Three Hagges

Wood meadow

Public Access Biodiversity Project Selby

Managed by The Woodmeadow Trust on behalf of Escrick Estates

Site details

Recorders: Meg Abu Hamdan, Chris Abbott and Nick Hall Length 3140m Walk Time 1-1.25 hour

A former barley field converted for biodiversity in 2013 lies on the south edge of the Escrick glacial moraine on the northern edge of the Humberhead levels. The sandy silt soil, wet in the south of the site was once part of Skipwith Common, a SSSI representing what the Vale of York would have resembled before Intensive agriculture and drainage of this field post WW2. It became part of Skipwith Airfield in 1940's The eastern edge bounding the meadow is Hollicarrs with some fine old Oaks and even signs of Elm Coppice.

The woodmeadow was created to build on its local botanical heritage as the area is famous for the rare MG5 damp grassland of the Lower Derwent close. The plan was to incorporate meadow with carefully planned copses of native trees and coppice areas in order to maximise biodiversity. 40% of the area is seeded with local provenance meadow mix seed by.1200 invertebrate species have been recorded and more arrive each year along with a new species of butterfly each year. It has benefitted not only being close to ancient woodland and Skipwith Common as a source but in being close to the old North Selby Mine abandoned for nearly 20 years. It has abundant invertebrates including scarce butterfly species such as Dingy Skipper, 6 belted clearwing, Marbled White and Small Heath which have made their way to the meadow


The transect is damp in the south S1 section with reed and sallow regrowth The transect route skirts the. The route enter Bomber wood in S5, an old dispersal area of the airfield still with its oak trees, then around the boundary of a intensive agriculture field S6, into an improved hay meadow S7, and then on into the PAWS woodland S8 and returning along a shady dyke side S9 that bounds the meadow. Section counts below

Results: 2021

Numbers down overall after a very bad start but a good recovery. Dingy Skipper now breeding on site

The beginning of the season was atrocious with cold, often wet weather right up to June which resulted in very few butterflies seen but also missed walking weeks. It also created a big delay in the start of the main summer season by up to 2 weeks. Both May and June were almost months without butterflies even with the better June weather. Transect walkers across the country became quite concerned. However when it did start, the bounce back was good!! Also, species recovered well in their second generation. The bad effects of the spring were particularly pronounced on our hibernating species that held out till May but then succumbed before laying an egg. The few that made it through were then a month late.

Stand out species were first Small Tortoiseshell and then Gatekeeper but also Orange Tip and Brown Argus did better. As you can see from the trend analysis most of the losses were among the Skippers, Whites Blues and Vanessids while the Browns had a fabulous time! The less numerous species seemed to suffer the most but this follows similar trends throughout Yorkshire. It was our poorest season so far, numbers being near 8% slightly worse than the Yorkshire average. Everywhere grass growth was strong this year and the sward height was much higher than normal and less floral as a result of competition. It is worth pointing out the previous three dry warm springs which had become a pattern since 2018 went firmly in reverse in 2021 with a very weak undulating jet stream causing alternating weeks of cold arctic air being dragged south and then warm Spanish plumes being dragged north! Yorkshire seemed to live directly under this crazy switch with both Scotland and parts of the Dales , southern UK and particularly Europe getting a better summer.

3HWM Transect report 2020

The standout success of the year was Dingy Skipper appearing now to be breeding just south of the pond and Brown Argus also breeding although this species tends to be migratory . Large Skipper had a bit of a boom year while the trend over Yorkshire was strongly down(-25%) while in contrast Small Skipper was the opposite and had a bad year while in Yorkshire there was little change. The reasons for this are unknown although the weather remains chief suspect although there could be a management element. Brimstone was down as they are elsewhere in Yorkshire and the new generation was a disaster so we should expect next spring to see reduced numbers. The cause we suspect is the poor spring and being heavily predated by hungry birds. The 2 cabbage whites after a bad start had a good finish but Large White was down 5% and Small White well down 40% which follows the Yorkshire trends down 5% and 27% respectively . Green-veined White was average -3% and Yorkshire was also unchanged. Orange Tip had a better than average year even with the weather during its flight season up 8% and in Yorkshire up 25%. Small Copper had a very poor year -45% as did the Common Blue -43% and numbers continue to fall for the third year. However the Yorkshire trends are also down over the same term. Neither Holly Blue or Purple Hairstreak were seen this year although numbers are always very low. In Yorkshire Holy Blue had a disastrous 1st generation but rallied on the second but was down on all transects! The Dark Green Fritillary was not seen this year and although not near as good a year as last its movement north continues and it remains Yorkshire's fastest expanding species using the magnesian limestone ridge's woods and meadows as its pathway.

Amongst our Vanessids Small Tortoiseshell stands out again as it does elsewhere in having a second if not an even better year than last up 42% and in Yorkshire up near 90% even with last years boom. There were very high numbers on the second generation. Peacock and Comma were average although the second generation of Peacock was a disaster as it was throughout Yorkshire. The trend for Yorkshire's Comma is also down. Red Admiral was down 50% and follows the Yorkshire trend and we only saw numbers right at the end of the season. Amongst the Browns, the headline is Gatekeeper had an exceptional year up19% and in Yorkshire up 66% and Marbled White was seen again so we know it is testing the site for suitability! Both Meadow Brown and Ringlet, by far the most numerous species, were average, although both species were quite late emerging.

2021 had the potential and we began to believe it was going to be a disaster... it wasn't! However we should expect spring 2022 to reflect lower numbers entering hibernation particularly Peacock.

Results: 2020

The Browns boom! Dark -Greeen Fritillary and Marbled White visit!!

The Meadow’s highlight in 2020 was the appearance of the Dark Green Fritillary seen on several occasions but not recorded on the transect. This species was also the highlight of Yorkshire with large numbers recorded and individuals turning up in gardens and appears to going through a migratory phase. In addition the Dingy skipper reappeared on several occasions plus a pair of Marbled Whites were seen by Chris Abbott. The summer downpours in the woodland meant the trees were washed clean of their honeydew, the major food source of some of our canopy dwelling species like the Hairstreaks and they revealed their presence for the first time at low level and occasionally, very unusually, taking nectar. Several Purple Hairstreaks were seen in Bomber wood . The large Wych Elm in the corner of the meadow did not yield any sightings.

Eight species were significantly down even after making some adjustments for the missed weeks. This is likely the effects of 2019 heat on survival of eggs and larvae and the absence of Painted Ladies which were recorded in good numbers in 2019.There was also a significant drop in Red Admirals which are also migratory. Comma and Peacock were down we think due to nectar shortage as this was not the case elsewhere. Small Copper joined Large Skipper with rather low numbers. Common Blue had a disastrous year. Gatekeeper was also down somewhat which could be attributed possibly to 2019 heat or the 2020 spring drought while its caterpillars were feeding up. 6 species showed an increase. Most notable was Small Tortoiseshell numbers were hugely improved returning to much more normal levels after several bad years. Nationally a similar picture was seen with some areas showing large gains but southern England continued with poor figures. This is thought to be much more to do with its parasites. Whites showed similar gains here and elsewhere. It was also better news amongst the Browns (apart from Gatekeeper). Meadow Brown had a super year and made up the numbers lost from the other species plus a lot more and are largely responsible for the larger total of butterflies reported. It achieved 4 weeks of numbers greater than 100 individuals compared to just 2 weeks in 2019. Looking at how individual sections of the transects faired we can see section 3 stands out ( that is the walk along the eastern boundary) and abounded in Browns. The main meadow sections of 1, 2 and 4 were similar but the agricultural field numbers were well down. Bomber wood had sustained nectar and was a solid performer through the season with the richest range of species much like Bishop Wood and numbers were similar in the other sections