Comprising a patchwork of grassland, wetland and woodland with both scrub and a scattering of mature trees, the ecology of the park reflects the underlying millstone grit geology of the Chevin escarpment. The different habitats vary with altitude, soil chemistry, and management. The prime soil is slowly permeable, seasonally wet, acid loam and clay. Areas at the top of the slope are drier 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. These different habitats support a range of plants and wildlife, largely due to its longevity as an intact area of undisturbed meadow and pasture, together with its strong links to other natural areas and wildlife corridors.
The past has shaped the park
The land has been pasture and meadow for centuries and even as Parkinson’s Park it used to be maintained by grazing the cows from the Creskeld herd at Ings Lane farm.
1 Bottom of the Park – Wetland
The bottom of the Park is damper due to the natural springs. Here the plants indicate standing water and include Tufted hair grass Deschampsia cespitosa, Reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea, Hairy sedge Carex hirtifolia, and Soft rush Juncus effusus; Teasel Dipsacus fullonum, Black Knapweed Centaurea nigra and Self-heal Prunella vulgaris also crop up in places.
The Bog Garden – The geology at the bottom of the Park, below Great Brow is mudstone overlain with boulder clay in an area where springs emerge from the hillside – it’s always been a boggy place. In 2016 the Friends of Parkinson’s Park began a Bog Garden to support a variety of native wetland plants and wildlife
The ‘bog’ has been planted with
- Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis)
- Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis)
- Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)
- Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- Purple Loostrife (Lythrum salicaria)
- Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
- Water Avens (Geum rivale)
- Water Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis scorpioides)
- Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)
An increase in usage by the Common Frog and Smooth Newt is expected along with a range of water loving insects and birds.
2 Woodland and Mature Trees
The mixed broad-leafed wood has both planted trees eg Norway maple Acer platanoides and Horse-chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum, as well as self-seeded Birch Betula pendula and Oak Quercus robur. It supports shade loving plants including Wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, Lesser celandine Ficaria verna and native Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta. The thicket on the slope to the north-west has trees which thrive in the wetter soil eg Goat and Great willow Salix spp.
The oldest trees in 2018 are the nearly 200 year old Sycamores on Crooked Lands, and the 100 year old Oaks on Clapper Brow. Together with the Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris in the copses, the mature trees provide a habitat for bats and owls which roost in their cracks and crevices and hunt over the grassland and hedgerows. There are roost records for pipistrelle bats in the area.
3. Hedges and Copses
The various hedges of Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Elder Sambucus nigra, around the Park offer a good habitat for birds and small mammals. A wide range of birds use the Park for breeding and hunting, whilst it is on the migration route for others such as Curlews Numenius arquata and Pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus.
4. Wildflower Meadow
The grassland and open woodland support an abundance of invertebrates from butterflies and moths, to beetles, flies and bees. Species of note include small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Ringlets Aphantopus hyperantus, Meadow brown Maniola jurtina and Burnet moths Zygaena sp. Meadow wildflowers are being increased to build up a nectar rich habitat in the south-west corner.
5. Community Orchard
A number of fruit trees, apple, pear and plum have been planted in the Park over the years, either singularly or in the community orchard. Some of the apple varieties planted include Red Devil, Ribston Pippin and Yorkshire Greening.
6. Hay Meadow
Across the flatter top and southern side of the Park semi-improved grassland reflects a more neutral soil and its past use as a hay meadow. The main grasses are Cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata, and Common bentgrass Agrostis capillaris, with some Red fescue Festuca rubra, Yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus, Timothy Phleum pratense and Field wood-rush Luzula campestris. Within the sward is a small but increasing range of herbs and wildflower species including Greater birdsfoot trefoil Lotus pedunculatus, Pignut Conopodium majus, Common knapweed Centaurea nigra, Great burnet Sanguisorba officinalis , Common sorrel Rumex acetosa, Cow parsley Anthriscus sylvestris, Vetches Vicia spp and Wild garlic Allium ursinum in the woodland area.
7. Drystone Walls
The walls around the park mostly date to the 17th, 18th centuries, with even older foundations in some cases. They are a refuge for the common lizard, toads and insects, especially where they offer basking sites along the south-west facing slop of Great Brow which catches the sun. They are also good for lichens and mosses.
8. Great Brow – Acid Grassland
The steep sloping grassland at the north of the Park overlooking Nethercliffe Crescent has an acidic moorland type soil; as a result its short sward of dominant Red fescue supports species such as Heath bedstraw Galium saxatile, Sheep fescue Festuca ovina, Sheep sorrel Rumex acetosella, and Wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa.
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
Here is 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.
For children we have put together an I-Spy Trail leaflet, which you can find here.