The Madness and Delight of a North Yorkshire forest at dawn   

Getting up at 3am to start a bird survey at dawn deep in the North Yorkshire countryside may seem like madness to many people but for Ginny the delight has been far greater than the sacrifice…

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project logo

Ginny Leeming, Turtle Dove Volunteer

A few years ago I was walking in Broxa Forest when I became aware of a strange low bubbling, turring sound. For a minute I just couldn’t place it – perhaps a frog? Then it clicked – I hadn’t heard it for years but it had once been so familiar to me. I went home and looked up some facts and figures and was horrified (though not entirely surprised) to learn of the drastic fall in numbers of a bird that was once so well known (and still is widely known by name if only through the 12 Days of Christmas). So when I heard about the Turtle Dove Project I was immediately keen to get involved. OK, so getting up at 3am to be in the forest ready to start a survey at dawn is somewhat daunting, and I even felt a bit nervous at the thought of walking through the forest in semi-darkness. But once up it is a truly magical time to be out there. I’ve had close encounters with badgers, deer, hares and much other wildlife.

On my very first survey I was nearing the end, almost resigned to a negative result, when I approached a clearing and before I could see through the trees I heard that unique sound. It turned out to be 3 singing males. I really had to stop myself shrieking with delight! Since then I’ve had less luck, but the memory of that moment has helped to maintain my feeling of anticipation. It has also been really encouraging to know that the data from that first survey has already been used to target conservation measures on local farms. Perhaps in a few more years encounters with these iconic birds will become more common.
A North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Volunteer in Action. Copyright NYMNPA.
Our North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project surveys start again in May. We will be holding two meetings this spring to explain the surveys and to allow volunteers to meet up. One meeting will be in the Dalby Forest Courtyard Building (YO18 7LT) on 24 April at 7 pm and the second at the Yorkshire Arboretum (YO60 7BY) in the Howardian Hills on 2 May, again at 7 pm. If you’d like to get involved please come along or alternatively email Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer.

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project partnership logos

 

From strength to strength

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…

Rosedale - Dale Head with railway and water tower - copyright NYMNPA

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.

Land of Iron Goathland Dig 2017 - discussions. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you want to get involved with the Land of Iron or might be interested in any other volunteer opportunities please contact our Volunteer Service.

Land of Iron LPS logo banner

YoGA: taking action

Laura Barr – Marketing and Product Development Executive

2019 has been designated the Year of Green Action.

The Year of Green Action (YoGA) is part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and is a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds to take actions that improve the natural world. We want to encourage and inspire others to do the same.

Everyone can get involved in projects, whether it’s in your own garden, at school, in the workplace or as a consumer. A small change can make a big difference…

Take part in a local litter pick or beach clean, make water, waste and energy-saving improvements, or simply head out into a local green space and appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

Throughout 2019, we will be hosting events and activities across the North York Moors National Park aiming to help people connect, protect and enhance nature.

Some excellent tree planting activity. Copyright NYMNPA.

To kick things off, over the past few weeks National Park staff along with volunteers, youth groups and corporate teams have been planting trees to create a new native woodland near Danby. Incorporating a mixture of oak, silver birch, hazel, rowan, crab apple, wild cherry, hawthorn and blackthorn, the team are on schedule to plant more than 3,500 trees in six weeks.

Some more excellent tree planting activity. Copyright NYMNPA.

There are lots of different opportunities to get involved and take action. Events coming up in and around the North York Moors include:

  • Health and Wellbeing walking festivals including our own WalkFest (25 – 27 May), and the Redcar & Cleveland Walking Festival (15 – 23 June) to celebrate the Cleveland Way’s 50th birthday.
  • The Lost Words (13 June – 29 July) – an exhibition on tour from Compton Verney Art Gallery that reconnects adults and children with the natural world using the power of words and art. A programme of treasure hunts, art workshops, nature expeditions and more are scheduled throughout the summer.
  • Rosedale Wildlife Week (23 – 29 June) – Join the ‘Land of Iron’ project team for a week’s worth of wildlife-themed walks, family activities, talks and workshops in Rosedale from moth-trapping and wildlife walks to natural history lectures and mammal-monitoring.

Help us take positive steps to help our natural environment!

Finding out how to identify tree species. Copyright Daniel Wildey.

You can find out what activities we’ve got going on across the North York Moors here.

You can follow the latest news about YOGA across the UK using #yearofgreenaction

Realms of Glory

In between rushing around for Christmas and the New Year, if you get the chance you could try taking a moment to stop and stare upwards.

The North York Moors are one of the darkest places in England. The lack of artificial light means if the weather is right you have the chance to look into the heavens and appreciate the full glory of the sky above you.

Orion Rising, taken by Martin Whipp. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you’re lucky you can avoid the noise and bother, be still and just be amazed as the darkness enfolds you. There might not be angels but there will be constellations, planets, meteors, and lots and lots of stars.

Andromeda Galaxy at Sutton Bank. Copyright Richard Darn.

Between 24 December until 11 January should be one of the best times to see the winter nightscape in the North York Moors. Just before then the Ursids meteor shower could be visible around the 22 and 23 of December. For more information about gazing at stars see our Dark Skies web page.

Merry Christmas and a Starry New Year.

We are Family

Alasdair Fagan – Woodland Creation Officer

All 15 UK National Parks are unique with their own landscape character, natural assets and cultural heritage. But we have a lot in common too, and therefore there is much value in sharing issues, experiences and lessons, and keeping in touch with each National Park that makes up our National Park Family.

The Tree and Woodlands Officer Group (TWOG) focuses on all things woodland and tree related across the UK National Parks. Every National Park’s Tree and/or Woodland Officers are members of TWOG and each year a particular Park hosts an annual gathering so members can get together in person to talk through issues and see what’s happening on the ground beyond their own Park.

2018 was our turn to host the TWOG meeting, so back in October Tree and/or Woodland Officers from other National Parks arrived in Helmsley.

DAY ONE

We started with a welcome meeting and an introduction to the North York Moors by Andy Wilson, our Chief Executive.

We then headed out to Bilsdale stopping at key vantage points to look over woodland creation projects past, present and future throughout this linear north/south dale. There was a discussion around each National Park’s approach to tree planting and about the finer details of woodland creation such as landscaping, appropriate locations and grant support. For the North York Moors woodland creation is a priority and we have resources available to work with landowners to facilitate this. We’ve started with smallish individual sites but are starting to develop a more targeted strategic approach for the future.

Looking down over woodland creation projects in Bilsdale, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

We then headed up into Tripsdale Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is valued for a mix of habitats. Within the area is High Wood which includes as many as 300 ancient and veteran trees. We considered the management of the Ancient Semi Natural Woodland area as a whole and also the invaluable irreplaceable individual trees. High Wood is a wood pasture – a grazed woodland – but currently the sheep are fenced out as we’re establishing young trees to help maintain succession on the site.

High Wood, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

Veteran Tree in High Wood, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

That first evening we had a talk by Professor Ian Rotherham from Sheffield Hallam University on ‘Shadow Woodlands’ and the significance of scrub. Shadow woodlands are essentially areas that still have remnant trees and woodland flora but are no longer woodland as such – they could provide appropriate place to target for woodland re-creation in the future.

DAY TWO

The next day we headed off to the Forestry Commission’s Cropton Forest to have a look at their natural flood management features on Sutherland Beck. These features, such as woody debris dams where installed as part of the ‘Slowing the Flow’ project aimed at abating  past flooding issues in the town of Pickering downstream.

Cropton Forest with the Forestry Commission, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

We then travelled north and after a quick stop at the Hole of Horcum on Levisham Estate to discuss past tree planting for landscape and natural flood management reasons, we stopped in Glaisdale.

Hole of Horcum, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

We went into the West Arncliff 44 hectare woodland site to look at the work that began 6 years ago to convert part of the woodland from conifer plantation back to native broadleaved woodland. This site demonstrates the long term commitment required to achieve PAWS restoration. It’s part of a wider site that includes SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). We also got to see the nationally scarce Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum).

West Arnecliff, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

This visit inspired debates, discussions and recommendations around the challenges of restoring ancient woodland in hard to access sites.

West Arnecliff, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

The last stop of the day was at a vantage point above Fryup Dale. This site provided the opportunity to discuss wood creation (again), work to integrate historic commercial forestry into the landscape and other woodland issues on a landscape scale. Sharing perspectives and comparisons from different National Parks was very illuminating.

Above Fryup Dale, TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

That evening we listened to another two fascinating talks from invited speakers. Nationally renowned woodland expert George Peterkin presented on Lady Park Wood, a woodland local to him in the Wye Valley, examining the context of a woodland not managed for 15-years and lessons that can be learnt. Brian Walker, who worked for the Forestry Commission for over 40 years, presented on the interconnected biodiversity of the Forestry Commission’s Langdale Forest.

DAY THREE

On the morning after we closed with a formal meeting considering national issues such as Brexit implications for grant funding and payments for public goods, as well as woodland management and woodland creation (yet again). Then everyone went back to their home National Parks.

TWOG is just one way in which the National Park Family works and communicates with each other. I am glad it all worked out, even the weather was good and the autumn colours looked fabulous. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to host such dedicated and experienced woodland representatives here in the North York Moors. I’m already looking forward to the next TWOG meeting, in 2019 at Snowdonia National Park.

TWOG visit Oct 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

Hand of Glory

Three men sat in the corner of the public house. They didn’t say much, they were waiting.

The other people around them were still talking about the hanging seven days earlier. The executed man had struggled for a long time when he dropped, the crowd had gone quiet by the time he went still. Most people had known him, he was always a bit odd, a bit menacing.

Sometime after midnight the three men went out into the dark and then kept walking till they got to the bridge. The moon was hidden by clouds, but they could hear where the gibbet was by the creaking and clanking, and they could smell it too. Not for the first time the smaller man, Esau Fawcett, regretted saying yes but it was too late now. The other two grasped his legs and lifted him up, he thought he would fall and he reached out at what was in front of him. He grasped the chained corpse of the gibbeted man. His eyes were sinking, his jaw was dropping, his skin was rotting. Esau managed to pull out his boning knife and reach for the caged right hand. It came away easily enough, and dropped onto the road.

There was no one to see the three men as they returned with their prize. Esau went home to his wife and his bed but he couldn’t sleep, he kept remembering how the hand had felt, so cold and clammy. On the agreed day they met up again, the older man had the hand. It had been cured like a ham, the smell was now of saltpetre. It looked grey and withered and had been dried hard. The long straight fingers looked like dead twigs. Esau wondered aloud whether it would actually work. The older man promised that it would, that they could rob the farmer’s house and no one would wake, because of the Hand of Glory.

Esau kept thinking of what he would do with the money as they approached the farmhouse. There was no signs of life but they had to be sure that everyone was definitely asleep. The older man struck a flint and lit the dry moss in a tinderbox. It crackled and glowed and he lowered the hand towards the flame. For a moment nothing happened, Esau hoped that there was someone still awake in the house and they’d just have to go home and go to bed … but then the middle finger caught alight. Esau scrambled through a small back window they forced open. The older man passed him the hand. Esau grasped it tightly holding the flame upwards.

In the dark of the house the ghastly candle provided little light, it flickered and hissed. Esau didn’t see the edge of the table or the jug of gale beer, it fell onto the flagstones with a loud crash. Esau froze – but nothing happened. No one came. From outside the other two urged him on so he went on into the larder, and found the money box. He made a lot more noise opening it up with his iron crow, but it didn’t matter, still no one came. The Hand of Glory had spellbound the household just like it was supposed to.

Outside and away from the farmstead they struggled to extinguish the flame until the older man remembered blood would work, and they found a recently disembowelled rabbit. Esau felt much better than he had for weeks as he went home in the early morning. He had the hand with him because the other two had to carry the money box away but they’d be sure to meet up soon to share out the spoils. He wasn’t afraid of the hand anymore, he thought of it as a tool not a piece of a person, and he put it under his bed for safe keeping in case he needed it again. He got into his bed beside his sleeping wife.

Sometime later he woke up. He felt a cold dry hand around his wrist. He noticed a growing smell of decay. He heard a metallic creaking. He didn’t want to but he couldn’t help opening his eyes. He looked straight into a face whose eyes were sunken, whose jaw had dropped, whose skin was rotten. ‘Give me back my hand’ it said.

As the mourners walked back to the village after Esau’s burial, none of them looked at the gibbet by the bridge and no one noticed the hanging blackened corpse had two hands again.

The idea of a Hand of Glory is found across Europe complete with different rules and traditions for what it could do and how to make it work. In Britain and Ireland stories from antiquarians are mixed up with reports of actual use. There is a hand kept in Whitby Museum, supposedly a Hand of Glory, it was apparently found in the wall of a cottage in Castleton.

YAC-king opportunities

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Volunteers Wanted: Join Moors & Valleys YAC Today!

The Moors & Valleys Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) needs people to help deliver a range of exciting and informative archaeology-themed sessions to children across the North York Moors National Park and Teesside. The YAC is a national network of clubs across the UK ran by dedicated volunteers. The Moors & Valleys Club is of the most recent to join the network. Since February 2018, the Moors & Valleys YAC have been delivering monthly sessions at venues throughout the region aimed at entertaining and educating 8-16 year olds.

Moors & Valleys YAC logo

 

Originally set up as a part of the Land of Iron HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme, the Moors & Valleys YAC is currently based at The Moors National Park Centre in Danby – the group welcomes children to join from all across Teesside, Cleveland and North Yorkshire.

Tell me more about the Moors & Valleys sessions…

Children who have joined the Moors and Valleys YAC group have taken part in a variety of craft and educational activities, from visits to archaeological digs and museums to handling artefacts and hearing informative talks. We have even looked at animal and (plastic) human skeletons and learnt about how bones survive in the archaeological record! The session themes change each month and we want to focus on both local history and also topics from different time periods and from all around the world.

Moors & Valleys YAC visiting the Land of Iron Combs Wood excavation. Copyright NYMNPA.

In May we visited St. Peter’s church and graveyard in Brotton to investigate Victorian gravestones. We learnt about the occupations of past individuals, including miners and sailors, and learnt about the types of symbols used on gravestones and what they represented. In July we held an extra session to visit the archaeological excavation at Skelton, as part of an HLF project entitled Skelton Townscape Heritage project run by Tees Archaeology and local volunteers. The excavation was investigating the evidence for, and use of, medieval long-houses close to the site of the castle. We had a great time and learnt a lot about archaeology and its methods in the field.

So, what is the Moors & Valleys YAC looking for…

The sessions are run on the first Saturday of the month, from 11 am – 2 pm, in a number of different locations. So far we have held sessions in Danby, Middlesbrough, Skelton and Stockton on Tees. If this sounds like an interesting and invigorating way to spend one Saturday a month, read on.

We are looking for Leaders and Volunteers to join Moors and Valleys YAC in delivering entertaining and educating sessions. Leaders will take an active part in developing and delivering the session topics, helping to provide a hand with other YAC members. Volunteers will help by attending the sessions, and delivering support for the children in understanding the sessions by providing prompts and discussion points.

Moors & Valleys YAC - Teesside human skeleton session. Copyright NYMNPA.

We are also looking for a part-time Volunteer Administrator who would be able to assist in the office-based activities necessary for the Moors & Valleys YAC. The role will help provide new YAC members with the appropriate membership forms, update members on upcoming sessions, and help relay information between YAC Volunteers and Leaders. Ideally you will be interested in archaeology and history, with a keen interest in making heritage available and accessible for all.

Here at the North York Moors National Park we help provide the base of support for our YAC Volunteers. All YAC Volunteers are registered through the National Park’s volunteer system and we can offer travel expenses as appropriate.

Next step is to get in touch

To apply for the above volunteer positions, or to find out more information about the roles available, please have a look here or email volunteers@northyorkmoors.org.uk. Prior to taking up a role there will be an informal chat to outline and discuss the activities. Please note that a DBS check is required for all the roles above. The North York Moors National Park Authority can help with the application for this and its attendant costs.

Warren Moor Mine: Part Two – the excavation

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

We were back at Warren Moor Mine within weeks of completing the lime mortaring of the winding engine bed, but this time to carry out an archaeological excavation. Five Land of Iron volunteers and two members of staff investigated two trenches dug across the ditch on the site. One trench was between the winding engine bed and the downcast shaft, and the other further upstream, close to the boiler house and chimney. The purpose of the excavation was to build upon the information left to us by those who built and operated the mine site, and the knowledge gained by John Owen and his team from their 1970s investigations.

A very short history recap

Warren Moor Mine was only in use for a grand total of nine years, on and off, between 1857 and 1874. The land was first mined by a John Watson from 1865 to 1868 as part of the Warren Moor Mine Company Ltd. After being taken back by the Kildale Estate (land owners), in 1872 – once the price of iron had risen – a new company, the Leven Vale Company Ltd took out the lease. They further invested in the mine, even building a row of stone workers cottages. However, in 1874 the Leven Vale Company Ltd also failed. These short periods of tenancy at Warren Moor Mine were likely due to the poor quality of ironstone which made deep mining unviable.

105 years later John Owen, an enthusiastic industrial archaeologist, and his team undertook an excavation of the site. They not only investigated the standing buildings, but also explored the upcast and downcast shafts and the pumping engine, providing us with detailed diagrams of the interiors of the structures and how they may have worked (Owen’s report can be found here).

What we got up to this time

This excavation was on a much smaller scale than that carried out recently at Combs Wood, with only two trenches around 1 metre wide and 2 metres long to start with. One purpose was to investigate the bank that ran along one side of the river (Leven). It is thought that the bank had been built up by Owen to change the course of the watercourse in order to reduce the damage being caused to the structures. Another purpose was to investigate the retaining wall around the winding engine bed, to discover its thickness and materials used in its construction, and whether there was a direct relationship to the downcast shaft.

Most of the findings from the trenches were in line with Owen’s previous excavations. In the first trench next to the engine winding bed we uncovered the extent of the retaining wall. There was also a lot of evidence of burning with large lumps of slag (metal waste) and a compacted surface layer. We made the decision to extend this trench after we uncovered the corner of a large worked stone. This stone sat just below the topsoil and appeared to be a block from the winding engine bed. This raised a few questions for us – what was this stone doing here on the other side of the retaining wall? had it been placed here purposefully or just discarded?  We also dug two sondages (test pits) to get a full profile of the layers in this trench.

The second trench, up near the standing chimney, was extended far beyond its original dimensions. The aim of this trench was to explore the embankment. Upon removal of the topsoil we found the embankment to be a roughly piled brick feature. However, the more we revealed of the brick work the more we saw a structural pattern emerge. Then, unexpectedly, one of the volunteers revealed two stone door jamb bases, proving without a doubt that there was a previously unknown building! Unfortunately, this was all discovered on the last day, so we weren’t able to explore it any further at this time. This trench also contained the same burnt compacted layer and slag deposits that were in the first trench.

So what happens next?

Another excavation has been scheduled to establish the dimensions and purpose of the newly discovered building!

The volunteers group will continue to maintain the site. In addition, contractors will be working on site into next year to carry out conservation works and make the site safe for public access and enjoyment.

Warren Moor Mine: Part One – the Lime Mortar task

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

For five days back in August a group of very determined Land of Iron volunteers and staff, along with one local lime mortar expert descended on Warren Moor Mine in Little Kildale to begin conservation work on the winding engine bed. During the 144 years since the mine closure tree roots, vegetation, insects and the weather have slowly eroded the site of Warren Moor Mine which includes a winding engine bed. The stonework had very little remaining mortar, and so we took on the task to re-point in order to help protect this historic structure.

Follow this link for a 360 view of the site.

A (Very) Short History of Warren Moor Mine – the story of Warren Moor Mine starts in 1857 when the Bell Brothers of Middlesbrough surveyed the nature of the ironstone in this dale, once isolated but now connected by the new railway. Investigations on the main seam revealed that it was 5-6 ft. deep but split by a band of shale and also had low iron content; only just averaging out at 26% when other parts of the Cleveland area averaged at 30%. The Bell Brothers Ltd declined the mining lease offered by the Kildale estate (landowners) and for eight years Warren Moor remained undisturbed.

Then, despite the results of previous surveys, in 1865, under John Watson and his southern investors, work began on open drift mines into the top ‘dogger’ seam. Drift mining means digging into an edge from the side, horizontally, and is much easier and therefore cheaper than digging downwards. A year later Watson took out a 42 year lease and the ‘Warren Moor Mine’ (Company Ltd) was formed. Letters suggest that the first year of the lease resulted in profit. The ironstone extracted was calcined (roasted to remove impurities) on site and then transported by rail to the blast furnaces. Work began to sink two shafts to intercept the main seam at 220 ft., along with the construction of a steam boiler house and corresponding chimney, a winding engine and a steam powered pumping engine, all to enable deep mining. By 1868, most of the structures had been completed with the exception of the downcast shaft which had only been completed to a depth of 150 ft. but by that time the Warren Moor Mine Company Ltd were in financial trouble no doubt partly due to the poor quality of ironstone leaving the Warren Moor Mines. Kildale estate reclaimed the site and all its equipment.

Four years later in 1872, the Leven Vale Company Ltd took out a lease on the site, not put off by the previous company’s failure to make the site commercial. A row of stone cottages were built to house miners and their families, these cottages appear on historic maps labelled Leven Vale Cottages – in 1972 the cottages were demolished by volunteers from Kildale village and the stone was used in the Village Hall. Regardless of the initial investment into the site by the Leven Vale Company no progress was made with completing either the downcast shaft nor any other parts of the non working downcast mine. The company continued to use the drift mines to mine the top seam but in 1874 became insolvent just like its predecessor.

So after only nine years of operation the mines were abandoned for the next 105 years until 1979 when the archaeologist John Owen and his team excavated the site providing detailed diagrams and explanations for many of the mines remaining features (Owen’s report can be found here)

…And then along we came!

A view of Warren Moor Mine today, Copyright NYMNPA.

Of course we weren’t the first group to set foot on the site since then, but being in such a remote location it sometimes feels that way. Our task in August was to conserve and protect what was left of the winding engine bed and that involved re-mortaring. We started with a day of training and demonstration at Kildale Village Hall (built with the stones from the Leven Vale Cottages). Our expert, Nigel Copesy, explained the benefits of using a hot lime mortar mix over natural hydraulic limes (NHLs) or other cementitious materials, as well as explaining the science behind the mixing process and why that resulted in better effective porosity enabling buildings to shed water quicker resulting in less damp and decay. He also showed us different ways of creating a mix and some of the more extreme reactions of slaking quick lime.

Nigel Copsey demonstrating the reaction from mixing hot lime mortar. Copyright NYMNPA,

Over the next four days we undertook the actual task of re-pointing the engine bed. I think we were all surprised at the amount of mortar you could put into a joint before you would feel any resistance! We used three different types of mortar on the different areas of the engine bed in order to provide the best level of protection that we could.

The first mix that we made was used to point the sides of the stonework; it consisted of two different types of sand, brick dust, quick lime, a clay based pozzolanic additive and water. This created an exothermic reaction, where a decent amount of heat was given off but quickly cooled to useable temperatures.

The second mix is appropriately named an earth lime mortar and was used to fill the larger gaps on the top of the engine bed packed with some loose stones. To make this mix a slightly different technique was used. Using some excess soil from a previous archaeological test pit, we soaked it for a few hours before adding some quicklime to give it form. This soil contained high amounts of clay which is known to work well with quick lime. Earth mortars are more common than people realise. Many traditional buildings in the North York Moors and elsewhere have earth mortars at the core of the wall. They allow the building to breathe which can help prevent damp and create a healthy living space.

Our third and final mix was used on top of the earth lime mortar and had a very high pozzolanic value, making it more durable and less permeable. As the top of the engine bed will be most exposed to weathering, the mortar used had to almost repel any rain water. Although this type of mortar would not have been used in this location traditionally; it was thought necessary to adapt the mortar on this occasion to help protect this historic monument into the future, which is now far more exposed to the elements than it was when originally built.

Re-mortaring Warren Moor Mine engine bed - with the bottom of the chimney in the background. Copyright NYMNPA.Warren Moor Mine engine bed - with new lime mortar. Copyright NYMNPA.

The result of all five days of hard work is a winding engine bed that is infinitely more protected than it was at the beginning of the week. Conserving our industrial heritage is hugely important, especially with a site like Warren Moor which still provides a snapshot in time. The Land of Iron team would once again like to thank the amazing efforts of our volunteers, Kildale estate, and also Nigel Copsey for sharing his knowledge.

Combs Wood – Another Community Excavation

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

After a very wet dig back in May 2017, Land of Iron volunteers and staff returned for a second season of excavation at Combs Wood, Beck Hole in July 2018 to investigate this important iron working and mining site. Luckily for us the weather held – we got to experience excavating in the hottest summer since 1976!

One of the major elements of the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme is investigating the ironstone industry from the early 19th century to the early 20th century in the North York Moors. Like many of the remains from the iron industry in the area since that time, Combs Wood has been reclaimed by the natural environment. With only 10 days to excavate we had a lot of questions to try and answer…

Land of Iron - Combs Wood excavation July 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

A Brief History of the site

Combs Wood is part of the Goathland Forest complex which belongs to the Forestry Commission. The site itself lies near the base of Goathland Incline and undoubtedly linked up with this railway line. The incline itself is so steep that in order to get the loaded coaches and wagons up to the top a gravity system was used – water butts were placed at the top of the incline and their weight was used to offset the weight of the wagons. Once the water butts were at the base of the incline they could be emptied and brought up to the top by horses. The horse-powered railway was converted into a steam hauled railway in 1845, and at some point the incline itself was transformed to steam power with a stationary engine at the top. The incline was eventually abandoned in 1865 (after an accident killed two and injured 13) in favour of a more level route, known commonly at the deviation line.

In 1857 that Whitby Iron Company was formed and began to construct the ironworks in Combs Wood. A series of drift mines were opened connected by elevated sets of tramways. The first iron was cast in 1860 and is commemorated by a cast-iron tablet in Whitby Museum. However the following iron working and mining operations were nothing short of disastrous until eventually in 1861 the owners offered the whole plant for sale. Receiving no bids the operation struggled on until a stormy night in 1864 when a landslide buried the two main access drifts, and demolished the beckside tramway and the water leat to the water wheel. No lives were lost but operations never resumed.

Nearby the small Beck Hole hamlet had changed exponentially with the opening of both the railway and the iron works. A row of 33 workers cottages were built corresponding with the workforce and their families. Birch Hall Inn was extended to include a provisions store. In 1860 the inn was licenced to sell ‘Ale, Porter, Cider and Perry’, vital for any workforce. The population boom ended in 1864 with the mines closed and the furnaces dismantled, the cottages were demolished and the only reminder in Beck Hole of a once lively iron industry was the expanded Inn. The ironworks site and associated cottages and infrastructure began to slowly recede under the encroaching vegetation…

Combs Wood excavation July 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

The Excavation

Entering the site, we passed the remains of the bridge that once connected the ironworks to the other side of the Murk Esk river and the Whitby to Pickering railway line. At first, the lower part of the site appears to be fairly straight forward. To the right, there is a stone building potentially an office for a manager or clerk. It has two floors with evidence to suggest that the walls may have even been plastered. To the left, there is a wheel pit for a wheel powered by the river that runs perpendicular. We cleaned and recorded the office building as most of the necessary excavation here had already been completed during the previous season.

The wheel pit was another story and there was nothing simple about excavating this feature. which involved navigating the metal poles (cross acro clamps) used to shore up the pit walls, and the daily water removal from the pit bottom. The aim of excavating the wheel pit was to reveal and record the floor of the structure and to gain a greater understanding of its purpose and extent. However, as the excavation progressed, more and more questions about this feature emerged. While we now have a good idea of how the timber water wheel would have worked; we have less idea about what it actually powered. An investigation into a structure on the next level of the site was made to try and see how the wheel pit may have related to other structures on site, including a channel which ran from one level to the next.

Continuing along the tramway we made our way further up into the woods to the upper part of the site which holds arguably more mysteries to uncover. A row of collapsed buildings emerge from the grass to the left and ahead an unidentified structure which was almost completely hidden by vegetation. The first building we chose to explore is the middle of the three larger buildings. It revealed a red earth floor with slag (a waste product of iron working) scattered throughout. The main feature of the room is the ‘forge’ which is still in surprisingly good condition. Theories behind the purpose of this feature on the site are various, ranging from testing the quality of the iron ore coming out of the mines, to creating the horse shoes for the mine horses. To the left of the forge, we discovered an incredibly intact stable floor. The floor shows a drain running along the length of the stable with drilled post holes used to create the wooden stalls for the individual horses.

Have a look here to see a fab 3-D image of both the forge and the stable

Starting Them Young

On the first Saturday of each month the National Park Authority run the Moors and Valleys Young Archaeologist Club (YAC) for young people aged 8 to 16 years. For the July session, the club joined us on site at Combs Wood to experience a working archaeological excavation. The children were treated to an in-depth tour of the site and also got to sieve through the spoil heap to find any artefacts that the volunteers and staff had missed. The club did very well, discovering tile, pottery and even a nail.

YAC at Combs Wood excavation July 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

Our Amazing Volunteers

The amount that we achieved in just 10 days is astounding and a credit to the work ethic of our volunteers. Not only did they shift tonnes of soil and stone they assisted with the public tours, and provided knowledge and insights which helped establish a greater understanding of the site. Without them the excavation would just not have been possible.

Thanks also to the Forestry Commission for permission to keep excavating.

 

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