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HUTTON LOWCROSS AND HUTTON VILLAGE by Ted Parker

Ted Parker describes this scenic area on the edge of Guisborough, which, until recently, was the location for two of Cleveland’s rarest birds.

BACKGROUND

Hutton Lowcross lies on the southwest fringe of Guisborough and is a very scenic area of forested hills, deciduous and coniferous woodlands, pasture, parkland, copses and hedgerows. There are also houses with large, mature gardens. In the recent past, it was the most reliable site in Cleveland for two of its rarest birds – Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Hawfinch, which may still be present but haven’t been seen in recent years. The parkland and mixed woodlands between Sandwood Park and Hutton Village hold a good range of breeding birds, which include Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Siskin and Common Crossbill. During early spring, Goshawks can occasionally be seen over the wooded ridges above Hutton Village, along with other more common raptors such as Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. There is access to the whole area both by road and by public footpaths and bridleways, and it is well worth a visit at any time of the year.

ACCESS, LOCATION AND STRATEGY

Hutton Village is accessed from Hutton Village Road, which begins at the junction of The Avenue and Hutton Lane, just off the sharp left hand bend where the two roads meet. Park at Sandwood Park and begin your exploration of the area from here, starting with the wooded embankment of the old railway immediately bordering the road. This was a reliable location for Hawfinch in the recent past. The surrounding well-treed, mature gardens hold good numbers of woodland and parkland birds, especially in autumn and winter. Check the beck near the junction of Sandwood Park and Hutton Village Road: this held a wintering Dipper in 2009.

Returning to Hutton Village Road, check the mature trees on the old railway embankment and in the ‘triangle’ bordering the track leading to Hutton Hall Lodge. This used to be another reliable Hawfinch location. The surrounding fields, pastures and mature trees are good for woodpeckers and Nuthatch. Just before the ‘triangle’, a track leads off to the left to Pease Close and this borders mature gardens with fine mature trees on one side and pasture and a copse on the other. This was the key location for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the recent past, when it could be heard calling or, if you were lucky, seen feeding in the canopy or flying from one tree to another. Sadly, this highly elusive species in Cleveland hasn’t been seen at Hutton since 2005.

Return to Hutton Village Road and walk up towards the village, past the entrance to Home Farm, now developed for new housing. A good scan of the pastures, hedgerows and woodland edges on each side of the road should produce a good range of woodland and parkland species. This area is particularly good for winter thrushes. Continue up the road to the track that leads off to the left to the old schoolhouse. Walk down the track and check the yew trees near the schoolhouse: this was the place for wintering Hawfinch, where up to five birds could be seen feeding on the berries and cones. Sadly, none has been seen here since 2009. Continue down the track and past the intriguing timber house to the stile bordering open pasture, scanning the mature trees and open parkland beyond. This is an excellent location for Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.

Return to Hutton Village Road and continue up to the village. The yew trees at the ‘triangle’ near the top of the village was also another reliable site for wintering Hawfinch, so it is always worth checking these just in case! The woodland fringes bordering the village hold a very good range of birds and don’t forget to scan the ridges above for raptors, notably Common Buzzard, Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. A gated bridleway at the end of the village leads into Guisborough Forest, which has been covered in a previous Site Guide. Retrace your route back to your car. This itinerary can easily be covered in half a day but a longer exploration may well produce a wider range of birds.

 

Hutton Hall

Hills above Hutton Hall

The Old School House

Entrance to Guisborough Forest

BIRDS

The best times to visit this area are spring, autumn and winter, although it is worth a visit at any time, due to the wide range of habitats.

Birds of prey, such as Common Buzzard, Goshawk and Sparrowhawk, are best looked for over the wooded ridges above Hutton Village in early spring when they are displaying or in late summer and autumn when young birds are on the wing. Kestrel is regular and there is always the chance of a migrant Hobby if you are very lucky. Woodpeckers can be seen anywhere along the route and Great Spotted is almost guaranteed. Green Woodpecker is much scarcer and is best looked for in the open parkland around the old schoolhouse and fields beyond the timber house, where it can occasionally be heard ‘yaffling’. There is a remote possibility that Lesser Spotted Woodpecker still survives here, although with no records since January and February 2005, this is doubtful. People should still keep looking and listening, however, particularly along the track between Hutton Village Road and Pease Close. The area by the ‘triangle’ is a good spot for Nuthatch, as is the open parkland adjacent to the track leading to the old schoolhouse, where they can often be heard calling and, with patience, seen well. Other species that may be seen anywhere along the route include Pied and Grey Wagtails, Blackcap. Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Treecreeper and Long-tailed Tit.

The pastures on either side of Hutton Village Road, particularly those on the western side after the Home Farm track, are excellent for winter thrushes and good numbers of Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Redwing are present on occasions. Siskins are best looked for in the area between Sandwood Park and the ‘triangle’ or the trees bordering Hutton Village Lane just before the track to the old schoolhouse. In late autumn and winter, flocks of over 100 have been recorded on occasions. These are often accompanied by smaller numbers of Lesser Redpoll and Brambling (the latter favouring beech trees) and the former should always be checked in late autumn and winter for the uncommon Mealy and rare Arctic Redpoll. It is still worth looking for Hawfinch in the yew trees by the old schoolhouse but your chances of finding one now are remote in view of the lack of records from Hutton over the past three years.

Cuckoo occurs in some years, whereas Jays can be seen anywhere along the route and sometimes number up to a dozen birds late in the season. Listen out for their screeching call notes. Collared Doves are found around the houses in Hutton Village and Tawny and Little Owls breed but are difficult to see. Check the old, mature trees for the latter species. Marsh and Willow Tits are probably present but are not regularly reported from the Hutton area, so keep a lookout for these scarce Cleveland species. Common Crossbills occasionally frequent the coniferous plantations on the west side of Hutton Village Road after the track to Home Farm: listen out for their give-away “chip-chip-chip” flight calls which help to locate them. Flock sizes vary from year to year but one of 530 in July 2009 was exceptional.

This area is generally under-watched, so a visit at any time may well produce results.

Cottage gardens and wooded ridge

 


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