of the Two Ridings Community Foundation – the York-based charitable body which administers the grants for Betty’s.

https://www.trcf.org.uk/grants-bettys-trees-for-life

There are also guidance notes to read before applying and these can be found here:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/23d8ee_a6ef9a33aadd4766a6325fc26ec95050.pdf


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Spa Bridge repairs work around Kittiwake nests

Spa Bridge, seen here before repair works saw it clothed in scaffolding for the winter, is home to nesting Kittiwakes in the spring and summer.

Spa Bridge in Scarborough is one of many structures and buildings in Scarborough favoured as nesting sites by the Kittiwake, a delicate, ocean-going gull and a species of conservation concern in the UK. The bridge is presently clothed with scaffolding and shrouding while engineers complete essential repairs to ironwork and repaint the bridge over winter. North Yorkshire County Council is undertaking the maintenance and sought advice from the Borough Council Ecologist and Scarborough Birders over the timing of the works. It would be against the law to disturb or remove nests during the breeding season.

The nature of the works is mainly repainting but also some repairs to ironwork where there were cracks noted in routine condition surveys. A quantity of feral pigeon nests have been removed from above the bridge abutments, but Kittiwake nests have been left in situ wherever possible, recognising that this is an important and favoured nest site for Kittiwakes and that the birds would only rebuild if they were removed anyway. No exclusion measures are being put in place to discourage the Kittiwakes.

Kittiwakes take readily to urban windowsills and ledges which for them mimic natural cliff nesting sites. Pairs return to the same nest year on year and add to the previous construction.

Kittiwakes habitually return to the same nest year after year, often adding to the previous year’s construction. Clearing old nests and excluding Kittiwakes from Spa Bridge with netting or spikes will merely displace them to other buildings nearby and quite likely to inconvenience residents and visitors further, such as shopping streets or hotel buildings in the town. A local campaigner and Kittiwake-advocate, Jean Grundy, who intervened last spring when maintenance workers were in danger of disturbing early-nesting Kittiwakes, was keen to point out that the Spa Bridge is in many ways a much more preferable location for the birds to nest than other nearby buildings that they might move to.

Jon-Pierre Winlow, the County Council’s Bridges Engineer who organised the work has confirmed that the work is currently on schedule, planning to finish by 3rd week January, before Kittiwakes return and start prospecting for nesting sites. Hopefully come February the Kittiwakes will be able to appreciate a gleaming new paint job, making their nests the smartest in the Scarborough colony.

Kittiwake nests high up on The Grand Hotel, Scarborough in springtime.

A number of residential buildings in Scarborough town are used by nesting Kittiwakes, particularly if in sight of the sea.