There are a number of Ebenezer Chapels in the North York Moors. These were generally built during the 19th century in the evangelical revivals in response to changes across society bringing uncertainty and upsetting traditional beliefs and controls. Being geographically ‘separate’ to some extent the North York Moors has tended to be on the edge of conventional authority and control; it has a long history of non-establishment religious belief. With influxes of people to work in the booming industry in the North York Moors non-conformist denominations flourished – such as the Primitive Methodists and Strict Baptists. Chapels were sometimes given the name ‘Ebenezer’ because it means ‘rock of help’ (a good name for a stone built building) and reminds the congregation of God’s protection for his repentant people.
EELS (Anguilla anguilla)
The European eel is a critically endangered species fish species which was once common in the rivers of the North York Moors. Its numbers have declined by over 90% since the 1970s due to a number of cumulative factors such as barriers to migration (such as weirs), pollution, overfishing, a parasitic nematode (worm), and also changes in climate. The presence of eels is often used as an indicator of water quality in a river.
Dr Frank ELGEE
Frank Elgee was born in North Ormesby near Middlesbrough in 1880 – his father worked as a book keeper for one of the town’s Iron Masters. He suffered a litany of childhood diseases which limited his formal education and culminated in him being sent home from hospital to die at the age of 17 – but this didn’t happen. With a body somewhat confined and debilitated by his bad health his mind flourished and grasped at everything: history, literature, philosophy, languages, astrology and in particular local natural history and archaeology. As his health improved somewhat he applied himself to practical investigation in order to draw his own rational conclusions, heading off into the hills and moorland of the North York Moors. He became the Assistant Curator at the newly opened Dorman Memorial Museum in 1904 and he began to write.
His first and now most famous book was ‘The Moorlands of North-eastern Yorkshire; their
Natural History and Origin’ which after much self-doubt and revision was finally published in 1912. He and his family relocated in 1920 to Commondale within the North York Moors – surrounded by the moorland that so stimulated him. He became Curator at the Dorman Museum in 1923. He continued to research and write leading, probably inevitably, to his health breaking down on a number of occasions, although as his wife recorded he continued to write from his sick bed. He was recognised by the awarding of a Doctorate in Philosophy from Leeds University in 1933.
Harriet his wife, who always provided stirling support, gave Frank Elgee a heartfelt epitaph after his death in 1944 – ‘his labours had been Herculean; his physical strength was nothing but frailty; his monetary resources were meagre…he stands for the triumph of mind over body, of spirit over matter…a scholar-saint of the Yorkshire Moorlands, as having entered fully into his rights of pre-eminent domain as their genius loci, unto whom all is revealed’.
Below is an extract from A Man of the Moors: extracts from the Diaries and Letters of Frank Elgee edited by Harriet W Elgee, 1957. It is interesting to consider whether what Frank Elgee saw and experienced over 100 years ago, can still be seen and experienced today.
“Jan 19 1908 In Baysdale
A misty, frosty morning becoming brilliantly sunny at mid-day. Went up Baysdale Beck beyond the Westerdale-Kildale road. Along the slopes the cowberry is extremely abundant, even growing among bilberry which only here and there preserves its leaves, the square wiry stalks standing up like thistles. Trees grow along the beck slopes and include oak, birch, holly, hawthorn, and one small juniper bush, the first I have seen for several years.
Under heather growing on blocks of sandstone two or three small Lepidoptera [butterflies] were found, whilst under a stone Zonites alliarius [snails] were noted.
Along the streams are one or two old slag heaps evidently made in olden days when the ironstone of the Ellerbeck Bed was worked.
In the afternoon I walked as far as Howl Syke and back. From the railway bridge there is a fine view of the Lealholm moraine and Cunkley Gill, and it is clear how the Esk has been deviated by an ice barrier at this place, the level at which it began to cut down being considerably higher than the lowest point of the moraine.
To me the Moorlands of Cleveland [northern part of the North York Moor] have been a source of physical and intellectual development. On them I have found that health which the town cannot give; and they have forwarded, and I hope they will continue to forward, my intellectual career.”
There is a memorial stone to Frank Elgee on Blakey Ridge, erected by the Natural History and Archaeological Society of Yorkshire in 1953.
Since medieval times, here and there land often farmed under an ‘Open Field system’ had been enclosed and holdings established out of owned and tenanted fields. During the 17th century the practice of using an Act of Parliament to enclose land took off. Enclosure was a way for landowners to make the most of their assets and at the same time expedite investment to increase productivity – hence the 18th century ‘agricultural revolution’ in England.
Enclosure enhanced agricultural productivity and meant more and more land was able to be managed/cultivated for agricultural use. It therefore had a big effect on the landscape, as the area of cultivated ‘improved’ land grew, and stock numbers increased considerably. Many (but not all) of the ‘traditional’ boundaries such as hedgerows and walls that divide up the countryside and are so valued today, came about due to Enclosure – as well as demarcating ownership divisions the boundaries were needed to manage stock. The enclosed field systems with square or rectangular parcels of land are still visible if fields have not been subsequently amalgamated, particularly around villages where individual villagers received a division of the previously ‘common’ land. In contrast the remains of ridge and furrow can also still sometimes be seen – for instance on aerial photographs – revealing the ploughing regime of a previous ‘Open Field system’.
The effects of Enclosure on local communities is still widely debated, and are bound up with the effects of the industrial revolution taking place around the same time. Productivity increases alongside the introduction of machinery meant less labour was required on the land, and parts of the population left without any or too little enclosed land needed to seek a living elsewhere not withstanding the lure of a more regular industrial wage. Increased productivity of farmed land was then even more important – in order to feed a growing urban population, without the wherewithal to feed themselves.
There were so many individual bills coming before Parliament regarding Enclosure that the first General Enclosure Act was passed in 1801 which did away with the need for private bills. The final General Enclosure Act of 1845 included a number of exceptions like village greens, but otherwise was the legal consummation of the ‘inclosure and improvement of commons and lands held in common’ in England.
In the North York Moors, as in other areas, there remain a number of un-enclosed ‘Commons’.
EUROPEAN PROTECTED SPECIES
These are European Protected Species*, found in and around the North York Moors, which are protected by European law across the European Union. In addition national law protects other species that are thought to be particularly important.
All bat species (currently 10 species in the North York Moors – soprano pipistrelle, noctule, brown long-eared, common pipistrelle, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, whiskered, Brandt’s, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s bats and Alcathoe).
*Doesn’t include any lichens, fungi or birds which are protected through seperate legislation.
Extensive farming – as opposed to intensive farming – is a term used to describe the farming of areas of land that are managed using less inputs relative to the area of land being farmed. Upland areas of the UK, like most of the North York Moors, are normally farmed extensively, due to the physical limitations of the climate and soil resulting in lower productivity. The majority of these upland farms consist of extensive livestock grazing of natural and semi-natural vegetation.
Accepting that yields cannot be as high as in lowland areas and so minimising inputs can profit the surrounding environment. Inputs change the environment – and this can in the extreme include the acidification of land and the eutrophication of water systems.
Extensive grazing benefits many plants, insects and birds and so provides a higher biodiversity than in both intensively grazed fields and in ungrazed fields. Extensive farms generally run less livestock per hectare than intensive farms. This is due to the lower growth rate of plants in upland areas with minimal inputs and so fewer stock can be supported. Fewer stock avoids the chance of overgrazing, and in catchment areas minimises the siltation ending up in rivers.
Feeding livestock hay from unimproved (i.e. no inputs) hay meadow habitats instead of silage from improved grasslands gives a purpose to maintaining upland hay meadows, and some people suggest the end product – i.e. meat – therefore tastes better. One of the downside of a more ‘natural’ system is that the livestock takes longer to reach maturity; this can be offset somewhat by selling the meat at a premium for this improved taste. The premium can also be justified to consumers with the idea of helping to conserve the upland hay meadows as a by-product of raising the livestock that way.
Elements of extensive farming can also assist more intensive farming. When planting insect pollinated arable crops (usually an intensive process), it has been shown that managing the lower yield edges and corners of arable fields as habitat buffers can increase overall crop yield on a farm. This can be explained by the increased presence of pollinators attracted by the cornfield and wild flower plants growing in these edge habitats without damaging inputs.
EYEBRIGHT (Euphrasia sp.)
This is a common plant on short (e.g. grazed) grassland/heathland habitats. It has small white/mauve flowers with purple/yellow markings and ‘frilly’ petals. It is semi-parasitic because it collects nutrients off the roots of neighbouring grasses and plants, demonstrating in its own small way the vital interconnections that make up biodiversity.
Its common name came from the traditional use of a tonic made from the plant to treat eye ailments. Like most plants it can also have detrimental (poisonous) effects.
Eyebright has numerous species and hybrids hence the general binomial Latin name given above – with a generic name Euphrasia first but with sp. instead of a species name second to indicate the particular species is unknown/unidentified.