East of Eden

30 days wild, Day 9

I spent some time exploring an area east of Eden Camp, near Malton on Saturday, along quiet lanes north of the Malton by-pass. The purpose was to check out a square I volunteered to survey for the long term habitat survey scheme called NPMS. The acronym stands for National Plant Monitoring Scheme, and it is organised and orchestrated by the national wild plant charity Plantlife.

The surveying methods for the NPMS did prove a little more involved than I had first appreciated but hopefully I selected good, representative plots for long term monitoring. The first visit is always going to be trickiest, as the idea is to establish easily re-locatable plots, either 5x5m square or 1x25m linear plots for features like hedgerows and arable field margins.

The task entailed studying maps and aerial photos, taking GPS readings of the locations chosen, as well as photos of the plots and a field sketch to show the location. Once done, there is a survey form to complete for each of the five plots per 1km OS grid square. Depending upon one’s level of botanical savour-faire, there are three levels of survey, of increasing scientific value and demanding increasing competence in identification. There is a selected Wildflower list to search for in each type of habitat. Further to this one can record a longer list of Indicator species, to include some grasses as well as shrubs and wildflowers. Finally, demanding the greatest degree of experience there is an option to record an Inventory, that is to identify all the species found in the plot.

It took a lot of walking about to find suitable plots to survey, as I wanted to be sure they were representative and to rule out first the preferred locations suggested by the scheme organiser, based upon where natural habitats were expected to be found. 15,000 steps later I had decided upon and recorded species lists for three of these five plots and certainly got to know better a small corner of North Yorkshire which I have passed by, in a car or bus numerous times but never investigated on foot. Luckily the Eden Camp bus stop is handy for this grid square. A recent re-configuration of the road junction (new roundabout, drainage ditches and landscaping for the Food Entreprise Zone business park to come) added some interest and challenge to the task. It will be interesting to see these newly seeded and landscaped areas develop.

Hopefully I made a decent fist of my first survey. A repeat in late summer is called for and thereafter annual surveys to monitor change.

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