Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant
One of our latest projects involves the restoration of approximately 77 bee boles along a wall near Glaisdale. This is the largest number in a single wall ever recorded in England and Scotland!
What is a bee bole?
Bee boles are sheltered recesses in the wall which would have traditionally held skeps. Skeps are wicker/heather/straw bee hives, often moulded around sheep horns.
Donald Gunn is an expert in historic dry stone walls and is currently working at the Glaisdale site to return the huge stones to their original positions, using photographs and historic knowledge of the site. Natural England are providing funding through Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), and the North York Moors National Park Authority are managing the project on behalf of the HLS agreement holder.
The wall runs east to west, with the bee boles facing south. This deliberate orientation would ensure that not only would the bees face the heather moorland alongside the wall, but the warmth from the sun reaching the sheltered skeps would ensure an early start and late finish to their day of collecting heather nectar and pollen, maximising the amounts of honey and other bee products per skep.
Researcher Caroline Hardie, of Archaeo-Environment Limited, is also working on the project, and believes this site may have been for commercial honey production, or was a resource shared between the local communities.
The Glaisdale bee boles and attempts at traditional skep creation were featured on BBC Countryfile, on Sunday 8 September 2013. If you missed it, you might still catch it on BBC iPlayer.
If you want to know more about bee boles and find out where else you can see them in Britain – have a look at the IBRA Bee Boles Register website. If you have any information on or photos of the use of bee boles in the North York Moors National Park, we would love to hear from you.
The National Park Authority is also keen to help with the conservation/restoration of more mundane but still valuable drystone walling in the National Park which is an important cultural and landscape feature of the North York Moors. If you might be interested in a grant for the restoration of standard dry stone walls (and hedgerows), we have a new Traditional Boundary Scheme which could help.