Comprising a large expanse of open grassland with patches of woodland, scrub and a scattering of mature trees, the ecology of the park reflects its underlying geology as part of the Chevin escarpment. Areas at the top of the slope are dry while areas at the base are more marshy giving the park an interesting mix of habitats and biodiversity that could be improved upon with good management.
The past has shaped the park
The land has been pasture and meadow for centuries and even as Parkinson’s Park it was maintained by grazing the cows from the Creskeld herd at Ings Lane farm. This is reflected in the native species of plants and trees found within it, many of which indicate its long history and a lack of disturbance. such as the attractive species pignut conopodium majus which can be found within the semi-improved areas of the park. Lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria and bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scriptus can also be found nestling amongst the woodland.
On Great Brow there is an expanse of acid grassland, an important type of habitat which is becoming increasingly rare in this country. The sward contains a number of species including heath bedstraw Galium saxatile, sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina and tormentil Potentilla erecta and forms a striking backdrop to Netherfield Road.
Wildlife on your doorstep
The park supports a range of different habitats for wildlife, largely due to its longevity as an intact area of undisturbed land and good habitat links with wider areas of nature conservation such as the Chevin. Mature trees provide suitable roosting sites for bats and owls, both of which are known to use the area for foraging. There are roost records for pipistrelle bats in the local area, a priority species under the Leeds City Council Biodiversity Action Plan. There is potential refugia for lizards within the dry stone walls and areas of tussocky grassland with basking sites along the south-west facing slope which catches the sun on hot days. The hedgerow, which runs the length of the eastern boundary, and field margins provide good habitat for birds and small mammals. These are listed as priority habitats under the Leeds City Council Biodiversity Action Plan. Areas of scrub, woodland and marshy grassland also provide habitat for a wide range of species.
Of particular note is the line of oak trees Quercus robur planted around 1909, the line of sycamores Acer pseudoplatanus planted around the same time, and the native bluebells Hyancinthoides non-scriptus in the spring. There are a number of horse chestnut trees Aesculus hippocastanum in the park, but these unfortunately seem to be succumbing to disease and need managing. Removing fallen, diseased leaves from under the trees can help to reduce the spread of the disease but in many cases these trees need to be felled. In places fruit trees have been planted, including pear, plum and apple.
There are a range of birds that inhabit the park, including some on the RSPB’s red and amber lists. Species include starling Sturnus vulgaris, green wood-pecker Picus viridis, mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus, kestrel Falco tinnunculus, house sparrow Passer domesticus, robin Erithacus ribeccula, blue tit Parus caerulus, gold-finch Cardeulis cardeulis, greenfinch Cardeulis chloris, blackbird Turdus merula and wren Troglodytes troglodytes.
Have a walk around the park and see what wildlife you can spot
The list of plants found on the 28th October 2011 by the Wharfedale Naturalists Society – use it as a check list for how many species you can find.