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


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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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 8th October 2017

Given that pond clearance is not a particularly popular activity it was good to have six volunteers and three reasonable apologies for the morning’s work of trying to rid the water vole scrape of the Typha (reedmace) that was threatening to take over the newish extension.



So Judi, Julie, Mark A, Mark T, Masha and Mick proceeded to try and dig out by the roots what Typha they could. The day turned out warm, with lots of spiders and other creatures bobbing about in the pond, and good humour as mud splattered everywhere…


As it  turned out it was quite hard work and despite six of us we only cleared around 50% of the area, so the rest will have to wait until the 3rd December when we can hopefully carry on with removing more, along with cutting back 50% of the Phragmites (common reed) in the older section of the scrape.


There was much other plant life trying to compete against the Typha, and hopefully by knocking it back on a regular basis, the habitat will balance.

The next work party will be on much firmer and less smelly land with us needing to do some coppicing in Blue Beck Copse on Sunday 19th November. Although we have coppiced regularly, and erected bird boxes, the  copse is looking in need of attention, including finding one of the elm saplings. It hoped that Leilah, a professional willow weaver, will join us to make use of the hazel and willow we cut back. Blue Beck Copse is at the north of the site, below New Meadow and adjacent to the cycle track  as it crosses the Blue Beck running under the Barrier Bank.

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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 10th September 2017

Fortunately for us the weather was not as bad as the forecast had warned, apart from a very short, light shower early on. So, thanks to Simon and Isaac, Annie, Helen, Pete, Ron and Mick we started off by scattering the Yellow Rattle seed a few of them had collected earlier in the year from the New Meadow that had been overrun with it onto the Cornfield Grassland that we started establishing in 2012. Yellow Rattle is hemi-parasitic on grass roots reducing their growth so we aimed the seed spreading to areas where there is more grass than herbs. We also had a variety of meadow flower seed that Martin had collected in 2015 but needed using up, for this we raked some of the barer areas of the sward (not that there were many) and spread it there, making a mental note of where that had been. The expectation is that the cattle will trample the seed into the soil when they next tour the field.

When the flower seed was scattered on the Cornfield Grassland, attention was turned to adding some, in a similar manner, onto the New Meadow.

In addition, the north-western and south-western corners of the Cornfield Grassland were cut back as they were getting encroached by nettles and brambles. The bullocks have done a great grazing job but are partial to the softer grasses and herbs. The bird feeder was also removed for repair as the bullocks appeared to have taken a dislike to it, or the squirrels become extremely aggressive.

Next outing is planned to be Sunday 8th October at 10:30 am in the Reservoir Basin pulling out the reedmace from the Water Vole Scrape as it is taking over from the Phragmites. Definitely a wellies and gloves job!

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Anyone seen a Little Owl around Rawcliffe Meadows?

Our ecologist Martin reports that for the second time, what’s almost certainly a Little Owl pellet has been found on a gatepost in the Cornfield. Characteristically, it’s full of beetle wing cases. However, as far as we know, no-one has ever reported seeing this day-flying, insect-eating owl at Rawcliffe Meadows.

Also in the Cornfield, a couple of immature Yellowhammers have been present since August. Whilst not definite proof of local breeding, this is a hopeful sign. For some years we’ve been planting Gorse in gaps in the Cornfield boundary hedge in the hope of enticing wintering Linnets and Yellowhammers to stay and nest.


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The Ups and Downs of Tansy Beetle Numbers at Rawcliffe Meadows (Revised August 2017)

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 improvement to the populations, possibly as a result of improved management, 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.

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.


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. The numbers at New Meadow had slightly increased, although 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.

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.

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.


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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 27th August 2017 – the Bee Bank

Despite it being a Bank Holiday Sunday the weather was great and there were four of us, Julie and Mark, along with new helper Annie, and Mick. The idea was to clear around the bee bank that was a little overgrown and then plant some of the donated gypsywort along with some self heal to increase the mix of pollinator plants surrounding it. The scrub cutter saw of the worst of the grass, and then shears were used to do the fine work.

The nice surprise was to see two of the roe deer, probably the fawn from a couple of years ago (with the limp) and this years one. There were also large  fox paw prints and smell around the hole to the north of the bee bank. A large black toad was hiding under a piece of plywood at the rear of the bank.

The bee bank started to become more visible whilst there was lots of activity from small dark flying invertebrates using the many holes. Mick also managed to disturb a wasp nest at the rear. The holes in the log section also appeared to have been used.

Interestingly, in the base of one of the gypsywort pots Annie found two dormant Tansy Beetles – a left over from the Geoff & Roma experiments with Tansy Beetle diet no doubt – they were also put into the holes with the plants so it may be interesting to see if the may their way to the nearby tansy plants in the Spring.

There were still some Tansy Beetles about in the New Meadow enclosures and the Cornfield gate have now been left open to give them the opportunity to feed there before the work party on Sunday 10th September (from 10:30) when we shall be spreading yellow rattle seed to reduce the grass growth on the Cornfield Grassland, along with clearing the south-western corner of the field, if the cattle haven’t done it for us.


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The Boys are Back in Town – Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 3rd August 2017

Yes, the boys are back in town – Lammas grazing time already! So we have 27 bullocks meandering around the site.

The reasons why the site is grazed are explained in this blog.

Thursday was the last evening work party of 2017 and the purpose was to add some mature tansy plants to the Ings Dyke bank, along with some gyspywort (another Tansy Beetle food plant) by the Pond. Despite there being only three of us (Judi, Pete and Mick) this was done quickly and we then focused on pulling the Himalayan Balsam along the fence line with Clifton Sports Club.

We were also able to confirm that generation 2017 of the Tansy Beetles were around in quite large numbers as can be see from this photo of a group on a self-seeded plant along Ings Dyke that had none before this year!

The next work party is planned for Sunday 27th August from 10:30 onward. We’ll be working on the bee bank in the northern part of the Cornfield arable, so meet at the Cornfield gate. We have some more gypsywort to plant by the bee bank pond as a good pollen source but the area needs a good trim.

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Report on the Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 20th July by the Pond

A small group again (just Judi, Pete, Helen, Masha and Mick) but a sunny evening after the rain. It may seem ludicrous to some but protecting the tansy plants from competing vegetation has helped the Tansy Beetle population enormously. The areas around the Pond are prone to bindweed pulling down the plants and the quite gigantic yellow loosestrife  increasingly taking over the areas in late summer – the less aggressive purple loosestrife is present but no trying to take over.

There were still plenty of Tansy Beetles about especially on the norther mound where the plants look as if a plague of locusts rather than Tansy Beetle larvae have hit them. There were also beetles along the Ings Dyke. Given the numbers of beetles it would be hard to say whether these are last years or part of the 2017 brood (for a good explanation of the Tansy Beetle life cycle visit the Tansy Beetle Hub).

The next work parties are:

Month Sun Thurs Task
August 2017  




3 Plant Gypsywort (near Pond) and Tansy along Ings Dyke


Bee bank management at north of site

Sept 2017 10 Spreading Yellow Rattle on Cornfield Grassland – clearing around tansy and rescuing unused barn owl box on grassland
October 2017 8 Water vole scrape – pull out as much reedmace as possible from the extended pond so that it does not out-compete the Phragmites
November 2017 19 Coppicing and clearing within Blue Beck Copse
December 2017 3 Water vole scrape – pull out as much reedmace as possible from the extended pond so that it does not out-compete the Phragmites
January 2018 7 Cut back blackthorn in Reservoir Basin to create more space and light for expansion of orchids
In addition
  Cut and remove Pond
  Erect remaining Barn Owl box

May be some variation due to water levels.

Sunday work parties from 10:30 am until about 13:00pm.

Thursday from 6:30 pm until dark

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


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