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News article

Natural England funding boost for threatened species in York   

Published: 14 September 2023

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A tiny floating raft on a stretch of river

Special raft for water voles to monitor their populations on the River Foss

York St John University is pleased to announce a successful bid for Natural England funding to support the University’s environmental work along the River Foss. The University has secured £39,300 from the Species Recovery Programme Capital Grant Scheme.   

63 projects across the country, including 8 in Yorkshire, have today (14 September) been awarded a share of £14.5 million by Natural England to help recover 150 species nationwide.   

York St John is partnering with St Nicks conservation charity to deliver the work in York. This will include a tansy trail, pond building, species and habitat surveys and riverbank restoration at the “Foss Fields” nature site adjacent to the University’s Sports Park on Haxby Road. The work on the banks of the River Foss ties in with St Nicks ‘Green Corridors York’ programme.  

The two creatures at the centre of the York project are the water vole and tansy beetle, both found at the site and both in danger of dying out. Work will also aim to support declining populations of the great crested newt.  

The water vole is a much-loved British mammal, famously the inspiration for ‘Ratty’ in the classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows. Water voles are vulnerable to extinction in Great Britain and have undergone one of the most serious declines of any mammal in Britain. Between 1989 and 1998, the population fell by almost 90 per cent thanks to pollution, habitat degradation and the spread of invasive American mink.  

Affectionately known as the Jewel of York, the tansy beetle is known for its striking emerald green colour with an iridescent sheen. The beetles live mainly on the tansy plant from which they take their name and are prioritised for conservation due to declining numbers and flood risk to current habitats, chiefly on the Great Ouse in York. York St John University has worked with the Tansy Beetle Action Group (TBAG) to develop an ark habitat at its Haxby Road site adjacent to the Foss. This is an insurance population in case of a serious flood on the Ouse during a vulnerable period in the beetle's life cycle.  

Simon Davis, York St John University Grounds Manager said: “We are really pleased to have been awarded this Species Recovery Grant from Natural England. It will be major boost to our work to preserve endangered species at our Foss Fields nature site at the Haxby Road Sports Park.  

“The Grounds team will be working in partnership with charities including York’s flagship environmental charity St Nicks and there will be volunteering for students, staff and members of the public. We’d love people to get involved and to contribute to projects such as pond and river side restoration, wildflower planting and tansy trail enhancement along with the customary annual session of Balsam Bashing! 

“All these exciting projects will ultimately improve the area, putting “Foss Fields” firmly on the map as a designated space for nature.” 

Julia Dyman, York St John University Energy Officer said: “While we have received positive feedback from the public that our nature area provides a place for human enjoyment, we feel that more can be done to create an ecologically rich community that benefits many species.  
“Seeing water vole and great crested newt populations rebounding in York would be especially rewarding, and we hope that our project will help make that a reality.”  

Maria Gill, St Nicks Green Corridors Officer said: “We are very excited to be working with York St John on this important species recovery project.

"Improving habitat for water voles and tansy beetle on the River Foss fits into our wider habitat restoration project, Green Corridors York, and supports nature recovery for the whole river. With the team from the University having done a lot of work already to support the tansy beetle population, it is a perfect partnership!”  

Find out more about Sustainability and environment at York St John University.





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