Covid-19 may have brought life to a standstill but the woodlands have never been busier. From the beginning in March the path along Lady Edith’s Drive has been a constant stream of people and families walking to Throxenby Mere and in to the woodlands. The case for constructing a hard surface footpath all the way to the Mere can clearly be seen.
The greater use of the woodlands has not been without a few problems, especially during the very warm and sunny May when the ground conditions led to several fires lit by evening users not being extinguished and re igniting, requiring the fire brigade to attend. There have also been groups gathering for parties but leaving their bottles, cans, wrappers and BBQ’s for others to clear up. Our signs make clear No Camping, No Fires and No BBQ’s.
If you become aware of a problem please report it via our web site or by telephone. All the above issues were highlighted by woodland users reporting to us.
With more mountain bikers using the woods it has highlighted the need to clearly identify the Bridleways which bikes and horse riders can use and the Public Rights Of Way footpaths which bikes and horses should not be riding on. The footpaths are single tracks with little or no space for riders to pass safely. This has been a problem on the Boardwalk which is not a route for cyclists and the concentrated weight of the wheels on the weakened boards can cause sudden collapse. Riders have pointed out that the road in Forge Valley is unsafe especially for young or inexperienced riders.
The same road along Forge Valley and Low Road has been littered with car accidents throughout the Covid 19 pandemic. The common explanation is speed and loosing control, which is very worrying for those who walk and cycle these roads. The Authorities removed the 30mph restriction on this section allowing 60mph on a road inadequate for the volume of traffic now using it and no warning signs for motorists that they can expect pedestrians in the road.
It can be seen from the North Yorkshire County Council definitive map how many Public Rights of Way and Bridleways connect to Low Road.
Four accidents have occurred in the same 50 metres of road by the Ironbridge lay-by close to Old Mans Mouth. A stone wall and fence was destroyed in May and re built by our volunteers only to be knocked down again early July. None of the motorists provided their insurance details. It is difficult to understand how North Yorkshire County Council Highways department can find money to make the road wider and faster but not to make it safer or to re instate the footpath which runs along the western side of the highway.
In the last 2 months North York Moors National Parks Authority maintenance staff have been carrying out emergency repairs to the Boardwalk in Forge Valley and also clearing fallen trees across a Public Right of Way and installing a new footbridge on a footpath that runs from Old Mans Mouth on the east side of the road and across in to Raincliffe Woods and to Green gate car park. Over the last two years the fallen trees had forced walkers to find a route round the obstruction on very steep and slippery ground. The path is now much easier to walk and provides a safe route from Old Mans Mouth car park in to Raincliffe Woods.
RWCE Volunteers have also undertaken maintenance work alongside footpaths and bridleways to strimming back nettles and brambles. This work especially benefits those who walk in shorts and young children. We are very conscious of the need to get our volunteers back in to the woods where there is plenty of space to social distance and hope very soon to start operating sessions again. We have already had three new direct enquiries from members of the public wanting to get involved. If you would like to get involved sign up to our free membership or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seasonal changes this year have been a joy to see and hear. The Spring flowerings and the clear blue skies created some beautiful walks through the woodlands. The sighting of a Goshawk and the regular calling of buzzards is a good sign of improving bird life. Despite the deer and the grey squirrels there is evidence of natural regeneration. Holly seems to be thriving, perhaps a little more than we would like.
Our ability to invest more in our long term plans for a semi and ancient woodland status for all the complex have been given a boost. We are very pleased to let you know we have been successful in registering our application for Higher Tier Woodland Stewardship. This funding is specifically for the management of the woodlands towards Semi and Ancient Woodland status. The removal of Japanese Larch and the opening up of the Beech tree stands to regenerate the woodland floor are all covered in this scheme. We have also identified over 15 specimen trees to manage as Veteran Trees. This will help to ensure their very long life for hundreds of years hopefully, as the dying tree will remain standing for as long as possible to create habitat for insects and birds. Additional funding has also been requested to help remove rhododendrons, snowberry and shrubby honeysuckle which are all non native shrubs and suppress the natural plant life.
We hope that you can see the improvements to the overall appearance to the woods as more sunlight penetrates the tree canopy. The work on the stands of Larch will continue and this autumn we plan to clear more Larch to open up the views and create clear ground to plant native trees for the long term future of the woods.
If you enjoy the woodlands please click here to sign up as a member or use this web link https://www.raincliffewoods.co.uk/membership/
Membership is free and open to all visitors and users.