To the east of the site between the track in from Shipton Road, the allotments and Blue Beck is an official reservoir where water can be captured through a series of valves in time of flood. Since 1991 the Friends have created, in what was otherwise a quite a boring area, a series of scrapes and ponds by hand digging and machine excavation of a very compacted surface. This has generated a very varied wetland habitat that sees many invertebrates and amphibians, along with numerous wetland birds and different times of the year. Cattle graze amongst the rushes, reed and sedges, when the tastier herb-rich meadows are depleted.
This 2 hectare flood basin is a man-made feature, originating as a borrow-pit when the Washland embankments were upgraded in 1979. The exposed clay subsoil supports a range of habitats from permanently wet swamp to tussocky pasture with small areas of species-rich ‘fen meadow’ supporting a wide range of wetland flora.
Naturally-colonising plants include yellow loosestrife, meadow-rue, ragged robin, tubular water-dropwort and at least seven sedge species. However, because the basin is relatively isolated from other wetland habitats, there is limited potential for natural colonisation by further species. Surveys commissioned by FoRM in the late 1990s suggested that scarcity of late-summer flowers limited the diversity of wetland insects using the basin. So, in 2003, a small experimental area was rotovated and strewn with hand-collected seed from local wetlands. Although only a very coarse seedbed was prepared, this plot now supports additional species including common spotted orchid, yellow flag iris, fleabane, purple loosestrife and devilsbit scabious. Some of these have spread tens of metres from the initial introduction plot and the area is alive with insect activity from spring to autumn.
In September 2012, our grazier kindly prepared a further four plots, each measuring 4 to 6 square metres, by scraping off existing vegetation. These were then rotovated before seeding, again using hand-collected seed from wetlands within the York Outer Ring Road. In August 2013 Bentley, who were on site creating a new rising main, excavated a further large scrape to our design and at our request.