Nosterfield Local Nature Reserve - Warden's Report for 2017

Nosterfield Local Nature Reserve - Warden's Report for 2017

An overview of a year on Nosterfield Reserve, as described by LUCT's Warden, Steve Worwood at the Nosterfield Liaison Meeting. 

It has been a difficult year for Nosterfield with very variable water levels with repercussions for wading birds. However, we are still delivering many of our targets and we have high hopes for 2018. 

Get in touch with us if you have any questions. 

Lower Ure Conservation Trust comes of age

Trustees Simon and Richard cutting the birthday cake

Trustees Simon and Richard cutting the birthday cake

Over thirty enthusiasts of all things Nosterfield Nature Reserve met up on Tuesday Jan 30th for a half day conference cum workshop on  our future, fitting as the charity enters its 21st year.   And what a stimulating event  at the White Bear conference suite in Masham it turned out to be.

We kicked off with four short presentations.  

Matt Millington,  the Development Officer for the North Yorkshire and York Local Nature Partnerships,   outlined Nosterfield’s place in a much larger environmental picture  and the need for a big landscape vision for something that is not just about birds, beats and bugs but about the benefits that such landscapes can have on people and on their mental and physical health.

Martin Hammond putting forth his argument!

Martin Hammond putting forth his argument!

Martin Hammond is an old (I mean that in the nicest sense)  friend of Nosterfield and his presentation painted in one sense a bleak picture of how much fen and wet grassland habitat we have lost in North Yorkshire  since the Enclosure Acts of the early to mid 18th century and the drainage of so much land for agricultural improvement.   Something in excess of 90 per cent.   But the North Yorkshire County Council ecologist also pointed out the opportunities available to re-invent some of these landscapes by a better understanding of our shared history.  

Simon W gave the audience  a potted history of Nosterfield NR, 21 years old this year and how much has been achieved in that time.  National awards for the priceless wet grassland, notable breeding successes and newly-found rare plants together with more than 600 species of living object found in the bio-blitz operation we held last summer.   And all from a former sand and gravel quarry. It is amazing how nature repairs itself and develops.  

Finally  Joe Priestley talked about our bid for National Heritage Lottery money for the next phase of our development.. the Well Wetlands.

We then broke up into three groups – Avocet, Bittern and Crane – for those present to offer up their views of where LUCT should be going in the future.....Two questions were posed – What should we be doing for people and communities? and What should we be doing to benefit nature and the natural landscape.   

The scuffle when voting for suggested changes to Nosterfield - a lively and engaged audience!

The scuffle when voting for suggested changes to Nosterfield - a lively and engaged audience!

The afternoon then ended with each of us giving our vote using a series of stars for those ideas put forward which most appealed to us. 

On the people and communities side side  there was a great deal of support for us to provide more hides so that visitors can spend time watching the natural environment in greater comfort.  The need for more volunteers to carry out the myriad tasks that are required to keep the reserve at  its best.   The thirdmost popular idea was to integrate the reserve, the quarry and the Thornborough Henges  into one visitor experience, with inter-related footpaths and bespoke signage    - an idea capturing one of the core aims of the LNP.

The most popular development  for the natural landscape was without question to make the reed bed bigger.    That would be very expensive but you never know and where would LUCT be without people thinking big and then making those big ideas a reality?   What we can and are doing immediately is extending the area of phragmites. An osprey nest platform was a popular idea and there appears to be a demand for an annual LUCT report – a yearly digest of what has been achieved and priorities for the next 12 months.  

A great and inspiring afternoon  and for those who attended and provided their thoughts for the future direction of our charity  one piece of advice.   Keep nagging the Trustees to ensure that many of these ideas are put into practice!    

HLF Open Day - Have your Say

In 2018, LUCT will be applying for Heritage Lottery Funding to assist us with an improved visitor experience, better volunteer facilities and the expansion of reedbeds. 

We are holding an open meeting on January 30th at 1pm, which you can RSVP to on the form below. Come along and have your say on the future of Nosterfield LNR. 

Name *
If you have any comments about the future of Nosterfield then let us know using this form.

A Look Back

It may be some time since the last update but we've barely paused for breath! 

Despite the cold weather, work continues apace and we've been busy on both the quarry and the reserve. Simon has been overseeing aerial surveying, meeting with geologists, archaeologists and ecologists. He and Jill are now jetting off to Costa Rica to enjoy Christmas in the sun.

Our volunteers have been using locally harvested willow to create refuges for fish (ensuring a food source for waders over winter). We've fixed sluice gates, coppiced trees and expanded our propagation centre. One of our cabins now sports a very fitting 'green roof', which is already sprouting grasses and collecting water for us to use.

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Our next volunteering date is January 2nd, 2018 if you fancy braving in the cold. We'll meet in the quarry car park.

We've welcomed Joe to the team who is to be our project manager, helping sniff out new pots of funding and helping put in place new formats for dreaded risk assessments and training. All being well, he should have some more exciting projects soon! Hopefully Simon should have his hands free for yet more meetings and planning sessions for the future of our beautiful nature reserve. 

We are in the early stages of putting together a Heritage Lottery Fund bid to help us create new reedbeds and expand the wetlands habitats on the reserve and quarry. The establishment of the propagation centre has been a real boon, we are now growing plants at capacity and will be hoping the HLF can help us to expand this exciting resource.

We also enjoyed our Christmas luncheon at the White Bear, Masham. You can spot a few of our volunteers enjoying themselves! 


We are looking to apply for some Heritage Lottery Funding, which will help plant new reedbeds and pay for volunteer training. We are meeting on January 30th so if you want to join us and feed in to the project then please get in touch. 


BioBlitz Latest

We can't yet give you the definitive total of  species found and identified during the 24-hour BioBlitz earlier this month.  Some of the trickier flies, spiders and assorted others have still to be identified.   But...........we have already surpassed 550.  The exact figure at time of writing is 564 which is a fantastic achievement and surpasses all our expectations.   

Figures from the North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre so far show there were:

  • 157 species of lepidoptera  which included 17 butterflies;
  • 240 plants including marsh fragrant orchid;
  • 90 species of bird, the highlight of which was the Sabine's gull which had already delighted more than a thousand birders for a fortnight beforehand and stayed on for the big day;
  • 9 mammals most of which were species of bats, including Natterer's; 
  • and  66 other invertebrates (so far!) including a rare-ish dor beetle.

So a big, big thank you to all those “experts” and “volunteers” who joined us during an eventful 24-hour period on the 12-13 July.    There were more than 50 involved altogether, including a school party of 15.    Of the latter, they had never heard so much Latin spouted in all their lives!   Hopefully a new generation has been enthused.

Burnet moth-DSC_0214.JPG

BioBlitz Fever hits Nosterfield

12 and 13 July

How many living species can you find on a 240-acre nature reserve?  100?  200? perhaps.  

Not just birds and mammals but flowers, bugs, beetles, dragonflies, moths - in fact anything that moves or grows.   300 then, or even 400?

Download 'BioBlitz Event Programme' here

Well, the truth is the Lower Ure Conservation Trust just doesn't know what the figure is for its Nosterfield Nature Reserve, a rich wet grassland habitat, which lies between Ripon and Bedale in North Yorkshire.  

So for a 24-hour period in July the Trust is attempting to find outby invitinganyone who is interestedto come to the reserve and adjoining quarry and reedbed to help find out. 

The “blitz” will start at 5pm on Thursday the 12th July and end exactly 24 hours later.  “We'll begin with a guided bat walk, we have an expert on gulls who will identify as many species as possible in the nightly gull roost and we will look at how many moths frequent the area” explains LUCT director Simon Warwick. 

“That'll take us close to midnight.  Then of course there are all those nocturnal creatures which are active at night and we miss during the day.”

It will get even busier the following day, with guided walks into parts of the reserve which are usually closed to the public, to look for butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, spiders and flowers, with a host of wildlife and botanical experts on hand to identify those species eagle-eyed members of the public spot during the various walks. 

Then on Thursday evening all the totals will be totted up to find out just how many diverse creatures inhabit Hambleton's only nature reserve,.     And it promises to be more than 400!

Join us – perhaps not for the entire 24 hours but a part of it. More information can be found at   

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 

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.