Restoring and creating wildlife-rich grassland workshop Friday 8th June 2018 12 noon

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Following our very successful workshops in May 2015, and with financial support from the North Yorkshire & York Local Nature Partnership Community Fund we are holding another workshop for 2018.

Wildflower-rich meadows are one of Britain’s most threatened habitats. So can we create new ones or restore those which have lost wildlife value? Lots of people have tried – and unfortunately many have failed!

Since 1990, Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows have used a range of techniques to restore and re-create species-rich grassland on the floodplain of the River Ouse. These include:

  • Restoring species-poor, over-grazed pasture to SSSI quality hay meadow
  • Creating new meadows using hay bales and hand-collected seed
  • Using wildflower seed mixtures
  • Planting local provenance wildflower plugs and plants
  • Enhancing nectar and pollen sources in wet grassland

This event provides an opportunity to see how these approaches have fared over the past 28 years, and perhaps take away some ideas for your own project. It’s open to anyone interested in grassland conservation and free to attend – though if you’re attending on behalf of an organisation, a small contribution would be appreciated.

Please book using the form below as places are limited. 

Friday 8th June 2018 at 12 noon

Meet at the northern entrance to Rawcliffe Meadows (national grid reference SE 578 540), accessible from Shipton Road, National Cycle Network Route 65 or Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride. Further directions and a site map may be found here.

Rolling out a bale

Rolling out a bale


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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 17th May 2018 at the Bee Bank

Thanks to Neil, Masha, Mark and Judi for helping tidy up the Bee Bank on what was a very pleasant evening. The area had been inundated with couch grass and whilst some attacked that with shears and carried off the arisings, others, including Masha and Judi in  the photo, pulled the grass from the ‘green roof’ and replaced it with sedum.

The area around the pond beneath the bank was tied up with a spade and the face that had collapsed a bit was given some cosmetic surgery. The bank appears to have been well used but we are not sure if anyone is actively monitoring?

The next work party is on the Thursday 7th June from 6:30 pm  in the Pond enclosure at the south of the site, where we will be cutting back competing vegetation from the tansy clumps and similarly along the Ings Dyke enclosure.

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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 15th April 2018

Thanks to Mark and Julie, Neil and Judi for joining us on another fine day! Despite being low on numbers we managed to get a lot done in the Reservoir Basin including relocating brash produced on earlier outings to less visible locations. We also ensured that small blackthorn and bramble suckers encroaching into the basin from the bank below the Allotments were cut off. This was done without intruding into the scrub where small birds might be nesting. One discovery from last year’s nesting birds was a nest built in a dog poo bag that was so round and fluffy it might have been built by long-tailed tits – it was certainly the best tree-hanging poo bag ever!

We also found that the frog activity in the original Water Vole scrape had resulted in a massive mat of frogspawn that had now partially hatched into zillions of little black tadpoles. We set up two Water Vole rafts nearby with some apple on to tempt any voles passing! In addition to frogspawn there the only amphibian activity was a small toad hiding under the brash. A Brimstone and a Peacock butterfly flew past the work party.

Although there were no Tansy Beetles evident at the northern end of the site in the various locations we know they exist, there were two mating pairs and four individuals on the northern mound adjacent to the Pond. This is normally where the first beetles appear, although around a month later than 2017 – the dreadfully cold winter has obviously slowed them down. There was also a patch of frogspawn at the northern end of the Pond.

The next work party is on Thursday May 17th from 6:30 pm when we will be looking after the bee bank in the Cornfield arable at the north of the site. Hopefully it will be drier and the adjacent field finally ploughed, so wellies still advisable.

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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Sunday 15th April 10:30 am onwards Reservoir Basin (north of site)

By Eduard Ade - Felix Dahn, Therese Dahn, Therese (von Droste-Hülshoff) Dahn, Frau, Therese von Droste-Hülshoff Dahn (1901). Walhall: Germanische Götter- und Heldensagen. Für Alt und Jung am deutschen Herd. Breitkopf und Härtel., Public Domain,

By Eduard Ade – Felix Dahn, Therese Dahn, Therese (von Droste-Hülshoff) Dahn, Frau, Therese von Droste-Hülshoff Dahn (1901). Walhall: Germanische Götter- und Heldensagen. Für Alt und Jung am deutschen Herd. Breitkopf und Härtel., Public Domain,

Happy Eostre!

The next work party is in the Reservoir Basin (at North east of site called Flood Reservoir on the map). The plan is to relocate rush brash from grassland to under the trees, cut back blackthorn at edge of eastern bank to re-establish path and set up water vole rafts in the Water Vole Scrape (to help check if they are around).

Judi and I attended a meeting with the Environment Agency on 28th March about site management and the Barrier Bank upgrade but there isn’t much detail to report as they haven’t concluded their planning phase yet. All we can say is that there will be a major impact upon the site and our work in the future. They have promised to let us know when there is anything to share but they are still in discussion with Natural England as we are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which gives the area some limited protection and the promise of mitigation for the loss of habitat, but the restoration may take years after they finally finish, and the existing site radically changed.

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Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 25th March 2018

Another brilliant day for the volunteers on Rawcliffe Meadows. There were nine of us – Pete & Jason, Judi, Helen & Max along with Ruben, Scott and Annabelle plus Mick. There would have been ten but Mark had a close encounter with a dog on the way but was assisted by Helen & Max who were on their way and then he had to go to hospital for the cuts to be cleaned and dressed! The things our volunteers face on the way to work parties, and we never opened the first-aid box!

We were at the Cricket Field Copse, feature planted in the early 1990’s after a failed attempt at a wildflower meadow, many tons of the turf from Acomb Wood Meadow were dumped there, levelled and trees planted (some early pictures here). The Copse is now a woodland edge feature to the site with the birch trees inter-planted with hazel, elm and elder and the front third coppiced.

The delayed spring was allowing us to repair the fence that had been trampled by cattle in the autumn, remove elder saplings that were encroaching on the haze, coppice a hazel lying across the fence and relocate brash to a dead hedge around the Copse.

The area should now be secure for nesting birds and the floor clear for plants to flourish.

We also paid a visit to the Pond enclosure to have a look at the tansy plants and for Pete to do a few fencing repairs. Unfortunately, despite the weather the plants were still small and there was no sign of Tansy Beetles, although a pair of mallard ducks have taken up residence. On the way back over to the Copse two toads were found making there way towards the Pond, so expect a lot of noise if passing that way in coming days.

So apart from Mark’s injuries and absence a good day was had by the increasingly multinational group of volunteers (English, Spanish and American on this occasion).

The next work part is planned for Sunday 15th April from 10:30 at the Reservoir Basin at the north of the site, below the track from the allotments, where we’ll be clearing up there, setting some rafts to check on water voles and hopefully seeing how the orchids are doing. We may also have some news from our meeting with the Environment Agency, who own the site.

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Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows Activities March – July 2018 (Updated)

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Report on Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 18th March 2018

The freezing weather seemed to keep a few volunteers away although Mark and Julie, Judi, Ruben and Mick made it, along with Nicholas who has been in the background monitoring our elm tree project and also on the watch for ash die-back. The main task was to thicken out the northern hedge of the Blue Beck Copse with some hazel, along with planting some in the copse itself. Despite the cold the ground was relatively soft.

One could clearly see the excellent binding job on the eastern hedge. Many of the blackthorn suckers extending onto the grassland were cut back.

Whilst there we also put replacement collars and stakes, along with straightening, on the two elm trees planted in there a few years before that had suffered from cattle trampling.

After that we relocated to the southern hedge of the Copse Meadow further north to chop off the top of the hedge plants to encourage them to thicken out, whilst interplanting two hazel and removing spirals from the trees that will now be approaching ten years old. We tidied the brash onto the bramble pile along with some other branches that were lying around.

Judi and I had walked the site with Martin, our ecologist, on the previous Friday and whilst we have a lengthy task list there is nothing new or onerous, and with the absence of a big flood for two years now (so far) we have little flood debris to worry about.

Given that winter is still likely to be with us on Sunday 25th March the next work party will focus on Cricket Field Copse at the south of the site, over the Barrier Bank from the main Pond. There we will be cutting off most of the self-seeded elder saplings to leave space for the hazel and elm saplings, pollarding a willow that is pulling down the fence, clearing brash and trying to repair the fence and stile. As the clocks go forward on the Saturday midnight – don’t forget – we’ll still be starting at 10:30 BST.

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