Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 15th March 2020 – the Bee Bank


Due to flooding and dismal weather this was our first work party since January 5th! We’d had a number of apologies but there were still five of us (Judi, Fiona, Pete, Andy and Mick) ready at the Cornfield gate, where we were greeted by the sight of a Red Kite quartering across the field.

The hole we had excavated the sand for the bank from was still full of water and will make a great temporary pond but the bank itself was looking under the weather after the wet spring. The green roof we had planted with Sedum was finally flourishing  but had collapsed at the front so we lifted it back and redistributed the clumps of Sedum.

We then cut back the vegetation around the bank and hole and made it look a bit happier. There were numerous holes of various sizes bored into the sandbank, logs and pipes filled with sand, so presumably working as intended. The netting you can see in the picture was nothing to do with us and was installed by the ‘Environment’ Agency (EA) to keep Badgers out when they started surveying for the flood scheme.

We then headed to the Cornfield to check on the hedgelaying carried out under Council auspices without our consent when unfortunately they had trampled a lot of the  Gorse, Holly,Hawthorn and Hazel planted in recent years and given some dog walkers a route across into the Cornfield to nuisance the birds and deer, instead of repeatedly breaking through the gate we’ve tried to block up.

We also picked up plastic debris from the flood line and sadly found the corpses of two hedgehogs that must have succumb to the flooding in their hibernation quarters, not something we’ve seen before.

The Tansy by the Bee Bank and in the Cornfield corner is only just poking through but we noted more than twenty trees we’d planted over 25 years ago outside the Cornfield by the cycle track had been marked by white crosses, presumably for destruction when the EA get their final consent. There is, as yet, no mitigation planned for tree and hedge loss which will be substantial.

We then checked on the Copse Meadow and the Copse. Copse Meadow is still a quarter flooded and a lot of debris was about in the Copse but we’ll use that to build up the gap into the Cornfield that the flood has washed out rather. The Elm trees we planted five or six years ago were doing splendidly.

The next work party is planned for Sunday April 19th from 10:30 onward at the New Meadow where we’ll be taking care of the Tansy plantation there and seeing what Tansy Beetles have survived.

Posted in Site Management, Wildlife Report, Work Party | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 5th January 2020

For our first work party of 2020 we were down to five (Julie and Mark, Fiona, Judi and Mick) but that was enough to make a thorough job of cutting back the blackthorn and brambles that intrude on the Reservoir Basin area where the orchids appear, so thanks to all. As with any management prescription doing it annually has brought control and the area is less of a struggle than if we’d let it get out of hand.

On February 16th we plan to attend to the saplings in Cricket Field Copse at the south of the site and tidy any brash along with repairing the fence and stile. As of now this will depend upon whether the EA have started work in the Cornfield.

Posted in Work Party | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows Activities in 2020

Whilst we await the Environment Agency fulfilling the planning conditions, including the assorted mitigation proposals that we believe should have been a part of the original application a year ago, before they are permitted to start work here’s a brief report of what we’ve done and observed in 2019, along with a reminder of what we’ve achieved since 1990.

For 2020 we’ll carry on working on the areas less likely to be damaged in the future until funding ceases when the EA commence work, and then the EA can take full responsibility for their actions*, so I’m also attaching the suggested work party calendar for the first half of 2020.

Month Sun Thurs Task
January 5   Cut back blackthorn in Reservoir Basin (northern and eastern banks) to create more space and light for expansion of orchids
February 16   Attend to saplings in Cricket Field Copse and tidy any brash. Repair fence and stile.
  23   Coppice blackthorn, willow and hazel near Pond at south of site. Scrub cut pond banks.
Mar 2020 15   Cut off fallen chestnut by Ings Dyke and remove blackthorn suckers
April 2020 19   Clearing around tansy plants – New Meadow and nearby
May 2020   14 Bee bank management
June 2020   4 Clearing around tansy plants – Pond and nearby
  21   Clearing around tansy plants – New Meadow and nearby
July 2020   2 Clearing around tansy plants – Pond and nearby
  26   Clearing around tansy plants – New Meadow and nearby
August 2020   6 Bee bank management
  16   Clearing around tansy plants – Blue Beck and nearby


6   Water Vole Scrape maintenance

Having successfully and voluntarily managed Rawcliffe Meadows for just short of thirty years the Friends of Rawcliffe  Meadows will be no more. When it’s gone, we’re gone!

Here’s a PDF of the calendar for you to keep – FoRM Activities 2020


Posted in Site Management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows Annual Report 2019 – The Final One

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

As the Environment Agency are planning on starting work on the Barrier Bank in 2020 which is likely to destroy much of the past 29 years hard work we are issuing a final report that is a brief summary of activities on Rawcliffe Meadows in that period. Any detail may be found in the annual reports for particular years in our archive on the website.


Posted in News item | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party Report 15th December 2019

Rawcliffe Meadows Copse North to South

Rawcliffe Meadows Copse North to South

Rawcliffe Meadows Copse South to North

Rawcliffe Meadows Copse South to North

The weather forecast appears to have been wrong again as three of us (Mick, Pete and Masha) spent a pleasant couple of hours tidying up the Copse at the north of the site with a break for mince pies and coffee courtesy of Judi.

Most of the trees planted in the Copse were planted by ourselves in the early days to replace the diseased elms that had once lived there. We also planted the eastern hedge that once separated us from the arable fields before the Park & Ride appeared ten years later. The trees we planted are now maturing side-by-side with the few originals and the more recent elms saplings planted five or six years ago. Managing the encroaching self-seeded saplings that appear annually and clearing the brash will hopefully allow light onto the copse floor for the flora like Giant Bellflower to return and the range of heights and habitats produce a mosaic to encourage biodiversity.

Elm sapling

Elm sapling

There were plenty of fungi about on the rotting wood that had been left in place and all the elm saplings appeared to be flourishing. Another 20 or 30 nest boxes wouldn’t come amiss to replace the ones (more than a hundred erected) now rotten with age, that we have also erected over the years but we’ll leave that as a job for whoever takes on the management when we depart.

Wood Ear Fungus on Elder stump

Wood Ear fungus on Elder stump

The next work party will be on Sunday 5th January 2020 from 10:30 onward in the Reservoir Basin cutting back the blackthorn encroaching on the orchids and ponds.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 17th November 2019

Despite the dark cloud of the Environment Agency’s planned upheaval and the forecast rain we managed a splendid seven volunteers to help with our annual spruce up of the Water Vole Scrape (now also home to Great Crested Newts, Greater Water Parsnips and many more rare and wonderful creatures. It also didn’t rain.

The Phragmites was soon cut back to encourage fresh growth in the spring and the Reed Bunting returned when the chopping stopped and we moved on, after a coffee and biscuit break (thanks, as usual, to Judi) to repairing the fencing that had started to rot in the damp ground.Phragmites before

Phragmites beforeWith its new posts the area should be protected for the next year or two.

Phragmites after

Phragmites after

The Water Vole Scrape is one of the many ponds in the Reservoir Basin that make the site one of the Freshwater Habitats Trust’s Flagship Sites and so we’ll care for it until our commitment is removed by force majeure and the EA’s bulldozers.

The Water Vole Scrape after its clean up

The Water Vole Scrape after its clean up

The site was looking well despite the bags of dog poo still flung habitually into its corners – probably by those who complain about the grazing cattle. The next work party is on Sunday 15th December from 10:30 in the Copse to the north of the site. It doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves but as we strive to maintain those areas like the Reservoir Basin, Copse Meadow and the Cornfield ignored in the EA’s plans and the Natural England and City of York planning mitigation, we can check the stakes and collars on the Elm saplings, clear up the brash and prepare it for a future without TLC. Thanks to Judi, Mark & Julie, Mark A, Kevin, Fiona and Pete for all their help in the mud!

Posted in Site Management, Work Party | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows – Policy Statement, October 2019


Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Rawcliffe Meadows 2013 (c) Whitfield Benson

Those Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows present at a meeting in November 2018 agreed that “we do not wish to be involved in any mitigation where we consider the proposals inadequate, inappropriate or under-funded.”

As the approved planning application stands the proposals are exactly that and there is nothing in any of the documents about how the remaining parts of the site will be managed and funded into the future.

On that basis the Friends again met in October 2019, following the Planning Committee approval, and knowing that the Environment Agency (EA) cost/benefit analysis is barely viable (that being given as the reason why they have ignored alternative construction methodologies and routes) we are confirmed in the view that the EA are not to be trusted in the delivery of a full and long-term mitigation as they have neither the will, ability, knowledge or budget to deliver it after damaging what will be hectares of historic SSSI.

We will not engage with substandard mitigation in order to burnish the EA’s public image. We made a clear offer to work with them on the mitigation if we were satisfied with the method and they chose to ignore this.

The Friends will carry on superficially maintaining, as necessary, those parts of the site presumed to be unaffected by works until such time as the EA commence work and the Environmental Stewardship is cancelled under force majeure. There was no wish to ask volunteers to expend further effort after the EA had ignored nearly 30 years of work.

It was also agreed that the Friends were unwilling to take any part in the ‘advisory’ board as this would have no control over ensuring the site was mitigated, restored to previous condition or looked after until such time as it was.


Posted in News item | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rawcliffe Meadows Work Party 13th October 2019 – Tree Sparrow Nest Boxes

An outcome from the Rawcliffe Meadows Breeding Bird Survey of 2015 had been to place some Tree Sparrow nest boxes on the eastern bank of the Reservoir Basin (just below the allotments) as there was identified to be a paucity of suitable trees for them to nest in, it being mainly scrub there. The suggestion had been to hammer in some tall posts among the scrub, with suitable baffles to protect the boxes from Weasels or other similar predators.

Thanks to the York Ornithological Club we were provided with a grant earlier in the year and ordered boxes, hole plates along with steel sheet to make the baffles.

Despite the wet weather Julie, Mark, Judi and Mick got the materials to a suitable location and, after cutting a few tiny Blackthorn saplings, erected the posts adjacent to some Tansy and Elm planting.

The next job was to fix two boxes to each post at which point Kevin and Masha joined us. The scrub will soon hide the posts but some management may be needed to ensure there are no jumping off points for squirrels to attack the boxes.

It is not expected that the Environment Agency’s works will affect that area but who knows as there plans are so vague, but at least the small birds that frequent the Meadows will have somewhere to retreat to when the large sections and hedgerow and numbers of trees are eliminated forever.

Thanks to the six for braving the damp and the YOC for their financial assistance.

Next work party is Sunday 17th November 2019 when we will probably be repairing the fence around the Water Vole Scrape as the cattle have started making inroads. As well as Water Voles, this is now Great Crested Newt habitat and also of the Greater Water Parsnip, so the less trampling the better!

If there is now some juggling of work party tasks it is to avoid areas that the EA’s contractors are likely to damage when they come on.

Posted in News item, Site Management, Work Party | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye Rawcliffe Meadows – update Friday 13th September

The planning committee meeting to decide upon the EA application occurred last night (12th September 2019) and is available to watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vh5Y8-u3Ws&feature=youtu.be (after 10 minutes). It ended up taking until almost 19:30 to get a decision as around half the committee (Independent, Labour & Green) wanted refusal or deferment, whilst the Conservative and LibDem councillors were for the development without any further conditions or consideration. We must thank the Labour, Green and Independent councillors for their regard for the environment and the thirty years of hard work by the Friends. The application was approved by a small majority with an additional condition added. We now await whether the Secretary of State will as for a public inquiry.

The EA had wheeled in a consulting engineer from Jacobs to read out a statement from the Reservoir Supervising Engineer to the effect that if it wasn’t approved and the scheme didn’t go forward the bank might fail and repairs would have to be carried out under Section 10 which wouldn’t improve the defences to a 1 in 100 standard as the current application was doing. The legal and planning advice also suggested that members couldn’t ask for all the missing strategies to be brought following a deferment as that would be asking too much of the EA.

Posted in News item | Tagged | Leave a comment

Goodbye Rawcliffe Meadows

Rawcliffe Meadows Floodbank

Rawcliffe Meadows Floodbank (c) FoRM & Whitfield Benson

Officers recommend approval of the Environment Agency’s plans.


Planning Committee 12th September 2019 4:30 pm

“The role of the Friends of Rawcliffe in managing the area will be in jeopardy and their funding will be lost; however this cannot be avoided through the planning process (we cannot specify that a certain 3rd party be required to manage the site). Officers are content that planning conditions can secure a reasonable level of mitigation over time; the
responsibility of which will lie with the applicants/developer; the EA. ”

Bye-bye thirty years of volunteer effort and £300,000 of public funding…

Posted in General | Tagged , | Leave a comment