Frosty Fencing

This weekend our volunteers braved some pretty icy temperatures to head up to the Bridestones to work on a fencing project.

The team ready to brave the arctic temperatures up on the moor

The team ready to brave the arctic temperatures up on the moor

Bridestones Moor is a little bit unusual as it isn’t managed by burning or cutting like most of the rest of the North Yorkshire Moors are. As a result species like crowberry and cowberry thrive in amongst the heather. The only downside is that we have to do a lot of management work to remove the trees that try to spread into the area.

A snowy day at the Bridestones

A snowy day at the Bridestones

To try and decrease the amount of scrub invasion and help to increase the biological diversity of the moor even further we intend to introduce grazing in the near future. Before we can do that we need to make sure that the cattle can’t escape.

Alan and Chris whack in another intermediate

Alan and Chris whack in another intermediate

The Ranger team and several volunteer groups have already spend a good part of the year so far working on the first part of the fence. On the weekend we were focusing on knocking in intermediate posts and attaching the netting and barbed wire. Fueled by volunteer Alan’s toffee crunch we made short work of it! Another day or two and this stretch will be complete. There’s plenty more to do though with another kilometre to go in at the other side of the moor. That should keep us busy for a while.

Ali attaches the netting and barbed wire

Ali attaches the netting and barbed wire

Academy Ranger: Ecology & Road Trip to the Yorkshire Dales

Hello everybody,

My name is Jonathan Skinn and I am the Academy Ranger in the North York Moors and have been since September 2014. I have decided that from now on I will update (every other month) you on what I have been up to in the role.

As part of the job, I have to go Reaseheath College in Chesire, for 2 weeks, every so often to learn about relevant subjects such as wildlife, sustainability, health and safety and so on. I have recently been at College and we have been learning about ecology and how food webs, introduced species (such as sycamore trees, himalayan balsam)and soil profiles can change the way you interact with your properties and make decisions as a Ranger.

A sycamore tree

For a simple example if you have a property that has limestones soils which are alkaline soils and you wanted to fill in potholes on a footpath on that site you wouldn’t you an acidic substance such as gravel as it would change the soil pH and you would lose the wildflowers and wildlife that are special to limestone soils.

Furthermore, over the weekend of 24th and 25th, me and 4 other academy rangers went over to the Yorkshire Dales, Buckden to be precise to help 3rd year Academy Ranger Liz Wade along with her Lead Ranger Peter Katic with some fencing. It was a cold but wonderful weekend as we went to see Aysgarth Falls and also Ribblehead Viaduct on the Sunday after a hard days work on Saturday.

 

The week after we continued on with ecology but we also got to do other stuff such as rifle shooting with Geoff Guy. It turned into blizzard conditions whilst attempting to shoot white paper targets, which made it twice as difficult for all the Academy Rangers.  Geoff Guy also shared his knowledge of outdoor activities with kids such as fire making, raft building and other activities which were really helpful to learn.

So far being the Academy Ranger in the North Yorkshire Moors has been fantastic and it has been fun to meet the other Academy Rangers who have the same passion for nature and conservation that I do

Winter work

Now that winter is well under way it’s time for us to do a little bit of tree work in our woodlands. At the moment we’re focusing on removing some of the sycamores around the woods at Roseberry Topping, and here’s why:

Although a familiar common species, the sycamore isn’t native to the British Isles. It is believed to have been introduced in this country in the middle ages. While it is now so common that it can be considered naturalised we’re trying to control how much of it we have at Roseberry. The other main tree species in the woods are oak and ash, both of which support a much greater number of species than sycamore does. As there is very little oak/ash woodland in the surrounding area it is important that we do our best to keep the woods in the best condition for the wildlife that it supports.

Redstart

Oak wood loving species like the redstart can be found in the woods at Roseberry.

 

Sycamores can produce a huge quantity of seed once mature and the resulting saplings grow much better in the shade of the woodland floor than oak or ash does. If left alone and given enough time, sycamore can eventually out compete some of the other trees. We don’t want that happening, so we’ve been working with volunteers to remove sycamore in the worst affected area.

Volunteers

The volunteers in action

Last week our Sunday volunteer group headed into the woods for a day of sycamore bashing. The trees are carefully cut down as close to the ground as possible, then the stumps were painted with a herbicide to stop them resprouting. The felled trees were then trimmed down and piled up to make deadwood habitat. They should provide suitable nesting sites for birds like wrens or somewhere for hedgehogs to hibernate next winter.

Blast Beach Litter Pick

Yesterday we were joined by 17 willing volunteers from Northumbrian Water for a litter pick on Blast Beach near Seaham. I’d like to thank them for their hard work and effort. Luckily it was a beautiful, warm and sunny day.

Ranger Jonny and volunteer John Parks. Unfortunately no pic with the Northumbrian Water volunteers

Ranger Jonny and volunteer John Parks. Unfortunately no pic with the Northumbrian Water volunteers

They helped us collect over 30 bags of rubbish over the day which will help make Blast Beach cleaner and safer for visitors. Also, it will make Blast Beach look beautiful to the public. Despite the rubbish it can look nice as you can see

seahambaz_019

Despite all we picked up, littering is still a bad habit and problematic and cause a wide ranges of issues such as;

  • It wastes money and time, in many places around the UK the goverment have to get in people to clean up areas which costs millions. On National Trust sites it means we have to spend time clearing litter on a regular basis.
  • It is also hazardous to your own health and others. We found many smashed bottles and sharp objects on the beach, which could be stood on by adult/child/pet animal and go into their foot.
  • It is also very harmful to birds as they could swallow small piece of plastic which can cause the birds stomach to become full of plastic. The plastic will never decompose and it will eventually fill their stomach and cause them to starve as they have no room for real food
  • Finally it makes places to become ugly and will put off people coming to visit a place which without the litter is a lovely place and it usually encourages others to litter

If you are ever out anywhere, National Trust property or not please take the litter to the nearest so that other don’t have to tidy up after you.

Thanks.

 

Managing mountain biking

Sometimes managing the countryside can be a real challenge. We really want to help people enjoy the outdoors in their own way, but we also have a responsibility to do what is best for wildlife conservation and sometimes the two don’t go hand in hand.

Recently we’ve done a couple of contrasting jobs that show why sometimes we have to take a different approach to the same problem.

Firstly to Scarth Wood Moor in the Sheepwash area of the North York Moors. This is a fantastic place both for people and wildlife. Right on the doorstep for Osmotherley residents it’s perfect whether you’re a picnicker, dog walker, rambler or cyclist. It’s also an important and fragile wildlife habitat.

Scarth Wood Moor

Scarth Wood Moor is a beautiful spot for a stroll

Here we discovered we had a problem caused by local mountain bikers who had taken it upon themselves to dig tracks and build a series of jumps in an old quarry on the moor opposite Cod Beck Reservoir. Aside from not asking our permission as land owners and the physical damage caused to the area, the major problem with this is that the area has special protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is in place because the area is important wildlife habitat with a high number of rare species. Through this protection Natural England can prosecute any individual who ‘intentionally or recklessly damages or destroys any of the features of special interest of an SSSI, or disturbs wildlife for which the site was notified’ with fines of up to £20,000.

Common Toad

Scarth Wood Moor has a huge population of common toads – a protected species (northeastwildlife.co.uk)

With such protection in place it was very much in the interest of the mountain bikers own interest to stop what they were doing. We got the message out by putting signs on site explaining the situation as well as putting an article in the Osmotherly Newsletter. We then spent a day with our  volunteers removing the tracks and jumps that had been created so far and restoring the area as much as possible.

Volunteers

Volunteers hard at work trying to restore the damaged area

So to some, the National Trust may seem like a stuffy old organisation trying to stop young people having fun, but that’s not true! Just a few months earlier our volunteers have been out helping to build a mountain bike track.

This took place further north at Penshaw Monument on the outskirts of Sunderland. Here, in a piece of woodland at the back of the hill mountain bikers have been creating tracks for many years. In the past this has been without our permission and has been a source of conflict. However in recent years we’ve managed to get a relationship with many of the people who ride here to the benefit of both parties.

For us, we’ve been able to allocate an area of the woodland for them to use. It’s an area of sycamore plantation that has low value in terms of wildlife habitat. This has allowed us to put up warning signs to make the area safer for our other visitors, while the rest of the woodland is reserved for wildlife and walkers.

For them, we’ve got actively involved in helping to construct a couple of the tracks. This has allowed us to get a bit more ambitious with the creation of some bigger features such as berms and jumps. We’ve then been able to use these more exciting lines for organised downhill mountain bike competitions.

Mountain bike

Action from Bikefest 2014 (Anthony Taylor)

Ian Hughes, owner of Sanctuary Bikes in Shiney Row is the organiser of Bikefest. The event was first held last year and returned on Easter Sunday even bigger and better. Over 60 competitors spent the day hurtling down the hill as fast as they could to see who could be the fastest. It was certainly quite a spectacle and many of our visitors stayed a while to watch the extreme action. The quickest riders managed to get down the hill in less than a minute.

Bikefest winners 2014

The winners celebrate at Penshaw Monument

In an area with little in the way of mountain bike facilities it’s great that we’re able to offer this track and host Bikefest. Hopefully it helps to show that the National Trust are an organisation that helps people enjoy the outdoors in their own way whenever we can.

Hedgelaying – what a bind!

Anyone visiting Penshaw Monument over the weekend may have noticed that we have put the finishing touches to our hedge. It’s taken us the last two winters to lay the hedge – a process that involves cutting part way through the stem of each plant in the hedge and bending it over. The stems are then held in place by a row of stakes to create a kind of living fence.

This is a traditional skill that has died out somewhat over recent decades. Happily we’ve been able to do some training for a few of our volunteers and our Trainee Ranger, Pat. They all managed to pick up the techniques pretty quickly, so the next generation of hedgelayers are good to go!

Adding the bindings to the finished hedge.

Adding the bindings to the finished hedge.

The final part of hedgelaying involves weaving long pieces of hazel between the stakes. These bindings help to hold the hedge together even more firmly, plus it looks really nice when it’s done. You can see Pat and the vols hard at work putting them on in the sequence of photos. Hopefully you like the finished results.

We also spent the day burning off the brash we’d cut out of the hedge. It was a lovely sunny morning and there were plenty of signs from nature that spring is firmly here. The blackthorn trees were looking particularly nice covered in May blossom. It’s just a shame the spring showers were in evidence in the afternoon as we took a right soaking!

May blossom

May blossom

Graduation Day

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a trip down to the National Trust’s Attingham Park property to see the graduation of 2012’s intake of Trainee Rangers. I was there as the former manager of Chris Wood who left us in May to take up a post at Lanhydrock in Cornwall.

Attingham Park hosted the graduation ceremony

Attingham Park hosted the graduation ceremony

When Chris first came to us as a volunteer he didn’t really know anything about being a Ranger. What he did have was stacks of enthusiasm and an appetite to learn. He’d just come back from a holiday walking on the South Coast where he found himself falling in love with the British landscape and wildlife. It was a life changing holiday for him as he returned from it knowing that a career in conservation was what he wanted.

The class of 2012

The class of 2012

Fast forward three years and that’s just what he’s got. He was lucky enough to get one of 8 places on the Trust’s Ranger Training Programme and has spent his time with us learning practical estate management skills, habitat management theory and wildlife ID skills. Chris worked tremendously hard during his time with us, and this was recognised by him receiving a ‘trainee of the year’ award at the ceremony. He can certainly now consider himself a fully fledged Ranger. Well done Chris!

Chris was clearly overjoyed with his 'Trainee of the Year' award

Chris was clearly overjoyed with his ‘Trainee of the Year’ award

Sadly for us, the draw of the South Coast was too much for Chris and he has now settled in Cornwall. Happily he’s still working for the Trust and I expect he’ll have a long and successful career within the organisation.

I’m currently working on an application for us to get another Trainee Ranger in September. Should we be successful we’ll be recruiting in the summer, so if you think that being a National Trust Ranger could be the career for you, or you know someone who does, watch this space.