An inspiring example on our doorstep – Bilton Fields
We don’t have to look far to see what a fine legacy we can leave for future generations when foresight and community effort are combined in a nature conservation project.
Bilton Fields, on the edge of Nidd Gorge, is a nearby biodiversity hotspot that provides a place of escape and tranquillity on the edge of the urban area.
It hasn’t always been this way though.
Keith Wilkinson of Bilton Conservation Group explains:
The history of this site prior to 1980s was agricultural, varying from arable to grazing for cattle (last use). Careful reversion to fallow, with seasonal grass mowing (cropped use) and prohibition of herbicides, fungicides and any form of fertiliser, has produced the meadow glades we see today between the growing trees.
Orchids, yellow rattle, agaricomycete fungi and range of traditional meadow flowers have returned...along with Bank vole, field vole, common shrew, mole, weasel, stoat, toad, frog, slowworm, grasshopper and a healthy representation of insects and invertebrates....including grass-loving butterflies - meadow brown, ringlet, six spot Burnet Moth etc.
The developing woodland plantings and marginal shrubs are now home to thrushes, blackbirds, Robin, chaffinch etc. Where deeper vegetation abuts the growing hedge species we find those summer visitors which nest at ground level - such as whitethroat, whereas the native hedge species provide nesting opportunities for Yellowhammer and linnet.
The success of the (new) meadow habitat has seen the rare skylark nesting for each of the last 7 years, and the population of small grassland mammals has attracted Barn Owl, Buzzard and Red Kite.... which may be seen hunting here.
The mature meadow land and range of tree species/heights/ages with its attendant myriad of micro habitats is an inspiring example of what can be achieved with a proper, 40-year management process to recover the reversion and conversion of old farm land .....from monoculture grass to the rich biodiversity we enjoy today.
This kind of managed habitat, so close to the urban fringe, is a rare treasure!
Pictures courtesy of Stuart Ibbotson and Keith Wilkinson