This gallery contains 61 photos.
Landscapes, vistas and panoramas can be impressive but sometimes it’s also worthwhile having a closer look at what’s nearby.
This gallery contains 61 photos.
Landscapes, vistas and panoramas can be impressive but sometimes it’s also worthwhile having a closer look at what’s nearby.
Sam Newton – Natural Heritage Trainee, Land of Iron
Charles Darwin was an undoubted genius, according to most people’s definition – so it should come as no surprise that he was interested in earthworms. He even wrote a book with the catchy title The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habitats.
Earthworms are fundamental. They are ecosystem engineers – a term associated with important ecological outputs, which can often be stalked by controversy because of the affects caused e.g. Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber). However, everyone can get behind earthworms; they are the only species playing a significant role in pedoturbation and are a major player in pedogenesis.
What are pedoturbation and pedogenesis? Well, they’re words we should all know. They describe the process of mixing between soil horizons resulting in healthy homogenization, and the formation of soils through biogeochemical processes.
Soil is the unconsolidated material on the top level of the earth in temperate climes. In the UK most plants grow in soil. Our soils are under pressure from erosion/loss, compaction and decline in organic matter. In the 2015 bestselling book, What Nature Does for Britain by Tony Juniper, estimated the annual cost from soil degradation is between £900 million and £1.4 billion, while studies suggest soils will be too degraded for production within around 100 harvests. The need for solutions is urgent.
Soil health targets are included in the Government’s new 25 Year Environment Plan. Further national measures are planned through legislation during 2018 to manage all soils sustainably, including devising a soil health index, and updating guidance on crop establishment and optimal tillage choice.
Earthworms are crucial for tackling these problems and maintaining the health of soils. Still little is known about earthworms, despite Darwin’s efforts. We know there are 29 species in the UK, split into four groups: composters living in organic rich vegetation, epigeics living amongst leaf litter, endogeics living in the soil, and anecics living in vertical burrows. They all eat (and so recycle) decaying material, help drainage and aeration, and are food for many other species (so crucial for biodiversity). The fact that all four groups and all the species have varying ecology enhances their benefits to the reducing of erosion, compaction and the loss of organic matter, therefore benefiting the entire ecosystem – including us.
It will be very important to increase our understanding of distributions and ecology of each earthworm species, to help us to properly conserve and encourage worms to be a vital partner in such a time of soil health concern.
The Earthworm Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has information regarding the recording of earthworms, identifying different species, and further facts on their biology and ecology.
The British Society of Soil Science is supporting the advancement of soil science in the UK. The more we understand the resource the more we can do to conserve and enhance it.
Sam Newton – Natural Heritage Trainee, Land of Iron
Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) are a member of the thrush family, and an annual migrant to the UK from Northern Africa. They look similar to Blackbirds (Turdus merula) but they are slightly smaller and have a striking white neck band which helps identify them (torquatus means wearing a collar). In the UK Ring Ouzels breed in upland areas of Scotland, northern Wales, and north and south west England; hence another name they have – Mountain Blackbird. They can also be seen as they come into and leave the country along the southern and eastern coast.
Ring Ouzel are a UK Red List species because of their historical population decline – an an estimated 58% population decline from 1988-91 to 1999, and 43% range decline from 1968-72 to 2008-11. This means the birds are endangered in the UK, and are therefore of particular conservation importance. Action is required to try and maintain our population.
Within the North York Moors, local volunteers have identified Rosedale as an important spot for the birds. They’ve studied the population here in detail for the last 18 years.
The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme has become involved with the aim of improving the local habitats, so helping to ensure Ring Ouzel persists in a landscape whose natural heritage has been shaped by its industrial heritage. It is suggested that the remains of industrial structures in Rosedale provide the crags and gullies that the birds prefer to nest in.
A factor identified as a reason for national Ring Ouzel decline has been diet, which is mainly made up of invertebrates and berries. The red berries from the Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) ripen from July into the autumn and are particularly important prior to migration in September when the birds need as much nutrition as possible for the long journey ahead. Within Rosedale, existing Rowan (also known as Mountain Ash) is located on the steep moorland edge – less accessible for sheep grazing, and not burnt as part of moorland management. However, many are now veterans, showing that there has been little natural regeneration recently.
So with advice from the Rosedale Ring Ouzel volunteer monitors along with support and assistance from the landowner, gamekeepers and grazing tenants; the National Park’s Volunteers and Apprentices have been out planting. It took a while because they were working in some pretty wild weather at the beginning of the year but they eventually managed to plant 150 Rowan trees either in small exclosures or as single trees. These new trees will help to provide the local Ring Ouzels with food into the future.
The birds themselves have just arrived back in Rosedale to breed this year.
Have a listen to the BBC’s Tweet of the Day
Anna Chapman – Student Placement, Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme
I am a first-year undergraduate studying at Exeter University reading History. Public History is one of my core modules; it focuses on the presentation of historical knowledge into the public sphere and maintaining the efficient and ethical management of heritage. For this module I have to undertake a work place to learn the day to day business of managing a heritage site. The North York Moors National Park with heritage sites across the Park area seemed a natural fit for my placement and the Land of Iron team were kind enough to take me on. With my placement being only a short 40 hours, the team arranged a well packed and varied set of tasks around their National Lottery funded Landscape Partnership Scheme.
The first day here I worked alongside Kim Devereux-West (Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant) at the National Park Authority’s Castleton Depot. We were sorting artefacts from the community archaeology excavations carried out in 2016 and 2017, by material type. I came across a lot of interesting pieces, but if I had to choose one in particular I would have to mention the poison bottles, usually in good condition, but what struck me was how common they seemed to be.
Later that day once the fog and rain had cleared we ventured up to visit the Rosedale East ironstone kilns and mines, and associated railway line. Having never been here before it was great to see such a unique and grand piece of heritage not only in its natural state, but also to see the work being done through Land of Iron to maintain the safety of the deteriorating site for the public. The remainder of the kiln structures still held a remarkable presence in the beautiful landscape of the dale, I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful juxtaposition the views from the top of the pastoral moors must have been against the fully functioning industrial sites in their time.
On the opposite side of the dale we visited the Bank Top calcining kilns. New interpretation boards in development will help provide a fresh and modern learning experience for the public, by telling the Land of Iron stories. As there is little historical record for the miners, kiln workers, railway men and their families, it’s important to convey the site’s known history and what happened there, to ensure these incredible heritage sites are recognised and appreciated.
Having had the luxury of visiting sites along the moors, I also had the opportunity to help out in the Helmsley Headquarters. It was great to learn about the hugely varying roles in the Land of Iron team all working together to progress their Scheme. Having only ever been on the other side of National Park events and projects as a member of the public, it was extremely useful to gain an insight into the work behind the scenes.
I got involved with another aspect of the National Park and heritage, I got to help set up and help manage an event for the public. Malcolm Bisby, a local historian and power bank of knowledge on the Rosedale ironstone industry, is holding a series of talks – ‘Tales over Tea: the story of the Rosedale ironstone industry told over a four-part series‘. Part two of four took place at Danby Village Hall. The venue had had to be changed because his first talk at The Moors National Park Centre was so popular the rest have had to be moved to a larger venue. The previous event space held up to sixty and we were aiming to set up for around eighty. Despite this last-minute change of location and a lot of reliance on word of mouth, the turn out did not disappoint as the Village Hall filled up. Malcolm gave a knowledgeable and engaging illustrated talk to the eager audience, who were also keen to get to speak to speak to him afterwards, showing how admired he is in the community. It was very useful for me to be able to see how much work it takes in setting up these kind of events and to meet so many enthusiastic people showing how worthwhile all the work is for community heritage.
On my final and very sunny day in Helmsley, I was working again at the Headquarter this time in the IT department with Sandra Kennish. I spent the day scanning published paperwork and entering the information into a database. It is really important to record and organise as much available data and sources as possible, and make this accessible in the future.
On Wednesday 18 April, ICOMOS celebrated the International Day for Monuments and Sites, whose establishment was approved by the 22nd UNESCO General Conference in 1983. The theme for this year was ‘Heritage for Generations’ and the events taking place were led by a group of chosen youth leadership who are emerging professionals in each of their countries. The events that took place were led by these groups using social media, and promoting the protection of cultural heritage with the hashtag #heritage4generations. If you use this hashtag when visiting a monument or event you can share why it may be important to you individually, as each human experience with heritage is different and unique. However, when each individual shares the story behind their monument or heritage, together with the global ICOMOS community, what starts as an individual experience of heritage becomes global, portraying the amazing variety of heritage and the effect it has collectively on culture across the globe. This social media movement is vastly important in encouraging the communication between generations and continuing conversations about heritage, so the cultural changes are documented from one generation to another creating an overall narrative for cultural heritage.
I’d like to thank all the staff at Helmsley for firstly fitting me into their busy schedules and looking after me so well, and secondly for teaching me so much about heritage that is right on my doorstep which before this placement I knew little about. I hope this isn’t my last time being involved in the heritage sector and look forward to visiting the National Park again in the future.
Hares are native to Britain, but rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are not considered to be native at least not since the last Ice Age. Rabbits, also known as coneys, were introduced first by the Romans and then imported by the Normans in the early medieval period. Rabbits were valued for their meat, fur and skin. On southern facing slopes of the North York Moors, rabbits were farmed from the medieval period through to the 20th century using warrening structures. Warrens were artificially constructed with embankments, ditches and ‘pillow’ mounds. Particularly common were ‘Rabbit-types’ where rabbits were caught through trap doors which released into pits. These artificial warrens allowed the rabbits to be managed (farmed) efficiently on a large scale.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries felt from rabbit skins and fur was an important money making product for the south east corner of the North York Moors. Felt was in demand for hats and rabbit was an alternative to beaver. The industry slowly declined with the last warrener working up until the 1920s. Many warrening sites have been lost as land has been re-used, but some large scale warrening complexes can still be traced in the Forestry Commission owned forests such as Dalby and Wykeham.
Wild/feral rabbits are now a particularly successful non-native invasive species, despite there being a number of native predator species.
As winter is losing its grip, hopefully the photo below will help brighten your day.
Ranunculus is the plant genus which includes our buttercup species and provides our countryside with vivid displays of yellow during the summer months. There are lots of different species, and here are but a few found across Britain including the North York Moors, all with sunny yellow flowers.
Meadow buttercup R.acris: Look at a hay meadow in the summer and the chances are that it is this species that is predominant. It is an indicator of moist unimproved grassland, and although it grows in a wide range of soil types it is not tolerant of high nutrient levels. As it can survive cutting and is not palatable to grazing stock, old meadows and pastures are where it thrives best.
Creeping buttercup R.repens: This buttercup can, from a distance, give the impression that you are looking at a species rich hay meadow. The reality can be very different though as this plant is very tolerant of high nutrient levels and disturbed ground and is sometimes considered a problem weed. It is often found around field gateways where poaching and tramping make it difficult for other plants to survive, and in overgrazed fields where it remains untouched by stock and readily out competes less tolerant plants. One of the key differences between this species and meadow buttercup is the presence of rooting runners which allow this plant to spread very effectively and quickly cover bare ground. The species’ method of reproduction (cloning) meant it was used a few years ago for an interesting study into aging meadows. https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2009/june/title-77794-en.html
Bulbous buttercup R. bulbosus: This species prefers much drier conditions and, like meadow buttercup, is an indicator of unimproved grassland with a low tolerance to fertilisers. It is common on well drained neutral or calcareous soils and can be identified by its downturned sepals (when flowering) and a swollen stem base which can be identified by carefully scratching a small amount of soil away from the base of the plant.
But it’s not just buttercups. Also in the same Ranunculus genus, and providing a splash of colour in the early days of spring before the other Ranunculs is Lesser Celandine (R.ficaria). This is easily identified by its narrow, glossy yellow petals, low-growing form and heart-shaped mottled leaves. It’s usually noticeable as it is in abundance when other plants are still tentatively emerging from their overwintering.
Finally, brightening up bogs in the summer is Lesser spearwort (R.flammula) which thrives in wet places and can often be found growing with soft rush in unimproved habitats. The flowers look very similar to a buttercup, but it has spear-shaped leaves.
In the 19th and early 20th century there was a trend for the better off in society, to provide the means to try and ‘improve’ their local workforce i.e. the not so well off. Rather than people gathering in public houses to drink, debauch and mutter – the idea instead was to provide an opportunity for social, moral, intellectual and spiritual improvement for the local community. ‘…the more he knows, the less hasty, the less violent, and the more correct will be his judgment and opinions’ (from the Manchester Spectator 1849).
The philanthropic benefactors would be local landowners, local business people on the rise, new industrial entrepreneurs, and often the local Church including non-conformists e.g. the Methodists. Individuals or local committees of bigwigs, would gift their local community a Reading Room, first in growing towns and then also in rural villages. Any local community who wanted to think themselves liberal and progressive needed a Reading Room. The provision of a building where men could read instructive newspapers, educational periodicals and improving books promoted the popular ideas of self-improvement and self-help. Reading Rooms were the forerunners of public libraries. It wasn’t all reading – they also hosted useful lectures and respectable entertainments as well.
There are a number of Reading Room buildings remaining in the North York Moors, some still used as community buildings and others converted. It is interesting that a number are clearly connected to industrial populations such as that in Rosedale, but others are located in more rural communities such as Boltby, Lastingham and Runswick Bay.
ROBERT HESELTINE HUDSON
“Rarely does a case, even of murder, excite such an intense interest as that which has been taken by the general public in the charge against Robert Heseltine Hudson, of the wilful murder of his wife and child on Roper Moor, near Helmsley, on the 8th of June last.”
“Accused was accommodated with a chair and remained remarkably quiet throughout the trial. He certainly had not the look of a murderer. There was nothing dreadful in the dark sallow countenance, nor repulsive in the black hair, eyebrows, and bearded face, with cultivated moustache trimmed in imperial fashion. The eye was steady and the body restful, and an expression of ease and indifference seemed reflected in a faint smile upon the lips which looked more natural than feigned. Hudson, for some reason, had practically nothing to say. He sat throughout the evidence without manifesting any perceptible distress and it was impossible to judge of the man’s inner consciousness from his appearance…What did seem probably to many observers was that Hudson had quietly resigned himself to his fate…”
From the Yorkshire Gazetteer Saturday 27 July 1895
Robert Hudson’s family was from near Helmsley, he went to school at nearby East Moors. His parents then moved the family to Darlington and as an adult Robert Hudson worked in Liverpool, Sheffield and Nottingham. However in May 1895 Hudson, then a house furnisher’s assistant, brought his wife Kate and their son Heseltine who was not yet one, back to where he had started from. They lodged in a house on Bondgate, Helmsley.
Robert Hudson took his family out for walks and drives in the local countryside – it was reported that Mrs Hudson complained that the places they visited were lonely. On 8 June Mr Hudson returned but his wife and child did not. He told his landlady that they had gone to visit an aunt in Hovingham. Hudson then swiftly disappeared on the 3.39 train to York. Suspicions were aroused resulting in a search of the lonely local countryside. After a while a recently dug hole was found under a clump of trees on Roppa Moor. The bodies of Kate and Heseltine Hudson were found together in the hole covered by a thin layer of soil. Their throats had been cut with a carving knife; Mrs Hudson’s hands were terribly injured suggesting she had struggled to stay the knife.
Hudson was tracked down to Birmingham and arrested, he was brought back first to Helmsley to be committed for trial and then taken to York Crown Court. The evidence was pretty overwhelming. Hudson had bought a spade from a Helmsley ironmonger and was seen cycling about with the spade tied to his bicycle. The spade was later found on Roppa Moor. A local man had come across the hole on Roppa Moor a couple of days before it was used as a grave. Various other local people identified him as a man they had seen acting suspiciously on and around Roppa Moor. Soon after the ‘disappearance’ of his wife Robert Hudson was advertising for a new wife “Bachelor, tall, dark, age 27, wishes to meet with lady of some means, with a view to early marriage”. There was also a pocket book in which Mr Hudson had written on 15 June – “One week from the saddest event in my life, at ten to one o’clock, and I am living yet”. The jury considered their verdict for c. 6 minutes. Robert Hudson was found guilty.
Robert Hudson did not directly confess to the murders, but he did blame bad company for his predicament and expressed repentance. He was hanged at York Castle on 13 August 1895.
ROMANS (1st to 4th centuries AD)
Following on the heels of trading links the Roman invasion and then entrenchment across most of Britain started with temporary military installations and infrastructure including connecting roads to maintain control. This was overtaken with more permanent military bases, as well as the establishment of towns, industrial centres and civilian farmsteads. Romanisation of society was backed up with military might, but at the same time the lure of Roman luxuries, the value of Roman technologies, and the promise of Roman advancement and power very much helped its spread.
Unlike the Iron Age native population, the Romans weren’t interested in living on the moors part of the North York Moors. Most Roman related remains are along the southern edge, close-ish to Malton and York which were major Roman towns. There are a number of minor “villa” complexes (Romano-British farmsteads) at Beadlam, Spaunton and Blandsby Park and the remains of two forts and a military camp at ‘Cawthorn Camps’.
There is another early fort at Lease Rigg in the north of the North York Moors. This site includes ramparts, barracks, stables, a granary, a praetorium (Officer quarters), and a principia (main building for admin and religion). The forts at Cawthorn and at Lease Rigg are connected by Wheeldale Road/Wades Causeway, which is recorded as a Roman road. Because of the lack of quality it has been suggested it isn’t actually a Roman road at all.
The North York Moors Historic Environment Record includes a number of Roman finds including pottery, tessalie (mosaic tiles), coins, armilla (metal armband), beads, weights, pins, and altars.
There are also a number of Roman signal stations along the coastal cliffs from the 4th century. The best example in the North York Moors is at Goldsborough. There might also have been a signal station at Ravenscar – the evidence for this is an engraved dedication stone identified in the 18th century, but this might have been brought onto the site from somewhere else after the Roman period. The stone reads IVSTINIANVSPP VINDICIANVS MASSIERIV(RR)/(PR) MCASTRVMFECIT A….0. (JUSTINIANUS COMMANDER VINDICIANUS…PRAEFECT OF SOLDIERS BUILT THIS TOWER AND FORT FROM GROUND LEVEL). Signal stations were built towards the end of the Roman period to guard against the growing threat of Angles and Saxons from the sea. By this time people on the edge of the Roman Empire were having to look after themselves because as the empire contracted it was clear no one was going to come and rescue them. The end of the Roman period fizzled out slowly. Often the new invaders would use the same sites, carefully chosen for their resources and setting. For example there is evidence that Cawthorn Camps was subsequently re-used as an Anglian settlement.
Kelsey Williamson – Business Administration Apprentice
I decided to look for an apprenticeship after completing my A-levels as university wasn’t for me. I wanted to be out working however I had limited experience after only working part time while studying, at hotels, cafes and Sainsburys – so this wasn’t the experience I needed or the type of career I wanted to pursue.
I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do but after studying Business Studies at GCSE and A-Level I thought a Business Administration Apprenticeship was a good start; it would allow me to get the experience I was lacking, gain more qualifications and hopefully provide direction for a career. So I decided to join the North York Moors National Park Authority’s apprenticeship scheme.
Apprentices at the North York Moors National Park Authority currently make up about 14% of the workforce and compared to the other 15 National Parks in the UK we are the biggest employer of apprentices (the second place Park employs 9 behind our 17!) Our apprenticeships cover three different areas: Business Administration, Countryside Conservation and Tourism, and we offer Levels 2 (intermediate), 3 (advanced) and 4 (higher). The Apprentices range in age between 16 and 28.
Our Business Administration Apprentices normally do a two year apprenticeship with one year in the Corporate Services team assisting with office works such as phone cover, sorting the pool vehicles/room bookings and organising the post. The other year is helping the Planning Admin team, booking in and requesting payment for enquires, plotting applications and doing background searches. At the moment I’m working at a Level 4 role, alongside the Ranger Service team, undertaking project work such as selling off our old National Park boundary signs and looking at easy access routes within the Park.
The Countryside Workers and Apprentice Rangers are split into two teams – the Northern Area Team cover the north and coast areas of the Park and are based at Danby, and the Southern Area Team cover the south and west areas of the Park and are based at Helmsley.
Both teams have four Level 2 Apprentices and two Level 3s. The Level 2 Apprentices work together with their Supervisor doing jobs such as tree felling, fencing, path resurfacing and controlling vegetation. The Level 3s work under the Senior Ranger (North, Coast, South or West) taking on more responsibility including working on their own, planning jobs themselves, liaising with landowners and farmers, as well as working with our Volunteer Task Day Leaders and volunteer teams.
Our Tourism Apprentices are based at our Visitor Centres. In this role the Apprentices are dealing with customers, sorting and restocking displays and helping with events. In the winter months when the Centres are closed during the week the Apprentices work in the offices. The Moors National Park Centre Apprentice assists with the education administration, sorting post, processing school bookings and arranging timetables for the week ahead. The Sutton Bank Centre Apprentice helps in our Park Services Team based in our Helmsley headquarters updating the events system, helping the social media officer and organising events.
Last year the Authority started an ‘Apprentice Forum’ to be run by ourselves. It is managed mainly by me, I coordinate the meetings and find out what the others would like to do and organise the trips. At present the Forum is meeting bi-monthly, it’s an excellent opportunity to do a bit of team building. We’ve had an initial meeting, a meeting to discuss one another’s roles, a tour of the new features at the Moors National Park Centre, and visited the Seated Man figure on Castleton Rigg to discuss the planning process undertaken and our opinions. We’re aiming to have a talk from past Apprentices about what we could do after our apprenticeships and also to visit the Lake District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales National Park to meet up with their Apprentices.
Doing my apprenticeship has helped me gain a lot and not just in experience and qualifications. I have gained confidence, done things I never thought I would and learnt so many new skills from leading the Apprentice Forum to juggling workloads and deadlines.
I hope this won’t be the end of my learning I would like to go on and train more in a position that still has a link to the outdoors either with National Park Authorities or in the agricultural sector.
Mags Waughman – NPA Monument Management Scheme Officer
Archaeology often uncovers the unexpected, but it usually relates to activities which are hundreds if not thousands of years old, but last week we found something which is much more recent.
As part of our work under the Historic England funded Monument Management Scheme (Phase 3), we have been trying to improve the visibility and condition of a number of Bronze Age burial mounds (usually dating to around 1700-2000 BC) which have been obscured in recent years by the addition of modern cairns on top of them. Walkers who may be unaware of the ancient burial mound beneath a pile of stones are sometimes tempted to pull stones out of the prehistoric monument to add to the modern cairn on top and this causes damage the ancient fabric of the monument. Many of these burial mounds are protected in law as Scheduled Monuments so it is especially important that we try to stop the damage and conserve what is left of them. Dismantling modern cairns from the top of these monuments can remove the temptation to extract stones for cairn building and restores the profile of the monument to something which is more recognisable as a Bronze Age burial mound.
One such burial mound on Gisborough Moor is getting an improvement makeover at the moment. This is quite a low and not very imposing mound which is distinguished by having a rough kerb of low stones set into the ground around its perimeter and a larger earthfast stone – a stone slab set vertically into the ground – on its north side. Small standing stones like this are believed to be prehistoric and in this case to have been part of the structure of the burial mound.
We organised an archaeological survey of the monument last autumn (carried out by Solstice Heritage) to be followed up, once the snows had gone, with the removal of the modern stones. During the survey work we were intrigued by a lump of concrete which was visible, poking out from the bottom of the cairn. We were wondering how someone had managed to lift it onto the monument and in particular how we would be able to remove it. Come last week, a team of our volunteers and apprentices guided by Chris Scott from Solstice Heritage took down the modern cairn, taking care to inspect the stones for any signs of prehistoric decoration. None were found, but underneath the modern accumulation of stones, the lump of concrete turned out to be much more interesting than we had originally thought.
Marked in the top of the concrete were the initials ‘CS’ and ‘JP’ with the date 11/11/1943 and in the centre was a deep and narrow cylindrical hole. We think that the initials are those of the people who cast the block and that it may have been intended to take either a flagpole or a communications mast. We know that parts of the surrounding moorland were used during World War II as a bombing decoy site – an arrangement of controlled fires which would have been lit during an air raid to draw enemy bombers away from Middlesbrough – so the presence of concrete dating from this time is not surprising. The 11 November date suggests that it may have been installed as part of an Armistice Day commemoration: perhaps the servicemen manning the decoy site held a ceremony of remembrance for the dead of the previous world war.
Above: Cast slab of WWII concrete – possibly a flagpole base
Although modern additions to prehistoric monuments often look out of place, in this case the World War II concrete slab is part of the history of this site and so it will be left in place to tell its own story. As for the Bronze Age burial mound – now that the modern cairn has gone, it is much easier to see the shape of the mound and the standing stone set within it as another visible part of the heritage of the North York Moors landscape and its much earlier past.
Above: Monument after removal of the modern cairn – the standing stone with the concrete block in front of it is at the far side of the mound in the centre of the picture and some of the kerb stones can be seen in the foreground
We will be keeping an eye on the monument over the coming months to see whether the vegetation is regenerating on the bare ground left by the removal of the modern cairn, and if necessary we will return later in the year to give it a helping hand. We will also watch out for the re-appearance of new cairns, but expect that this will be less likely to happen now that there are no loose stones on the surface – we would hope that visitors will respect both the prehistoric burial mound and the relic of our more recent past by not building any new cairns on the monument.
Above: The stoical team after a day’s work in the March wind
The Trees by Philip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
If you like your poems recited by the poet and maybe animated – click here. Larkin sometimes thought his own poem was ‘bloody awful tripe’ – and at the same time upcoming spring might be ‘corny’ and predictable but it’s also reassuring and propitious.
The Freshwater Biological Association has been working with the North York Moors National Park for the last 3 years on the ‘Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England’ project (funded through Biffa Award). Our role has been to rear juvenile mussels ready for reintroduction back into the River Esk at some appropriate time in the future when the habitat is restored and the water quality improved enough to support them.
Rearing juvenile freshwater pearl mussels (FPM) is a 24 hrs a day, 365 days of the year operation with our staff attending the hatchery even on Christmas Day to ensure that the mussels, and the host fish that they rely on as part of their lifecycle, are all okay.
But it’s not a bad job over here on the shores of Windermere. Whilst the wind may funnel up the lake at times, come rain, snow or sunshine, the views are wonderful and we have a great team.
The adult mussels are kept in circular tanks in our hatchery connected to tanks which contain host fish. Keeping fish and mussels in close proximity under controlled conditions improves the chances of the mussels successfully completing their lifecycle. We try to maintain the mussels in as natural an environment as possible so they are kept outside in flowing water provided from Windermere.
We constantly monitor the mussels and fish to record when glochidia (freshwater pearl mussel larvae) are released from the females and when these glochidia have grown sufficiently on the fish gills. Then we set nets to collect juveniles as they drop off their fish hosts and transfer them to trays in our juvenile rearing facility. Whilst other techniques of bank-side encystment and seeded gravel reintroductions have been used for some rivers we believe that rearing juveniles beyond their most vulnerable pedal feeding stage, when they live amongst the gravels before filtering free-flowing water, will yield better reintroduction survival rates and allows us the opportunity to learn more about these fascinating creatures.
Back in 2016, we worked with Simon Hirst (River Esk Project Officer) to translocate more adult mussels from the Esk to the hatchery. This exercise followed a recently commissioned brief from Natural England and was very carefully monitored. It proved successful and we have been collecting the captive bred juveniles in large numbers over the last two seasons. FPM larvae are carried on the gills of specific fish hosts for up to 10 months as part of lifecycle. It is interesting that in recent years the Esk glochidia grow to excystment size (350-400 microns long) and drop of the fish hosts within 2 to 3 months at the hatchery. We are therefore monitoring their survival in the rearing trays carefully.
We have been working with other river populations to prepare juveniles for reintroduction into their native rivers. The trays they are reared in are indoors where the juveniles are well protected. So we have set up flume systems to expose captive-bred juvenile mussels to diurnal and seasonal conditions which better reflect the river situation they will be reintroduced to. Once in the flume we can control flow to ‘teach’ them how to adapt to flood and drought conditions. During these experiments we record how many mussels are deeply buried, how many remain on their side on the surface of the gravels and how many are roaming about using their muscular foot. We also record whether they are siphoning water or not.
We look forward to the time that we can repeat these experiments for the Esk population but in the meantime have a look at some of our other, older juveniles filmed in their flume – click here. Or organise a group visit and come and see us at the Ark to visit the Esk juveniles and learn more about what we do.
Biffa Award is a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund.
Richard Baines – Turtle Dove Project Officer
If you are a farmland bird – such as a Turtle Dove or a Song Thrush, looking to protect your nest from predators and other disturbance – where should you nest? If you have any sense you will be looking for a dense patch of protective scrub or a large hedge (slightly more organised scrub) safe from dangerous raptor talons or avaricious eyes.
Unfortunately this type of vegetation containing older stands of Hawthorn and Blackthorn is becoming increasingly rare in the countryside due to creeping development, agricultural intensification and ‘tidying up’. Scrub can often be assumed to be a problem which needs to be removed. It has been an undervalued habitat in many conservation schemes over the years with other more showy habitats taking precedent.
The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project is wanting to improve the appreciation of this fantastic habitat.
Scrub is very important for Turtle Doves. Their delicate nests are often built within 2 metres of the ground in a dense tangle of thorns and twigs. They need this structure to reach the ground to feed. Stock grazing under such a habitat can remove any value to many birds such as Turtle Doves. In the winter scrub is a fantastic habitat for roosting birds such as Long-eared Owls. These magnificent birds are also looking for protection from disturbance and somewhere to have a daytime nap.
Last week we started work on our first community reserve for Turtle Doves at Sawdon near Scarborough. We were out with the Sawdon Community Nature Reserve Group and a very hard working Community Payback team. We planted a mixture of Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Hazel to create a thicket of scrub for the future. Luckily the planting day was sunny and warm with many birds singing in the trees around us. Amongst the appreciative audience were Song Thrush, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammers who will all be able to benefit from the effort made to increase their local nesting habitat. Future plans for this site include pond restoration and a Turtle Dove flower meadow.