We talk on our Blog about the important species that make the North York Moors their home – wading birds, rare arable flowers, water voles etc. however Ami our Lead Senior Land Management Adviser would argue that the most important species whose home is the North York Moors, are the Farmers!
The North York Moors may look wild and full of natural beauty but it is a largely managed landscape and it is the farmers that undertake the majority of that management which makes the area what it is. The National Park depends on its farmers.
A few of their number have migrated here from other populations however the majority are born and brought up here and will spend all their working lives in the North York Moors. Their children often work on the farm but may also have to find work elsewhere to sustain the general population. This population is contracting with a decline in the number of farmed holdings in the National Park, from 1608 in 2007 to 978 in 2013 (Defra Farming Statistics).
“No matter what their origins, all the farmers I meet have a great sense of pride in what they do and where they live – farming and the North York Moors is in their blood”.
- In 1955 (just three years after the North York Moors National Park was created) Farndale was designated a Local Nature Reserve to help protect the wild daffodils growing there. The designation meant specific local byelaws could be brought in urgently to prohibit the digging up and removing of bulbs which was considered a major threat at the time. Wild daffodils are also known as the Lent Lily, as they often bloom and die away between Ash Wednesday and Easter. But not always, and it’s worth keeping an eye on the National Park’s website to see when the flowers are blooming each year.
- In Wordsworth’s elegiac poem of 1798-99, ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’, the solitary and idealised Lucy lives and dies close to the ‘springs of Dove’. It has been suggested that this is a reference to the source of the River Dove which snakes its way down through Farndale and joins the River Rye. But there are also River Doves in Westmorland and Derbyshire, so a real river cannot be identified and the ‘Dove’ remains a poetical expression. It’s not yet been suggested, or maybe it has, that Wordsworth’s ‘host of golden daffodils’ in the poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ were the wild daffodils of Farndale.
- In the late 1960s Farndale was almost drowned through a plan to dam and flood the steep sided dale in order to create a source of drinking water for cities to the south such as Hull. The 1960s saw a rush of reservoir building aimed at securing water supplies. The proposed Farndale Reservoir would have covered 400 acres, submerged 20 farm-holdings and held 8 million gallons of water. But the plan was abandoned.
- In 1990 (a year before the original national Countryside Stewardship Scheme was piloted) the National Park officially launched its own Farm Scheme (1990 – 2014), a local agri-environment scheme which provided grant aid for capital works and annual payments for environmental land management. The local scheme came about because unlike most of the other upland National Parks at the time, the North York Moors was never designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) for its landscape, wildlife and/or historical value, and therefore land managers here were missing out on ESA grants. Nine farms in Upper Farndale were the first to join the North York Moors Farm Scheme, and all nine later secured national Higher Level Stewardship agreements because of their conservation value.
- There are many examples of early field systems at the top end of Farndale. These most likely date from early medieval times (and some could potentially even be prehistoric), providing a visible example of how man has worked and managed the landscape for centuries. The field systems are still visible at the dale head because the conditions are difficult and so the farming remains extensive.
The word Fenestration is an architectural term used to describe the arrangement of windows in a building and derives from the French word ‘fenestre’ meaning window.
The vernacular fenestration in and around the North York Moors comes in many different forms from the more common styles of the Yorkshire sliding sash (below top) and vertical sliding sash (below middle) to the more unusual ‘Whitby composite’ (below bottom) which is a window style generally only found in the coastal area of the North York Moors.
Windows are the ‘eyes’ of a building and their size, location and style play a key role in defining the character of a building. The choices made in relation to window replacements and their alteration may affect the character, appearance and ultimately the value of a property.
Traditional, vernacular cottages have small, simple and functional fenestration. This is generally concentrated on the principle elevation with fewer openings to the rear elevation which was a deliberate effort to minimise heat loss in cold winters.
In contrast elegant and classical Georgian houses have symmetrically arranged, multi-pane windows without ‘horns’ – projecting pieces of timber at the base of the top sash – and are an intrinsic detail of this architectural period. Note how the windows become smaller towards the top of the house. This reflects the status and business of each floor and, in design terms, prevents the building looking ‘top heavy’.
During the Victorian period glass making techniques developed and larger panes of glazing became more fashionable and affordable. ‘Horns’ were added to the top sash to add rigidity to windows which contained fewer glazing bars.
Glazing is an important element in any window. Crown glass is one of the oldest forms of glass and is now very rare. Its main characteristic is its “wavy” or “rippled” appearance which really adds to the character of a property. It scintillates when you walk past and creates a beautiful quality of light internally. Crown glass was widely used until the mid-19th century but ceased being manufactured in the early 20th century. Therefore where old or historic glass remains it is very important it is not replaced.
Float glass is the modern form of glazing invented in the late 1950s and involves flowing the molten material over a bath of molten tin. It is completely flat and therefore lacks much of the interest of earlier glass. Treatments added to float glass to increase its thermal performance can also make glass look like Perspex and so from a Building Conservation perspective this should be avoided if possible and alternative means of minimising heat loss should be considered.
The timber lintel (i.e. cheaper than stone) is a feature of vernacular buildings which is often seen on simple cottages and farm buildings due to their comparative lower status. They can also be found on the rear elevations of higher status properties i.e. out of sight, and are an important insight into the hierarchical status of different elevations and buildings. Often people rush to replace timber lintels with stone but by maintaining timber lintels in situ or installing them appropriately in new buildings people can help conserve this important feature variation.
Where traditional fenestration has been lost through the introduction of poor quality or modern styles, the Building Conservation team are always keen to see the
reinstatement of the original style of window. However it is common for a property to display several different historic styles as owners were influenced by different architectural periods over the long life time of the building. Where this happens, it’s always important to try to keep the clues that tell the story of the past. This stone-mullioned window (right) could easily be reconstructed, but the later nineteenth-century casement window is vital evidence of the building’s evolution over time.
This cottage in Appleton le Moors (below) was formerly a farmhouse before becoming the village shop in the 20th century until it closed c.1980. Likely to have originally contained Yorkshire sliding sashes, this 19th century ‘Arts and Crafts’ revamp is a high quality addition that adds to the building’s architectural and historic character and contributes to the area’s local distinctiveness – its quirky and characterful.
There are always windows which don’t seem to fit into any style and go against all the normal design principles. This house in Thornton le Dale (below) with four pane sashes at first floor provides a horizontal arrangement which goes against design principles, yet it is uniquely charming, adding character and interest to this Georgian property.
FOORD’S WATER RACES
During the 18th century, Joseph Foord, a self-taught engineer and surveyor, worked out that it was possible to bring the copious amounts of water available from the springs and becks of the high moors down to the drier limestone pastures of the Tabular Hills plateau in the south of the North York Moors, by means of gravity alone.
The farms and settlements of the Tabular Hills were recorded as suffering summer droughts in the mid-18th century, which caused high stock losses and considerable distress to the local populations. By bringing a dependable water supply to these areas, agricultural productivity could be increased and the conditions for the villagers improved, and therefore once their worth was clear the local landowners were prepared to commission Foord’s practical solution.
Foord (1714-1788) was a yeoman farmer with an interest in a colliery near his home in Fadmoor, and who also specialised in water mills. Familiar with water leats and their management, the first commissions ran across Duncombe Park Estate land where Foord and his father before him worked as land agents.
His water races (or channels) were a work of remarkable surveying skill and hydrological engineering which enabled the transfer of water using only gravity and created at a time when detailed maps and contours were unknown, Foord stands out as a true visionary and a man of exceptional capabilities.
Over 75 miles of created water races are known in total and these can still be traced across the landscape over large distances. They survive largely as shallow ditches with low embankments, particularly on the downhill side, which closely follow the contours, and in many places they have structures associated with them, such as stone culverts known as ‘smoots’ where they pass beneath field walls, and ‘brigsons’ where stone slabs are laid across the channels to carry paths and tracks. Some also have small scale aqueducts and tunnels. The longest race – Rievaulx – is 12.7 miles and illustrates Foord’s considerable skills, working with gradients as fine as 1 in 430.
The water races are an important historical and cultural feature of the North York Moors. At present the water races have no statutory designation, but as a group they have been assessed by Historic England as being of exceptional national importance.
Research into the network of Foord water races was undertaken by Dr Isabel McLean and published by the North York Moors National Park Authority in 2005 as Water from the Moors. The Life and Works of Joseph Foord. Since then, the Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society, with the assistance of the National Park, have been surveying the Foord water races with the aims of locating the individual features identified in Water from the Moors, recording the condition of all known sections of water race and highlighting areas where there may be opportunities for improved management or restoration. This work has been continued in recent years by Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.
FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR (Common or European Ash)
Upland mixed ashwoods (a national Priority Habitat) are an important habitat and landscape element of the North York Moors. Ash is usually the major component of this woodland type, but oak, birch, elm and small-leaved lime may also be present. Typically ash and downy birch are the dominant canopy trees with hazel dominating the understorey. Mixed ashwoods are amongst the richest habitats for wildlife in the uplands. They support a rich ground flora often dominated by dog’s mercury, with common dog violet, early purple orchid, and primrose. Ashwoods can be but may not necessarily be ancient, as ash is able to colonise open ground relatively easily. These mixed ashwoods are usually found on free-draining, base-rich limestone soil, but in the North York Moors ashwoods are also found on slightly acid soils where there is a flushing of nutrients along riverside strips or on flushes and outcrops.
Ash trees are often found in fields and hedgerows too; they are a common farmland tree.
Chalara fraxinea is a tree disease – also known as Ash Dieback – caused by a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), which has been recorded in the UK since 2012. The disease particularly effects Common Ash and usually kills the tree either directly or indirectly (the tree is fatally weakened) – young trees die more quickly than older trees so older woodlands tend to deteriorate slowly over time. The fungus can be spread by the wind, so unsurprisingly and probably inevitably it’s reached the North York Moors.
Not removing ash trees and woodland arbitrarily is important to potentially help identify tolerance. The best hope of a long-term future for ash trees and woods is by identifying the genetics that mean some ash trees tolerate the infection, and then breeding new generations of tolerant ash trees for the future. There has recently been encouraging progress made by the University of York/John Innes Centre. It’s definitely not hopeless – and maybe if you’re reading this Blog in 20 years’ time Chalara will have been made ineffectual.
The only known UK location for this beautiful rather large slug is in the grounds of Fyling Hall School in Fylingthorpe. Its closest relative is from the Appennine Mountains in Tuscany.
As to how the species got to Fylingthorpe on the rugged North Yorkshire coast – it is suggested that eggs could have arrived with an Italian marble fireplace imported for Fyling Hall (now the School) back in the 19th century.
This Fylingthorpe subspecies has not yet been given a scientific name.