Yorkshire

Best place to see stoats in Britain

Mount Grace Priory is reputed to be one of the best place to see stoats in Britain. Read

Tansy beetles on the River Ouse

The Tansy beetle (Chrysolina graminis), so called for the adults’ and larva’s preference for the tansy plant is restricted in the UK to about 45 km along the banks of the River Ouse either side of York town centre. A recovery programme is underway to cut back invasive Himalayan balsam and so promote its food plant. Read

Wolf protection

Lower Winskill Farm, Langcliffe has over seven miles of dry-stone walls which date back to the 13th century. The protective ledges are believed to have been built to deter wolves before their extinction in the region possibly in the late 14th century.

The top stones are laid flat and usually project on one or both sides to form a continuous overhanging lip projecting some six to nine inches which acts as a deterrent to jumping animals. This was clearly intended as a functional device, it appears to have gone out of use by the sixteenth century. It was a device to stop large predators especially wolves getting into enclosed areas holding domestic livestock, and become redundant once wolves were exterminated in the region. Here

Reference also in Yorkshire Dales New Naturalist No 130.

Whalebone arch

Whitby’s famouis whalebone arch Read

Auroch bones most important Mesolithic site in Britain

The biggest finding of aurochs bones from a single archaeological site in Britain is here at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr, in Yorkshire. Another highlight is what is claimed to be Britain’s oldest structure, 21 red deer stag skull-caps that may have been head-dresses. It is also “generally regarded as the most important and informative Mesolithic site in Britain”. Wikipedia

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill is one of the largest and most spectacular underground chambers in Britain.

Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs is home to the only mainland breeding colony of gannets in England, and also some 10% of the United Kingdom population of kittiwakes.

Victorian shooting parties used to sail out to these cliffs from Scarborough and Bridlington, and slaughter thousands of thousands of birds for their feathers and for fun. This led to the Seabird Preservation Act of 1869 which stopped the the slaughter, the very first piece of law protecting wild birds.

A report in the Manchester Guardian of 18 November 1868 laid bare the true nature of the harvesting of the seabirds:

On a strip of coast eighteen miles long near Flamborough Head, 107,250 sea-birds were destroyed by ‘pleasure parties’ in four months; 12,000 by men who shoot them for their feathers to adorn women’s hats and 79,500 young birds died of starvation in emptied nests. Commander Knocker, there stationed, who reported these facts, saw two boats loaded above the gunwales with dead birds, and one party of eight guns killed 1100 birds in a week.

Quoted in A bird in the bush: a social history of birdwatching by Stephen Moss.

This provided protection for 35 species by introducing a closed season between April 1st and August 1st, and apparently the first successful prosecution under the Act took place in Bridlington on 10 July 1869 after a Mr Tasker, of Sheffield, had shot 28 birds. He was fined a total of £3 19s! Here

Hansard reported in 1869 a speech in Parliament by MP Christopher Sykes. Although bird protection for its sake was a factor, the usefulness of what were called Flamborough pilots was also important

The sea birds of England were rapidly disappearing from our coasts ….A few years ago, the farmers of the East Riding of Yorkshire…were accustomed to see flocks of sea birds following at the heels of the ploughboy and from the newly turned-up earth picking up worms and grubs. But he held in his hand a letter from an influential farmer living in the parish of Filey, within a mile of the coast, stating that last summer he did not see a single bird on his farm. He appealed to the House also in the interest of our merchant sailors, for in foggy weather those birds, by their cry, afforded warning of the proximity of a rocky shore, when neither a beacon-light could be seen nor a signal-gun heard. He held in his hand a paper proving that with the decrease of those birds the number of vessels which had gone ashore at Flamborough Head had steadily increased. For the services they rendered to the mariner those birds had earned for themselves the name of the “Flamborough pilots.”. He appealed to the House, likewise, in the interest of the deep-sea fishers, because, by hovering over the shoals of fish, those birds pointed out the places where the fisherman should cast his net. On that ground alone the Legislature of the Isle of Man had lately passed an Act imposing a penalty of £5 on every man who wilfully killed or destroyed a seagull.

Lastly, he made his appeal even in the interest of those thoughtless pleasure seekers themselves who flocked to the coast in the summer months, chiefly from the populous towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire and of Lancashire. Those persons would have themselves to blame if, in a few years, they found that those rocks, which he once remembered as teeming with wild fowl, had become a silent wilderness.

The act gave limited protection to (see if you can work out what they all are: answers here)

“the different species of auk, bonxie, Cornish chough, coulterneb, diver, eider duck, fulmar, gannet, grebe, guillemot, gull, kittiwake, loon, marrot, merganser, murre, oyster catcher, petrel, puffin, razor bill, scout, seamew, sea parrot, sea swallow, shearwater, shelldrake, skua, smew, solan goose, tarrock, tern, tystey, willock”

Malham Cove

The spectacular Malham Cove was formed 12,000/years ago as the Ice Age was coming to an end by a huge waterfall.
Thousands also come every year to Malham to see a pair of peregrine falcons raise their chicks. The RSPB provide telescopes from a viewing platform so visitors can watch them raise their chicks each spring. Water voles were reintroduced here in 2016 by the National Trust.

The Holderness Coast: the fastest eroding coastline in Europe

The Holderness Coast formed mainly by soft boulder clays is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe (here) in part due to the “long north-easterly fetch, allowing for powerful waves” (here). The average annual rate of erosion is around 2 metres per year and it has receded nearly three miles in the last 2000 years.

Swaledale’s wildflower meadows

Muker Meadows in Swaledale is home to some of the best remaning wildflower meadows in the UK. Here

Rare cows

The Vaynol cattle is one of the United Kingdom’s rarest and oldest breeds of cattle with less than 150 breeding animals. Originating from Vaynol in Wales, the herd was moved and now lives at Temple Newsam Home Farm, West Yorkshire, and is managed  by Leeds City Council.

Beverley 

Beverley means beaver stream, lake or meadow, indicating the ancient presence of beavers here on the River Hull. The town was called Beverlac in the 10th century meaning beaver-lake or beaver-clearing, in the 10th century.

The coat of Beverley Town Council bears a beaver.