From the City of York Biodiversity Audit 2010 , page 112, ratified 24 November 2010
SINC Citation 2010
Site Code 31
SE 582 533
Surveyed 25th June 2008
Principal NVC communities:
MG7d Lolium perenne – Alopecurus pratensis grassland?; MG13 Agrostis stolonifera – Alopecurus geniculatus grassland (MG4 Alopecurus pratensis – Sanguisorba officinalis grassland)
MG9 Holcus lanatus – Deschampsia cespitosa grassland (A2 Lemna minor community; S12 Typha latifolia swamp; S18 Carex otrubae swamp; S19 Eleocharis palustris swamp; S28 Phalaris arundinacea tall-herb fen).
Rawcliffe Meadows is situated on the flood plain of the River Ouse on the northern outskirts of York, adjacent to Clifton Ings. It is a linear site located on the inland side of the Clifton Washland and separated from Clifton Ings by a drain known as the Ings Dyke.
Unlike Clifton Ings, some parts of this site were in arable cultivation up until the mid 19th century. During the 1990’s the site was returned to traditional hay meadow management after a period of neglect and over-grazing. Most of the site is floodplain hay meadow, with the richest grassland occurring towards the southern end. Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) are at least locally-frequent with grasses including meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus), meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis) and, in small amounts, meadow barley (Hordeum secalinum). However, there are also species-poor stands dominated by creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera) and creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), and these seem to have expanded in recent years. Associated species include pepper saxifrage (Silaum silaus) and lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis).
Further north the hay meadows are characterised by mixtures of Yorkshire fog, meadow foxtail, creeping bent, cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) and some perennial rye-grass (Lolium perenne).
One heavily Rabbit-grazed area is dominated by ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) with associated species including white clover (Trifolium repens), red clover (T. pratense), common sorrel and buttercups.
The ‘New Meadow’ is a small field adjoining the Ings Dyke at the northern end of the site. This plot was re-seeded using a Clifton Ings hay bale in 1992. Abundant or frequent species include meadow buttercup, meadow vetchling, red clover, Yorkshire fog and meadow fescue. Also present are common knapweed (Centaurea nigra), common sorrel, creeping bent and meadow foxtail along with small amounts of greater birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus), ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cucculi), great burnet, meadowsweet and meadow barley. Hogweed is becoming invasive in places.
The floodbank which forms the inland ‘spine’ of the site is of very variable botanical quality and a number of species have disappeared or declined since the site was first surveyed in 1990 (including, for example, the lady’s mantle (Alchemilla xanthochlora). The most herb rich vegetation can be found at the northern end of the embankment, where bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) and meadow buttercup are abundant whilst great burnet and meadow cranesbill (Geranium pratense) are frequent.
The flood reservoir at the northern end of Rawcliffe Meadows contains a range of plant communities including damp grassland with abundant tussock grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), NVC MG9 (Holcus lanatus Deschampsia cespitosa grassland), S12 (greater reedmace, Typha latifolia swamp), S18 (Carex otrubae swamp), S19 (Eleocharis palustrisswamp) and S27 (Phalaris arundinacea tall-herb fen). Brown sedge (Carex disticha) also forms stands in wet areas and there are low swards of inundation grassland containing silverweed (Potentilla anserina), amphibious bistort (Persicaria amphibia), creeping bent and rough meadow-grass (Poa trivialis). Stands of tall-herb fen around the margins of the basin include extensive patchs of meadowsweet, meadow-rue (Thalictrum flavum) and yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). Fen-meadow type vegetation occurs towards the southern end of the basin and is characterised by meadowsweet, meadow buttercup, jointed rush (Juncus articulatus), compact rush (J. conglomeratus), glaucous sedge (Carex flacca), carnation sedge (C. panicea) and spiked sedge (C. spicata).
In addition, a series of pools have been excavated in the flood basin at varying times since 1992. Recently-dug or re-excavated pools are dominated by the stonewort Chara vulgaris var. longibracteata but more mature ones are colonised by greater reedmace (Typha latifolia), common spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris), common duckweed (Lemna minor), common water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica) and flote-grass (Glyceria fluitans). Tubular water-dropwort (Oenanthe fistulosa) occurs around at least two of the pools andappears to be increasing.
The slopes of the flood basin are predominantly neutral grassland interspersed with small blocks of scrub and features species such as common birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus ), red clover, meadow vetchling, tufted vetch (Vicia cracca), black medick Medicago lupulina), ribwort, red fescue (Festuca rubra) and Yorkshire fog.
At the southern end of the Meadows, a pond excavated in 1991 is fringed by reed sweetgrass (Glyceria maxima), branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) and common reed (Phragmites australis) with bankside species including yellow loosestrife, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and meadow cranesbill. Aquatic vegetation is dominated by water soldier (Stratiotes aloides) (of introduced origin) with abundant common duckweed and ivy-leaved duckweed (Lemna trisulca). Whilst a number of aquatic plants have been introduced to the pond, some wild colonists have also appeared including notable species such as lesser pondweed (Potamogeton pusillus), horned pondweed (Zannichellia palustris) and rigid hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum).A small area of species-rich grassland of sown origin occurs on a spoil bank adjoining the pond.
Other important habitats include mature, well-timbered hedgerows, scrub, ditch banks and a pond. The hedgerow extending north along the Ings Dyke is very species-rich, containing purging buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus), hazel (Corylus avellana), guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) and red currant (Ribes rubrum) amongst more common trees and shrubs. Plants associated with ditch banks include tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) and field garlic (Allium oleraceum).
Although Rawcliife Meadows is visited by large numbers of people throughout the year, the site regularly attracts around 20 species of breeding birds including Tree Sparrow, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. Reed Warbler, Cuckoo, Skylark and Yellow wagtail have also been recorded on occasion. The reservoir basin attracts numbers of Snipe in winter and tall hedges in an adjacent derelict field are an important winter roost site for finches and buntings.
Around 20 species of mammal have been recorded from Rawcliffe Meadows. These include small populations of Harvest Mouse and the increasingly scarce Water Vole. There are thought to be a number of bat roosts on the site within mature hedgerow trees and bats are frequently recorded foraging along the Ings Dyke.
The site is also of importance for its invertebrate fauna. The nationally rare snail-killing (Sciomyzid) fly Dichetphora finlandica occurs at the pond along with several scarce species of small, predatory fly belonging to the family Hybotidae. In addition, the Tansy supports a good population of Tansy Beetle (Chrysolina graminis), a speciality of the Ouse Ings. A total of some ten nationally-scarce insects are recorded from the Meadows.
Rawcliffe Meadows qualifies for SINC status on the basis of several criteria:
Gr1: NVC MG4 present, though only well-defined in meadow to the north of the
Gr4: scores 11/8 overall, including 9 species recorded as at least ‘occasional’.
Sw1: the flood basin pools score 12/10 (NB the main pond scores only 7/10)
Fe3: flood basin fen/marsh scores 11/10.
I2: supports rare invertebrates.
Rawcliffe Meadows is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation for its species-rich flood meadow and fen grassland under guideline Gr1, Gr4, Sw1, Fe3 and its invertebrate fauna under Guideline I2. It is also of interest for mammals and birds.