‘Jewel of York’ set in stone as carving helps save beetle

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ONE of Britain’s most endangered species which is now only found along the banks of the River Ouse in Yorkshire is being recorded in stone by sculptor Peter Maris.

The last remaining habitats in England of the iridescent green tansy beetle are on small stretches of the river in the York area.

The areas where the beetle, known as “the Jewel of York”, is found include the floodplain at Water Fulford, near Bishopthorpe Palace, which is managed by the Carstairs Countryside Trust.

The trust has commissioned a marker stone to stand on the land, topped by a carving of the beetle enlarged by a magnifying glass. The sculpture will be unveiled to the public on June 9 as a joint celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the 800th anniversary since York was granted a Royal Charter, as well as National Insect Week, which runs from June 25 to July 1.

Trustee Helen Kirk said: “This is an internationally important area of grassland known as MG4 – a lot rarer than rainforest.

“The tansy beetle is quite spectacular – about a centimetre long, and vivid, iridescent green – and only lives in this tiny area of the UK.

“We want to raise awareness of York’s natural environment and this important conservation project – this marker stone is one way of doing that.”

Mr Maris was formerly a member of the conservation team working at York Minster, and he has carved his latest work out of magnesian limestone which has been quarried at Tadcaster.

He said: “It’s a lovely stone which gives a nice, crisp finish to the carving without being over-hard, and allows for different textures.”

The beetle – its iridescent green wing cases were used by the Victorians as sequins – is located where the tansy plant, from which it takes its name, still grows.