Note from Maria (Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Officer) – Through the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme we’ve organised a number of historic building volunteer events ranging from lime mortar workshops to surveying. One of our volunteers was Dr Ian Wyre who has a PhD from Northumbria University as part of the Virtual Medieval Newcastle project. Ian attended almost every task and demonstrated high potential and a strong background. Because of this he was selected to attend a week’s training event with Historic England and subsequently undertook initial surveying alongside core staff ahead of conservation works. From then Ian has gone from strength to strength and gained a hard sought after position with an archaeological consultancy. So we at the Land of Iron could not be more proud – we wish him well on what will undoubtedly be a successful career ahead.
Ian very kindly agreed to write about his time volunteering and to share his enthusiasm…
Dr Ian Wyre – one time North York Moors Volunteer now Historic Buildings Officer with Archaeological Research Services Ltd
Since living in the north east I had always been on the doorstep of the North York Moors, however it was a place you would visit only for day trips and holidays. A Facebook post calling for heritage volunteers for help with This Exploited Land of Iron project has given me a new, lasting connection with the National Park and its unique heritage.
At the time I had found myself long-term un-employed and, as many people find out, this can become isolating and significantly affect your overall wellbeing. I grew up with language and other neurological difficulties which had also come to the fore at this point in my life. At this time, re-starting any sort of career seemed out of reach; there was a lot I thought couldn’t do and any change seemed overwhelming. The Facebook post however, came across as something I could do. It was an invitation to be involved with historic building conservation of the industrial monuments found throughout the ‘Land of Iron’ area, the North York Moors.
Through the support of the project, guided by its Cultural Heritage Officer, Maria, my volunteering offered a varied sets of tasks encompassing a wide scope of heritage skills, arranged around the National Lottery funded Landscape Partnership Scheme project. It was all built on a practical, hands-on and welcoming basis (something necessary for me at that point!), open to all ages and abilities, set in the stunning National Park.
Joining the project, within months I had learnt to repair with lime mortar through to high tech laser-scanning of historic structures. A highlight for me that summer was the archaeological dig at Goathland Incline. Within the trench I worked in were foundations continuing below almost a metre and a half depth from the surface. The team of enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers and staff had found the substantial remains of stone walls for the engine house, as well the wagon turntable, with which to piece together the previously little known history of the site. The dig took place with visits from many a walker along the old track bed and the sound of steam trains from the nearby North York Moors Railway, aspects which all added to the experience. Another highlight has been contributing to the Historic Building Recording with Kim, the project’s Cultural Heritage Assistant. Some of this included survey of the enormous ruins for the iron kilns lining the sides of the stunning Rosedale valley. These contrast to the human scale of the workers cottages which help to tell an almost disappeared social story of the area.
For me, primarily, the project has added to the tapestry of the stunning North York Moors landscape. The remnants of the immense and historic ironstone industry scattered amongst the peaceful, green and idyllic landscape feeds the imagination. Seemingly not so long ago, the sky was orange and black from the ever-burning furnaces which roared above the clatter and squeal of railway trucks. The conservation the project has achieved of the archaeological remains will keep this rich industrial history for generations to discover for years to come. For me, the project also enabled a step to finding work with an archaeology company. I have been a historic buildings project officer for a year now. Even when the work was difficult the hands-on skills the project brought me form the day-to-day basis of my role. This Exploited Land of Iron truly forged links for me and others with the North York Moors National Park and its important heritage.