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Rob R

One for dpack...

Last stronghold of tansy beetle now protected

i knew that one but cheers for showing folk the place ,anyway there are several things about ki's running field

there are tansy beetles,they only eat one plant ,cant smell ,cant fly and although rather pretty they are are daft as daft things and only have a short life to bimble about and find food and a close friend

the other stuff that grows there /lives there is unusual and diverse and rather wonderful ,there are plants considered rare in most parts of the uk that are a major part of the ecosystem

that it got sssi for the insect equivalent of pandas is silly but it got sssi which is not silly as there are far too few bio diverse water meadows .it changes year by year and over the last 6 has become a much richer habitat in terms of diversity which is partly down to good cutting management ,a bit of grazing and allegedly a few seeds getting dropped by the odd hound walker Laughing

tis a wonderful place and well worth a visit,i hope that sssi status does not alter the things that are making it what it is becoming

ps there is an industrial amount of meadow sweet in flower at the mo and the vetch collection is as diverse as anywhere i have ever seen

pps it aint the last stronghold of the tansy beetle there are loads on the opposite bank to fulford and a few on the fulford side

some slightly bad news is that the hay cut was at( and below in places)soil surface level and they left no set aside along the ditches or around the edges.the cut was too early for most of the vetches ,meadow sweet etc to have set and dropped seed and they did the whole thing in one go rather than in several stages

it has gone from bio diverse to whatever might have survived, most of the invertebrates did not,the birds have gone and leaving a few patches of tansy is a bit pointless as the beetles got harvested on most of it cos they were a bit later than the plan suggests they should be.

the standard water meadow management plan on the nat eng website states dates first and secondly follow the previous management that created the place and take weather, developmental stage of flora/fauna etc into account when deciding to do first cut .the nonsense about ground nesting birds is irrelevant the many dogs put most off and the foxes get the rest.the birds visit to eat not nest.

a few weeks early (as it was flooded quite late into the year),far too short,in one go and no set asides is wrong imho which i have shared with them.

to top it off the ditch with the tiny fish and medicinal leeches is dead cos some arse stuck a burning motorbike in it
Ty Gwyn

I don`t know the allowed dates of cutting on your English heritage meadow land,but here in Wales its 15th July,i`ve been biting my bottom lip this last week with the good weather,and knew it was pointless to ask the office types if i could cut earlier with this good weather,and knew if i chanced it,i could be caught out on satalite or google earth ,and then lose my subsidy grant for the 2 meadows.

And also with this site being protected due to the beetles,i would have thought a designated height of cut would have been mentioned in the rules of management for these meadows.

The trouble with office types is they can't give out free money to bumpkins if they don't stick to the rules.
Ty Gwyn

The trouble with office types is they can't give out free money to bumpkins if they don't stick to the rules.

But this bumkin did stick to the rules,its the Yorkshire one that seems he did`nt.
Maybe Rob know`s the cutting date for this type of land in England.
Rob R

It's the 1st July in the LDV - we haven't cut any yet but the cows have started grazing the Ings this week, and we're leaving a good aftermath behind. Seen a lot of toads this year, and the barn owls are hunting a lot. It's certainly been a good year for insects, too.
Mistress Rose

This can be a problem with SSSIs. Rules have to be used for guidance and sometimes the reason for the SSSI can be destroyed as Dpack has said.

A very experienced coppice worker we know had a run in with a Natural England officer about bats. The officer told him he couldn't cut within so many metres of a tree because it had bats in it. Coppice worker asked NE man if he knew why the bats were there. Of course he didn't, but coppice worker informed him the only reason was that he had been cutting the coppice to provide access and feeding ground for his bats. Think the NE man had to go away and think about that one, but think coppice worker went his own sweet way anyway. He is one of our more cussed coppice group members, but all are difficult in their own way, and only come out of the coppice on their won terms. Very Happy

strip grazing would have been perfect in this case as would a slightly later staggered cut

the no set aside and cut to the floor is the biggest harm as although some of the early flora had set seed most of it was a couple of weeks to go

i suspect next year it will be back to a sea of various buttercups and little else

the major problem is putting generic management plans together in an office rather than using best practice based on the actual conditions

the toad population would have been above the cut in most places and so probably wont mind that there are no invertebrates left for it to eat Mad

they did stick to the date rules ,that is part of the problem.

in some ways a much earlier cut if it was higher or a light graze would have actually been a good idea

there were some voles etc but again the height of the cut will have solved their problems Mad
Ty Gwyn

Strange the 2wks difference in the allowed cutting time from Wales to England,or is this only in the LDV?

i think the first cut date depends on region and is based on generalized records of weather ,seeding times etc

rather than a fixed date timing a plan based on not before such and such set seed/fledge etc and not after such and such die back etc might allow for local and climatic conditions

the plan for this place allows for leaving herbage under hedges (for the tansy beetles which got harvested afaik)but the important bits to leave are actually set asides and the bottoms on the meadow.

i think i will pass on a link to this page to go with my initial statement to e n
Rob R

The trouble is that EN are between a rock and a hard place following the rules and getting it done at all. There's no advantage to being too precious about the dates and specifications as noone seems to care about wildlife to actually ditch the generic supermarket. Round here they've even taken to paying farmers to cut some pieces. Until people starting eating more meat and be a bit more careful about where it comes from, this is only going to get worse, or more dependant upon public funding.
Mistress Rose

I agree with you Dpack that it would be far better to give stages of development, but also see the problem the Rob is talking about.

I know far more about woodland than meadows, but it is a problem there too. There is a lot of undermanaged woodland, and grants can be an encouragement to getting some managed. Unfortunately because of the accounting system, all work has to be done and claimed for by 31st March. The cutting season could really extend into April or even May some years, so having to be finished by end of March means a mad scramble at the end of the season and the job doesn't get done properly. Add to that the busiest time of year in the woods is the winter, with often poor weather and short days, and we are in the same position as the farmers with cutting in the summer.

having observed the place for a few years and having a slight understanding of the farming economics it would make sense both for wildlife and earning a few quid to spread the cuts with some early and some late .mostly im upset that a bit of set aside and a bit of leave from cutting at a few inches up would be what created the place and it was not done like that

they got an ace crop this time but next year will probably be a sour harvest as many of the things cut too early to have seeded wont be there next time
Rob R

It wouldn't though, because the guy cutting it is probably dealing with hundreds of acres down at once, not the few acres that we do. It makes sense in terms of time and diesel to do a lot of acres in one place rather than running here there and everywhere turning different pieces.

I understand what you're saying but the public don't support a load of little guys any more, so we simply don't exist in sufficient numbers & EN have to work with what they've got. dontknow
Ty Gwyn

I still think its strange that the Welsh and English dates for cutting environmental hay meadows are different,
In Wales its the 15th of July whether you farm in the Vale of Glamorgan or in the mountains of North Wales.

afaik this year it was cut by a different crew to the chap up the road who has had use of it for a few years and worked it for hay and a bit of grazing it in a very conservation minded way

no dought i will know more when E N get back to me
Mistress Rose

Could it be to do with contractor lists I wonder? We have just found out that all the old contractor lists for our county council have been binned, and everyone has to reapply. They are basically trying to get rid of all the little contractors and only using big suppliers. It is supposed to save money at county level, but if it puts some small people out of business, that adds to other costs.

John, I rather suspect the different dates might be do with them being set by different bodies; in Wales the Welsh Assembly might have something to do with it, while in England it may be affected by central government.
Ty Gwyn

John, I rather suspect the different dates might be do with them being set by different bodies; in Wales the Welsh Assembly might have something to do with it, while in England it may be affected by central government.

I realize that Chris,just the same as the Badger fiasco,no joined up thinking,its the same Badgers as its the same environmental sensitive river meadows where ever they may be,
Just imagine farming on the Welsh border`s with farms stradling Wales and England,even certain fields in both countries,what an un-necessary headache.
Mistress Rose

You can sometimes use these things to your advantage. It seems to be 'perceived wisdom' for instance that the time difference between us and Europe is a barrier to trade. I always found it rather useful as it meant that phone calls for Europe could start earlier in the afternoon during the 12-2 lunch slot where you tend not to find some people because they are at lunch somewhere between those times. Similarly, you could do your hay in England and then your hay in Wales. I would think that there are many other problems with straddling the border such as different regulations for selling. Even within a country this can vary a bit between counties, depending on the whims of the Trading Standards there. I understand it is even worse in the US where some things are mandatory in one state but illegal in another, particularly in road haulage. dpack

Dear sir/madam

As i am sure you are aware Clifton ings has been mown recently for hay.

The cut at Clifton has devastated many aspects the wildlife habitat for several reasons

1. no set aside ,every last square inch that could be reached has been cut including much of the central ditch ,this leaves nothing of the diverse flora that was in flower and would have set seed and no habitats undisturbed for the multitude of diverse wild life. Quite a few bits that have been cut this time but not previously are so placed that a baler will not collect the hay so even though it was cut rather than left it could not be baled

2. the few clumps of tansy left had no beetles i could detect (see 1 and 3 for the reason )

3. the cut has been done so close to the ground that many of the perennials will be badly affected and, unlike previous years when the cut was much higher, regrowth and flowering will at best be retarded and at worst't happen

4. nowt to do with the cut, but the burnt out motorbike in the ditch had enough oil in it to do for quite a lot of the aquatics in the ditch below it.

In previous years it has been cut for hay in a manner that has led to it being a diverse area worthy of sssi status not just for the tansy beetle but for a huge range of flora and fauna by leaving set aside and staggered cutting dates.

a couple of weeks back it deserved sssi status - at the moment it would not deserve a conservation payment .

The invertebrate population has been reduced to almost none hence no birds bar a few crows and the flora is baled to the soil.

i hope that measures will be put in place to prevent a repeat of what seems unnecessary agricultural vandalism.

as i have cows that graze on sssi water meadows, and my farming partners cut hay from sssi and conservation land in the lower Derwent, i do have an understanding of and interest in such environments.

i look forward to your reply

yours sincerely


Thank you for your query relating to Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI which has been forwarded to me by our enquiries team.

Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI was notified as a SSSI for the species-rich floodplain grassland communities present over the majority of the site and for tansy beetle which occurs along the riverside of Clifton Ings and in the pond area and northern areas of Rawcliffe Meadows.

The standard management practice for the management of floodplain meadows in order to maintain and enhance the interest is for a hay crop to be taken after 1st July and then for the aftermath to be grazed in the late summer/autumn period. This allows for the majority of plants to set seed whilst still maintaining a level of digestibility in the hay for livestock. As you correctly point out, most of the plants growing at Clifton Ings are perennials and as such do not need to set seed every year to remain established. This management is prescribed on all floodplain meadows nationally including those at Clifton Ings and the Lower Derwent Valley. Natural England is therefore supportive of hay cutting as a mechanism of managing Clifton Ings. There is a long history of traditional hay meadow management at these sites.

As I am sure you will understand as a farmer, the weather is a key factor in the timing and areas available to be cut. This year, the weather and ground conditions have been kind for taking the hay crop and so all of the area has been able to be cut. In previous years areas have been left uncut because it has been too wet to get machinery onto the lowest lying, wetter areas. Leaving areas uncut can lead to the deterioration in species-richness and lead to establishment of undesirable robust competitive grasses and herbs and results in a layer of ‘thatch’ (dead plant material from the previous year’s growth). This thatch then makes cutting difficult when it is cut which can result in the sward appearing damaged with possible areas of bare ground and looking like it is ‘cut too close’. I have visited the site and I believe this is what may have happened this year at Clifton Ings in the areas you mention which will now recover. I noted that all hay and bales had been removed from site.

Tansy beetles are the other interest feature and these are known to occur along the riverside of Clifton Ings and in areas of Rawcliffe Meadows which are unaffected by the hay cut. Tansy beetles have not been recorded along the central ditch for many years and a check was undertaken earlier in the year for their presence at this location and none were recorded. Tansy beetles have a life cycle stage of being largely underground from mid-June to mid-July so this is considered the best time to cut any associated areas containing tansy plants. Although as already mentioned tansy plants and the presence of the beetle are not generally located in the areas cut for hay.

The SSSI interest features are selected on the basis of their rarity in the wider countryside and managed in accordance with evidence based research on the most suitable management. It is generally accepted that hay meadow management (whether SSSI or not) is not the best management for generalist invertebrates which are not notified interest features but which can utilise the wider countryside.

Thank you for informing me about the motorbike in the ditch. I will contact the Environment Agency and log it as a pollution incident.

Thanks also for your interest in the site and for expressing your concerns. If you have any further queries relating to the site then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards


,thank you for your prompt reply , your points are valid and in a general way i aggree that a broad canvas is required in relation to protecting both species rich environments and managing some areas for a specific reason.

your comments re the tansy beetle are true but imho slightly irrelevant in terms of my concerns about cutting hay meadows by date rather than for local conditions and with none of the set aside that is vital for micro beasts, amphibians and other species.

rather than planning for developing diversity and richness of the flora and fauna in this environment as well as protecting a very rare wee critter who i have been observing for many years a basic plan for one aspect has devalued another aspect of a rather special environment.

of necessity such meadows need cutting and grazing , this should be done at the right times to preserve the rare environment they exhibit and in a manner to make their maintenance economically viable.this will always be a compromise but can be achieved

the concerns i have about close cut and that you have about "thatching"are both relevant however the parts that were not cut last year due to being rather "swampy"did not seem to have thatched and the bits that i consider cut too low this year to preserve the micro fauna,amphibians and small mammals that form part of the ecosystem are not those swampy bits.

im not trying to be stroppy and i will be the first to admit that managing environments is always difficult for a variety of reasons but Clifton Ings is special and can be managed in a way that will protect that and make it even more special.

i include these links to include some thoughts from my chums


yours sincerely
Rob R

Be careful, you could end up being given the task of managing it! dpack

i recon i could with some help from those wiser than me Mistress Rose

Dpack, I would suggest that you might use a more formal style when writing to them. As it is, they may be considering you as an ill educated yokel who doesn't know anything. If you have any initials after your name, use them.

I have no experience of this type of site, but we do mow for conservation. The points we are careful about are;

Mow when the plants of interest have set seed.
Mow high so that the more intelligent amphibians and other reptiles will keep their heads down and not be bothered by the mowing. We haven't found that this results in thatching.
Use the right type of mower for the site. We have found that a flail through bracken stops matting and allows other plants to grow, while a topper can damage the grass and pull up some of the plants on a mixed bracken/grass site.
Rob R

I've had a look through our agreements and there is nothing in there about the height of cutting, the only stipulation is to leave 5 - 15cm of sward at the end of the season. We don't follow the letter of the 'rules' though as it's not always possible to get everything done in the timeframe provided and the weather conditions. Cutting to a certain height is also tricky on undulating ground, particularly with wider mowers. Part of Thornton didn't even have 5cm on the start of the season!

The biggest problem remains that there just isn't the commercial demand for animals fed this way any more. All the major buyers want big things that have been supplementary fed, and the fact that you can't graze anything on the land before 1st July means that there's no where for the animals to go for the rest of the year - if you are maintaining the land available for the remaining six months, why would you bother to utilise the ings land and let the other stand idle? especially when you can sow more productive grasses and can't even supplementary feed on the SSSI, so it's a double whammy.

tis tricky to balance viable in an economic sense and best practice for diversity and/or single species conservation and fixed guidelines on paper and the practical issues with everything from how long it is underwater through how lumpy it is for cutting to the weather to cut a reasonable crop .as well as all that there is the grazing practicalities and economics.

i still think that a slightly higher cut(an inch or so isnt much higher unless it means the blade went over you)and a few bits of set aside for cover and seeding would have saved many of the small critters and floral diversity without causing other problems.

if i understand you the height guide is for end of season after a late graze or cut
for this cut the 5 to 15 cm guideline would have done it nicely but a lot of it looked like 0 to 10 with some lumps at minus 10
Rob R

It's hard to say without seeing it.

I'd love to manage more land the way we do and take it out of the hands of the big boys, but equally I appreciate that NE need to know that it's actually going to get done before flooding sets in and some guy with a bigger machine that will clear it in days is a safer bet in that respect.

i know what you mean about en needing to get it done to fulfil the plan

there are several bad points to it from a farming perspective and some years it would be very hard to work it in any meaningful way

lots of people and dogs which makes grazing a bit iffy,last year it was a dozen moos for a few days to eat 70 acres of second growth which hardly noticed

,if it rains a lot tis filled up, if i understand it i think either to empty the last stage tanks from the sewage works so they can divert from the storm drains into those without hitting the river with raw+rain and i think can be filled from the river so as to protect york and selby etc from flooding
the water is usually a lot cleaner than river water
i have seen it fill unexpectedly in a hour

it often is mostly a lake from rain in the winter and in wet years it would need an amphibious tractor to get any cutting done(like about a third of it last year)and even water buffalo would demand wellies

it seems a magnet for chinese lanterns but only gets a bit of other litter etc

on the plus side it has an ace hay crop about 1 yr in 3 if that is a plus

in some ways looking at it from a purely wildlife perspective a progression of strip grazing with moos and maybe a few sheep following would be ideal from some time in june or july to the end of sept/ early oct with all the cutting done by beasts and timing dependant on the conditions

but too many people n mutts and like you say where do the beasts go the rest of the year ?or if there is a sudden need to fill it up?

i suspect it was managed like that when it was part of the hospital home farm and previously,the medieval lazybed strip areas towards rawcliff sort of indicate that the veg n arable was closer to the road and the early aerial photos seem to show water meadowon this bit in the 30's
Rob R Mistress Rose

I am sure that some species do survive, but they are just not seen. A friend of ours has seen a couple of butterflies that are supposed to be extinct in the UK. The experts don't believe him, but unless they fell off the back of a transit van, which is not completely unknown, they may have survived or flown in from the continent. He has also found some rare fungi, one of which is so insignificant, that I am sure most people would pass it by. dpack

i wonder if the "new" panda beetle site will get the EN clipboard and ticklist treatment.

clifton ings still has no sign of any amphibians ,very few invertibrates and still has a torched motorbike in the ditch

on the plus side the giant hogweed has seeded and the himalayan balsam is doing very well
Mad Mad Mad
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