On Monday evening I ventured over to Roseberry Topping in anticipation of the ‘Supermoon’. Due to pass closer to the Earth than it has done in over 68 years, the moon was expected to be noticeably bigger and brighter than usual.
Finding a suitable spot to watch from on Roseberry Common, I waited.
At first, only a glimmer of light could be seen on the horizon. Then, rising, the light grew more intense, more vivid and slipped slowly into the sky. Unfortunately, the cloudy conditions hampered any clear views of the moon itself but nevertheless, it was still quite a sight to watch. With the cloud scattering the light, it reminded me of a sunrise. A moonrise.
Later in the evening, after returning home, the cloud did momentarily clear and I watched the naked moon for a short spell from my back doorstep. It settled in the open sky and the moonlight fell into my small garden, creating moonshadow.
Before I returned inside from the cold, I grabbed my binoculars and took an even closer look. My circular vision basked briefly in the glory of the white light and the detail of the moonscape.
“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light.”
– Tahereh Mafi
Over the past few months at work I have been helping to replace the old flight of steps which make up part of the main visitor route at Roseberry Topping. The old steps, winding their way up through Newton Wood, had deteriorated significantly – with the majority rotten and/or damaged and therefore dangerous and difficult to negotiate. In total, 188 new steps have been put in, no mean feat!
In October last year I was successful in a grant application to the North York Moors National Park as part of their Traditional Boundary Scheme.
The application focussed on planting a new hedge, following a 700 metre stretch of the National Trust’s boundary at Roseberry Topping.
With over 4,200 trees to plant, the task was no small undertaking. At the start of January, with help from National Trust volunteer John, we started on the first section, quickly getting to grips with the hedge planting routine yet barely scratching the surface of what needed to be done.
We needed some extra hands!
I called on the help of a range of volunteers from different organisations to help us complete the hedge.
Some facts and figures:
29 different volunteers helped plant the hedge, with time given from the North York Moors HOBS group, a Ordnance Survey work party and our very own National Trust Midweek volunteers and Sunday volunteers
That equates to about 318.5 hours of hard work from volunteers, or 49 work days
With help from 3 members of staff, a total of 461.5 hours of individual work was undertaken
We planted over 4,200 trees, put in 4,200 stakes and wrapped around 4,200 spiral tree guards over 700 meters of our boundary
That equated to 86 bundles of trees, 17 bags of stakes and 17 boxes of guards, hefted up and over muddy footpaths to site, that’s without the additional tools necessary for the job
2,940 Hawthorn, 420 Blackthorn, 252 Hazel, 210 Dog Rose, 126 Guelder Rose, 126 Field Maple, 126 Crab Apple and 20 Sessile Oak were planted
All materials for the project cost just over £2,000
We also created 20 habitat piles close to the new hedge using brash taken from existing trees in the hedgeline, which will allow light into the new trees but also provide additional valuable habitat
And finally, to keep us going we ate two batches of Alan’s Peanut Slice, some of Gill’s Potato & Pesto Roll, Chris’ Banana Loaf, Margaret’s birthday Fruit Loaf, along with a box of Fox’s Biscuits, a box of Cadbury Roses and a box of Nestle Quality Street. I thought I was putting on weight…
At any opportunity, I think it’s important to praise the help the National Trust receives from volunteers. As always, we couldn’t do what we do without you.
Through snow, rain and sunshine, smiles, groans and laughter, hard graft, thorned fingers and heavy calorie consumption – we finally completed the hedge in early February, just over one month after John and I started.
And so, what was the reason for planting the hedge?
Traditional field boundaries, specifically dry stones walls and hedges, are a major part of the landscape character of the North York Moors National Park. The purpose of the National Park’s scheme is to encourage these to be managed or restored.
Specifically with the hedge at Roseberry Topping, there is evidence of a previous, older hedge having been in place along part of the current boundary, with a number of mature, sparsely grown Hawthorn trees along its way. We wanted to re-instate this historic feature.
Also, the wildlife value of creating a new hedge will be considerably huge, creating shelter, food, nesting spots and valuable habitat for a huge range of species – from flowers and insects, to birds and small mammals. It will also form a wildlife corridor, allowing species to move between different habitats and allowing the continuation of viable populations.
Finally, with the hedge being alongside a public footpath, we can take a walk alongside it and enjoy it individually, seeing it establish over the coming years!
Last week I was out in the depths of night with some of my colleagues doing a spot of moth trapping within Newton Wood at Roseberry Topping. We were joined by Dr Robert Woods, Conservation Officer for INCA (Industry Nature Conservation Association).
In total, 44 different species of moth visited our trap. Moth overload. Of those, particularly interesting were as follows.
The largest find of the night, a Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi)…
Probably the commonest of our hawk-moths. Here posing on one of our legs and flashing its hindwings, showing a contrasting ginger patch, which is normally hidden. As its name suggests, the larvae often feed on poplar trees.
Our other hawk-moth find of the night, the locally common Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus)…
This beautifully coloured moth (PINK and GREEN) gets its English name from the caterpillar’s fanciful resemblance to an elephant’s trunk!
Another locally common find was a Scorched Wing (Plagodis dolabraria)…
The English name of this species is derived from the patches of hindwing which resemble, as again the name suggests, a scorched wing. Very distinctive once you notice it.
An intriguing find was the Peppered moth (Biston betularia)…
This is a common and widespread species but its evolution over the last two hundred years is very interesting. Originally, the vast majority of peppered moths had light colouration, which effectively camouflaged them against the light-coloured trees and lichens upon which they rested. However, due to widespread pollution during the Industrial Revolution in England, many of the lichens died out, and the trees which peppered moths rested on became blackened by soot, causing most of the light-coloured moths to die off due to predation. At the same time, the dark-coloured, or melanic moths – of the same species – flourished because of their ability to hide on the darkened trees.
Since then, with improved environmental standards, light-colored peppered moths have again become common, but the dramatic change in the peppered moth’s population has remained a subject of much interest and study. This has led to the coining of the term “industrial melanism” to refer to the genetic darkening of species in response to pollutants.
The most significant find was at the very end of our toils, whilst we were packing away – a Blomer’s Rivulet (Discoloxia blomeri)…
This a nationally scarce species, occurring sporadically throughout England and Wales in deciduous woodland habitats. It is regarded as important from a conservation perspective, both in its own right due to its nationally scarce status but also as a representative of a group of moths which are specialised feeders on elm at the larval stage.
So overall, a very good result from our first evening of moth trapping. Not only did it help us get more familiar with moths in general and their importance to us but we also got off to a good start in finding some of the species on our properties and had some fun in the process.
* NOTE to others. If you ever venture out into woodland at night to do some moth trapping, take some insect-repellent with you! We survived an onslaught of midges in the process of our mothing, resulting in some severe post trapping itching…
Species List for Newton Wood, Roseberry Topping (NZ575127) from Moth Recording on 5.7.12