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

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

 

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!

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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.

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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

 

 

Whitehaven beach clean – the results are in!

Yesterday we had a whopping 22 volunteers joining us at our regular Whitehaven beach clean, which is fantastic!  We decided to make use of the big numbers and do a Beach Watch survey of the beach alongside collecting all the litter we could find.

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Together we collected and recorded 623 pieces of litter with over 60% of what we collected being plastic or polystyrene.  The majority of what we found was sourced from the public, which means it was litter dropped by people – we found a lot of fast food waste, plastic bottles, cigarette butts and sweet wrappers.  All of which was picked up by our dedicated volunteers before it was washed out to sea to become part of the global marine litter crisis.

The results from the survey can be found here 181017 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 17 Oct 2018

Its fantastic to see so many people coming along to help us tackle the marine litter problem.  In total we collected 25 bags of litter, lobster pots, a deck chair and part of a sofa! As always a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came along to help out – especially little Archie who missed a morning at nursery to come down but had a great time.

Whitehaven’s Great British Beach Clean

Once again this autumn we organised a Great British Beach Clean at Whitehaven.  Now in it’s 25th year the Great British Beach Clean, coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society, is the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK.

The information volunteers have collected over the last 25 years has helped make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter ever – the plastic bag charge, microplastics banned in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and massive support for a tax on ‘on the go’ plastic single use items.

Trying to get used to the survey forms always takes a little while  so perhaps it was good that the beach at Whitehaven was surprisingly clean.  However, a few steps along the beach and looking amongst the rocks and we soon found enough litter to keep us going.  In total the four of us collected 269 pieces of litter in just one hour.  There was rope, cigarette butts, plastic cups, paper, plastic, glass, nails, lolly sticks and straws.  Joseph even collected some rope that was nearly as tall as he is!

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The rope’s nearly as tall as Joseph!

 

The full report from the beach clean can be found her 180915 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 15 Sep 2018.  It shows that most of the litter we collected was plastic or polystyrene with paper and cardboard a close second.  Most of this was rubbish we were collecting and disposing of before it reached the sea.  We had surprisingly little sanitary waste which is different from when we beach clean at St Bees.

As always a massive thank you to our dedicated volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning and came out to beach clean in some grey and windy weather!

Great British Beach Clean 2018

As part of the Great British Beach Clean we’ve added an extra beach clean to out usual monthly efforts.

We’ll be heading to Whitehaven’s North Shore on Saturday 15th September between 10.30am until lunchtime to record and remove all the litter we find.  We know from our last beach clean that there is a lot of rope caught in amongst the rocks so we’ll be hoping to tackle some of that and finally get it removed.

Give Sophie an email to let us know if you’re coming down so she can buy enough biscuits for afterwards sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

Introduction to insects workshop

We have the final workshop in this summers Nature Recorders series coming up next week.  So if you’ve always wanted to know the difference between moths and butterflies or how many legs an invertebrate has and why spiders are bugs not insects then this free workshop is for you!

The workshop will be held in Whitehaven on Thursday 19th July, from 10am until 3 pm.  It’s free to attend but places must be booked via sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

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Behind the scenes at the Quarry

A few weeks ago we made one of our annual visits to Birkhams Quarry, just outside Whitehaven.

As part of their planning permission the quarry operator is required to restore areas of the quarry once they have finished being worked for stone.

At the end of 2016 topsoil from elsewhere on site was spread over the first area of restoration.  The decision was made not to use plug plants or seed the restoration area but to let it vegetate naturally using the seeds already in the topsoil.

This summer we’ve worked at the site with local volunteers doing a variety of jobs recording the species we find on site and beginning to remove plants such as bracken, nettle, dock and thistle.  If left unchecked these could become dominant and shade out the wildflowers and grasses we want to encourage. The restoration area is developing nicely and the variety of species that have already established is encouraging.

On our last visit in June 2018 we found:

Agrimony

Birds foot trefoil

Bluebell sp

Bracken

Bramble

Broad leaved dock

Burdock

Bush vetch

Catsear

Cocks foot

Common nettle

Common sorrel

Creeping thistle

Creeping buttercup

Devils bit scabious

Foxglove

Germander speedwell

Gorse

Herb Robert

Hogweed

Hop trefoil

Lesser celandine

Meadow foxtail

Ragwort

Ribwort plantain

Sheep sorrel

Silverweed

Spear thistle

Speedwell sp

Tormentil

White clover

Wood vetch

Willowherb sp

 

Wildflower workshop

Next week we have another workshop in our Nature Recorders series. We’ll be joining forces with Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre once again to deliver this workshop on wildflower and plant identification. Come along and learn how to identify wildflowers using a key, books, and hand lens. The workshop is free but booking is essential, contact sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk