Looking outwards: recording nature – Part One

“The natural world is the greatest source of excitement. The greatest source of visual beauty. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”

David Attenborough

Sam Newton – Land of Iron Natural Heritage Officer

You don’t necessarily need to go far to observe nature.

Over the last couple of months, whilst in my garden or taking limited exercise, I have come across early purple orchids on nearby road verges, heard curlew and lapwings in the neighbouring fields, and hunted under stones and on plants for various beetles and bugs. This, along with my gardening for wildlife, has really helped me deal with the lockdown that has been affecting us all, while at the same time developing a better understanding of the wildlife around my home which I will continue to make the most of.

There are lots and lots of Citizen Science projects out there that rely on the general public to collect records/observations/measurements and then report this data to environmental organisations. By analysing the collated data it’s possible for these organisations to get some sort of picture/trend for species and habitats and then hopefully recognise and understand changes. In most cases these projects rely on the general public collecting the data to make them possible. The more data there is the more useful the analysis can be. The more data there is for where you are the more useful the analysis can be for your area.

We’re getting towards the end of the Bee-Fly Watch. This scheme records the several species of Bee-flies across the UK from March until June – the only one we are likely to see in North Yorkshire is the Dark-edged Bee-fly. Did you even know they existed?

In the summer there will be the Big Butterfly Count, which will be taking place from the 17 July – 9 August this year.

A garden focused survey is the Garden Butterfly Survey, in which you can record the butterflies you see over the whole year. This scheme helps Butterfly Conservation to learn more about butterfly populations and how they use gardens.

Similarly the British Trust for Ornithology have their own Garden BirdWatch, where you can contribute your weekly garden bird sightings to help keep an eye on populations and again, how they’re using gardens.

The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species have a Big Hedgehog Map. If you happen to see a hedgehog or if you’ve kindly made a gap in your garden fence for them to pass through (a hedgerow hole), please report in.

For those of you who are keener on something maybe not so sweet, you could have your own slug hunt and send in your data to the RHS cellar slug survey. If you only have a set amount of time to concentrate you could do a quick Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count) as part of the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS), or if you want to get engrossed try measuring involucres and achenes for the BSBI ragwort study project.

Your local observations are also very important for long term monitoring of the influence of climate change on the natural world. Have a look at the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar, and record your phenology based sightings such as hearing your first cuckoo of the year.

Help your garden to help nature…

It’s definitely not cheating to try and attract more of this wildlife you’re recording into your own garden, if you’re lucky enough to have one. It’s helpful.

There is a lot of information out there about how to make changes to your garden to be more accommodating for biodiversity.

Insects are a vital part of biodiversity. Have a look for ideas on the Buglife and Bumblebee Conservation Trust websites.

Image of Hoverfly LagoonsThey may not be the most glamorous of pollinators but there are lots of species of Hoverflies in the UK. Because of their tendency to hover in the same place for minutes at a time they are great to look at. To draw Hoverflies into your garden make your own Buzz Club Hoverfly Lagoon.

The RSPB have an initiative called Give Nature a Home suggesting activities for your garden ranging from digging damp ditches and providing deadwood habitat, to building bee hotels and bird nest boxes, and planting for pollinators.

If you’re looking to help pollinators locally you might want to make your own mini meadow. This how-to guide is aimed particularly at the dryish North York Moors. I did this on part of my own lawn, which is now full of wildflowers, from Birds-foot-trefoil and Knapweed, to Yellow rattle, Oxeye daisy and Rough hawkbit – and I only have to cut the grass once a year! Other areas I leave as tussocky grass to benefit over-wintering insects. If you’re desperate to keep using your lawn mower, you could set the cutting blades to the highest setting to encourage Clovers, Self heal and Dandelions to flower in your lawn.

Part of Sam's own lawn with Knapweed, Oxeye daisy, Dandelion, Birds-foot trefoil, Yarrow, Yellow rattle and more. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

For more inspiration I’d suggest reading Dave Goulson’s The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet.

Sam observed the current Covid-19 guidelines during his activities. Keep up to date with the latest National Park response to Covid-19 – see here.

Reconnecting people to the near and far past

Paul Thompson – Ryevitalise Programme Officer

Ryevitalise is reaching out with its ‘Rye Reflections – inspired by the river’ project. We’re currently putting a call out for people to send in their memories of wildlife encounters, past activities and changes in land management practices so we can record these experiences before these precious memories are lost.  We want to document change that has happened within the living memory of our communities, providing a framework that shaped how we connect with our local landscape today and how our children will connect with this landscape in the future.

We will share these memories with local school students, encouraging them to compare these experiences with their own, highlighting the differences and similarities and inspiring them to protect our catchment habitats in the longer term.

Old photographic image of Rievaulx.

I’m really excited about Rye Reflections, and what we might find out about the landscape we think we know so well.  I remember seeing hedgehogs regularly in my garden, and my car number plate used to get covered in dead flies in the 90’s, but these are no longer common sights in 2020.  I can’t wait to hear what memories our local community have about growing up and living around the catchment of the river Rye.  I hope to share these stories and help people reconnect with nature and the river.

If you have any wildlife memories, old photographs, journals or other records that might help us inspire the next generation of landscape guardians – please get in touch with me by email or post (North York Moors NPA, The Old Vicarage, Bondgate, Helmsley, York, YO62 5BP).

And that’s not all…we’re already underway with Rediscovering the Rye project …

Amy Carrick – Ryevitalise Education & Engagement Officer

Humans have lived with, and adapted the Rye from the earliest times. The story of how and why humans adapted their environments can be traced through the ages; from low-impact exploitation in Bilsdale during the Mesolithic era, to the beginnings of dramatic alterations and clearances for cultivation purposes in the Neolithic era. Current land managers have inherited these changes which bring about the opportunity to learn about these old practices, especially the use of the flowing waters of the Rye for farming, metal extraction and working. There is documentary evidence of the manipulation of the Rye by the monks of Rievaulx Abbey, including a long-established ‘canals’ theory. Land in Bilsdale belonged to the Abbey as an important grange site with a prototype blast furnace at Laskill and was the location of the quarries for which much of abbey’s construction relied. Dissolution destruction of this technically advanced furnace (c. 1530s) is suggested by metallurgical expert Gerry McDonnell to have delayed the Industrial Revolution by 250 years.

On the earth science side, there is a complicated story of how the Rye runs along various complex geologies, impacting on the unusual behaviour of the water; disappearing down sinkholes, bubbling up unexpectedly at springs, flash floods and how communities have managed to adapt to the unexpected ways of the river.

But where to start? We needed to design a project to enhance our understanding of the Ryevitalise landscape through river science and field investigation but also provides a unique and engaging way for our volunteers to engage with archaeology.  Which lead us to….LiDAR! LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) is a relatively new technique that records ‘lumps and bumps’ on the ground using a laser mounted aeroplane. LiDAR data, originally commissioned by the Environment Agency for non-archaeological purposes, is available in most areas of the Ryevitalise catchment. This data can be processed into LiDAR maps that show the ground surface in amazing detail beneath the trees and vegetation, including previously unrecorded archaeological features.

Example of a 1km LiDAR data grid square.

So with our 30 eager volunteers and academics from Durham and York Universities Ryevitalise hase set about this exciting project, the initial stages of which can usefully be done at home! Volunteers will be given their own 1km square of LiDAR, within the Ryevitalise area, to analyse and annotate for any possible archaeological sites. These will then be validated by our project consultant, Paul Frodsham (ORACLE Heritage Services), leading to a list of intriguing sites to explore further through Ryevitalise …

Although this particular project now has a full quota of volunteers, if you might be interested in other Ryevitalise volunteer opportunities, please see here.

Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme logos

A to Z: a variety of Us and Vs

U, V

Underwood

Underwood is a term for trees within historically managed woodland (Silva minuta in the Domesday Book) – the ones grown and managed for common usage such as wattle for buildings, stakes for fencing, and firewood and charcoal for fuel i.e. not for building timber. A managed woodland often included underwood as well as timber trees left to grow big and straight. Underwood is made up of the trees that were coppiced and pollarded over and over again – from early history on to the post medieval period.

The underwood was managed frequently so trees stayed smallish, and their crop of wood was productively harvested much more often than from the timber trees and so the underwood could be worth more than the timber. What is left of the historic underwood can sometimes still be seen within semi natural ancient woodland – look for idiosyncratic-shaped overgrown veteran trees. Because the trees were managed and encouraged to rejuvenate they have lived a lot longer than single timber trees which were felled. They are as much cultural heritage as natural heritage. 

Veteran tree - grown up underwood - in the upper Rye catchment. Copyright NYMNPA.

Whereas oak and beech might be more likely to have been left to become timber trees, the quicker growing underwood species were often more of a mix such as crab apple, holly, service, ash, sallow, hazel, maple, thorn, wych elm, birch. Careful rotation would be needed to give the different species the best chance to flourish and to ensure there was always wood available to the people who had the rights to collect it. The species mix were what came naturally in different parts of the country and what thrived in local conditions.

From the 18th century onwards, as demand altered, the products from underwood became less valuable and timber trees became more so, and therefore the management and species proportions of woodlands changed. During the 20th century predominantly conifer planted woodland for timber prevailed.

Urra

Urra Moor, part of the Cleveland Hills, contains the highest point on the North York Moors – 454 metres above sea level, at Round Hill. There is a lot of prehistoric archaeology in the area – cairns, lithic scatters and a flint arrow head find. Being at the highest point for miles around is always going to be useful for humans as well as significant.

There is some disagreement over where the unusual name Urra comes from. Most simply it might mean hill from the Norse haugr, or it could imply a more impressionistic idea of the darkness and gloom of such a wild barren area and be from the Old English word for dirty – horheht/horhig/horuweg. Try speaking the words without pronouncing most of the consonants.

Trig Point on top of Round Hill, Urra Moor. Copyright NYMNPA.

Obviously it’s not the time to explore Urra Moor, due to the Covid-19 situation. Please do not travel into or around the North York Moors National Park unless this is absolutely essential (essential travel does not include travel for exercise or to second homes and holiday accommodation). The National Park will be here waiting for you to enjoy when it is safe to do so.

Urtica dioica

The European stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is found where there are high amounts of nutrients in the soil and so is usually associated with habitation and other types of development. It is often frowned upon as a ‘pernicious weed’ because it is such a successful perennial that spreads through its rhizomes and runners, out competing other plants. At least it wont be suffocating many wildflowers however as many of those don’t appreciate nutrient rich soils.

Urtica dioica has serrated edged leaves and small grouped flowers. The leaves and stem are covered in hairs the tips of which can deliver a biochemical sting into your skin if touched (Urtica comes from the latin word for burn). This active element may be one of the reasons some people think it has medical efficacy. The plant can be usefully added to compost, and it (as a young plant only) can be used as an ingredient in food and drink, the immediate danger being in the collection rather than the eventual digestion. N.B. Don’t partake of any wild plant unless you are absolutely sure you know what it is and whether it really is edible or not. 

From a biodiversity point of view the nettle is particularly useful as a living plant because it acts as a host for the eggs and then provides vital food for the caterpillar stage for a multitude of butterfly and moth species – including Comma (Polygonia c-album), Peacock (Aglais io), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa), Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum), Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis), Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae), Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli humuli), Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya ruralis), Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum), Snout (Hypena proboscidalis), Spectacle (Abrostola tripartita), White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda).

Red Admiral caterpillar on nettle plant. From Butterfly Conervation website.

Verjuice

Verjuice (Verjus) is the liquor that comes from pressing unripe fruit. The word means ‘green juice’ – ‘green’ conveying the tart un-ripeness of the fruit. The fruit used depended on what was available in the region. In and around the North York Moors that would have largely been crab apples, and maybe gooseberries. The fruit would have been pressed/crushed to abstract the liquor. The remaining mush could be fed to animals like pigs. The liquor could be used to flavour food with sourness – it is very acidic, like lemon juice before lemons were widely available, like a mild vinegar or a bad wine – and as medicine or tonic. The Crab apple tree (Malus sylvestris) is native to Britain and the trees were mostly wild in the past, although sometimes used in fencing (i.e. manipulating woody species to create enclosure hedges). In the 19th/early 20th century foraged crab apples were collected along with orchard fruit from the North York Moors to be sent off to jam factories; crab apples have a particularly high level of pectin to help the jam set.

Crab Apple Tree in Tripsdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

There are a couple of records of parts of Verjuice presses included in the North York Moors Historic Environment Record (HER 840 and HER 19525). There is also at least one ‘crab mill’ which would have been driven by a horse, conserved as a feature in village of Sutton under Whitestonecliffe on the edge of the Moors. Crab apple trees are much less common than they were, both in the wild and in the hedgerows.

Image of a Crab Mill

Vernacular

Vernacular buildings were domestic and functional. They were ordinary in their time – built out of local materials (what was to hand) using traditional techniques. The vernacular buildings in each area might look similar, but are very rarely identical. It is this local distinctiveness that makes these buildings particularly important nowadays and therefore the best examples are worthy of being listed.  From the 19th century onwards materials became more easily transported around, house building was done on a more uniform and larger scale, architectural techniques and fashions were reiterated across the country – so the term vernacular is mainly used only for pre 19th century buildings..

Vernacular buildings have been described as a component of the landscape and not just because they’re built from materials hoved out of the local geology. The buildings needed an appropriate toughness to withstand the weather.  They are patched up over time to stay useful sometimes these phases of building add to the character sometimes they might deflect. But vernacular buildings,  whether they’re listed or not, always have a connection back to the people who built them, lived in them, drank in them, kept their animals in them. 

In the North York Moors vernacular buildings that still stand are mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries. The most typical are built from sandstone and clay pantiles. Around Whitby cut ashlar blocks and quoins (corner stones) are common instead, and along the south edge of the Moors buildings are often built out of mixed rubble and quoins or sometimes gritstones/limestone. Materials were often re-used; after the Dissolution (mid 16th century) new or repaired buildings around some of the dissolved Abbeys and Priories of the North York Moors ended up a characterful mix of the vernacular and the spectacular.

Whereas it can be easy to see why stately homes, churches and castles are listed (protected for the nation), it can be more difficult to identify which of the many vernacular buildings of England should be listed too. Historic England have a series of Listing Selection Guides.

Vernacular building (not listed), after repairs - Raisdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … ABCDEF, GHI, J, KL, M, N, O, PQRS, T

Interiors

Kelsey Blain – Development Management Graduate Trainee

When you find yourself in your home a bit more than you’ve been used to you might want to look up and consider your ceilings.

Our Building Conservation Team are particularly keen on the ceilings in older houses and buildings in the North York Moors that have historic interest and value that can be easily lost but could be skilfully repaired.

Ceiling and frieze of the first-floor great chamber, Helmsley Castle, Yorks (c.1582). From http://clairegapper.info/Plaster ceilings (and walls) form an important historic, architectural and aesthetic feature in many of the historic buildings within the National Park and elsewhere. They are often composed of lime or earth and can be finished to varying degrees of ornamentation depending on the status of the building or room in which they are housed. Ornate examples may be found within the high status buildings such as Helmsley Castle (currently closed), where the design and finish of the ceilings often reflects the wealth and standing of the building’s previous residents.

Interior plaster walls and ceilings in Spout House, Bilsdale. Copyright NYMNPA.More functional styles of plaster ceiling can be found within the vernacular buildings of the North York Moors, such as Spout House in Bilsdale (currently closed), where the composition and application of the plaster is indicative of the building’s traditional character.

As such, plaster ceilings and wall coverings provide a useful insight into the cultural and architectural history of a building and make an important contribution to a building’s significance. It is for this reason that the repair of plaster ceilings should always be preferred to their replacement in order to conserve the historic, evidential and aesthetic value that they possess. Furthermore, repairing traditional plasters over replacing them has a lower carbon footprint, and traditional materials better preserve the health of the building.

Here is a recent instance of repairs being carried out to a particularly fine plaster ceiling in nearby York which might not be exactly typical – but repairing all sorts of lath and plaster ceilings is possible. Our Building Conservation team can offer advice and help (by email or phone but currently not in person) if you are lucky enough to have a likely building in the North York Moors.

Get creative

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Do you have an artistic side and want to help conserve our industrial heritage in the North York Moors?

If so, take the opportunity to get creative and join in with our fantastic Land of Iron Vintage Poster Competition! We are looking for entries from people inspired by the rich heritage of the moors. You will have the chance to display your unique art work at the Inspired by… gallery at The Moors National Park Centre in autumn 2020, and to have your art shown across the North York Moors and beyond.

The North York Moors has an important industrial history that has left us with iconic monuments and evocative heritage. The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme is celebrating this by conserving and opening up access to many of these historic sites, and telling the stories through interpretation, exhibitions and events. A small army of volunteers has been recruited to get things done and a series of management plans is being developed to help care for the heritage long into the future.

For now please don’t travel into or around the North York Moors, due to the current Coronavirus/Covid-19 restrictions*.

The Land of Iron will be here waiting for you to enjoy when it is safe to do so again. In the meantime you could be designing a competition poster in the comfort and safety of your own home. Use our Land of Iron website pages, this Blog and a couple of our Pinterest Boards – LoI North York Moors Pinterest Board and Railway Posters – to help inspire your sequestered imagination.

This Vintage Poster Competition has been conceived to promote this industrial heritage and to help support its ongoing care. We are looking for a range of vintage and railway poster-style artworks that convey these industrial heritage stories, the monuments left behind, and the nature that has reclaimed the landscape since the industry left.

The competition is now open. It’s open to everyone, regardless of age or ability level – and it’s free to enter. For all the details of how to apply and what happens next please have a look here.

Please contact the Land of Iron team by email or phone (01439 772700) if you have a question regarding this competition.

Don’t hold back – the deadline for entries is Friday 17 July 2020. We are excited to see what you come up with!

*Keep up to date with the latest North York Moors National Park response to Coronavirus

Crash, bang, wallop

Aside

Land of Iron Volunteer, Adrian Glasser, has been applying his mind to calculating the potential velocity on Ingleby Incline. If you like equations or just want to see photographs of what happened to the runaway wagons – have a look at Adrian’s blog post. He has a way of explaining concepts that takes a lay person along for the ride.

Landscape view of Ingleby Incline today. Copyright NYMNPA.

Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme logos

 

Tree by tree

Ann Pease – Ryevitalise Administration Assistant

On 8 February the local community and members of the public came out in force to show their support for the new Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership – volunteering their time to help us plant trees hundreds of trees at a local farm within a 30m wide buffer strip alongside the River Seph in Bilsdale. It was a fantastic bright and sunny winter’s day as we enjoyed the calm before the arrival of Storm Ciara the next day.

A mixture of native broadleaf trees were planted including oak and alder, as well as a range of shrub species including hazel, crab apple, hawthorn and rowan chosen for their high biodiversity value and food source for local birds and wildlife.

Amy from the Ryevitalise Team - tree planting task Feb 2020. Copyright NYMNPA.

Planting trees alongside rivers helps to stabilise the river’s banks via their extensive root network, and reduces natural erosion processes during high rainfall events when the river is in peak flow. Trees provide habitat, food and shelter for wildlife, and by creating an uneven surface and reducing compaction help to filter runoff from the surrounding landscape which in turn improves water quality by preventing excess sediment and nutrients making their way into the river. Trees create a more naturally functioning system and help restore aquatic habitats, such as sediment-free gravel beds, which are vital for the survival of species such as the white-clawed crayfish, trout and lamprey – all of which can be found within the Rye catchment.

Native White-Clawed Crayfish - copyright Dan Lombard.

To help protect the trees planted Ryevitalise has a funded scheme with the farmer which includes erecting a fence to exclude the livestock and so create a buffer strip between the grazed pasture and the river.  Buffer strips are an important component of a functioning river corridor, which act as superhighways for native invertebrates, birds and mammals.  As well as helping to control pollution and reduce run off, they provide a vital barrier between more intensively managed farm land and the delicate ecosystem of the river.

Tree planting task Feb 2020 - working within the riverbank buffer strip. Copyright NYMNPA.

A team of around 25 enthusiasts – young and old, experienced and novice, passionate conservationists and interested residents – were supplied with hot tea, plenty of cake, and together planted an amazing 300 trees over the course of the morning.

Tree planting task Feb 2020 - more tree planting. Copyright NYMNPA. Tree planting task Feb 2020 - more and more tree planting. Copyright NYMNPA.

Tree planting task Feb 2020 - more, more and more tree planting. Copyright NYMNPA.

This was Ryevitalise’s first public event focussed around climate change and carbon capture. The enthusiasm of the people who attended, their hard work and the difference we made to the area in just a morning combined to make the event a great success!

THE TEAM - tree planting task Feb 2020. Copyright NYMNPA.

The following week members of the National Park Authority’s Explorer Club along with other volunteers spent a day adding an additional 100 trees, with the remaining 400 planted by our amazing team of National Park Authority volunteers on Tuesday 3 March. So overall a very impressive 800 trees have been introduced at this site by the River Seph, providing a big ecological benefit to the river.

The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, North York Moors National Park Authority and other partners. It is a four year project aiming to conserve, enhance and restore the natural and cultural heritage of the area, enabling people to reconnect with the history, wildlife and landscape of the River Rye and its tributaries. Our catchment area is a huge 413km2, spanning the western edge of the North York Moors National Park, parts of the Howardian Hills AONB and arable farmland along the Vale of Pickering. We have 16 on the ground projects (19 in total), covering everything from habitat restoration to built heritage and arts related programs.

If this is something you might be interested in getting involved with, we are actively looking for volunteers to help us achieve the aims of our projects. Whether it’s surveying ancient trees, examining historic records, helping at events, wildlife monitoring or outdoor conservation days – we’re sure to have something you will enjoy.  See our current volunteering opportunities for more details or email us.

Our project officially launches this Spring Bank Holiday (25 May), with a week long schedule of events throughout the catchment area showcasing how fantastic our rivers, wildlife and landscapes are. Fun and informative events will be held right across the catchment highlighting what varied landscapes and communities we have in the Ryevitalise area.

If you would like to be kept up to date with the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme, its events and opportunities, send the Team an email to subscribe to our mailing list.

In the footsteps of Legionaries

Graham Lee – Archaeological Officer

Roman Forts and Camps are to be found throughout England, Wales and Scotland as evidence of the Roman occupation of Britain from AD43 until the early years of the 5th Century. Sites of some of the major forts can be found within and underlying some of our main towns and cities, such as York, Chester and Lincoln in the north of England, showing the focus of their original Roman settlement. The forts and camps are generally connected by the lines of Roman roads, many of which have been followed as main routes for communication ever since. Roman camps lie along these roads, marking both the lines of military campaigns and the distance covered each day since a fortification would be built at the end of each day’s march. Although only defended, primarily, by banks and ditches, many of these marching camps have survived as earthworks, as well as being known from cropmarks, when plough-levelled, to indicate their former presence. The camps are recognised by their distinctive ‘playing-card’ shapes, a rectangle with rounded corners, with entrances in each side to allow rapid deployment of the Roman forces in any direction.

If you travel north from Pickering to the edge of the Tabular Hills, you will discover a remarkable series of surviving Roman earthworks first excavated early in the last century – now known as Cawthorn Camps  One of the most important groups of archaeological remains within the North York Moors, these banks, mounds and ditches represent a pair of Roman forts, both with several phases of occupation, defined by massive ramparts and large ditches, together with one unusual temporary camp which has a squashed and elongated form, lying between them, built over 1,900 years ago. The shape, and lesser earthworks (presumably supplemented by at least a line of sharpened stakes), of the temporary camp, known as C, indicates that it was subsidiary to the fort (D) to its west, leaving a clear space to the east where fort A (later enlarged with annexe B) was subsequently built.

View across Cawthorn Camps. Copyright NYMNPA.

As well as its unusual shape, camp C lies in a strange position for a military fortification. Its northern rampart does not lie along the northern scarp edge of the Tabular Hills, some 35m to its north, which would be the strongest defensive position, and it is also sited very close to fort D, to its immediate west. They lie so close together that when Fort D was re-fortified or re-occupied with the addition of a second outer ditch, the latter cut through camp C’s defences, showing that by then it was no longer in use. Although connected to the eastern entrance into fort D by a narrow entrance in its north west corner (just 20m apart), camp C is also distinguished by having all its main entrances within the line of its eastern defences which is very unusual.

LiDAR image of Cawthorn Camps overlaid with OS earthworks. LiDAR © Environment Agency 2019.

LiDAR © Environment Agency 2019.

The earthworks of these three entrances survive very well which help us to understand how they would have functioned. Known as of external clavicula-type (clavicula means “key” in Latin), it can be seen that an advance towards the entrance would force attackers to approach the gateway from its right (from the attackers’ point of view), exposing their less protected right-hand sides to the Roman defenders, since right-handed warriors would tend to hold their shield in their left hands.

Although the history of Roman Britain is quite well understood, there is still much about the Roman occupation of the North York Moors to be discovered. How long was this site occupied and by which units? Why were they there? Were the Romans involved in a series of military campaigns or was this more of a policing exercise? – local control by intimidation? Was the site re-used / re-occupied after the soldiers had left? A joint project by English Heritage (now Historic England) and the National Park Authority, involving two seasons of excavation in 1999 and 2000, has been seeking to clarify some of these issues.

View by drone of Cawthorn Camps (Camp D) taken by Graham Smith, NPA Volunteer - August 2018.

The camps are owned and managed by the National Park Authority. Because of the encroaching nature of trees, scrub and weeds, regular management is required to control vegetation and tree growth which would otherwise mask and cause harm to the sensitive earthworks. Much of this work is done by the Authority’s dedicated volunteers. Recently, the Conservation Volunteers have been pulling up and cutting back saplings, seedlings and brambles – this makes it easier to see and appreciate the archaeology in the landscape. The group will be revisiting the site in 2020 to continue this ongoing task – thank you for all your hard work!

Cawthorn Camps are open permanently and are partly wheelchair accessible. Visitors are encouraged to stay on the well-marked trail that runs around the site to try to avoid too much damage from excessive footfall to parts of the vulnerable and sensitive earthwork archaeological remains.

Pond Purr-fect!

Richard Baines – North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Officer

There is something magical about ponds: the mystery of what’s lurking in the depths, the tranquility of water and the constantly changing scene as many types of wildlife come and go on a fleeting visit or stay on to take full advantage of the precious habitats provided.

Turtle doves are no different from every other bird on the planet – they need water to survive. During the summer when our doves are raising a brood of chicks or squabs, finding water becomes even more important. Turtle doves feed crop milk to their small chicks in the nest in the first four days of their life. The milk is made from secretions from a lining in the crop. After four days the milk is mixed with regurgitated food and slowly changed to solid food as they become older.

That’s why through our Turtle Dove Project we have been keen on providing water sources – in particular now during the winter before our turtle doves return in the spring. This post celebrates one local farmer who has been keen on restoring his dew pond for a long time in the south west corner of the North York Moors and we were very pleased to assist his aim with a bit of project funding, especially as there were turtle doves recorded on the farm in 2019.

Over 100 years ago there were many dew ponds across the landscape. Originally used for livestock to drink from and created at sites which naturally collected water, many of the older ponds have now vanished as farming systems have changed and the ponds have dried up.

This is the story of the recent dew pond restoration revealed through photography…

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond location. Copyright NYMNPA.

Before the pond (the site in summer 2019). The original depression left of the track filled with ruderal vegetation with very little sign of the old pond.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

Digging the test pit. A major success as we found the old dew pond stone base about three feet below ground.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

Taking Levels. This to to ensure the pond is created level to the above ground area, a tilting pond will run dry!

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The first buckets. Spoil was piled up by the side of the site then removed from site using a dumper.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The first layer, weed membrane. A membrane helps to prevent vegetation growth into the water tight clay and provides a level  area for laying the clay.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The second layer. clay lining. Special ‘puddling clay is brought in to provide the water proof base for the pond. A radio controlled roller is used to compact the clay.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The third layer, barley straw . Straw is spread over the clay to reduce algal growth and provide an additional substrate within which essential pond plants can grow.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The fourth and final layer, limestone chippings. Used as a traditional protection layer to reduce the risk of clay drying and protect the pond base from the damaging feet of paddling stock animals.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The finished pond.

NY Turtle Dove Project - restored dew pond. Copyright NYMNPA.

One week later! After Storm Dennis we have water in the pond.. All we need now is the vegetation to grow back up and of course our doves to come back from Africa! 

Belemnites: A Window to Yorkshire’s Past?

Ailsa Roper – Post Graduate Researcher, University of Leeds

I am pleased to be working for the next three years with the School of Earth and the Environment at the University of Leeds as a Post Graduate Researcher funded by the North York Moors National Park Authority through their planning agreement with Sirius Minerals. The agreement provides funding for a range of initiatives and projects to help offset the impacts of the Woodsmith Mine development on the National Park, including its exceptional coastal geology. Construction of the mine provides an opportunity to access new geological materials and through my research project I intend to study changes in ocean chemistry across the Early Jurassic period which have been preserved in these and in the rocks of the North York Moors coastal area.

Kettleness Cliffs. Photo credit Dr Crispin Little, University of Leeds.The cliffs of the North York Moors coast at Kettleness, showing the very top of the Cleveland Ironstone Formation (deposited around 183 million years ago) with the Grey Shales, Mulgrave Shales and Alum Shales overlying it.

The early Jurassic was a turbulent period in the Earth’s history. At the start of the period the supercontinent Pangea was just beginning to split up to form two continents, Gondwana in the South and Laurasia to the North, with a shallow ocean between them. The climate was also changing with the arid Triassic giving way to the warmer, wetter Jurassic. The changes over this timeframe put stress on the animals and plants of the period, causing several extinction events.

The Toarcian (the last geological period of the early Jurassic), which contains one such extinction event, is the first section of the early Jurassic I plan to study. This event (called the Early Toarcian Mass Extinction) was a second order extinction, meaning it wasn’t one of ‘The Big 5 Extinctions’ of the last 500 million years, but it was still a significant crisis for biodiversity at the time. During this event it is estimated 26% of genera died out, particularly affecting marine groups such as bivalves, gastropods and brachiopods living on the seafloor and squid-like belemnites and ammonites in the water column.

Pavement of fossilised ammonite. Photo credit Dr Crispin Little, University of Leeds.

Pavement of fossilised ammonite (Tiltoniceras) from the top of the Grey Shales.

Researchers now think that this extinction event was caused by increasing volcanic activity in the southern hemisphere during the early Toarcian, which triggered an increase in greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide. This increase in greenhouse gas concentration warmed the climate, possibly causing further release of greenhouse gases from methane in the shallow oceans and permafrost. This feedback cycle would have further raised the global temperature and affected the hydrological cycle, creating a hotter, wetter environment in the early Toarcian time period

More rainfall increased the amount of sediment washed into the ocean from the continents, potentially flooding the ocean with high concentrations of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphate. This high level of nutrients may have caused a spike in primary producers in the sea, such as algae. When these organisms died, they were likely broken down by microorganisms which removed a lot of oxygen from the water, causing a shortage of oxygen, known as dysoxia. This dysoxia and the increasing global temperatures are believed to be the key drivers behind the Early Toarcian Mass Extinction.

Understanding the changes in the ocean nutrient cycling is thus vital to understanding the impact on the organisms living there. Phosphate is a particularly interesting nutrient to study as phosphorus is an essential element in all organisms; on a geological timescale phosphate has even been shown to be the limiting nutrient required for the formation of life.

The initial phase of my PhD project looks at identifying changes in dissolved phosphorus in the ocean over the Toarcian time period. To do this I will examine changes in the phosphorus content of belemnite fossils. Belemnites are extinct squid-like cephalopods. Belemnites are the ideal candidates for this work as they lived in the water column, rather than at the ocean floor, and they are common and often well-preserved. Some pilot work appears to show an increase in phosphorus concentration of belemnites over the Toarcian anoxic event, though this is rough data with large associated uncertainties. Currently it’s unclear if there is a real change in belemnite phosphorus content, and if it represents changes in water column phosphorous concentration.

Fossilised belemnite in sediment. Photo credit Ailsa Roper, University of Leeds.

Fossilised belemnite in sediment, taken from a sediment core from Mochras, North Wales.

My first step is to develop a method which is effective in determining the phosphorus concentration in the belemnites. Once I have the method in place, I will apply it to belemnites from different sections across Europe to try to identify a coherent trend in phosphorus concentration. I will also analyse belemnites of different species and sizes of the same age to identify any variability between them.

Some work has already been done to study phosphate concentration on the ocean floor over the Toarcian period by analysing sediment. Though my work is attempting to identify changes in phosphorous in the water column, I intend to complete this sediment analysis for sediment surrounding the belemnites as well. This analysis could help determine if the phosphorus in the belemnite originated from the water column during the belemnites life, or if it originated in the sediment after its death.

I am excited to see what my analyses will show, and I hope my research will contribute to the understanding of the process behind some mass extinctions. If my technique is successful, I could spend the remainder of my project applying it to other sites around the world or to other extinction events.