Our first visit to Birkhams Quarry this year

We’ve been working with Marshalls Stancliffe Stone and visiting Birkhams Sandstone Quarry, just outside Sandwith, for a number of years.  As part of their planning permission Marshalls Stancliffe Stone is required to restore areas of the quarry site once they have finished being worked for stone.  At the end of 2016 topsoil from elsewhere on site was spread over the first restoration area.  The decision was made not to use plug plants or seed the restoration area but to let it vegetate naturally using the seedbank in the topsoil.

The site is developing nicely with a good range of wildflower species now found across the site.  We visit up to three times a year in the growing season to keep weedy species from becoming dominant (by removing most of the ragwort, bracken, dock and thistle) and record all the species we find on each visit. Our first visit for 2019 was on 13th July.  Four volunteers worked alongside our Project Officer to pull up ragwort, nettle, dock and bracken (we decided to leave the thistle as it’s not big enough to pull up yet) and then we spent some time recording all the flowers and grasses we could see.  We only spent about half an hour doing this and still recorded over 30 species which is great.  Our next visit will be on 24th July – come along and join in!

The species we found are listed below:

Birds foot trefoil

Bluebell sp

Bracken

Bramble

Broad leaved dock

Cocks foot

Common nettle

Common sorrel

Creeping thistle

Creeping buttercup

Devils bit scabious

Foxglove

Gorse

Harts tongue fern (possible garden escapee)

Heath bedstraw

Herb Robert

Hogweed

Hop trefoil

Meadow grass

Meadow vetchling

Ragwort

Ribwort plantain

Rosebay willowherb

Sedge sp.

Silverweed

Spear thistle

Speedwell sp

Tufted vetch

Tormentil

White clover

Yarrow

Yorkshire fog

We’re buzzing about this new project

We are excited to be part of the Get Cumbria Buzzing project which the Cumbria Wildlife Trust has just announced.

Get Cumbria Buzzing in North West Cumbria aims to get parks, school grounds and other green spaces around Workington, Whitehaven and Maryport buzzing with bees and pollinators thanks to £912,800 funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The ground-breaking project will see Cumbria Local Nature Partnership work with Highways England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust to get local people buzzing with activity to boost numbers of bumblebees and other wild pollinators and halt their decline.

Britain is home to an amazing variety bumblebees, hoverflies, solitary bees, butterflies and moths but their homes and food sources are under threat. Modern agriculture and increased urbanisation of towns and villages is seeing a major loss of habitats on which pollinators depend. Amazingly, they help to provide one third of the food we eat, are a natural pest control, and feed much of our wildlife while being responsible for a wide diversity of plants worldwide. Just 1 to 2% of flower-rich habitat in a landscape, or even a garden or park, is enough to have a significant impact on populations of wild bumblebees.

This three-year project will create, restore, and enhance 115 hectares of pollinator friendly habitat at 62 sites in North West Cumbria by connecting and restoring flower-rich habitats along ecological networks known as B-Lines. The project is dependent on volunteers for its success and opportunities for people to make a buzz include everything from gardening workshops to themed arts and crafts events, pollinator training courses to conservation days, educational workshops linked to the curriculum and many many more.

David Renwick, Area Director for the North, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“These two projects really are the bees knees for Cumbria, particularly as we’ve prioritised nature for the next five years. Both will see vital work undertaken through powerful partnerships with biodiversity organisations and local people – ensuring that important wildlife in decline is put back on our map thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.”

Ian Convery, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Cumbria and Co-Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Rewilding Task Force, said:

“Community involvement is vital, as it will not only benefit individual species, but also acts as a catalyst for engaging communities in the wider environment with positive outcomes for biodiversity, the local economy and wellbeing. This is highlighted in the government’s 25 year Environment Plan as a key action to reverse the ongoing decline in biodiversity. We are looking forward to working with our community partners, alongside project partners to bring this exciting and transformative project to life.”

Tanya St.Pierre, Get Cumbria Buzzing Project Manager, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted! This funding allows us to create much-needed pollinator-friendly havens and wildflower highways, providing a lifeline for our bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. By transforming green spaces and working closely with communities, we aim to get Cumbria buzzing again. Everyone can help – please get in touch! 

The project wouldn’t be possible without the support and generosity of our partners and additional funders including Allerdale Borough Council, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Copeland Borough Council, Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, Cumbria Community Foundation, Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust, Florence Arts Centre, Highways England, National Trust, Solway Coast AONB and Workington Nature Partnership.”

Dion Auriac, Project Manager at Highways England, said:

“Our roads connect communities across England and we’re committed to making sure our work supports the local economy and environment. That’s why we’re pledging £860,000 from our environment designated fund to the Get Cumbria Buzzing scheme to trial an innovative approach to managing verges on the A66 and A595 in Cumbria. We’ll be changing our grass-cutting and roadside maintenance systems to create habitats that provide food, shelter and nesting sites to help bees and other wildlife thrive alongside Cumbria’s major roads.”

The birds are back in town

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs at St Bees Head, Whitehaven

The birds at St Bees are back on the cliffs again for the summer, and we need your help once again to record whether they’re being disturbed.

The Colourful Coast Partnership is working with the RSPB, Natural England and Royal Yachting Association to recruit volunteers to take a walk up onto St Bees Head and observe the colonies for any disturbance, whether it comes from the air, the land or the sea.

Dave Blackledge, RSPB site manager, said ‘The bird numbers are increasing every year, which is great, but we need to understand if the birds are getting disturbed while they’re on the cliffs or on the water as this can affect their ability to raise healthy chicks or fish for food. We know that boats and climbers can sometimes unintentionally disturb the birds but we also want to know if there’s anything else, like birds of prey or drones, which could be having an effect’

Volunteers will be asked to go out once a fortnight and observe the seabirds from certain points along St Bees Head throughout the summer months, recording any interesting sightings. It’s not just skilled bird watchers who can get involved.   Sophie Badrick from the Colourful Coast Partnership says ‘Anyone who’s got a pair of binoculars and is happy to walk along the headland spending a few hours every fortnight viewing the birds and making notes can get involved.  We’ll be running a few training sessions in a couple of weeks to get volunteers up to speed and then it’s down to each individual to decide how often and when to go out surveying’.

The records will be collected by Natural England who can assess the levels of disturbance, whether this is an issue at the site and what kinds of activities are causing the issues. This will then allow Natural England working alongside the other Colourful Coast partners to focus on raising awareness to try and reduce the impacts of recreational activities on the breeding seabirds at St Bees Head so that the birds can continue to thrive.

Anyone who wants to get involved or would like more information should email Sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Basking shark spotted

Last week a basking shark was spotted just south of the Colourful Coast area around Seascale/Sellafield.

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the second largest fish in the world and the largest shark we get in UK waters.  They can grow up to 11 feet or over 3 metres long.  They are regular visitors to the Irish Sea in the summer months, however these elusive creatures are rarely seen from the coast of Cumbria.

Don’t worry, there is no need to fear these gentle giants as they only eat plankton.  The warm, still weather and plentiful plankton could mean that now is a good time to spot our ocean giants such as basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust are running regular SeaWatch events throughout the summer sp please check their website if you’d like to join in one of these events – you never know what you might spot.

 

An extended Heritage Coast moves one step closer

As you can imagine, we are excited to hear that our proposals to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast further north towards Whitehaven have been unanimously approved by Copeland Borough Council at this week’s Full Council meeting.

We’ve written previously about why we think the St Bees Head Heritage Coast should be extended, and the benefits this extension could provide.  We’ve been championing this coastline, with it’s unique and special qualities, for many years and have worked closely with Copeland Borough Council and Natural England to put together the evidence base for the extension proposals.  The proposals put to Copeland Borough Council officers also included a change of the name to St Bees and Whitehaven Heritage Coast, reflecting the importance of the new areas.

fleswick bay (stbees)

Pat Graham, Chief Executive at Copeland Borough Council, said: “We’re delighted to support this proposal. We are very proud of our stunning and unique coastline and this quality mark not only promotes what we have, but enables enhancement.  We had an extremely positive response to the consultation with people in favour of the proposal. There were no objections received from any of the consultees and in fact, some of our respondents requested that more areas should be included, but unfortunately no additional areas met the criteria.  We will now be working with our partners to ensure that we maximise the benefits the proposed extension should bring.”

Copeland Borough Council will now submit the proposed extension to Natural England who will work with the Council to draw up a partnership agreement to re define and adopt the new St Bees and Whitehaven Heritage Coast.

We’ll keep you updated!

Two beach cleans in two days – what did we find

Last week we had our usual monthly beach clean in St Bees.  10 wonderful volunteers came along to help out and instead of heading towards Pow Beck and under the cliffs of Tomlin we set off with the aim of walking down to Seamill Lane and focussing our attentions on this end of the beach.

There was so much beach litter that we didn’t get very far!  The volunteers diligently cracked on with the task of collecting and recording all the litter they could find.  The results of the survey are below – as always lots of plastic but not as much sanitary waste as we find when we beach clean near Pow Beck, the results can be found here 190328 St Bees – Survey

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In amongst all of the litter there was one exciting find…a pipefish.  These sea creatures are related to seahorses.  Usually found in shallow water, camouflaged amongst seagrass and seaweed.  They’re found along the coast of Britain and eat tiny plankton which they suck up through their snout like noses.  Definitely an exciting find, and a little reward for beach cleaning!

55498135_1515312325272849_3844920767091310592_n

The next day we were lucky enough to host the North Lakes National Trust team’s start of season meeting.  Along with hearing about all of the exciting things the teams are up to across the whole property (which stretches from Borrowdale to Ennerdale and Buttermere to the coast) we also got 30 of the team out for a beach clean.

IMG-20190331-WA0002

Despite the large numbers of beach cleaners the rubbish we found didn’t pile up very highly – a testament to the fact that we find so much small plastic waste at St Bees.  One challenge we gave to the team was to try and fill a jar with cotton bud sticks to illustrate the issue we have at St Bees.  Well, the team didn’t disappoint!

Cotton buds

712!  712 cotton bud sticks found in one hour by our team.  That’s quite a shocking number.  We’re thinking about what we need to do try and tackle this issue.  If you’d like to see full results of what was found the full report can be seen here 190329 St Bees – Survey

 

 

Beach cleaning and mental health

Visiting the outdoors can have a hugely positive effect on peoples mood, wellbeing and mental health.  ‘Green prescriptions’ and ‘Walks for Health’ are becoming more and more common.  But does this change when people are beach cleaning?  Does the seemingly endless tide of debris and plastic that our intrepid beach cleaners pick up have a detrimental impact on their mood?  Or, does the act of doing something about the problem make people feel better?

The 2 minute beach clean team tried to get to the bottom of some of these questions recently and they’ve just released their findings on their website Beach Cleaning and Mental Health: Survey Results .  The article makes for very interesting reading with some wonderful quotes from beach cleaners about how the simple task of collecting litter has made improved their mental health.

So, does being outside help you feel better?  Does the coast boost your mood?  And what about beach cleaning?  Do you feel better if you know you’re part of a movement helping to tackle this issue?  We’d love to know how you feel.  Or, if you don’t know – then come along to one of our beach cleans and see if it has an effect.  You’ll get to meet likeminded people, have a chat, do something good and often there’s a cake or biscuit at the end too!  All the information on our beach clean cam be found on our events page.

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Honeycomb worms

After we’d finished our beach clean today we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to film some of the Honeycomb worm reefs that are exposed along our coastline at low tide.  Check out the video to see them in their natural habitat.

We’ve written a blog post before telling you all about the Honeycomb worms (Sabellaria alveolata) so have a read of that if you’d like to know more.

Look out for the Honeycomb worms when you next visit the Colourful Coast!