Fabulous Fen

Some great news.   LUCT has just been awarded a multi-thousand pound grant from the Postcode Lottery Fund to create a nursery specialising in the growing of bog-loving plants. 

The money will go towards the erection of ‘wet beds’ and protective fencing in a corner of Flask Lake.  Once they are up and running we will be producing well over 600 plants in the first year from seed of local native provenance, ready to be transplantedto other parts of the reserve.   It is all part of our “Fabulous Fen” project which aims to recreate “boggy” habitat in the Vale of Mowbray.   From detail historical evidence, we know it was here in abundance in the Middle Ages; it is our intention to bring rich habitat back and with it the animals and birds which thrive among locally native sedges and other fen pants.  Total cost of the project is around £5,500 of which Postcode lottery is generously giving us more than £4,000.

The Postcode Local Trust is a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People's Postcode Lottery.   You can learn more about the organisation and how it helps energetic charities like LUCT by going to www.postcodelocaltrust.org.uk 

You may remember last autumn we sourced a number of bog-loving plants at Kilgram close to the River Ure at Jervaulx and volunteers spent two days harvesting the seed of such species as meadowsweet, angelica and great fen sedge.   It is as a result of those efforts that we now have the raw material to begin this exciting new project - plus the money from the Postcode Lottery.

Richard Wells, LUCT Trustee

Summary for 2016

A number of facts about Nosterfield NR in 2016 surfaced during a recent LUCT liaison meeting with local communities and regional authorities which visitors and supporters alike might find interesting.

An encouraging ten species of dragonfly were identified on the reserve during the year along with 147 species of bird.  Unsurprisingly, perhaps, we were unable to add to the total bird species list which is the first year that has happened since the reserve was established 20 years ago.  With close to 230 species seen over the years, our luck had to run out sometime.

The high point, however, was the discovery by ecologist and long-time friend of LUCT Martin Hammond of a new species of orchid for the reserve – two specimens of Autumn lady's tresses (Spiranthes spiralis).  Not only was this small white flowered, grey-green plant new to Nosterfield but it was the first time one had been recorded in North Yorkshire for 60 years – the last time in West Tanfield parish!  What a find!

Of our target bird species, 46 pairs of lapwing bred fledging a minimum of 38 chicks; there were ten pairs of redshank, two of curlew, 11 of avocet and 8 pairs of shoveler.  

Breeding success was, generally mixed and the volatile water levels during 2016 undoubtedly played a part in that.  Visitors to the reserve at the beginning of 2016 were confronted by a blanket of water which stretched unbroken from the West Tanfield tide to nigh on the edge of Nosterfield village.  And yet 2016 overall was a dry year.  Water levels fluctuated by a staggering 3.32 metres.  By the end of 2016 levels were at an all-time December low and they have receded even further since.


Flea Treatment THREAT

The liaison meeting heard one piece of disappointing news.

Our dipping pond, constructed more than two years ago, has not developed in the way that we hoped and expected.  Despite the fact that we intentionally minimised plant introductions, , the invertebrate species list is meagre. 

The most likely reason is that a few dogs are being allowed to jump in and have a splash about.  The dogs are most likely to have been treated for fleas with a well-known brand of flea killer which is retained on the nape of their necks and miniscule droplets of the treatment are being left in the water to drug and kill the pondlife.     

It only takes a few parts per BILLION in the water for the destruction to occur.

As a consequence, the Lower Ure Conservation Trust is faced with a dilemma.  We would like to keep the access for people as free as possible but we cannot allow the poor natural diversity within the pond to continue.   So we are reluctantly being forced to consider fencing off the area.

Dogs on leads are welcome on the reserve.   But the irresponsibility of one or two owners is something to disappoint all who visit the reserve.        

In the Mire

Our volunteers have turned their attention in recent weeks to collecting seed to help promote new plant species growing at Nosterfield.  

A rich source of wet grasssland and bog loving plants has been discovered at Kilgram, alongside the River Ure near Jervaulx.  With the permission of the tenant farmer Martin Smith two groups have gone in complete with bags to collect species such as meadowsweet, wild angelica, blunt-flowered rush, hemp agrimony and pepper saxifrage.

Volunteers collecting seed

Volunteers collecting seed

The seeds of these plants are now being prepared for sowing.

Meanwhile at Flask Lake four trail areas have been cleared of undergrowth and been especially-prepared as seed beds to eventually take the seed which will hopefully germinate in the spring of 2017.  The help and advice of ecologist and plant expert Martin Hammond has been invaluable and we will all be keen to see how successful we are in providing a new home for these unusual plants.