As originally reported in September 2013 Rawcliffe Meadows and Clifton Ings in York have had their notification as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) confirmed by Natural England on the 27 May 2014.
Here is the latest version of the ‘description of the special interest’ – description of the special interest 27 May 2014 – received with the confirmation.
Whilst SSSI status is welcomed by the Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows as a reward for nearly 25 years of hard work returning the land to this level, it does present constraints to the management and any works carried out on the site. Any form of activity other than that in the day-to-day agreed management plan that has the potential to degrade the habitat is likely to require approval by Natural England.
The press release from Natural England states that:
Flood meadows are last UK stronghold for the tansy beetle and confirmed as Site of Special Scientific Interest
The ancient flood meadows of Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows to the north of the City of York have been confirmed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) yesterday [28 May], following a four month consultation period.
The site was notified on 25th September 2013 because of the rare species-rich grassland that it supports, and because it is the last stronghold of the critically endangered tansy beetle (Chrysolina graminis) in the British Isles.
Floodplain meadows are one of the most diverse habitats in the UK. They are rich in flowers and grasses such as Great Burnet, Meadowsweet, Common Bistort, Meadow Rue and Meadow Foxtail and are home to a great many insect species including butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, spiders and moths. Most significantly the site at Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows is home to the critically endangered tansy beetle – an iridescent green beetle which relies almost entirely on the tansy plant Tanacetum vulgare for its entire life cycle in England. Noted at Clifton Ings since Victorian times, it is thought that a stretch of the River Ouse (which runs adjacent to the site) near York supports the last known population of this species in the British Isles.
Lowland grasslands are vulnerable to agricultural improvement and it is estimated that there has been a 97% decline in semi-natural grassland in England and Wales in the 50 years to 1984, with losses continuing during the 1980s and 1990s. Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows is an unusually large area of intact floodplain grassland that has avoided fragmentation or agricultural improvement. The continuation of traditional management over several hundred years, involving the harvesting of hay followed by the grazing of the aftermath growth, has maintained the biodiversity value of the site which now receives statutory protection.
The Ings also play a vital role in flood management and are used as temporary flood storage area at times of high flow in the River Ouse. With a capacity of 3.3 million cubic metres, Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows are critically important in preventing flooding in York and Rawcliffe.
David Shaw, Area Manager for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire at Natural England said: “It is fantastic to confirm Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows as a SSSI as it protects a large area of rare habitats and species so close to the thriving city of York. We look forward to working with the Environment Agency and other interested parties to ensure this vital floodplain is managed appropriately to ensure its biodiversity is maintained and enhanced whilst utilising the site as a flood storage area when needed for flood prevention.”
Steven Kirman, communications officer at the Environment Agency, said: “This is great news for the tansy beetle as well as many other important species of plants, birds, animals and insects. SSSI designations are a hugely successful way of helping to conserve natural habitats, and as well as helping wildlife they are of huge benefit to people in many ways. The maintenance of Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows is especially important to us because of the role the site plays in flood alleviation in the city of York.”