Welcome

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows logoRawcliffe Meadows, along with the Clifton and Rawcliffe Ings, is part of the Ouse Ings floodplain to the north of the City of York in the UK (and provide an essential part in preventing it from flooding). It was notified in 2013 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Friends Of Rawcliffe Meadows have managed that part of the Ings since late in 1990. The site provides for a range of plant, bird, animal and insect life, some of which are rare, and limited to such disappearing landscapes. You can find how to get to us here.

Whilst the site is notified for its nationally important population of Tansy Beetles and the MG4 (Meadow Foxtail/Great Burnet) grassland, there is much else to be seen throughout the year. Natural England’s SSSI notification.

Rawcliffe Meadows is proud to be a member of the Tansy Beetle Action Group and one of the Freshwater Habitats Trust Flagship Pond sites. We are also a Buglife Urban Buzz Flagship site.freshwater-habitats

TBAG Jpeg

Find out more about the Friends, and the Meadows, by following the links on the right of this page. Our latest posts containing news and events are below this Welcome. We are also on Facebook.

Feel free to Sign up to our mailing list so that you don’t miss out on future happenings. We look forward to seeing you!

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

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Environment Agency Request for a Scoping Opinion in Respect of Flood Defence Works at Clifton Ings Barrier Bank – July 2018

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

The Environment Agency submitted a request for a ‘scoping opinion’ in respect of flood defence works at Clifton Ings Barrier Bank from the City of York Council in July 2018. This is available through the City of York Council planning portal using reference 18/01737/EIASP https://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple&searchType=Application

The Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows have been considering their approach to this hefty submission and have responded by submitting comments to City of York as follows:

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows is a group of local volunteers who have managed a large part of the land affected by these works since 1990. We wish to make the following comments on the EIA Scoping Request submitted by the Environment Agency.

We note that the Environment Agency has been considering ways of reducing slippage on the Clifton Ings barrier bank for at least four years. Only over the past year or so has this metamorphosed into proposals for the wholesale reconstruction and enlargement of the embankment. We infer from this that the Agency had not previous identified a pressing need to upgrade the level of flood protection. The level of flood risk to properties inland of the barrier bank has not been made clear.

Planning policy issues

The scope and content of the EIA must suffice to address all the tests and considerations set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, July 2018). We are concerned that development of this project has been driven by overwhelmingly by the Environment Agency’s internal systems and culture and not by reference to government planning policy.

Paragraph 170a of the NPPF stipulates that sites of biodiversity value must be afforded a level of protection commensurate with their statutory status. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows is of national importance. The onus is therefore on the applicant to demonstrate sufficient justification to cause irreversible damage to a site of national significance; and, equally, to demonstrate that alternative, less damaging options have been exhausted.

At this stage, Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows do not believe the applicant has given adequate weight to the national importance of the site. In particular, we believe that alternative options have not been given sufficient consideration. Given the clarity of government policy, it is not enough for the applicant to argue that alternative options would be more costly, or more hassle because they would need to negotiate with other land owners, or acquire additional land. Through the EIA process, the applicant will need to demonstrate that they have met the tests of the NPPF not merely they have assessed engineering options in line with the Agency’s internal procedures.

Paragraph 170d of the NPPF stipulates that developments must minimise impacts on biodiversity and provide net gains “including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures”. It is therefore essential that, if damage to the SSSI is unavoidable, any mitigation and compensation measures will be permanent, will enhance the network of floodplain meadows and related habitats along the Ouse and will be managed in perpetuity to ensure their value is never diminished by other pressures (e.g. climate change, recreational pressure, water pollution, agricultural changes). The EIA must therefore demonstrate the applicant’s long-term commitment to ensuring that mitigation objectives are achieved, including the capacity to address future pressures which might compromise these objectives.

Paragraph 175a of the NPPF stipulates that, “if significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused”. This places the onus on the applicant to demonstrate adequate mitigation/compensation. Therefore the EA must show that it can re-create habitat of equivalent value to that lost. This will be extremely challenging, as it is universally acknowledged that historic grasslands cannot readily be re-created.

In large part, this is because the above-ground vegetation is intimately associated with subsurface features such as soil stratigraphy, soil nutrient budgets and communities of soil biota such as fungi, bacteria and macrofauna. These features are inherently linked to the longevity of the habitat and its management history. At Rawcliffe Meadows, the southern meadow (which would be extensively damaged under the applicant’s preferred option), has been permanent grassland for around 400 years and has been managed as hay meadow for much of this time. This has created conditions specifically favourable to the development of Meadow Foxtail – Great Burnet meadow, the plant community for which the SSSI is designated[1]. For example, soil Phosphorus reserves will have been depleted by centuries of hay cropping with no addition of artificial fertilisers; a well-structured, deep alluvial soil will have developed, providing the particular combination of drainage and water storage required by this community; and the soil will support intricate and complex biological systems unique to very old, unploughed and unfertilised meadows. Whether the applicant is able to re-create grassland of similar value will therefore be a critical test and will need to be demonstrated in detail and in depth through the EIA process.

Paragraph 175b states that “development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and which is likely to have an adverse effect on it (either individually or in combination with other developments), should not normally be permitted. The only exception is where the benefits of the development in the location proposed clearly outweigh both its likely impact on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest, and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest”. Therefore the applicant must demonstrate that all alternatives have been exhausted, that the need for the development outweighs the national significance of Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI, and that there will be no detriment to the national SSSI network.

Paragraph 175c states, “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists”. We argue that Meadow Foxtail – Great Burnet grassland is as much an irreplaceable habitat as ancient woodland, since it is restricted to ancient or very old sites and depends on a combination of management history and undisturbed soil structure. The applicant proposes to create compensatory habitat on land to the north which has a history of much more intensive agricultural management.

Therefore an essential component of the EIA will be to examine whether the receptor site is capable of supporting compensatory habitat with similar characteristics to the areas of old floodplain meadow which will be destroyed or damaged; and also whether the applicant has the expertise, resources and long-term commitment to achieve this objective.

The protection of irreplaceable habitats required under para 175c would not necessarily apply to all of the grassland at Rawcliffe Meadows since some parts were under arable cultivation in the early 19th century – but there is compelling evidence that the southern half of the site (corresponding to the early 17th century enclosure of Ings End Close) has been meadow for around 400 years and is therefore, by definition, irreplaceable. Through the EIA process, the applicant must therefore either provide evidence to the contrary, show that they can meaningfully re-create the habitat within the foreseeable future or demonstrate “wholly exceptional reasons”.

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows have considerable experience in establishing species-rich grassland on degraded plots over the past 27 years. While we do not doubt that it is technically feasible to create valuable, wildlife-rich grassland in such conditions, this requires great effort and dedication over many years. While some of our own re-created grassland superficially resembles MG4 meadow, we are under no illusions that this is a substitute for centuries-old examples of this vegetation. Even in our oldest plot (20 years old before it was destroyed by a sewage leak), colonisation by the long-lived, slow-growing perennial herbs which characterise this community was limited and patchy. All the scientific literature we have reviewed supports the viewpoint that re-creation of plant communities characteristic of ancient semi-natural grassland takes generations.  It is therefore likely that a minimum 25 year aftercare period and a substantial financial bond would need to be secured via planning conditions to ensure compliance with NPPF Paragraph 175.

Part II of ODPM Circular 06/2005, Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – statutory obligations and their impact within the planning system remains current guidance for planning authorities in relation to SSSIs, as per footnote 56 of the latest iteration of the NPPF. This reiterates that the Wildlife & Countryside Act “imposes an important general duty on a range of authorities exercising functions which are likely to affect SSSIs. This general and overarching duty requires an authority to take reasonable steps…to further the conservation and enhancement of the features for which sites are of special interest” (Para 57).

Paragraph 61 of the Circular states that planning authorities must “apply strict tests when carrying out any functions within or affecting SSSIs, to ensure that they avoid or at least minimise adverse effects”. Thus “strict tests” must be applied in the determination of planning applications affecting SSSIs, and the applicant must demonstrate whether or not the proposed development meets these tests through the EIA process.

Paragraph 124 of the Circular states that, “The likelihood of disturbing a badger sett, or adversely affecting badgers’ foraging territory, or links between them, or significantly increasing the likelihood of road or rail casualties amongst badger populations, are capable of being material considerations in planning decisions”. Thus the planning authority needs to consider not only whether Badger setts will be disturbed but also whether the proposed development will reduce or fragment foraging territory or push Badgers into more hazardous locations. We understand that the applicant is already undertaking exclusion of Badgers on the site, so it will be incumbent on the planning authority to ensure that these wider impacts are properly assessed, and that the applicant has provided sufficient information to demonstrate an appropriate level of mitigation.

Ecological survey requirements

Given that the applicant wishes to start work in the near future, we are puzzled as to why the EIA scoping exercise has been left so late. The purpose of EIA scoping is to identify which surveys and investigations are needed to inform selection of options and provide competent authorities with sufficient information to understand environmental impacts. In this case the applicant has decided on their preferred option before submitting the request for scoping. Furthermore, the applicant’s time table effectively precludes undertaking further ecological surveys before work commences. This gives the unavoidable impression that the applicant is attempting to ‘steamroller’ the application through the planning process.

The Chartered Institute for Ecology & Environmental Management (CIEEM) has published guidelines for the ecological component of EIA[2]. This guidance in turns reflects the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2014/52/EU. The CIEEM Guidelines stipulate that ecological impact assessment should follow a sequence of studies: Scoping → Baseline surveys → Identification of important features → Impact assessment → Avoidance, mitigation, compensation and enhancement → Implications for decision making. In this case, the sequence has effectively been reversed: an engineer-led preferred option has been identified which has triggered a review of necessary mitigation measures, with surveys undertaken to inform the planning application; ‘scoping’ has been a final, token formality.

While we recognise that the applicant has commissioned a number of ecological surveys, these focus predominantly on protected species. Further surveys are needed in line with the CIEEM Guidelines, e.g. to identify the presence, location and vulnerability of key habitats and species. Box 13 of the CIEEM Guidelines lists habitats/species of principal importance, Red Listed, Nationally Rare and Nationally Scarce species as requiring assessment in addition to protected species. The applicant needs to study this table and either present the necessary data where it is already available or propose a schedule of further survey work for spring/summer 2019.

All public bodies (including both the applicant and the planning authority) are subject to the ‘Biodiversity Duty’ set out in Section 40 of the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006, and must have regard to the lists of species and habitats of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity published under Section 41 of the same Act. The ecology section of the EIA will need to identify Section 41 species and habitats which could be impacted by the proposed scheme, assess the effects of the proposals and, where appropriate, set out mitigation measures. While there are a few anachronistic references to ‘BAP [Biodiversity Action Plan] species’ in the PEIR, there does not appear to have been any attempt to identify Section 41 habitats and species at risk. Since this process could well identify the need for further ecological surveys, it should have been undertaken early on since an informed decision about the proposed development cannot be made without adequate information.

We would draw attention to the lack of information in the PEIR about Necklace Ground-beetle, a NERC Act Species of Principal Importance which is also categorised as Endangered in the British Red List. There is also a lack of information about impacts on the numerous birds which occur regularly at Rawcliffe Meadows and are Species of Principal Importance. These include Dunnock, Bullfinch, Linnet, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and Reed Bunting. There is almost no reference to the arable habitat on the Cornfield Nature Reserve, which has been managed for farmland wildlife since 2000 and in some years supports regionally important numbers of threatened farmland birds. This arable habitat also supports several declining cornfield plants such as Corn Spurrey, Corn Mint and Corn Marigold.

Historic environment assessment

We would like to highlight a number of shortcomings with the section on historic environment in the PIER, which should be addressed through the EIA. We note that while Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows have been closely involved in studying the landscape history of the Ouse floodplain for many years, and have helped produce publications on the subject, we have never been consulted by the applicant on this subject.

With reference to historic mapping, section 4.6.1 of the PIER refers to early Ordnance Survey maps. However, several earlier maps are readily available and should be considered as they show the evolution of the local landscape.

The account of the agricultural history of the land between Clifton Ings and Shipton Road on page 41 of the PIER is misleading as only small areas remained arable cultivation in the early 19th century. The majority of the grassland on what is now Rawcliffe Meadows (at least to the south of the Chapel) appears to have been permanent grassland since the early to mid 17th century. This is significant because it has implications for the ‘replaceability’ of the grassland habitat.

The appraisal of physical effects (section 4.6.2 of the PIER) neglects to consider the impacts of ecological mitigation works, which could entail topsoil stripping from several hectares of Rawcliffe Ings.

It is claimed that there is “limited potential” for finding unknown buried remains. However, Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows have found various artefacts on the site, ranging from a Roman pot (deposited with the Portable Antiquities Scheme) to 18th century clay pipes.

Soils and ground conditions

Section 5.4 of the PIER refers to soils and ground conditions. We consider a proper understanding of effects on soils to be essential since soil structure is fundamental to the condition of the SSSI grassland and its capacity to produce a high-quality hay crop. We note that previous, small-scale repairs to the Barrier Bank have resulted in serious soil compaction and structural damage within the SSSI, one symptom being the proliferation of rushes in reinstated areas.

Although it is asserted that “There are no historical or active landfill sites within the proposed project”, this is presumably based on a cursory check of registered sites. In fact we are aware of at least one historic rubbish tip, presumably associated with the former Clifton Hospital. We are also aware of builders’ rubble being buried at the rear of the Barrier Bank in one location, and the presence of tipped rubble within the flood basin.

[1] This plant community is referred to in the National Vegetation Classification as MG4 grassland. Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI is designated as a nationally important example of MG4 grassland, alongside MG8 grassland. The latter community is associated with wetter conditions and occurs on Clifton Ings but not Rawcliffe Meadows.

[2] CIEEM (2016) Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the UK and Ireland: Terrestrial, Freshwater and Coastal. 2nd edition. Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Winchester

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Report on the Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 2nd September 2018

The Water Vole Scrape extension (before)

Another day of amazing weather and with seven volunteers we gathered to get out Reedmace from the extension to the Water Vole scrape and cut back the Phragmites to freshen it up for 2019. To make things easier the water levels were low with many of the ponds in the Reservoir Basin completely dried up but the scrape still had a couple of feed of water in places and dragonflies were still active. Unfortunately Judi managed to sit backwards in a deeper area and Masha had her phone camera handy as we pulled her upright again.

There were a couple of empty nests amongst the Phragmites hich we skirted around, but all the cuttings had to be carried off and skillfully hidden in the bushes as the cattle have been temporarily removed to graze Rawcliffe Ings.

We called it a day a bit early due to heat and hard work but the Reedmace had been much reduced again and the Phragmites cut back. On our October work party (7th October 10:30 – 13:00)  we may return to cut a bit more along with tidying up the Ridge & Furrow across the Blue Back from the Reservoir Basin.

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The Ups and Downs of Tansy Beetle Numbers at Rawcliffe Meadows (Revised August 2018)

TB Pond South 6 (1024x949)

The Pond at Rawcliffe Meadows was excavated in May 1991, and the mounds and funnel that surround it were created from the spoil. Although Tansy Beetles had been seen along the Ings Dyke, that runs between Rawcliffe Meadows and Clifton Ings, and Blue Beck, that runs across the top of the site into the Ings Dyke,  previously and one copulating pair was found by Pond in 1993. These beetles had disappeared in 1994 but instead some were found that year in the New Meadow, just north of Blue Beck.  In 1994 some Tansy Beetles were found in the Blue Beck Copse ( a rough patch planted with saplings in 1993 between Blue Beck and the New Meadow) and alongside the hedge at southern end of Rawcliffe Meadows. The populations appeared to remain small from then onwards.

There were sightings by the Pond in early 2000 but beetles were not seen later that year probably due to the severe flooding of the River Ouse that summer, although beetles were noted by the Blue Beck and Ings Dyke in 2000.

Beetles were sighted by the Pond again in June 2001 and in 2002 they were noted again by Blue Beck (on 8 April), plus at the Pond and by the New Meadow. The  2004 record was 100 by the Pond, a further 36 on the Ings Dyke bank (at the north by theold oak tree) and 101 on the Blue Beck bank with an additional 3 seen on the New Meadow and  4 near cattle grid leading the Copse.

In 2006 121 were counted at the Pond, with several on the New Meadow. Unfortunately in the previous year the Blue Beck verge was massacred by the Internal Drainage Board and that expanding population of plants and beetles were wiped out. Beetles continued to be sighted at the Pond and New Meadow during 2007.

By 2010 the Pond mounds were noted as a major habitat, and planting of tansy was extended further over  them. Unfortunately there were none recorded that year in the New Meadow

In 2012 the western edge of the New Meadow was fenced off to protect tansy and beetles from grazing and eight beetles were introduced from the Pond in June of that year and the count in late August had a total of 175. By that year we had recognized the significant effect that shading had on tansy plants, and hence beetles so that with the assistance of funding from Yorkshire Water which we received in 2013 we began cutting back and coppicing trees shading the Pond mounds, along with pollarding the trees overlooking the western edge of New Meadow (winter 2013/spring 2014). We also introduced cutting around  the tansy patches at the Pond, New Meadow and plants that started to reappear alongside Blue Beck. The count for 2013 was 208, which jumped to 368 in 2014 with all the care and attention to surroundings (with 60 on western edge of New Meadow and a single one to the south).

Following discussion with Geoff and Roma Oxford of the Tansy Beetle Action Group (TBAG) we decided in 2013 to manage the area to the south of New Meadow for tansy, along with the area near the cattle grid, and those adjacent to Blue Beck and the Ings Dyke where there were existing records of beetles. This has been started by regular cuts of the competing vegetation, and then fencing where practical. Other actions will be considered as we learn more about tansy, the beetles and their habitat needs.

With Rawcliffe Meadows being home to between 10% and 20% of the UK population of Tansy Beetles we feel it is important to try and increase our own stock of beetles in a manner that will leave many protected in the event of the unseasonable floods or other environmental issues that might wipe out an isolated population. The graph below should demonstrate the variations to the populations, whilst the Blue Beck, Ings Dyke and Cattle Grid are areas that once supported plants and beetles but being reinstated. During 2014 we put additional plants in the New Meadow, further around the Pond, by the cattle grid at the north, in the Reservoir Basin, and by Blue Beck. Whilst some of the areas were better prepared than others and may take years to establish properly, some are fenced off from grazing/public access, others are not. Only time will tell where the beetles  and plants best prosper, and perhaps answer some questions as to why.

It must be noted that the numbers are a snapshot from the day of the survey. Additional Tansy Beetles may be discovered at the other locations on sunnier days later in August or early September. As in the case of September 2015 when Tansy Beetles were found in large numbers at the south of the Pond (where there had been none a few weeks before), along with being on plants by Blue Beck and over the Barrier Bank along the Cricket Field fence. The 2018 figures on 21st August are disappointing in that the 35 counted on New Meadow is well down on the 206 on 4th May 2018, whilst the 147 counted in August by the Pond is less than half the 363 quickly counted in May.Perhaps the exceedingly hot, dry summer had an effect. The leaves of the plants were noticeably well eaten, and for the first time we sighted galls on the tansy flowers, whilst the browning off (blight) was reduced from 2017.

A further 720 tansy plants were nurtured from seed provided by us into 9 cm pots by Brunswick Organic Nursery during 2015. These were being used to extend tansy coverage through the existing areas as well as on the banks of the Reservoir Basin. These plants were funded jointly by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Yorkshire Water . The increasing number of tansy clumps can be seen on the graph below. The existing clumps are also spreading, seeding and in some cases disappearing. The dip in 2018 is a mixture of the cattle eating and trampling the tansy due to the reduced herb growth from the dry summer, along with the developing clumps merging together into bigger ones.

However, the count team when they went out on 29th August 2016, a relatively sunny day, we disappointed to see numbers had dramatically fallen from the previous year, and even a fortnight before when the clumps at the Pond had been managed – might this be as a result of the flooding and standing water on their habitat for almost all of the winter? The numbers at New Meadow had slightly increased, although it had been more days earlier, as were the new population along the Ings Dyke. In 2017, despite seeing large numbers of Tansy Beetles over an extended period in the Spring and Summer, and the tansy foliage being voraciously attacked by beetles and larvae, the numbers have still only gently risen at the time of counting.

The count team in 2018 (c) Ian Smith

The count team in 2018 (c) Ian Smith

We now have an established population of tansy plants and the challenge is to get the newer clumps inhabited by Tansy Beetles and expanding in the new locations to ensure that areas like the Pond, which was under water for a lengthy period of the winter of 2015/2016 are not the only expanding populations. However, whilst cattle trampling the plants may be beneficial for their spread, it doesn’t do a lot for counting them in late summer!

We also need to understand why some tansy clumps ‘brown off’ before flowering as can be seen in the picture below, which is a drastic occurrence in this instance but then seemingly recover in subsequent years

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A 'blue' Tansy Beetle

A ‘blue’ Tansy Beetle

 

 

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Report on the Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 19th August 2018

The Bee Bank Afterwards – August 2018

Wow! The weather wasn’t so bad after all and after there only being three of us on the evening of the 2nd August (thank you Mark A and Julie), we had seven of us (Mark A, Judi, Masha and Ian, Pete, Ruben and Mick). We’d cleared the front of Cricket Field Copse on the 2nd, which was quite hard for three but with seven us it was steady away managing the vegetation competing with the bee bank in the Cornfield Arable, observing that some of the sedum was surviving from its green roof despite the very dry summer and getting it ready for the Environment Agency to build their works compound surrounding it in the Spring of 2019, when they plan to prepare for work on the Barrier Bank over the next two years. We also blocked off the hole in the Cornfield hedge line where cattle were getting onto the cycle track.

The Environment Agency (EA) has now requested a scoping opinion in respect of flood defence works at Clifton Ings Barrier Bank from City of York Council and the very rough outline of what they are proposing to do to the area we have managed for nearly 30 years, along with the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is now available through the CYC planning portal using reference 18/01737/EIASP https://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple&searchType=Application The request contains a some of fairly substantial verbose documents, as only planners and lawyers can produce, so not a quick read! The important matter is that development on a SSSI is normally permitted but if it is the EA has to provide a strongly argued case with evidence that alternatives have been considered, and then has to commit to repairing any damage and mitigating any loss.

The next work party is on Sunday 2nd September 2018 at the Water Vole Scrape in the Reservoir Basin. We’ll be back to removing Reedmace from the newer scrape and cutting back the Phragmites in the older one – all a little earlier than usual in the hope that it may be a bit drier work! There will be a couple of pairs of waders available, if necessary.

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Report on the Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 22nd July 2018

Fortunately the dry weather has constrained growth of the vegetation so the small group consisting of Masha, Judi, Ian (visiting from Essex) and Mick managed to cut back quite well what was challenging the tansy clumps, along with trimming around those plants near the cattle grid and interpretation board that are flourishing.

Many of the New Meadow tansy plants are suffering from what has become known as “browning off” but we only found one sleepy Tansy Beetle in the whole morning. There were lots of different pollinators about, including a variety of butterflies.

A Roe deer was sighted in the Reservoir Basin as we were preparing to go.

The next work party is on Thursday 2nd August from 6:30 pm at the meadow in front of the Cricket Field Copse, over the Barrier Bank from the Pond at the south of the site. The EA and the farmer never manage to cut this thoroughly so we’ll have to tackle with scrub cutter and rakes and pile up under the Hazel copse nearby. On Sunday 19th August 10:30 am we’ll be back to managing the bee bank on the Cornfield Arable at the north of the site and seeing what the badgers and foxes have been up to!

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Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows Work Parties July 2018 – Jan 2019

Month Sun Thurs Task
July 2018 22 Clearing around tansy Plants – New Meadow and nearby.
August 2018  

 

 

19

2 Cut in front of Cricket Field Copse and Pond Hazel’s – rake off any hay or arisings

Bee bank management at north of site

Sept 2018 2 Water vole scrape – pull out as much Reedmace as possible from the extended pond so that it does not out-compete the Phragmites. Cut back 50% Phragmites.
October 2018 7 Cut in front of Ridge and Furrow to south of Blue Beck – rake off any hay or arisings.
November 2018 11 Pull out fence along allotments  track to aid Gary flailing hedge
December 2018 9 Cut blackthorn suckers outside Blue Beck Copse and along Ings Dyke
January 2019 6 Cut back blackthorn in Reservoir Basin to create more space and light for expansion of orchids
In addition
  Cut and remove Pond

This is the plan! However, the Environment Agency hope to have their planning application for the Barrier Bank enlargement in by the end of 2018. Subject to approval this would mean a start of site works from April 2019 with a desired conclusion in March 2021. It may also involve using a large area of the Cornfield arable as a works compound, which may being prepared in March 2019. This, of course, affects our funding as we would have to seek permission from Natural England to end the Countryside Stewardship agreement currently worth over £6000 per annum, our sole income for managing more than 40 acres. As more than a hectare of SSSI will be permanently lost, and a similar amount lost temporarily there will have to be mitigation and restoration paid for by the Environment Agency. The site also has a number of highly protected species, which has its own effect on the EA plans. All of this will have to be dealt with in an Environmental Impact Assessment tied to the planning application. This leaves the Friends in a state of limbo with regards to the area until all this can be agreed in detail sometime in the next nine months. We hope to hold a public meeting about this, and the EA are currently promising their own consultation as it will probably involve taking much of Rawcliffe Meadows out of public access for at least two years.

There may be some variation of tasks due to water levels. Sunday work parties from 10:30 am until about 13:00 pm. Thursday from 6:30 pm until dark. 

Volunteers are always welcome anytime to keep site safe, clean and secure.

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Report on the Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 5th July 2018 at the Pond

With six of us present (Judi, Julie and Mark, Anne C, Mark A and Mick, it was a lot easier to clear around the clumps of tansy plants. It was also easier with the initial path having been cut out in June and the reduced growth since then. There were also less clegg attacks!

The hay and been cut and Gary and his boys were busy removing the bales as we worked. There appeared to be 64 big rolls from the meadow alone, with the New and Copse Meadow, along with the Cornfield Grassland awaiting bailing.

The vegetation on the other side of the Pond was also a colourful mix of Great Burnet,  Meadowsweet, Yellow Loosestrife and Purple Loosestrife.

The following day Pete and Mick tightened up the barbed wire around the New Meadow ready for the cattle to come on for aftermath grazing.

The next work party is on Sunday 22nd July from 10:30 at the New Meadow clearing around the tansy plants there. We’ll soon publish the autumn/winter schedule.

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