From the mouths of Volunteers

Clair Shields – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator

So many of our blog posts are about what we the professional staff get up to – that with this in mind this post has been written to share the experiences enjoyed by some of our Volunteers, and to elucidate the satisfaction they get out of their efforts.

We’ve mentioned in previous posts about the Monument Management Scheme and the great work that the Historic Environment Volunteers are doing. Volunteers give their time, energy and skills to help the National Park Authority conserve the special qualities of the National Park; in the case of the Historic Environment Volunteers, they’re concentrating particularly on our Scheduled Monuments.


Shelagh has been given three Scheduled Monuments which are known to house badger setts, and regularly monitors badger activity to help inform future management of the monuments. 

For me, as a volunteer surveyor for the badger survey, there are two main thrills…firstly, exploring in detail a scheduled Monument that I may have walked by many times before and not known was hidden in the forest; and…secondly, the knowledge of other creatures (particularly the nocturnal badger) is also exploring these monuments, when others are not around.   

The training back in February gave me the information to recognise these creatures’ (especially the badger’s) presence and it gives me pleasure to look for tell-tale signs when I am out walking.  

I also have the pleasure of watching one particular environment change through the seasons. From seeing a good variety of spring flowers in their prime, through to beautiful swathes of delicate stitchwort and heady wild garlic (that is if you love the smell of garlic!) and now harder to negotiating nettles, brambles and bracken accompanied by enthusiastic bird song, which I expect will gradually die away to more individual sounds. 

So the environment and my enthusiasm are good but what do I see on my roughly 3 weekly walks in Dalby Forest?  

Fortunately, I have one huge badger sett on one of the monuments that I monitor. There is plenty to see – digging, badger runs, hair, scratch marks and a latrine (which are quickly being hidden by the wild garlic). Some of the entrances to the sett have cobwebs and sticks and there are a few paw marks but indistinct so what are the badgers doing? Are they still there? I have searched quite a way along the runs but it is not all as easy to interpret as one might think. 

I record what I see and this means the archaeology team are aware of what is taking place on that particular site. Plus we have the back up of people with extensive knowledge of badger behaviour to turn to if we have queries.  

We are not alone and the archaeological team have reassured us that we should not be inhibited by our inexperience, as everyone has much to learn on this project. Sadly for them I have not found any archaeological artefacts, up to now, and that would be another thrill if I did.

Volunteer inspecting a monument in the depths of a wood

Most of the work undertaken so far by the Historic Environment Volunteers has involved monitoring Scheduled Monument at risk, in order to assess their current condition.

Richard and Tessa

Richard loves orienteering and makes excellent use of his maps, compass, and GPS to locate the well-hidden monuments.

This is an excellent way to spend a day wandering the paths and woods of the North York Moors, with the bonus of fulfilment – when one finally locates and confirms that there really IS a hidden monument in an isolated place far from public gaze! 

Peter and Ann

The farmers were extremely helpful and accommodating. They met us on arrival and walked with us to each site. Helping us locate the barrows and ditches in the undergrowth, saving us a great deal of time.

All in all a happy experience! Is there more to do?

Volunteers visited this remote burial cairn after several years of bracken treatment to look for any regrowth
If words aren’t enough to explain why people volunteer in the North York Moors and what they get out of it – there are a few more enthusing pictures below, taken by Historic Environment Volunteers. 

The two round barrows in this clump of trees are protected from ploughing in the surrounding field, but the scrub growth noted by the Volunteer will need monitoring

Photo 1 - Volunteers visited this medieval manorial centre, fortified house and tower, and fishponds to see whether it is being affected by grazing animals or scrub growth

Photo 2 - Volunteers visited this medieval manorial centre, fortified house and tower, and fishponds to see whether it is being affected by grazing animals or scrub growth The Volunteer here can enjoy the lovely views while recording the condition of this round barrowIf you are interested in volunteering for the North York Moors National Park, we provide a wide range of different opportunities for Volunteers, with further opportunities under development. Take a look at our website to find out more.

View of Cross base - at sunset

3 thoughts on “From the mouths of Volunteers

  1. Pingback: Guardians of the Prehistoric Park | The official blog for the North York Moors National Park

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