Traversing the Esk

Christopher Watt – River Esk Project Officer

Hi there, I’m Chris and I’ve just recently joined the National Park Authority as a River Esk Project Officer, having moved down from Scotland, and seemingly brought the weather with me! My role will involve working with farmers and landowners to implement river restoration techniques that seek to improve the water quality of the River Esk catchment.

Over the last month I have started to piece together the Esk catchment, worked with volunteers in delivering practical tasks and began undertaking fish obstacle river surveys. It has certainly been a varied introduction to the role and area.

Autumn colours in Westeredale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Volunteers braved the drizzly elements back in October to repair a broken fence on the River Esk, near Castleton. Thankfully, the task allowed us to remain on dry land and avoid venturing into the river which was rather swollen after recent heavy rainfall. A bankside tree had fallen and crushed a section of the fence-line, slackening the wire and dislodging posts. The volunteers assisted with installing new posts, including a heavy duty straining post, re-attaching the wires and finally tightening them. The volunteers worked extremely hard and it was a pleasure to meet and work with them. The task was also completed in one afternoon and the sun even came out, which is a bonus!

This task was one of the many on-going works to restore and enhance the riparian habitats of the River Esk. Maintaining riverside fences assists in keeping cattle and sheep away from the bankside vegetation and so causing sediment loading through erosion. Bankside vegetation stabilises the soil and is an important habitat in its own right. The reduction of sediment loading should help improve conditions for conservation priority species such as Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Sea trout (Salmo trutta) and Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) which favour clean, fast-flowing rivers and streams.

In combination to riparian habitat enhancements, we have also been undertaking fish obstacle surveys stretching from Westerdale down  to Goathland. These involve inspecting an assortment of obstructions from weirs, fords and culverts and assessing how severe they impinge on fish migration. At each obstacle the length, width and height are recorded, along with a written assessment of the level of severity the obstacle poses to migrating fish populations.  

Esk Catchment weir after high rainfall event. Copyright NYMNPA.

Due to recent high rainfall, many of these obstacles have been partially or fully submerged, and although looking dramatic, have been just too dangerous to take measurements from. Electro-fishing will also accompany these surveys at a later date to inform us about fish species diversity and abundance at each obstacle. The purpose of these surveys is to update our records on obstructions across the catchment and prioritise where mitigation measures would best be targeted to benefit fish populations of the Esk. Migratory fish are a vital aspect of the biodiversity of the river.

Esk Catchment culvert and ford system. Copyright NYMNPA.

LEADER Programme: making ends meet

Amy Thomas – previously North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme Manager

After a busy few years we recently celebrated making the final grant offers of the 2015-2020 North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme.

Over the last four years we have successfully allocated nearly £3 million of European funding which has resulted in more than £5 million of investment overall in local communities and businesses, creating more than 65 new full time equivalent jobs and supporting around 30 farm businesses to invest in new equipment to make the way they farm more efficient.

Here are just a few of the fantastic projects that have successfully secured LEADER funding over the last few years.

Front page of https://www.spiritofyorkshire.com/The Spirit of Yorkshire, a whisky distillery in Hunmanby, received £34,798 of funding towards creating their new visitor centre, shop and café.  The project created 4 new jobs and aimed to attract nearly 11,000 visitors in its first full year of operating.

 

LEADER - Horse and Hounds Area. Copyright NYMNPA.

Horse and Hounds, a new equine physiotherapy business in Rosedale, received grant funding of £37,687 towards an arena, stabling and a horse walker.  This start-up business is providing employment for a local young person.

 

LEADER - Cedarbarn plaque. Copyright NYMNPA.


Funding of £175,960 was granted towards the extension of the Cedarbarn Farm Shop and Café in Pickering to create additional space for the café, shop, butchery and kitchen.  Nine new jobs have already been created across all aspects of the business.

LEADER - Cedarbarn entrance. Copyright NYMNPA.

More than 20 farms from across the area received funding towards either mobile sheep handling kit with electronic weight systems and EID readers, or robotic milking machines.  Dependent upon the type and scale of the equipment funding was applied for, grants received range between £2,500 and £75,000.

A contribution of £138,860 was provided towards the Infrastructure, access and interpretation improvements which were made at Boggle Hole.  Coastal erosion issues and high visitor footfall meant improvements were essential along this popular stretch of the Cleveland Way.

Rural development funding can make things happen. Now that the LEADER Programme is coming to an end I’m looking forward to see what comes next.

North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme logo

If you’re looking for rural development funding the RDPE Growth Programme is open for applications until February 2020 – have a look here.

Annoying the neighbours

Agnes thought that it was round about this time of year when the nights were getting darker that the Fay woman came to the house. She knocked on the back door and asked for bread and cheese. She looked odd; something about her eyes, the sheen of her skin and how she mouthed her words. Anyway Agnes was busy, she had the milk to churn and the wool to card, and the baby was crying again – she didn’t mean to but she said no and shut the door sharply.

Now Agnes stood on the side of the stony hill looking down at her family’s farm, she had seen her children taken out in shrouds one by one. Then her grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. She stood still with beetles and caterpillars in her hair. She’d long given up on being hopeful as the years grew up around her.

She stretched her spindly thorny fingers. Sometimes a blackbird or a thrush would come and sing to her, she would give them dark red berries in return. In May when the sun shone on the blossom there would be people talking and laughing nearby. But no one took her back and into their homes – it would be unlucky. Then each year the blossom would start to fade and release its cloying scent of death.

Agnes had always done what she should when it came to the Fay. She didn’t look them in the eye. She left them out the last of the beer of the year and the last apple on the tree. She wasn’t vain, she wasn’t cruel, she didn’t deserve this. It was just that one time – that one mistake.

Now and then a poor traveller looking for anything better would linger and if they had absolutely nothing they might nibble on the leaves because someone once told them they tasted like bread and cheese. Then Agnes would remember what had happened for her to end up here. She reached out to help but offered poor shelter from the batterings of life.

She dreamt lots of times of saying sorry and begging to be released but she rarely saw any Fay and when she did they would just wink at her and disappear back into the landscape.

In the frost she would cling on to lichen like clothing. In the cold and wind she would nash her teeth and wave her scraggy scrawny arms. There was no one left to remember her or wonder what happened to her. She’d long given up expecting someone would come with a saving axe or a rescuing saw.

Agnes stood skeletal with her feet rooted in the ground. Her skin knarled and knotted and her body tangled. She was stuck where she was on a side of a stony hill, turned into a Hawthorn Tree by a grumpy fairy…

Root tree - shmector.com - Free vector art

Planting for the future

Alasdair Fagan – Woodland Creation Officer

In a previous blog I talked about the importance of collecting and growing on tree seed from the North York Moors and the benefits of a combined genetic approach to planting woodlands to provide them with the best chance of withstanding climate change impacts in the future.

It is now widely accepted that tree planting has a major part to play in helping to offset the emissions contributing to global warming. The UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050. A recent study by The Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich suggests that a global effort to plant one trillion trees can have a huge potential to tackle climate change. 

The 25 year Environment Plan released in 2018 outlines governmental ambitions to plant 11 million trees in new woodlands by 2021 through national grant schemes such as Countryside Stewardship and the Woodland Carbon Fund administered and regulated by the Forestry Commission.

The sequestration of carbon is one huge benefit provided by trees, but planting trees can have numerous smaller scale advantages too including;

  • Significant benefits to biodiversity
  • Creation of a priority habitat
  • Reducing soil erosion
  • Reducing the flow of water downstream
  • Providing shelter to livestock and game

Which leads me onto Woodland Creation in the North York Moors …

Between 2000 and 2017, this National Park saw the planting of over 150 hectares of low density wood pasture/parkland and over 560 hectares of new native woodland; that equates to the planting of over 622,400 native trees!

Looking forward, we have ambitious targets to create 7,000 hectares of ‘environmentally positive’ new woodland over the next 100 years. This will mean we’d plant over 7 million trees! This will increase woodland cover from 23% to 25% of the National Park.

Skipster Hag - woodland creation project planted in 2012. Copyright NYMNPA.

But we’re not gung-ho about it. Every woodland creation proposal is carefully planned and there are many considerations to be examined and consultations to be carried out during the developmental stages of each individual project. Things to think about include:

  • Existing ecology and habitats
  • Existing archaeology and cultural heritage features and records
  • Current land sse
  • Soils
  • Woodland networks in the landscape
  • Public Access and Rights of Way
  • Landscaping impacts
  • Impacts on groundwater
  • Appropriate species
  • Provenance of seed/trees
  • Future impacts of Climate Change (ESC tool)
  • Tree pests and diseases (chalara, alder rust etc)
  • Land designations (e.g. SSSI, SAC, SPA)
  • Open Access Land
  • Parish Council
  • Inclusion on Public Register
  • Neighbouring landowners
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (if over 2 ha)
  • Services

Planting at Oakley Side, Danby - to extend existing native woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rievaulx - planting to restore ancient wood pasture habitat. Copyright NYMNPA.

Shadow Woodland - woodland plants such as bluebells show us where woodlands used to exist. Copyright NYMNPA.

Each project has its own issues and individualities. Here are three examples of woodland creation projects over the last couple of years.

Cam House, Bilsdale

This woodland creation project in Bilsdale is a large planting scheme of over 15 hectares. There are 17,825 trees planted of 18 different species.

The site varies somewhat in terms of hydrology with some areas being particularly wet. These areas are planted with species that prefer wetter ground (willows and alder) but the majority of the site is planted as diverse oak and hazel woodland, with other species such as birch, holly, wild cherry and crab apple included to provide maximum climate change resilience and benefit for biodiversity.

Aspen has been included to further futureproof the woodland against potential issues such as climate change and disease, after consulting the ecological site classification software for the site. This is an online tool used to calculate what the suitability of particular tree species are to potential planting sites. The tool uses information such as soil wetness, soil PH, wind exposure and climate data to estimate how well trees will grow. It also usefully has a future projections function which is linked to the Met Office’s future climate data, which allows us to try to predict how a changing climate might alter the site and suitability for tree species – some will become less suited to the site and others will become more suitable, such as aspen.

Planting at Cam House, Bilsdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

 Ayton Banks

Ayton Banks is a site that is extensively covered in dense stands of bracken. The landowner’s primary objective for the planting is to sustainably control the bracken long term whilst creating a diverse woodland habitat. 8,610 trees were planted across 5.43 hectares using site appropriate native species such as oak, hazel, birch and rowan.

The wider Ayton Banks site is an historic Alum Works, now a Scheduled Monument. The proposals for woodland planting were carefully developed with the National Park Authority’s Historic Environment Team to ensure that none of the sensitive areas of the monument are influenced by the project.

Planting at Ayton Banks. Copyright NYMNPA.

 Howe End, Danby

This lowland planting project presented the perfect opportunity to work with volunteers and other groups due to its proximity to our National Park Centre at Danby, the ease of access and parking, and the cooperation of the landowner (who is a National Park Volunteer).

3,500 trees were planted over two months by a wide variety of volunteer groups as well as local primary school children, National Park staff and apprentices.

Planting at Howe End, Danby. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you have a potential Woodland Creation project in mind then please visit our website page for more information or contact me via the National Park Office 01439 772700 or by email.

Electrifying activities

Victoria Franklin – Conservation Trainee

Last week some National Park Volunteers (all fully trained) have finally been able to carry out the first electro fishing surveys this year along the River Esk. Delays had been caused by the weather.

The priority are sites up and downstream of the Sewage Treatment Works (STW) and one Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) in the upper catchment. The first day of surveying was at Commondale.

The concept of electro fishing is to collect samples of fish living within the river, the higher the fish count the healthier the river should be. This will also show the type of fish living in our rivers, the cleanliness of the river and theoretically what the invertebrate population is like along that stretch of river.

The river levels had settled down by Thursday meaning the water was back to a slow flow and all the previous rain had made the water clear giving the perfect conditions for electro fishing.

We fished the river in two 50m sections, one upstream and one downstream of water treatment works. This was done using a zig zag motion to ensure that no area was left unfished. Each 50m section was fished three times to ensure a fair population of fish were caught.

Esk electro fishing October 2019. Copyright NYMNPA.

The equipment used to stun the fish is called an electro fisher and consists of a positive charge the anode at the front and a negative charge called the cathode which trails along the back. These are both attached to a battery which is worn by the person conducting the fishing, today it was Volunteer Paul. Both the anode and the cathode must be in the water to cause an electro charge which is what stuns the fish, but don’t worry rubber thigh waders were worn by everyone so the electro pulse did not affect us humans like it did the fish. The rest of us were in charge of catching the stunned fish in nets alongside the anode, which is harder than it looks as the fish soon spring back to life! They are then transferred into a bucket from the nets.

Esk electro fishing October 2019. Copyright NYMNPA.

We set the voltage output at 150- 200 volts which is enough to temporarily stun the fish making them easier to catch in the net. Once the section of river has been fished the data collection begins. The fish are identified – on this day we found 57 trout downstream and 104 upstream with the largest being 180mm and the smallest recorded at 52mm. The information collected will now be analysed before being sent onto Yorkshire Water, they will then compare this with the other locations which are due to be fished over the next few weeks, and that will all help inform management of their sites as necessary.

An amazing day was had by all the volunteers and staff that attended. More data collection will happen in the next few weeks on different sites along the Esk.

Esk electro fishing October 2019 - small trout. Copyright NYMNPA.

Much Ado About Mothing

Sam Newton – Land of Iron Natural Heritage Officer

MOTH NIGHT

Records generated from moth trapping with light traps by amateurs naturalists all over the UK is the main way conservationists can understand how moth numbers are changing. N.B. The moths are subsequently released unharmed. While many enthusiasts moth trap year round, Moth Night is an annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland aimed at raising awareness of moths among the general public. It is organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Usually held in the summer months, this year it is being held from 26-28 September to target the spectacular (in appearance and in name) Clifden Nonpareil, and other late summer migrants moths.

The records generated from Moth Night, and from all other moth trapping is useful to conservation. While declines in large and ‘charismatic’ species are regularly reported in mainstream media, insects are often forgotten. For example in the UK, Butterfly Conservation reported habitat specialist butterflies (26 species) to have declined by 77% since monitoring was started in 1976, while more generalist butterflies (24 species) decreased by 46%. This is unfortunately also seen on a global scale, with 40% of insect species declining, and a third classified as endangered. It’s also not just the numbers, but the biomass, with the total mass of insects falling by 2.5% a year – suggesting an unsustainable future for populations.

The more we know about insects, the more we can do to try and save them. Below are a few images of moths recently seen within and around the North York Moors, including our own brilliant Clifden Nonpareil – the first time this moth has been seen in Yorkshire for many years.

Further Reading/References
Insect Armageddon: https://butterfly-conservation.org/news-and-blog/insect-armageddon
Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature
Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers

Levisham Estate: scrapbooking

Rachel Pickering – Natural Environment Team Leader

Looking across Newtondale and Levisham Estate. Copyright NYMNPA.

The photo above is my screensaver to remind me how lucky I am to live and work in such a gorgeous part of the world. It’s looking over the National Park owned Levisham Estate taken from Levisham Moor, close to the fascinating Skelton Tower which is a favourite feature of mine as I am sure you can see why …

Levisham Estate - Skelton Tower in the distance. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): Skelton Tower sits on Corn Hill Point (on the sky line). Crops were grown up here in the Napoleonic Wars.Levisham Estate - close up of Skelton Tower. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): This two story listed ruin was built around 1830 by Reverend Robert Skelton from Levisham as a shooting lodge.

Levisham Estate - close up of Skelton Tower. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): In 1978 the tower was partly restored and made safe by the North York Moors National Park Authority to commemorate the first 25 years of the National Park.

This place still continues to captivate me despite my 13 years managing the Estate for the North York Moors National Park Authority alongside our long term tenants and almost equally long term Senior Ranger, David Smith.

Levisham Estate - David Smith discussing land management. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): David Smith discussing habitat management with a tenant in Levisham Woods.

I got the opportunity to show off the Estate to National Park colleagues back in September 2017  – these are some of snaps (below) that they took, which just goes to show what wildlife is lurking about if you take the time to look.

We saw a dung beetle doing its thing too – happily recycling the Highland cow poo!

Levisham Estate - Highland cattle. Copyright NYMNPA.

As well as the cute and the curious we have plenty of what makes the North York Moors National Park special and that’s heather!

Levisham Estate - bell heather close up. Copyright NYMNPA.

And nothing shows heather moorland off better than a stunning landform or two and we are spoilt for choice on Levisham Estate. I said in a previous blog that my favourite view is shared by many at the Hole of Horcum but you don’t have to go far to find more satisfaction for the senses.

Levisham Estate - steam train. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): North Yorkshire Moors Railway steam train chugging up Newtondale with a backdrop of Levisham Moor.

One of the great things about Levisham is that parts of it are really accessible and very well used and then there are other parts that feel quite remote and isolated. The variety of habitats, archaeology and landscapes means that there really is something to interest everyone!  I would encourage you to come and explore.

Levisham Estate - moorland path. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

Photo (above): A well used moorland path to explore!

Levisham Estate - Nab Farm. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): A moody shot of the deserted remnants of Nab Farm

So I’m bidding Levisham Estate a fond farewell as in future I will be spending more time on woodland and moorland issues across the whole of the National Park. I am certainly sad that I won’t be working on this Estate anymore but I am really pleased that I can hand over the reigns to an experienced colleague who I know will love it as much as I do. David Smith will still be involved with his 20+ years of knowledge of the Estate but it’s always good to get a new perspective and the time is right for a change.

Levisham Estate visit Sept 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

Photo (above): A staff training day on the Estate where colleagues discuss land management options for the future, Sept 2017.

In my previous blog I started with a photograph similar to the one below which is taken on my regular dog walk round ‘the back lane’ at Newton on Rawcliffe. So I thought I’d finish my post with these three photos all taken this year from the same viewpoint  in the sun, snow and mist. I’ll be continuing to keep an eye on my beloved Levisham Estate whilst trying to keep two spaniels and two children under control!

 

Goodbye to all that

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Kim Devereux-West – Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant It’s that time already; my two year contract with the Land of Iron is almost over! With only a few days left on the clock I wanted to take a moment to … Continue reading

Leaving a mark

Graham Lee – Archaeological Officer

‘Rock Art’ in archaeological terms consists of markings made by human beings on exposed stone surfaces. The earliest rock art from around the world has been dated to between 10,000-50,000 years ago, whereas within the North York Moors National Park the rock art appears to belong to the time span between the Late Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age periods, approximately 3,200-1,500 BC. Motifs created by carving were made into the rock surface using a sharp tool with a ‘pecking’ technique and can range in complexity from simple cups and grooves to quite elaborate patterns. The cup marks (sometimes enclosed by an outer groove – then called cup and ring marks, Fig. 1) tend to be shallow, semi-spherical hollows between c.3-12 cms across, with the depth generally proportional to the diameter, depending on the amount of surface erosion that may have occurred.

Cup and ring marks - copyright NYMNPA

Fig. 1 (above): Cup and ring marks on a heavily marked rock on Fylingdales Moor. Two roughly pecked rings can be seen coming together in the centre-right of the image.

The main concentration of prehistoric rock art within the North York Moors National Park lies within Fylingdales Moor which was affected by a wildfire in 2003. Survey after the fire has significantly increased the known resource (as previously recorded by the local rock art experts and enthusiasts) by over 60% – from approximately 120 sites to over 200. Given that the wildfire affected just over half (c.250 out of c.480 hectares) of this surviving area of coastal moorland (north-east of the A171), and that the latter in total only forms a small proportion of the overall Fylingdales moorland block, the full extent of the distribution of carved rocks in the area probably still remains to be discovered. Some of the carvings appear so fresh that it is thought that they are likely to have become completely buried in prehistory, to then be revealed anew by the wildfire. Such a site is probably that represented by a site on Brow Moor (Figs. 2-3), which was discovered under burnt vegetation in October 2003 and provides an example of excellent preservation. The individual peck-marks which form the decorative markings in the stone can still clearly be seen.

Cup and ring marks - copyright NYMNPA

Fig. 2 (above) and Fig. 3 (below): A remarkably ‘fresh’ carving on Brow Moor, as discovered in 2003 and after a few years regenerative growth. Note the level of surviving detail, including the individual peck-marks.

Cup and ring marks - copyright Blaise Vyner

The heat of the wild fire resulted in damage to some of the rocks by causing the surface of the stone to crack and flake away (known as spalling, Fig. 4). In addition to this, the chemistry of the stone may also have been irreversibly altered, affecting the cements that hold the rock particles together. This can influence the subsequent absorption of moisture which, due to freeze/thaw action during winter, can cause further spalling. The loss of covering material, such as the layers of roots and peat which had grown over the rock surfaces, also appears to have left the carved rocks more vulnerable to disturbance and erosion.

Wildfire burn - cup and ring marks - copyright Blaise Vyner

Fig. 4 (above): Spalling damage to a rock on Fylingdales Moor, caused by heat generated from the wildfire. Clearly this can lead to irreversible damage to any surviving rock art.

All the known examples of rock art on Fylingdales Moor appear to be carved into the local middle Jurassic Dogger series sandstone. Many of these rocks are likely to have been exposed to the elements – to weathering and biological attack – for well over 4,000 years. During this period of time it is likely that other wildfire events will have occurred, together with fires set deliberately for land management purposes. The latter will have increased within the last 150-200 years as part of grouse moor heather management  but in recent decades management for wildlife, rather than grouse shooting, has become the priority on this estate. Controlled burning is designed to cause minimal heat and damage, however it may still – depending on the chemistry of the rocks in question, and the nature of the ‘burn’ – cause some negative impacts to the prehistoric carvings.

In order to tackle the potential future loss of detail to these sites, a range of recording techniques and practices have been employed. The Fylingdale Moor sites have all been recorded by local experts and enthusiasts (see Brown and Chappell 2005), but in particular a group of 26 carved rocks were chosen for monitoring in order to provide a baseline record of condition against which to assess erosion and damage in future years. These have all been recorded by stereoscopic photography by Historic England, with a further group of 12 laser scanned at 0.5mm resolution.

Accurate location is also an essential part of site management, due to the difficulties of relocating sites on large areas of open (often rather ‘featureless’) moorland where long heather or other dense vegetation has developed. In the last few decades practical management has tended to become more mechanical with the use of rotating chain flail cutters attached to tractors, both to create fire breaks and to harvest the heather, which is sometimes baled and used e.g. as an environmental filter. It is consequently of particular importance to know the precise location of all the rock art panels to ensure that potential damage does not accidentally occur.

Many of the examples of rock art on Fylingdales Moor are protected as Scheduled Monuments. As part of our work under Monuments for the Future, and previously under the Monument Management Scheme, we send volunteers out to make regular monitoring visits to check on monument condition – however it is not always easy to find the correct rocks! In some areas bracken has been a problem, not only damaging other archaeological features, such as Bronze Age burial mounds, which may be associated with the rock art but obscuring the rocks making them difficult to find and therefore vulnerable to accidental damage. Over the last few years we have worked with Natural England and the managers of Fylingdales Moor to ensure that appropriate bracken control has kept some of these features clear of vegetation.

Further Reading
Brown, P. M. and Chappell, G. 2005 Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors, Tempus, Stroud
Vyner, B. E. 2007a Fylingdales Wildfire and Archaeology, North York Moors National Park.

How to be an archaeologist…

Sara Goodridge – Land of Iron Archaeological Finds Intern

This summer I have been granted the privilege of working with the Heritage Fund‘s Land of Iron Landscape Partnership as an Archaeological Finds Intern, through the Santander Internship Programme at Durham University. The internship has provided a unique opportunity to not only learn all about the inner workings of community archaeology but also to expand my knowledge of the beautiful North York Moors National Park and its industrial heritage.

When the email advertising the post of intern landed in my inbox, I was intrigued, I knew nothing about archaeology other than what I’d seen on the television and in text books but I knew I wanted to learn more. As a student of History rather than Archaeology my knowledge of what the internship would involve was very limited to say the least, despite this I decided to go for it – after all if you don’t try you don’t achieve. However, I felt my desire to learn may not be enough to secure me the position so I turned to the North York Moors National Park website for some much needed research. It is here that my journey began as a volunteer. Having followed the registration process I signed up for the day hoping for a crash course in how to be an archaeologist in time for my intern interview the following week.

I arrived eagerly at a car park in the middle of the moors ready to learn all about archaeological recording. As it turned out the welcome was incredibly friendly and I was expertly guided through a whistle stop tour of archaeological contexts and features. This very first day’s volunteering introduced me to the friendly approach taken by all involved in the Land of Iron Partnership and from that moment on I was hooked. The site of my first ever archaeological experience was at the former Rosedale Railway and inspired the Historian in me to find out more.

Rosedale saw rapid development in the later part of the 19th century due to ironstone mining. By 1861 the Rosedale Railway had been built, with the additional Rosedale East Railway branch completed in 1865, in order to export the iron ore north to Teesside and County Durham. An estimated 11 million tons of iron ore was removed from Rosedale. The opening of the Rosedale Railway way was documented in the Newcastle Journal on the 19 April 1862, and describes the importance of the railway coming to Rosedale;

“The opening of the North Eastern Company’s branch line to Rosedale, by the vice-chairman, George Leeman, Esq., and the directors, took place at Rosedale on Wednesday.  Early in the forenoon a large party arrived by special train from the northy, including the directors of the company and many of the iron masters, and other distinguished persons connected with the great iron trade of cleveland and the district…  After inspecting, with delight and astonishment, the Rosedale Mining Companiy’s magnificent quarries and mines of magnetic ore, the whole party retired to the Crown Inn, Rosedale Abbey, where an excellent dinner awaited them”.
(Extract transcribed by Linda Cummings)

Photo credit; Rosedale Mines and Railway (Hayes and Rutter, 1974)The experience of that volunteering confirmed my desire to learn more about archaeology and made me want to secure the position of intern even more. Luckily my interview for the position was a success! In the meantime I didn’t have to wait long to volunteer again as the Land of Iron community excavation at Combs Wood this summer provided me with the opportunity to not just learn about archaeology from the side of a trench but to actually get in and start digging myself. Over the two week period that the excavation ran I volunteered for a couple of days each week. In these days the knowledge I gained was immense I learned everything from the complexities of measured drawing to the correct use of a trowel. The approach on site, that no question was a silly question, meant that I spent my whole time learning.

Due to my experiences volunteering before my internship had even started I had learned valuable skills and felt ready to take on the finds processing role. Along with my fellow intern Louis we’ve now spent the last five weeks engaging with and learning from the finds that have been discovered across the numerous archaeological sites within the Land of Iron. Louis’s recent blog, The Everyday, the Intriguing and the Odd shows some of the more unique and interesting finds that have crossed our desk so far and is a must read for anyone who wants to find out more about some of these finds.

The industrial heritage of the North York Moors National Park has become a new found fascination for me, in particular the material culture of the Victorians has certainly sparked some interesting conversations between myself and Louis as well as with volunteers during our task days. So much so that I have decided to use the subject for my dissertation when I return to university for my third and final year at Durham in October. The knowledge I’ve gained so far during my time as an intern has been invaluable however it is only the beginning of my research.

Land of Iron logos

If, like me, you have a desire to learn more about the Land of Iron there is an upcoming Heritage Open Days on 15 September with a walk and talk through the incredible ironstone industry (Grosmont to Esk Valley). For more information and to book tickets visit the National Park website.

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