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.

Tending our heritage

Jo Collins – Monuments for the Future Volunteers and Community Officer

Our Monuments for the Future project is focused on protecting and conserving the hundreds of Scheduled Monuments in the North York Moors. We work with volunteers, community groups, organisations and landowners, whose support and collaboration is, as usual, invaluable.

An amazing 169 Scheduled Monuments in the National Park were visited by volunteers and community groups in 2019. This means we can have an accurate record of the condition of the protected archaeology in the National Park and it’s the first step in organising works to conserve and repair monuments where this is needed.

We’re very grateful for the help of several local community groups who have stepped forward to look after their nearby monuments. Appleton le Moors History Group and Thornton le Dale Hub are now looking after the medieval wayside crosses in their villages, the Great Ayton History Society are tackling bracken in the field (see below), whilst several walking groups have volunteered to keep an eye on particular monuments close to Rights of Way. If you are part of a community group and might be interested in helping please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Some of the Conservation Volunteers Group after a satisfying day of clearing scrub from a bronze age round barrow (Scheduled Monument). Copyright NYMNPA.

Practical work tasks are sometimes needed to clear damaging vegetation or repair monuments – always with relevant permissions. Recently the Conservation Volunteer Group have helped clear scrub and bash bracken at Fall Rigg prehistoric dyke, Cawthorn Roman camps, and Roulston Scar Iron Age fort to name a few.

One of our Conservation Volunteers (Ann) clearing scrub at Cawthorn Camps (Scheduled Monument). Copyright NYMNPA.

Other times we’ve needed just a few volunteers to help with tasks; for example at Cloughton Dyke where a bike jump had been constructed in the prehistoric earthwork. Two of our expert volunteers led the task to very neatly repair the damage. These kinds of practical tasks not only preserve our archaeology but often make monuments easier for people to see and appreciate in the landscape. This can make for a very satisfying end to practical task days!

Volunteers repairing prehistoric dyke (Scheduled Monument) in Cloughton Woods. Copyright NYMNPA.

Scheduled Monuments are at risk from many things, not least the growth of bracken, gorse and young trees as well as natural and human erosion. Volunteer and community help has helped ‘rescue’ three monuments in 2019, they have been taken off Historic England’s Heritage At Risk Register.

The 18th century Ayton Banks Alum Works near Great Ayton (List Entry 1020347) has been taken off the Heritage at Risk Register. At this site during the 1760s and 1770s alum was extracted from shale rock in a process involving burning, leaching, boiling, and crystallising. Alum was used to treat leather, fix dyes in fabric, and also had medicinal value including as a treatment for nits. Today the earthwork remains of the clamps, reservoirs and stone lined cisterns are best viewed safely from the path above. However the vigorous bracken growth in the summer completely obscures the historic features and is very likely disturbing the below ground archaeology too. Great Ayton History Society are working with National Park volunteers to tackle the bracken; the Young Ranger Group and Conservation Volunteer Group did sterling work this summer and have offered to do so again in 2020, thank you all!

Bracken at Ayton Banks Alum Works (Scheduled Monument). Copyright NYMNPA.

NYMNPA Young Rangers help bash the early bracken shoots in May - Ayton Banks Alum Works (Scheduled Monument). Copyright NYMNPA.A round barrow at Codhill Heights on Gisborough Moor has been ‘rescued’ and is now off the Heritage at Risk Register (List Entry 1016574). A modern walkers’ cairn located on top of the Bronze Age burial mound was encouraging visitors to inadvertently damage the archaeology. Two intrepid volunteers visited the hill top burial mound twice a year for several years to check on the damage. The walkers’ cairn was removed by a team of volunteers and apprentices on a wintry day two years ago, and in 2018 and 2019 volunteers scattered moorland grass seed on the bare ground exposed by removing the stones – the resulting grass will help protect against natural erosion. A previous blog has more information about the interesting work and new find at this site.

Cock Howe is a bronze age round barrow on the western edge of Bilsdale (List Entry 1015761). Footpath erosion was damaging the monument and this has now been repaired by contractors; volunteer surveyors monitored the progression of the erosion before the work took place, and a recent volunteer visit has shown the monument to be in good shape. This work means that the burial mound is no longer deemed to be ‘At Risk’.

Scheduled Monument - Cock Howe round barrow. Photo Credit Anthony Fleming.

Its not all good news, in 2019 another eight North York Moors monuments were added to the Heritage At Risk Register. One of these is Cockan Cross (List Entry 1011747) on Farndale Moor. During a condition survey our volunteer surveyor found that the shaft of the cross has now split into two pieces. We think this was caused by natural erosion and hope to make a high quality record of the cross shaft using photogrammetry (3D scanning) to help with its future conservation.

We’re not downhearted. Watch this space for an update on progress with more of these At Risk monuments in months to come.

All the volunteers for the Monuments for the Future project do a huge amount of work – I haven’t been able to mention it all here. Your help is very much appreciated and we’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to the volunteers and community groups who are helping safeguard the protected heritage of the North York Moors.

D Haida surveying Miley Howe (Scheduled Monument). Photo Credit T Fleming.

Esk ventures

Ryan Harvey – River Esk & Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership Officer

Hi there, I’m Ryan the new Partnership Officer for the River Esk & Coastal Streams Catchment – its part of a Catchment Based Approach and my post is jointly hosted by the National Park Authority and the Yorkshire Esk Rivers Trust (YERT) . I started back in August and what a fantastic experience I’ve had so far. My role is very varied and fulfills a broad range of objectives: liaising with landowners and farmers, managing volunteers, working with partner organisations and carrying out surveys. All this effort is in the hope of benefiting the ecology of the Esk and building strong relationships and partnerships to maintain the ecology into the future.

It all started with the electro fishing season. That meant getting to know our e-fishing volunteers and arranging some refresher training for them. This was a great opportunity for me to meet the team ahead of our actual surveys and set the scene for the coming weeks. Once the work started along with volunteers I had the much appreciated help of Victoria Franklin (our Conservation Trainee) and Ami Carrick (our Ryevitalise Education & Engagement Officer). Electro fishing is a hugely important element of our data collection on the Esk. It allows us to gain a better understanding of our fish species diversity and abundance, in particular migratory species such as salmon (Salmo salar), sea trout (Salmo trutta), European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and lamprey (Lampreta planeri).

Electro fishing on the Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Our sites are repeated year on year and we now have a record of each species population over the last six years. This along with a whole suite of other data collecting techniques better informs our next steps and future conservation measures.

We are looking for new electro fishing volunteers for the 2020 season, so if this is something that may interest you please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Volunteers Team. We can offer all the training you might need.

Another aspect of my role has been working alongside our Pearl Mussel Volunteers who have a long standing history in the National Park; some of its volunteers have been working with us for over 10 years. The volunteers’ work is invaluable because it’s through this group (along with contractors) that we get most of the physical works and restorations done on the river. There are usually volunteer tasks every two weeks at locations along the Esk and in surrounding riparian habitats. Tasks can vary from week to week for instance woodrush and tree planting for bank stabilization and habitat creation, riverbank fencing and repair to help water quality, as well as hedgerow and riverside grassland management to enhance biodiversity. We don’t stop for winter; this year so far we’ve tackled left over Himalayan Balsam pulling/bashing tasks on the upper Esk catchment.

Our 26 existing Riverfly Volunteers have been busy as ever in 2019, providing vital spot data on the Esk’s freshwater invertebrates. This data is crucial as many of our invertebrates are indicator species and being very sensitive they act as useful litmus for water quality and pollution. Many invertebrates are key component of freshwater and riparian food webs and many other species feed on them. Rivers need to be clean for them to thrive and in turn every other species will benefit. The data returns from 2019 have all been highly valuable for us and the national Riverfly Partnership, with most sites showing high levels of target group abundance and a few showing the highest levels in the last three years, which is encouraging news – hopefully this trend continues into 2020!

Riverfly monitoring in the Esk Catchment. Copyright NYMNPA.

Our Adopt a Stream initiative is also a great source of data for the catchment. Another long standing citizen science project, this has volunteers who “take ownership” of given sections of the Esk, which they monitor on a month to month basis. Volunteers note down the general ecology of the site, the state of the river (flow regimes and water levels), any pollution inputs, any litter and invasive non-native species. This allows us, through the eyes of the volunteer, to recognise any apparent issues along the Esk. So if this is something you might be interested in, if you have a favourite walk or spot along the catchment you care about and like to visit frequently, then please get in touch and help us to continue to monitor the ecological health of the Esk Valley.

In addition we are hoping to start addressing some of the remaining in-river obstacles such as weirs, culverts and fords. This work could help towards the restoration of natural river processes and hydrology of the Esk and also importantly aid the passage of migratory fish species, such as salmon, trout, lamprey and eels. Structures can prevent fish species migrating up river to spawning sites and also prevent successful downstream migration of our salmon smolts which, added to the decline of salmon at sea, has further compounded population declines in the catchment in the last few decades. We found extremely low juvenile salmon numbers from our electro fishing surveys; this suggests that the installation of fish passage and fish easements could be a vital part of the continued conservation efforts along the Esk.

Example of an In channel obstacle for fish passage. Copyright NYMNPA.

Lastly but most importantly there are our pearl mussels. The catalyst for all this work over the last decade and into the future is our Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) population in the River Esk. We work with land managers as well as our volunteers and contractors to fence river corridors, plant trees/vegetation, stabilise and restore river banks in order to:

  • reduce diffuse pollution because mussels require oligotrophic (low nutrient) conditions, and
  • tackle erosion and sedimentation leading to suspended solids in the river because juvenile mussels require clean gravels with good oxygen circulation.

A strong salmonid population supports good healthy mussel numbers as the fish are crucial to the mussel’s life cycle – the larval form (glochidia) use the fish as hosts by attaching to the gills until large enough to detach and then self sustainably live within the river gravels. This is why we’re so keen on our river obstacle work because we want fish to spawn all the way up the catchment, creating strong, wide spread populations. Helping the fish helps the mussels and the mussels, being bivalves, help clean the river which in turn provides better conditions for our freshwater invertebrates, which then are fed on the by the fish and the cycle continues….

The glochidea phase of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. Copyright Elizabeth Clements, NYMNPA.

Everything in the river is connected and helping one species will help another, this is why all our conservation work is so important and why partnership and cooperation between our volunteers, land managers and partners is crucial for the future of the River Esk.

Ryevitalise Discovery: Woodlands

Ann Pease – Ryevitalise Administration Assistant

The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme focuses on a fascinating river catchment landscape encompassing the Rivers Rye, Seph and Riccal. The area contains some truly amazing woodlands which support an enormous array of wildlife, including some real rarities.

River Rye and riparian woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Over the next four years Ryevitalise will focus on the conservation and restoration of woodlands and adjoining habitats such as sunny clearings and marshy grasslands, to support the wildlife that relies on these important sites.

Patience is a virtue, and what can often seem like a quiet woodland setting on first glance can be a veritable highway of activity.  Back last summer a remote, motion sensitive camera was set up in a quiet corner of woodland near Helmsley ahead of an invasive-species control task we ran to control Himalayan balsam, just to see what we could see.  The device was left in situ for two weeks, and in that time stealthily caught the comings and goings of some of our most loved British wildlife. So here are a few of the captured images of the wildlife of the Ryevitalise catchment from last summer to lighten and warm up these cold winter days.  Some are easier than others – see if you can identify the roe deer, the badger, the bat, the fox, the rabbit, the thrush feeding its chick, the roe deer, the partridge.

Spring is not too far away – but the winter itself is a particularly great time to spot wildlife in your local patch.  An influx of winter visitors such as fieldfare, wax wing, and short eared owl boost bird populations, and many animals become bolder in their search for sustenance and shelter and food hotspots can support great concentrations.  If there is a covering of snow (or mud!), head out into the countryside to find footprints and secret paths hidden during fairer weather. The Nature Calendar pages on of the National Park’s website has some great information on the types of wildlife you are likely to see throughout January and February, as well as the best places to see them.

We are always keen to see your photos of wildlife on and around the Rye area – so if you can, when you post them online please include #Ryevitalise or @northyorkmoors so we can see them too. Whatever you do this winter – take time out in nature and enjoy the best that the National Park has to offer.

STOP PRESS
The official Ryevitalise launch event will be held on 25 May 2020 at Sutton Bank National Park Centre including lots of opportunities to learn more about the habitats and wildlife of the River Rye area within that week … more details will be announced shortly!.

If you would like to find out more about the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership, upcoming volunteer opportunities or events keep an eye on our web pages.

Ryevitalise logo

3D-ing

Aside

Here’s another reblogged post from Land of Iron volunteer Adrian Glasser. This one is about his photogrammetry turntable prototype – a turntable should make photogrammetry modelling a whole lot easier. The Land of Iron are using photogrammetry as much as possible in order to model the remains of local ironstone industry structures and associated features in 3D (see Land of Iron Sketchfab page).

2D image of (Land of Iron) rusty bolt - from Sketchfab.com

See Adrian’s recent blog post by clicking here.

Going with the FLO

Victoria Franklin – Conservation Trainee

At the end of October last year it was the turn of this National Park Authority to host the National Park Authorities’ Farm Liaison Officers (FLO) Group Meeting. It was the thirtieth such meeting and we welcomed 23 farm officers from 11 National Parks with attendees from the Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales.

The main purpose of these three day meetings is to enable discussions between colleagues about the common opportunities and challenges of working with landowners and land managers to conserve the special qualities of farmed landscapes. This is an annual event shared out between the 15 UK National Parks. The last time the North York Moors played host was back in 2002. There have been a lot of changes since then so we had a lot to showcase.

DAY ONE

The meeting was based at Wydale Hall near Scarborough on the southern edge of the National Park – a very peaceful and beautiful setting. Everyone arrived by midday and we started with a brief introduction and catch up from each National Park with representatives talking through their new projects and current issues from their point of view. We had a cup of tea and a presentation on the new Woodsmith Mine near Whitby followed by a drive past to see the setting within the landscape. The mine sparked much discussion around light pollution, the local economy, offsetting carbon emissions and the scale of the planned operation. We ended up in Whitby that evening for much appreciated fish and chips.

DAY TWO

Day two was all about the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership. We started off in Nunnington, a village towards the southern end of the Rye catchment within the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We had roped in various members of the Ryevitalise and the Howardian Hills AONB teams to help. Paul from Ryevitalise was able to present an overview of the Landsdcape Partnership, highlighting why the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund decided to fund this 3.2 million project for the area – i.e. to enhance water quality, to improve water level management and to reconnect the people who live within the catchment with their river.

By the River Rye in Nunnington, FLO visit 30.10.19. Copyright NYMNPA.

We went on for a short walk along the riverbank in Duncombe Park, Helmsley. Duncombe Park is a National Nature Reserve (NNR) because of its important ecology. We talked about the potential for alleviating some of the impacts that weirs can have on both water level management and the ability for fish to spawn throughout the length of a river.

View from Duncombe Park looking back over Helmsley Castle. Copyright NYMNPA.

Low Crookleith Farm, Bilsdale - FLO visit 30.10.20. Copyright NYMNPA.After indulging in pie and peas at Hawnby Village Hall for lunch we drove further upstream through Bilsdale to visit a farm where the farmer now has a land management agreement through the Ryevitalise programme. We looked at his riverside fields where trees will be planted through the agreement to create a riparian buffer, along with the installation of new fencing to stop stock accessing the river directly which can cause sediment to enter the water and negatively impact on the river ecology.

We ended up at Chop Gate Village Hall near the top of Bilsdale where we got to hear about riverfly monitoring from two very enthusiastic and interesting volunteers who are already actively engaged in monitoring the water quality in the Rye catchment.

Back at Wydale Hall dinner was followed by a range of after dinner presentations from invited speakers on Turtle Doves, Championing the Farmed Environment and the Esk Valley Facilitation Fund group, as well as an appreciation of Geraint Jones from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park who has been coming to these meetings from the beginning and for whom this one would be his last as he is due to retire shortly.

DAY THREE

Straight after breakfast the morning session began with a talk from Forestry England on their enclosed beaver trial ongoing in Cropton Forest.  There was fascinating video footage of how the beavers’ natural behavior of building dams can help with slowing the flow of water which has great potential as a natural and sustainable flood alleviation method.

We rounded off the session with in depth discussions of current issues including the development of the new national environmental land management scheme and rural development initiatives post Brexit and how National Park Authorities might be involved. Other subjects considered were; how National Parks could help companies offset their carbon, providing advice to farmers on how to reduce carbon emissions, opportunities for more landscape scale projects within National Parks, the always contentious issue of fencing on common land and how best to share farming stories with the general public. The meeting wrapped up at lunch time and everyone set off back to their respective National Parks hopefully with good memories of the North York Moors and its work.

Attendees at the Farm Liaison Officers Group Meeting October 2020. Copyright NYMNPA.

It is always useful to meet up with like-minded people and discuss pertinent subjects with colleagues from other National Park Authorities. We do tend to consider ourselves to be a family of National Parks and it is great to be able to come together occasionally, to discuss ideas, to learn from each other and to return to our individual Parks refreshed and inspired by what we have seen and experienced.

Top posts from last year

So looking back at our statistics for 2019 the historic environment comes out tops. Out of our top five posts (according to Views) three of them were about archaeology.

Fortifying the landscape

The earthwork ramparts at Round Hill hillfort. Copyright NYMNPA.

Standing up for standing stones

Cammon Stone with inscriptions. Copyright NYMNPA.

Moor mounds

Round barrow on Howdale Moor. Copyright NYMNPA.

UPDATE from the Monuments for the Future team:

“With the help of our volunteers work will be continuing this year on monitoring of scheduled monuments and carrying out vegetation management and remedial work where necessary to improve monument condition in order to either remove them from the At Risk register or stop them going on. In addition we’ve recently begun an Arable Cultivation project which involves studying the results of geophysical surveys completed on scheduled monuments under arable cultivation in order to get a better understanding of their condition.”  

 

One of the other top five posts was about historic remains too – this time from the early 20th century. It is quite a long post and maybe some of the Views recorded are people going back to it a number of times in a valiant effort to read it through to the end…


Magnificent sea views: another what might have been

Ravenscar today - in the distance on top of the headland. Credit Ebor Images.

So that leaves only one natural environment post in the Top 5 from last year, which is looking decidedly towards the future.

Planting for the future: Part Two

Planting at Cam House, Bilsdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

UPDATE from Alasdair, Woodland Creation Officer:
“We’re working through the current planting season with 14 projects and over 50,000 trees to be planted before the end of March 2020. At the same time we’re in the process of drawing up plans for next year (October 2020 – March 2021) and meeting with landowners to develop schemes with an aim to create 60 hectares more of new woodland next year. One thing I’ll be looking into for the longer term is using natural regeneration as a means of creating woodland alongside tree planting. If you have land in the North York Moors and you might be interested in woodland creation please contact me.”

The Winter King

Paul Thompson – Ryevitalise Programme Officer

Trees give us so much – visually from a landscape perspective, environmentally by cleaning the air producing oxygen and storing carbon, and emotionally as spending time in a woodland is said to boost our immune system and have a restorative effect on our mental wellbeing.  They have also had a leading role in our cultural heritage and seasonal festivals for thousands of years.

At this time of year there is one tree in particular that stands out in hedgerows and woodlands across the land – relishing the freezing temperatures, still in leaf and adorned with bright red berries, it’s the humble holly tree (Ilex aquilarium).

Close up of holly. Copyright Kirsty Brown, NYMNPA.

Image of Old Father Christmas with a holly crown and a yule log on his back. From Wikipedia.This species’ highly recognisable spiky, waxy leaves contain cells with anti-freeze properties and were historically used as winter forage for sheep, while the berries now continue to provide food and shelter for migrating fieldfares, blackbirds and thrushes. Pagan folklore has the Holly as the Winter King ruling over the cold winter months and providing food and shelter for wildlife during this crucial time, while the warmer half of the year is personified by his counterpart and adversary the Oak King; the two doing battle at the spring and autumn equinox to regain their crown. It is suggested that the origins of Father Christmas hail from the idea of the Holly King, traditionally dressed in evergreen.

The Romans gave boughs of holly to friends during the festival of Saturnalia – a celebration of Saturn and the winter solstice, later christianised to make Christmas. Christian mythology had it that holly sprang up under the footsteps of Christ, “the leaves’ spines representing the crown of thorns and the red berries the drops of his blood”. The name holly derives from “holy tree”; Jesus’ cross was said to have been made from holly wood. From medieval times holly was being used to decorate churches and people’s homes during the festival of Christmas, and it wasn’t until Victorian times that conifer trees started to take centre place thanks to Prince Albert.

In the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme area we are lucky to have some of the largest specimens of holly in the UK.

Holly Tree in the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Birch Wood nature reserve in Bilsdale. Copyright Paul Thompson, NYMNPA.

We also have some fantastic veteran and ancient oak trees in the Ryevitalise area; indeed one of the largest collections of ancient oak trees in northern England.  These arboricultural giants are home to one of the rarest mammals in the UK, the alcathoe bat. The presence of alcathoe bat was reaffirmed by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) who were commissioned to carry out research into the distribution of bat populations as part of the development of the Ryevtialise scheme. The River Rye riparian corridors and adjoining hedgerows provide feeding super-highways for bat species. Ryevitalise will be expanding on this research through a citizen science project that will train up and empower the local community to monitor both the local bat and veteran tree populations to ensure they are valued and continue to thrive in our landscape.

If you would like to find out more about the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership, upcoming volunteer opportunities and events please keep an eye on our website pages.

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Smelted chocolate

Aside

The Land of Iron has been working with Adrian Glasser, a local volunteer with a lot of technological expertise, on a number of experiments. One recent success has been reinventing the moulding of pig iron, this time in chocolate.

‘Pig iron’ was liquid iron ore run into series of moulds coming off a main running channel which resembled a sow suckling piglets – hence the name – and then cooled. This basic product from the initial iron smelting in a blast furnace could be quickly produced and then easily transported for further refining into wrought iron or steel.    

Production of Pig Iron. Copyright Kirkleatham Museum.

You can find out exactly how Adrian and Tom (Land of Iron Programme Manger) used one of the last surviving pig irons from the Grosmont Ironworks to come up with an edible Land of Iron treat. See Adrian’s recent blog post by clicking here.

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