Laminaria is a genus of 31 species of brown algae commonly called Kelp. Some species are also referred to as Tangle. They are characterized by long, leathery laminae (leaf blades) and their relatively large size. There are two common Laminaria that grow along the North York Moors coast.
Laminaria digitata or Oarweed is commonly found along the local coastline and grows in the transition zone between the open sea and the deeper part of the rocky shore. The plant can grow up to three and a half metres long. The fronds of the plant are hand shaped with fingers hence its species name digitata. They are sometimes (but not always) found still attached to the stipe or stem secured by a ‘holdfast’ at the bottom of the stem to a rock or ledge. After heavy storms this Laminaria can often also be found washed up on beaches after being ripped up by the strong waves and currents.
Laminaria saccharina or Sugar Kelp is another common kelp from the same transitional zone on the foreshore. This single stemmed seaweed can grow up to four metres long. It has a long leathery blade – unbranched and without a midrib – about 15 centimetres wide. The blade is flat but wrinkly and with wavy margins. It is also known as Poor man’s weather glass as it was used to forecast the weather: if it dries up the weather will be fine; if it swells up and becomes damp, rain is on its way.
Laminaria is an economically important genus. In the 18th century seaweeds were burnt to extract potash (potassium) for use in the glass industry to make the glass stronger, and in the 19th century iodine was extracted for medical usage e.g. as a disinfectant. Seaweeds have long been used as an organic fertiliser and spread on the land, because of the minerals they contain. Seaweed is also now used for the extraction of alginic acid used in medicine; in the manufacture of toothpastes and cosmetics; and in the food industry for binding, thickening and moulding. Please not that like most plants, seaweeds can also have detrimental (poisonous) effects.
LASERS at LASTINGHAM
Lastingham Abbey was originally founded in the mid-7th century AD by St Cedd of Lindisfarne as a Christian monastery. St Bede described the site as ‘among some High and remote hills, which seemed more suitable for the dens of robbers and haunts of wild beasts than for human habitation’. For whatever reason (Vikings have been suggested) it subsequently fell into eventual ruin. Monks from Whitby then re-established a new monastic foundation in 1087 but again it was abandoned as the monks moved on, with the work left unfinished.
What is left on the site is St Mary’s Church, now the parish church of Lastingham. The building is mainly early Norman but with Victorian transverse arches and a vaulted roof added in 1879. The subterranean crypt beneath the church building – is particularly atmospheric. The dating of the crypt (e.g. whether it dates back to an original Anglo-Saxon building) and the usages of the crypt (e.g. whether St Cedd was reinterred there, making it a shrine) have long been debated.
Archaeological debates rely on evidence and data collection. In 2008 ‘early’ laser scanning of the crypt was undertaken by the University of Siena and the Landscape Research Centre. It was one of the coldest, dampest days imaginable on the Moors – so much so that the survey team (and the kit) needed to ‘defrost’ in the warmth of the nearby Blacksmith’s Arms pub afterwards. A short film clip – here – shows the scanning being carried out – it is clear that the technology has moved on a lot since. Back in 2008 the juxtaposition of the modern and ancient seems to add to the sense of eeriness.
“I take a simple view of life. It is keep your eyes open and get on with it”
Laurence Sterne was born in Ireland in 1713. He came to the village of Coxwold on the south west corner of the North York Moors to be the Anglican Rector in 1760. He had previously attempted to supplement his clerical income with farming for a while but then tried his hand at writing instead, publishing a number of sermons and a critical pamphlet which was promptly banned. His first and most successful novel was ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’. He had written the first two volumes as family members died around him and his family life collapsed. Fortunately on publication in 1759 which Sterne paid for himself, ‘Tristram Shandy’ was an immediate success.
‘Tristram Shandy’ leaves out the strictures of ordinary linear plotting, and has no great conclusion or moral – instead “it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retired thatched house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles, – but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life” (Sterne’s dedication of Tristram Shandy to the Right Honourable Mr Pitt).
Sterne took very well to being a celebrated author both in London and the Continent. At the same time his fame meant that in 1760 he was appointed to a good living at Coxwold for the rest of his life with the security that entailed, and he could leave most of his clerical duties to his Curates. He published nine volumes in all of ‘Tristram Shandy’, the last in 1767, as well as ‘A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy’ (a spin off). Laurence Sterne died in London in 1768. Keeping with the tragicomedy of his life and work Sterne was initially buried in London – he may then have been dug up by Resurrectionists before being partly? reburied – but a skull and femur presumed to belong to Sterne were later removed and interred in the Church at Coxwold, whether he liked it or not.
Along with the Rectorage at Coxwold came Shandy Hall. This is the house where Sterne lived and wrote, in between sojourns in London, France and Italy. It is now the home of the Laurence Sterne Trust and is open to the public during the summer.
Professor Sir John Lawton chaired a panel considering “Do England’s wildlife sites comprise a coherent and resilient ecological network? If not, what needs to be done?” The panel’s report – Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological networks – was published in 2010.
One of the starting points was that in many cases habitats for wildlife were usually small and fragmented, missing the coherent and resilient ecological habitat connections across the landscape that would enable wildlife to spread and to move in reaction to change.
The report set out three objectives:
“1. To restore species and habitats appropriate to England’s physical and geographical context to levels that are sustainable in a changing climate, and enhanced in comparison with those in 2000.
2. To restore and secure the long-term sustainability of the ecological and physical processes that underpin the way ecosystems work, thereby enhancing the capacity of our natural environment to provide ecosystem services such as clean water, climate regulation and crop pollination, as well as providing habitats for wildlife.
3. To provide accessible natural environments rich in wildlife for people to enjoy and experience.”
The answer proposed by the report were that “To make space for nature we need more, bigger, better and joined up sites to create a sustainable, resilient and more effective ecological network for England…we need to do more to:
i) Improve the quality of current sites by better habitat management.
ii) Increase the size of current wildlife sites.
iii) Enhance connections between, or join up, sites, either through physical corridors, or through ‘stepping stones’.
iv) Create new sites.
v) Reduce the pressures on wildlife by improving the wider environment, including through buffering wildlife sites.”
For the necessary management, restoration and creation of wildlife habitats the report suggested a number of approaches – including using levels of legal protection and designation, making the most of publically owned land, paying for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting, providing incentives through agri-environment schemes and the tax system.
The report offered a landscape vision of nature alongside people and it presented the encouraging idea that we can do things to make the situation better. It spelled out the interconnected benefits from, and the values of, the natural environment to wildlife and to people, including the possibilities of deriving multiple benefits from land-use so that everyone gains.
“It is a long-term vision, out to 2050, and defines a direction of travel, not an end-point. This vision will only be realised if, within the overall aims, we work at local scales, in partnership with local people, local authorities, the voluntary sector, farmers, other land-managers, statutory agencies, and other stakeholders. Private landowners, land managers and farmers have a crucial role to play in delivering a more coherent and resilient wildlife network.”
The Lawton Report was well received on publication. Many environmental organisations have set out their responses to the report since and are working in line with the principles set out within it. The North York Moors National Park Authority put the principles at the heart of our Management Plan in 2012 – our current habitat connectivity initiative is aimed at achieving long term effective wildlife connections along a number of strategic corridors.
LYKE WAKE WALK
The Lyke Wake Walk is a forty mile moorland crossing over the top of the North York Moors from Osmotherley on the western edge to Ravenscar on the coast in the east. The
idea came from a local man called Bill Cowley who issued an open challenge in The Dalesman in August 1955 to cross the moors on foot from west to east within 24 hours, and its continued as a standing challenge ever since. Everyone who completes the Walk within the 24 hours is entitled to become a member of the New Lyke Wake Club. Lately the Club has been working with National Park Authority Volunteers to ensure the classic route for the Walk remains accessible and erosion problems are tackled.
A ‘Lyke’ is a corpse, and a ‘Wake’ is the watch over a corpse before burial, so the Lyke Wake Walk should therefore be an historic route for carrying the local dead to their final resting place. Except that it actually isn’t. Instead it’s an evocative name given to a recent concept to bring people together to take up a challenge and to champion the North York Moors.