Clair Shields – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator
Now well into the second phase (2012 to 2015) of the North York Moors Monument Management Scheme, our faithful Historic Environment Volunteers are continuing their condition surveying of Scheduled Monuments within the National Park, and now and again getting their hands dirty.
Quick recap on the Monument Management Scheme (MMS) – The North York Moors has 840 Scheduled Monuments in all, which are assessed as being ‘Low Risk/Not at Risk’, ‘Vulnerable’, or ‘At Risk’ for a variety of reasons. English Heritage publishes an annual Heritage at Risk register to highlight the ‘At Risk’ monuments. The MMS is a joint funded project between English Heritage and the North York Moors National Park Authority and is now in its second phase. The objectives are to update the current condition of the ‘At Risk’ or ‘Vulnerable’ Scheduled Monuments, and to carry out the work needed to lessen the risk, improve the condition and better conserve the Monuments hopefully for the long term.
As well as the necessary condition monitoring to establish what needs to be done for each Monument, our Historic Environment Volunteers have been putting their hands to an assortment of tasks required to manage and maintain the Monuments. This work compliments that carried out by TECAP apprentices and professional contractors.
Bracken and scrub control has formed a significant part of the current MMS work programme. The photos below show a Bronze Age burial mound at Stony Moor near Newton on Rawcliffe which was hardly visible because of bracken. Following bracken control treatment it is now visible and other vegetation has the chance to re-establish.
Erosion repairs were completed on three monuments at the end of 2013. These included the Bronze Age burial mound at Danby Beacon which had become severely eroded around the beacon pole erected in 2008. Repairs were carried out as part of a training exercise for the Traditional Estates Craft Apprenticeship Project apprentices. After an introductory day learning about repairing historic earthwork features and looking at the issues facing the monuments on Danby Moors, the apprentices spent two days working alongside contractors on site.
Following erosion repairs on the round barrows at Robin Hood’s Butts, the area was fenced to keep rabbits and sheep out to prevent further erosion.
Damage caused by badgers can be a big issue for Scheduled Monuments in wooded areas, such as Dalby Forest. In order to better understand the extent of this problem a new Volunteer project has been initiated to monitor the effects of badger activity on Scheduled Monuments and a small group of Volunteers received training in February 2014. In general badger activity is considered to place a monument ‘At Risk’, so by recording the extent and level of the observable badger activity it may be possible to reduce the risk assessment for some Monuments and keep a regular watch on others so that we can see if any new archaeological deposits are being disturbed.
This year the Historic Environment Volunteers’ involvement will be extended to include further vegetation management. There will also be a new project to monitor the effects of walkers’ cairns built on top of Scheduled Monuments.
The use of Volunteers helps to build the capacity and skills of our local archaeological community and their involvement will hopefully establish a management regime for the future monitoring and maintenance of the Monuments, beyond the MMS.
So far, in this phase between April 2012 and February 2014, 43 monuments have been removed from the Heritage at Risk register and a further 19 ‘Vulnerable’ monuments have had their risk status reduced. All in all, this amounts to a grand total of 62 ‘rescued’ monuments so far.
Provisional figures from February 2014 show that out of the 840 Scheduled Monuments within the National Park there are now:
- 99 ‘At Risk’ (previously 198);
- 240 ‘Vulnerable’;
- 501 ‘Low Risk/Not at Risk’.
We’re definitely moving in the right direction. Thanks to everyone involved up to now.
If you’d like to become an Historic Environment Volunteer for the North York Moors National Park – please get in touch.