The North York Moors – forged by nature, shaped by generations. Come and explore our National Park – 554 square miles of secluded dales, magical moors, ancient woodland, historic sites and 26 miles of stunning coastline, all easily reached from York, Teesside and County Durham. Read about our work here, and then pay us a visit!
Hi! My name is Ellie Davison. I graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Biology and then spent a couple of years working as a laboratory technician in a microbiological food testing facility. I always knew I wanted to get into conservation but found it hard to break into the competitive job market so although I kept volunteering in my spare time with the Wildlife Trust and various smaller charities, it remained something of a pipe dream. Once the pandemic hit, a lot of us (including me) were forced to reconsider our priorities. Why was I putting all this time and effort into a job that wasn’t for me when I could be going after my dream career? After a lot of hard work, I was super excited to get on a six month traineeship on a red squirrel conservation project in Knowsley. This boosted my confidence in myself and my decision to switch careers. When the squirrel project ended, I was ecstatic to begin working with the North York Moors National Park as a Conservation Trainee.
So what sort of things have I been up to so far?
My role as a trainee is super varied and I get the chance to learn all sorts of new skills in some beautiful parts of the North York Moors.
I have had great fun working with some of the National Park’s fantastic volunteers. We have been electro-fishing, peat dipping, tree guard removal, fencing, restoring ponds and undertaking lots of vegetation management to help restore grassland habitats or to give newly planted hedgerows a good chance to establish. I really enjoy the job satisfaction of the practical side of conservation and love seeing the difference one day and one group of dedicated volunteers can make to a site. I am looking forward to upcoming training sessions, particularly one in dry stone walling.
I’ll be continuing to work closely with our volunteers and eventually leading sessions for my own projects.
One of my personal highlights so far has been visiting Forestry England’s Cropton Forest. I got to see first-hand the impressive impact the introduced beavers have had on their surroundings since their release into an enclosure there in 2019. Their dams and carefully placed channels to slow water flow and raise water levels have completely transformed the whole area. Beaver activity has had a huge increase in biodiversity on the site. Felling trees near the water opened up the area to sunlight which led to more plant species. Larger and deeper pools have encouraged an increase in frogs, toads and insects which resulted in an increase in birds and bats on site. The beavers have had an impact on humans too – residents in towns downstream of the site have noted a decrease in flooding frequency. This is a wonderful project and I can’t wait to see what happens with it in the future.
I have long been fascinated by fungi and so joining the conservation team during mushroom season has been a real treat! On my various site visits I’ve been lucky enough to see all sorts, including waxcaps, mottlegills, milk caps, stinkhorns, ink caps, parasols, earth stars, puffballs, vomiting russulas, beefsteak and many, many more. I enrolled on a remote lifelong learning course with Aberystwyth University, “An Introduction to Fungi”. This course has improved my ID skills and enabled me to learn a lot more about the biology, ecology and uses of fungi, and I’ll gain a qualification in something I love at the end of it!
Without trying to sound too clichéd, it is true that no two days are the same here at the North York Moors National Park. If you are passionate about conservation and are looking for a chance to get into this competitive field, I cannot recommend this 2 year traineeship post enough!
N.B. A few types of wild (uncultivated) mushrooms are edible, many taste of nothing, and others are toxic and quite often deadly. You always need to be absolutely sure which are edible if you’re intending to eat one.
Also picking mushrooms won’t necessarily damage the fungi they’re attached to but the more that are picked the less chance the fungi has of reproducing.
FRAGMENTS OF THE OLD IRONSTONE RAILWAY TRACK, FROM ROSEDALE EAST MINE TO OVEREND FARM.
NORTH YORK MOORS 10 SEPTEMBER 2020
[NB: ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT PROTECTED]
I first began to document local walks, using a sequence of 12 images, fairly early on in 2020; and it was idea that emerged from two different sources.
In 2019 I made a 12 image photo-piece to illustrate a poem by R S Thomas; extracting individual words, in sequence, from the poem, and linking them to 12 small, almost abstract, images. And in the previous winter I had photographed various collections of twigs on the freshly ‘snow-covered-towpath’ of my local canal.
So, when lock-down descended on us all in late March 2020, I suddenly found myself retracing local track-ways and paths, that were to become increasingly familiar. And in that repeated retracing, I became increasingly aware that there was another landscape beneath my feet; one that reflected, in many ways, the landscape around me, but that also carried a story and a beauty of its own.
And so the first work, in what was to become an on-going series of works, was born. ‘Still Traces:1’, used 12 images, with words, to document a walk from canal-bridge 56, quite near where I live in Marsden, to the banks of the infant river Colne, a little way up the valley.
But the year moved on; and by September, when the travel restrictions that had affected all of us began to relax, the faithful, old, converted-VW-van – imaginatively christened Van Rouge on account of the colour! – could once again be pointed at a semi-distant landscape for exploring.
Having been born in Leeds – and having been lucky enough to possess a bicycle at a time when roads could be enjoyably cycled on – the coast of Yorkshire was always a favourite destination. And as anyone who has cycled from almost anywhere to Whitby will testify – the North York Moors are quite difficult to ignore!
But if one looks beyond their obvious, and formidable, ‘physical presence’, they also represent an incredible diversity of both natural and human history; and it was my discovery – mainly through gazing intently at Ordnance Survey maps and wondering, it has to be said – of the now vanished industries that once flourished on the moors, that has triggered numerous visits to the area over the years; be it to the old limekilns above Rosedale, or the, slightly mind-boggling in scale, Ingleby Incline.
However, the track-bed of the old railway in Rosedale had always fascinated me – especially the distinct ‘horse-shoe’ loop at Rosedale Head – and so, one morning in September 2020, Van Rouge was fired into action and we headed for the moors.
After parking on Daleside Road, and climbing the track on the western edge of Swine Stye Hill, I think the first thing that will hit any first-time visitor to this section of track-bed is the sheer scale of the workings at the old East Mines – a cross between, for me at least, some ancient Egyptian monument, and a colossal mausoleum. But whatever one might make of it, the scale of the industrial operation that took place around the area is quite astonishing to contemplate.
The 12 images, and the words, are just one small ‘response’, to a truly magical landscape…
The photographs were taken in the sequence presented, starting just before East Mines and ending on the farm track leading back to Daleside Road – the only one that might cause ‘puzzlement’ I would guess being the rabbit: An image for which I can offer no explanation. That is was dead, and very recently, was obvious. But why it had died, remains a mystery.
‘Rosedale Head’ and other works in the ‘Another Landscape’ series can be found at:
Without the Conservation Department’s usual mid morning coffee time over the last 18 months we’ve missed out on the usual office chatter of what everyone thought to the latest BBC Countryfile episode, what people have been growing in their gardens or the interesting things we have seen on our site visits. So with my late summer holiday looming I thought I would ask what everyone’s favorite books are, not that my book shelves are in need of anymore!
So here we go with a list that contains some of the Department’s favorite books, each with its own synopsis. This is part one of a two part series, this part containing ten Natural History books and part two containing ten Local History books. Maybe our recommendations will inspire you to pick up a book and learn something new as the darker nights draw in.
The Peregrine by J A Baker
J. A. Baker’s extraordinary classic of British nature writing was first published in 1967. Greeted with acclaim, it went on to win the Duff Cooper Prize, the pre-eminent literary prize of the time. Luminaries such as Ted Hughes, Barry Lopez and Andrew Motion have cited it as one of the most important books in twentieth-century nature writing.
Despite the association of peregrines with the wild, outer reaches of the British Isles, The Peregrine is set on the flat marshes of the Essex coast, where J. A. Baker spent long winters looking and writing about the visitors from the uplands – peregrines that spend the winter hunting the huge flocks of pigeons and waders that share the desolate landscape with them.
“… honestly the most beautiful prose by this guy who’d never written a book before … wrote this absolute banger then disappeared back into obscurity.” Ann Pease, Ryevitalise Administrator
The Harvest of the Hills’ by Angus Winchester
This illustrated environmental history of rural life in Northern England and the Scottish Borders in the late medieval and early modern periods explores the relationship between society and the environment – the ways in which humans responded to and used the environment in which they lived. The author uses the orders and byelaws made by manorial courts to build up a picture of how pastoral society in the Pennine, Lake District and Border hills husbanded the resources of the uplands. It offers an upland, pastoral paradigm of land use, the management of common land, and the transition from medieval to early-modern farming systems to balance the extensive literature on the agrarian history of the lowlands. The geographical scope of the book includes the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, the Border hills, the North Pennines and the Forest of Bowland.
“One other that has come to mind – is ‘The Harvest of the Hills’ by Angus Winchester. It’s a historical look at farming practise and kind of environmental history, including the use/exploitation of common land in the upland north and borders. It covers the period 1400 – 1700, so quite useful for understanding the landscape as we see it now.” Miles Johnson, Head of Historic Environment
“As a general cultural/natural heritage crossover, how about …” Miles Johnson, Head of Historic Environment
The History of the Countryside by Dr Oliver Rackham
Exploring the natural and man-made features of the land – fields, highways, hedgerows, fens, marshes, rivers, heaths, coasts, woods and wood pastures – he shows conclusively and unforgettably how they have developed over the centuries. In doing so, he covers a wealth of related subjects to provide a fascinating account of the sometimes subtle and sometimes radical ways in which people, fauna, flora, climate, soils and other physical conditions have played their part in the shaping of the countryside.
“Miles great shout, I love that book.” Holly Ramsden, Conservation Officer
Nightwalk: A journey to the heart of nature by Chris Yates
Chris Yates, one of Britain’s most insightful and lyrical writers, raises his gaze from his beloved rivers and ponds and takes us on a mesmerizing tour of the British countryside.
“Last November, the sudden appearance of a hundred wintering ravens in a wood in Cranborne Chase, where I have lived for twenty-five years without seeing more than a few solitary specimens, reminded me that there is always something ready to flame up again in the landscape, just when it seemed the fire had gone out.”
In Nightwalk we accompany Chris Yates on the most magical of journeys into the very heart of the British countryside. His acute observation of the natural world and ability to transcend it exquisitely sets Chris apart from his contemporaries.
Time slows down for a deeper intimacy with nature, and through Chris’s writing we hear every rustle of a leaf, every call of a bird. He widens the power of our imagination, heightening our senses and revealing beauty in the smallest details.
Edgelands by Michael Symmons Roberts
The wilderness is much closer than you think. Passed through, negotiated, unnamed, unacknowledged: the edgelands – those familiar yet ignored spaces which are neither city nor countryside – have become the great wild places on our doorsteps.
In the same way the Romantic writers taught us to look at hills, lakes and rivers, poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts write about mobile masts and gravel pits, business parks and landfill sites, taking the reader on a journey to marvel at these richly mysterious, forgotten regions in our midst.
Edgelands forms a critique of what we value as ‘wild’, and allows our allotments, railways, motorways, wasteland and water a presence in the world, and a strange beauty all of their own.
Feral by George Monbiot
In Feral, George Monbiot, one of the world’s most celebrated radical thinkers offers a riveting tale of possibility and travel in the wild
How many of us sometimes feel that we are scratching at the walls of this life, seeking to find our way into a wider space beyond? That our mild, polite existence sometimes seems to crush the breath out of us?
Feral is the lyrical and gripping story of George Monbiot’s efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. He shows how, by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives. Making use of some remarkable scientific discoveries, Feral lays out a new, positive environmentalism, in which nature is allowed to find its own way.
“A journey to the heart of nature by Chris Yates (guy goes out at dusk and walks through the night in the countryside), Edgelands by Michael Symmons Roberts (wildlife and value of ‘wasteland’ and scraps of land on edges of urban areas), Feral by George Monbiot (rewilding, humans needing to up their game etc) and anything by Robert Macfarlane obs …. We’ve developed a bit of a problem in this house buying them and our front room does resemble the natural history section of Waterstones.” Ann Pease, Ryevitalise Administrator
A Sting in the tale by Dave Goulson
One man’s quest to save the bumblebee…
Dave Goulson has always been obsessed with wildlife, from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets and dabbling in experimental taxidermy to his groundbreaking research into the mysterious ways of the bumblebee and his mission to protect our rarest bees.
Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee is now extinct in the UK, but still exists in the wilds of New Zealand, descended from a few queen bees shipped over in the nineteenth century.
A Sting in the Tale tells the story of Goulson’s passionate drive to reintroduce it to its native land and contains groundbreaking research into these curious creatures, history’s relationship with the bumblebee, the disastrous effects intensive farming has had on our bee populations and the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.
“… also on my list would be …” Victoria Franklin, Conservation Graduate Trainee
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
This book is a lens to help you take a closer look at what you may have taken for granted. Slow down, breathe deep and look around. What can you hear? What can you see? What do you feel?
Are trees social beings? How do trees live? Do they feel pain or have awareness of their surroundings?
In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben makes the case that the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers.
Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death and regeneration he has observed in his woodland. A walk in the woods will never be the same again.
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
Here is a lifeform so strange and wondrous that it forces us to rethink how life works…
Neither plant nor animal, it is found throughout the earth, the air and our bodies. It can be microscopic, yet also accounts for the largest organisms ever recorded, living for millennia and weighing tens of thousands of tonnes. Its ability to digest rock enabled the first life on land, it can survive unprotected in space, and thrives amidst nuclear radiation.
In this captivating adventure, Merlin Sheldrake explores the spectacular and neglected world of fungi: endlessly surprising organisms that sustain nearly all living systems. They can solve problems without a brain, stretching traditional definitions of ‘intelligence’, and can manipulate animal behaviour with devastating precision. In giving us bread, alcohol and life-saving medicines, fungi have shaped human history, and their psychedelic properties, which have influenced societies since antiquity, have recently been shown to alleviate a number of mental illnesses. The ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in break-through technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘Wood Wide Web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems. Yet they live their lives largely out of sight, and over ninety percent of their species remain undocumented.
Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into this hidden kingdom of life, and shows that fungi are key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel and behave. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them.
“OOH! and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (best name???) – extraordinary book about fungi.” Ann Pease, Ryevitalise Administrator
English Pastoral by James Rebanks
As a boy, James Rebanks’s grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.
English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.
This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.
“I have loved seeing everyone’s reading suggestions. I now have a long wish list! Like Victoria I have recently read the English Pastoral by James Rebanks and thoroughly enjoyed it.” Rachel Pickering, Woodland Team Leader
For many years now the district about Staithes, though, more especially, at first, at Runswick and Hinderwell, has been the summer home of a few able and conscientious artists, who have discovered unconventional subjects for their brush, and by careful study, have greatly improved their powers of perception, their appreciation of the relative values of lights and colours…Like Whitby, the paintable bits about Staithes and Runswick are illimitable …
… there was a gay and fashionable little assemblage present, which viewed with evident interest the representative collection of works on the walls of the upper room of the building which, from its large window, looked upon the the as from the deck of a steamer …
…There can be but one opinion among the fraternity of the brush as to the value of an exhibition of this kind, for comparison and criticism are the very soul of improvement and are valuable guides to a complete success.”
Whitby Gazette – Friday 8 August 1902
The exhibition referred to was the second of a series of short lived annual exhibitions held by the Staithes Art Club between 1901 and 1907. During the 1880s/1890s and 1900s artists, both professional and amateur, both men and women, lived or regularly stayed in or around Staithes, which has lead to the idea of a ‘Staithes Group’ of artists.
Most of the artists counted in the Group originated elsewhere, many from other places in the north of England. The east coast of Yorkshire had been opened up by a new railway line. Artists came and went during the period, some were just starting out, some were already academicians e.g. Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Watercolour Society.
Although many of the pictures displayed at the exhibitions were of Staithes and its environs and local people that wasn’t always the case, what was important was the artists themselves. For a period of their life they were associated with a Staithes Group because of where they lived or worked and whether they displayed their work at the Staithes Art Club annual exhibitions. It’s noticeable that it was a loose association not an artist colony or a Staithes ‘School’; indeed Laura Knight, one of the Staithes Group, gave the yearning for close companionship of other painters as one of the reasons she ended up leaving Staithes.
“Staithes Art Club – A Choice Exhibition
There appears to be no particular leader, or style … Their aims are similar, but their methods are very dissimilar. They each try to give the broad truths of nature, ignoring almost entirely anything which would detract from the first impressions.”
Whitby Gazette, Friday 18 August 1905
Most of the pictures were rural landscapes, picturesque people (mostly working people) and conventional horses. Most of it was ‘en plain air’ that is painted outside rather than in a studio. The art was naturalistic, romanticised and sometimes impressionistic (but not too much). There was a sense of little suggestion of bohemian lifestyles or contentious art from the Group, it was all rather respectable. The 1903 Annual Exhibition had patrons including Sir Charles M Palmer MP, a North East Shipbuilder who had a country estate at nearby Grinkle Park, Loftus. Another patron was the MP for Whitby – E W Beckett – although he turned out to be rather more of a free spirit.
The writers in the Whitby Gazette who attend the annual exhibitions approve of the pictures that are well modelled and well managed faithful renderings, of good composition which are peaceful, sweet, harmonious, delightful, pleasing, rich in quality, natural in colour, strong yet tender.
“Staithes Art Club
… The visitors to this small exhibition will be at once struck by the diversity of aim and methods of the artists represented. In this respect, the work is very instructive. We may refer to the manner and treatment of both oils and water colours. May of the exhibits are successful efforts to portray the charm of colour and subtlety of things seen in the open air. We have others in which the painter has apparently ignored the latter quality, depending on bold masses of colour and strong contrasts in light and shade. Then we come to work which almost leaves colour alone, but somehow conveys it, with a hint. In each method we find some merit and reason. It is well that art can be so varied, otherwise, once and for all, colour photography would settle the thing. It is the personal interpretation, after all, which matters – the seizing upon the salient points, to the exclusion or suppression of such minor ones as would, if too much emphasised, detract from the work. If we bear those things in mind, in viewing the exhibits, and try and understand the aim of the painter, we shall receive greater pleasure and instruction.”
Whitby Gazette, Friday 17 August 1906
It’s clear from the reporting in the Gazette that the venues used for the exhibitions were small. At first it was the Fisherman’s’ Institute in Staithes; then Andersons Gallery, Well Close Square, Skinner Street in Whitby; and then The Gallery, Waterloo Place, Flowergate in Whitby. The pictures exhibited were therefore also small, in one of the exhibition reports the writer suggests this means they could be usefully hung in an ordinary house. Most of the professional artists at least would have been attempting to make some kind of living.
It has been suggestion that this restriction in size as well as the small regional market for pictures were reasons for the falling away of the Staithes Group. It’s noticeable that the same time as the Staithes Art Club annual exhibitions are advertised in the Whitby Gazette each year there are more adverts for other art exhibitions. Art Clubs had become a popular concept in all sorts of provincial places.
A loose association is easily dissolved. William Gilbert Foster an original member of the Club died in 1907 and the Knights left Staithes in the same year. The last official annual exhibition of the Staithes Art Club was held in 1907. Joseph Richard Bagshawe suddenly died in 1909, he had been another founding member. Leandro Garrido also died in 1909.
However it didn’t mean everyone just left; it’s clear from paintings held at the Pannett Art Gallery in Whitby that Staithes Art Club artists were still painting locally in 1920. Around the same time the Fylingdales Group of Artists was founded in Robin Hood’s Bay to the south of Whitby. Nowadays the Fylingdales Group still exist and Staithes is still a focus for artists, there is even a Staithes Art School.
So why for that brief period were turn of the 20th century artists drawn to Staithes and the north east coast of Yorkshire – Laura Knight shared her reasons in an autobiography thirty years later.
“The roofs were red tiled or thatched, the walls made of brownish-yellow ironstone, and there and there was a white-washed cottage with green shutters. The wooden quay, called the e stretched right across the beach forming a poor protection against a nor’-easter. Two walls of cliff formed barriers on either side; the northern side reached out its rounded arm, along which the Beck ran into the sea from springs on the high moor. The excuse I offer for writing about Staithes at such length is its tremendous influence on work, life and power of endurance. It was there I found myself and what I might do. The life and place were what I had yearned for the freedom, the austerity, the savagery, the wildness. I love it passionately, overwhelmingly. I loved the cold and the northerly storms when no covering would protect you. I loved the strange race of people who lived there, whose stern almost forbidding exterior formed such contrast to the warmth and richness of their natures.”
Oil Paint and Grease Paint, Autobiography of Laura Knights, 1936
When Laura Knight describes why her and her husband left for Cornwall and the Newlyn ‘School’ in 1907 she describes being tired of wet and cold and lonely winters and tragedies (i.e. the drowning of boat men). But she’s still very sorry to go.
Below a is a non comprehensive list of artists associated with the Staithes Group and links to an example of their work from around the same time as the Group was active.
It is widely recognised that there are significant opportunities in our National Parks to address the dual challenges posed by the climate and biodiversity crises.
Resilient, biodiverse and ecologically functioning landscapes can provide a whole range of environmental and social services which enable wildlife to thrive, protect communities from environmental extremes such as flood, drought and fire and provide opportunities for recreation, enjoyment and employment for visitors and residents alike.
Through National Parks England, we have developed a Delivery Plan for Wildlife, to work together at scale to transform nature’s recovery with enhancements covering 10% of England. Over the next 10 years, we’re committing to delivering a nature recovery programme that:
Identifies zones to deliver concentrated habitat enhancement and improved functionality
Prioritises species to be safeguarded and re-introduced
Increases tree cover and restores peatlands, grasslands, heathlands and other habitats, with the principle of right habitat, right place, right reason
Provides nature based solutions to climate change resilience.
Restores soil structure and health to improve function (carbon storage and water management)
Implements long-term invasive non-native species control programmes
Establishes buffer zones and green and blue infrastructure corridors linking our National Landscapes with National and Community Forests, and urban areas to create a genuine national network where everyone can access and experience nature and wildlife at their best.
Most land in National Parks is privately owned – and much of what is special has been created by farming. So we will continue to work through our strong local partnerships to co-create plans for nature with our farmers, landowners, and local communities, as well as our local statutory and voluntary sector partners. Along with farmers, landowners and local communities we know our landscapes intimately and benefit from a wealth of collective expertise – ecologists, planners, environmental scientists and rangers. We can work together to see opportunities to achieve sustainable change that supports the community and identifies investment in nature recovery to help support viable, high nature value, farm businesses.
But we also need the policies, funding and collaboration to support delivery, both locally and nationally. We have been actively working with DEFRA and Ministers to make National Parks part of the backbone of the national nature recovery network and strengthen the role of National Park Management Plans, so they are the local nature recovery strategies for National Parks, and back their implementation with stronger legal status.
To achieve this, we have asked that National Parks to be identified as priority areas for funding within the new scheme for Environmental Land Management (ELM) and we have been working with DEFRA on a range of Tests & Trials and through the Farming in Protected Landscape Programme to ensure that public funding for public goods offers a sustainable funding model delivering mutual benefits for farmers and land managers as well as for nature.
The new National Peat Strategy and English Tree Strategy fully recognise the need for positive action in National Parks and we have asked for a strengthened ‘section 62’ duty to be included in the Environment Bill to place on all public bodies, a clear duty to help deliver the nature recovery network, along with further legislation to create powers to promote and protect nature in National Landscapes on a par with built heritage or road transport.
There must also be an evidence based approach to delivering Nature Recovery and a common template and set of nature recovery indicators to assess the status of nature and natural capital is needed so that recovery can be robustly and confidently measured.
Finally, this work can’t happen without resources; so we continue to champion the necessity for a sustainable finance model blending public, private and 3rd sector funding to enable objectives to be delivered and more importantly, sustained and monitored.
Our new management plan will direct our work in future to achieve our objectives of realising a more resilient and naturally functioning ecosystem, teeming with sustainable, healthy communities of wildlife and working hard to offer a range of ecosystem services to benefit nature and our health and wellbeing.
Thanks to archaeologists and historians we know a lot about the people who lived and worked in the historic landscape, but less about the shape and ecology of the landscape. There have been a lot of theories by ecologists such as Frans Vera and George Peterken, who suggest that the landscape was fluid with more wood pasture rather than the closed canopy dense woodlands we’re more familiar with today.
Historic woodlands were a hub of life, providing fodder for livestock and materials for villagers, farmers, tanners, blacksmiths, carpenters, broom whittlers and charcoal makers. Trees were even a source for medicine, for example the bark of Pedunculate OakQuercus robur was used as an antiseptic and AshFraxinus excelsior was steeped into tea and used to aid kidney problems. This eco-cultural hub seems a far cry from how we see woods today, often used as a place of tranquillity, for bird watching or to seek refuge from everyday life.
Over the past year I’ve been researching ‘Shadow Woods’ – areas where there was woodland in the past that is no longer there. These, now shadows of a former landscape, can be identified in a number of ways. As a starting point for the search, the Doomsday Book and historic Tithe and Enclosure maps can give an indication of how the landscape once looked. Researching old place and field names such as ‘Hagg’ meaning an area where trees were felled or ‘Hollin’ historically a word for Holly or browse, also give clues as to the location of previously wooded areas.
With permission from land managers, we followed up on potential sites by surveying for any ancient woodland indicator species, ground flora that has colonised over generations and gives an indication that the area has been continually wooded for a considerable length of time. These species will change from woodland to woodland and throughout the country, but include BluebellsHyacinthoides non-scripta, HoneysuckleLonicera periclymenum, RamsonsAllium ursinum, Wood sorrelOxalis acetosella, Early purple orchidsOrchis mascula, PrimrosesPrimula vulgaris and Climbing corydalisCeratocapnos claviculata. These plants continue to flower long after the surrounding woodland has gone. The residual flora and soils in these spaces are irreplaceable.
Any remaining veteran and ancient trees were surveyed for signs of being worked, which gives another glimpse into the past history of the wood. Coppiced trees such as willow were cut at the base when they are relatively young and the wood was used to make fences and shelters. Pollarded trees were cut just above the trunk to provide timber and fodder for animals leaving the tree alive to produce more wood in future years. An historically pollarded tree can be identified by having multiple branches.
Ancient and Veteran trees are home to a whole host of deadwood beetles, fungi, lichen mosses and plants that cannot live anywhere else. These trees, botanical indicators and the soil of ancient and shadow woods are irreplaceable micro-habitats that have taken generations to create, once lost they will be gone forever.
The Shadow Wood sites surveyed within the North York Moors National Park were all in upland locations, many in remoter areas with little human disturbance since they were worked woodlands. The majority of these sites have been classed as grassland or as scattered parkland with a small amount of ancient or veteran trees. This classification strengthens the idea that the historic landscape was often open wood pasture rather than closed canopy woodlands.
The hope is that identified sites can be targeted for woodland creation in the North York Moors National Park, therefore continuing and restoring life in these magical habitats, that are not only home to some amazing species and important trees but are a little bit of folklore too.
The Shadow Woods project within the North York Moors National Park has only been possible due to the dedicated work of Professor Ian Rotherham. His book Shadow Woods: a search for lost landscapes and publication Shadow Woods and Ghosts Survey Guide by C. Handley and I. D. Rotherham have provided invaluable research into these almost lost landscapes.
Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Policy and Building Conservation)
The traditional black and white ‘finger post’ signposts in the North York Moors have become a cherished part of our landscape. In order to maintain and conserve these cultural features for future generations to enjoy, at the end of last year Building Conservation officers at the National Park Authority asked parishes and residents to let us know about these signs so they could be mapped and recorded on our Geographic Information System (GIS). The idea was to gain a better understanding of where the signposts are and their current condition. Many signposts are obvious, such as at modern road junctions, however others can be more hidden such as where they are located on old roads which are less used today. Local people looking out for signs during daily exercise was a useful survey method during lockdowns.
At the same time we were able to refurbish a few of the signs most in need of restoration using a locally experienced contractor – this will help ensure the longevity of these iconic features. The long term aim is to restore them all.
There is a vast array of different practical purposes to the signs; some make reference to the old North Riding District (pre North Yorkshire County Council), others warn of steep inclines, point towards historic monuments like a roman road or indicate public route ways and distances. Officers are keen to conserve the variety of designs and styles.
The National Park Authority has begun a process to develop a new Management Plan for the National Park in collaboration with partners and stakeholders. If you have any interest at all in this National Park or National Parks as a whole – you’re a stakeholder. Since our last Plan was drawn up in 2011/12 there are new environmental challenges to confront, new environmental issues to take on and new environmental priorities to progress…
Paul explains below how you can get involved in shaping the future, if you would like to.
Paul Fellows – Head of Strategic Policy
Every few years we take the opportunity to ask ourselves what we want the North York Moors National Park to be like in the future and how we might realise that vision.
In doing this we would really like your ideas – the people who live and work in, care for and visit this special place. Generation after generation has helped create this landscape, from moorland, dale and forest to village, farm and field. Many millions more cherish this place as visitors and supporters. The National Park looks like it does because of you and your families; its future is in all our hands.
Our task is to help create a shared vision that we can all agree on, because that’s the best way to pass the National Park on to future generations in an even better state. What do we want farming, housing, tourism, transport, business, heritage and nature conservation to look like? What sort of place do we want to grow up in or grow old in? What’s the correct balance that works best for everyone?
Over the course of the next year we’ll enshrine this shared vision in a document called a ‘Management Plan’, which will set out exactly the work that needs to be done. We want the plan to be ambitious but deliverable; we want to anticipate the challenges and work together to meet them. We’ll set dates and targets, so that you can see the progress we’re making together.
This then is your chance to help us by having your say about the future of the North York Moors National Park. You’ll have your own ideas of what the National Park could and should be like in twenty years’ time. Every viewpoint is valid. Each opinion matters. The more perspectives that are offered, the stronger the overall plan and vision will be.
Think of this as a conversation about the future. It’s always an important discussion to have, though perhaps – after the experiences of the last year – more vital than ever before. Tell us your thoughts and hopes. Be bold. It’s your National Park and together we can plan effectively for better days ahead.
To start with, we’ve created a quick survey that asks up to five short questions so you can let us know what you think the main issues are.
If you would like a bit more background, or to look at some of the challenges we think we are facing, please take a look at our ‘working together’ page, which goes into more detail and asks more specific questions. We’ve come up with three themes to think about – Leading Nature Recovery, Landscapes for All, and Living and Working Landscapes. There is bound to be a lot of cross over between these themes, for instance in regards the historic environment. Anyway, have a think yourself and let us know your thoughts by email .
You can also keep in touch – if you want to be kept informed of further work on the Management Plan please join our mailing list.
Creating and expanding riparian woodland is a large component of the current WEG* funded project in the Esk Catchment, in conjunction with improving farm infrastructure. Riparian woodland is defined as trees located on the natural banks of waterbodies such as rivers, canels, ponds and lakes. The presence of riparian woodland brings an array of environmental benefits such as carbon capture, regulation of water temperature, bank stabilsation and provision of resources for wildlife. Riparian woodland is important feature of the Esk and provides benefits to conservation focus species in particular Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), but also Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and Sea trout (Salmo trutta).This is why tree-planting efforts have been prioritized with project distribution located in both the upper and lower parts of the catchment.
Riparian woodland creation has focused on introducing a mix of tree species to the bankside to enhance structure and composition. Species which have a tolerance for wet conditions and partial submergence such as alder, aspen, birch and willow make a significant contribution to the mix. Other species such as alder-buckthorn, hazel, hawthorn and oak add additional variety. Planting design has incorporated adding open spaces such as rides and glades into the new small scale woodland as these are valuable habitats in their own right. All new woodland projects have an emphasis on long-term management to maintain habitat function with actions such as deadwood retention, grass-margin establishment, coppicing, pollarding and recycling tree-guards included in management plans. The vision is for these small scale woodlands to stabilize banksides, intercept agricultural run-off and reduce sedimentation entering into the Esk, leading to improvements in water-quality. Monitoring will record physical and biological change through measures fixed-point photography, vegetation monitoring and species recording.
Despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid situation and fickle weather conditions, work has been progressing on the Esk catchment with 2,095 new trees planted with much assistance from land managers, staff and volunteers. Planting efforts will continue with the aim to have all 3,000 remaining trees in the ground by March. This will also be accompanied by the planting of 1,060m of new hedgerows, wetland creation and bank stabilization works. Along with the habitat creation and enhancement works, measures to improve farm infrastructure are continuing such as concrete yard renewal, installation of sediment traps and rainwater guttering. Combined these efforts seek to work at the farm-level and tackle pollution pathways from yard/field to river and lead to the improvement of water-quality of this special river.
*WEG stands for Water Environment Grant which has been providing funding to improve the water environment in rural England. This has been part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas
Rosedale Bank Top calcining kiln after conservation work was completed in 2019, with the new interpretation panel and Cor Ten silhouette.
Over the past four years the project has helped to protect, interpret and conserve the most iconic of the old ironstone mining sites and remains within the North York Moors. We have also helped to nurture the unique natural environment that surrounds them by working closely with land managers and other national partners ensuring habitats and species, such as riverbanks, ancient woodland and the Ring Ouzel, are cared for in the long term.
Yet even as we help to preserve the integrity of the monuments and help to protect the rich bio-diverse landscapes for the benefit of future generations, the voices of the individuals who once worked in the ironstone mining industry – the navvies (temporary workers), railwaymen, miners and families that expanded the populations of small villages like Rosedale during the Industrial Revolution – remain largely silent within the landscape in which they once worked, memorialised only in the receding industrial remains.
It is with this thought in mind that I turned to one important historical record where the individual stands recorded for posterity – the humble newspaper archive.
It is a place where accidents were recorded and individuals were named, where drunken brawls in isolated villages were highlighted and surreal accidents at remote kilns noted. The current newspapers of the time provide an invaluable insight into the social life and activities of the communities that populated the working life of the ironstone industry. It is here that you can understand the often-hidden tensions and terrors that so bedevilled a thriving but dangerous industry which helped to power the country in the 19th century.
Rosedale East kilns with new fencing as a part of the Land of Iron project.
Below are a few sample extracts taken from local and regional papers during the height of the ironstone mining industry in the North York Moors, with a particular focus on Rosedale and its concentration of the unique railway, ironstone mines and imposing calcining kilns at Bank Top and Rosedale East. This way we can get a ‘snapshot’ of a particular place within a relatively short amount of time.
Please note that the following extracts reflect mores of the time. You may find elements of the extracts upsetting.
Liverpool Daily Post 10 June 1862 CLASH BETWEEN MINERS AND IRISH LABOURERS At Rosedale, last week, the English miners combined to drive out the Irish labourers out of the valley, which they did. Some sharp fighting took place. The cause of the party feeling is stated to have been owing to an Irishman contracting for work at an under price.
Whitby Gazette 8 April 1865 ROSEDALE ABBEY On Saturday morning last as a boy named John Hugill, 12 years of age was preparing a set of ironstone wagons for being drawn up the incline, another wagon unexpectedly ran against them with great force at the moment the boy was bent down between 2 wagons which he was coupling, and they were driven together with great violence causing such severe injuries to the boy that death resulted in a few minutes.
Whitby Gazette 29 August 1868 ROSEDALE WEST MINES A fatal accident occurred on Monday 24th to a miner named Thomas Taylor of Low Row, 19 years of age. It appears that he had gone to his usual work in the mines at 2 o’clock and had only been at work about 10 minutes, when a huge portion of ironstone from the roof, weighing five or six tons, fell suddenly, and in its descent, came in contact with the poor fellow mutilating him in a frightful manner.
York Herald 5 December 1868 HORSE BURNT TO DEATH On Wednesday night, a valuable horse, belonging to the Rosedale and Ferryhill Mining Company, was accidentally burnt to death. A driver, named Foster, was fetching a set of loaded waggons out of the Rosedale East mines on to the top of the new calcine kiln, when, through neglect of having a spring catch on, he was unable to get the horse unyoked from the waggons. The consequence was that the horse was dragged into the kiln, which was full of burning ironstone, and burnt to death.
Leeds Mercury 10 April 1871 THE ROSEDALE IRON MINERS Gentlemen, I would earnestly call attention to the sad and disgraceful state of drunkenness prevalent among the workmen engaged in the Rosedale iron mines …. For two or three days following each pay-day Rosedale village presents a scene of inebriation which baffles description. The miners may be seen staggering about the village in all directions, and not unfrequently fighting and kicking each other in true Lancashire style.
Malton Gazette 15 July 1871 ROSEDALE MINING FATALITY On Saturday morning, a young man named Nelson, a native of Thornton Dale near Pickering, was proceeding to his work underground, being a miner, between 7 and 8 o’clock, having under his arm a small barrel, open at the top, containing 4 to 5 lbs of gunpowder, used for blasting purposes. Wishing to light his pipe, he struck a match, part of the match or a spark from it, ignited the powder, which exploded with great violence. His injuries were fearful, that death terminated his suffering in 2 to 3 hours later. He was accompanied by another man who escaped with rather severe shock and singeing of his whiskers and eyebrows.
Rosedale Hollins Mine and incline, with Bank Top calcining kilns visible at top right.
Of course this is just small selection of the more dramatic clippings from the Land of Iron newspaper archive, but it is a fascinating insight none the less. The tough living and working conditions invariably led to accidents and fatalities, and as we can see above it was not uncommon for fights or brawls to break out when workers were paid their often meagre wages (Hayes and Rutter 2009).
The end of the ironstone industry in the 1920s brought further change to Rosedale as bit by bit the railways were removed, the structures of the kilns were left to decline, and the mines themselves closed down and sealed. It is pertinent to remember those real individuals, the men, women, and children (and animals) who lived and worked here, often did so in adverse conditions. The newspaper clippings can only ever report on a fraction of their lives and experiences.
For those who are interested in researching the lifestyle of the ironstone industry workers further, or are interested in pursuing their own research during the current lock down period, I recommend the British Library-ran Newspaper Archive resource.
For further reading on the ironstone industry within North Yorkshire, I recommend Hayes and Rutter much-reissued ‘Rosedale Mines and Railway’ 2009 publication. A newly updated edition of this book is due to be published this year.
For historic photographs, have a look at a previous blog entry to see two ‘colourised’ historic photographs from Sheriff’s Pit mine entry and the Ingleby Incline railway.