Another what might have been

At the very end of the 19th century a number of gentlemen including MPs and a Fellow of the Royal Society formed a company (Ravenscar Estate Limited sometimes called Peak Estate Limited) purchased the 800 acre Raven Hill Estate on the North Yorkshire coast between Whitby and Scarborough. Their purpose was to transform their renamed property, Ravenscar, into a first class seaside watering place.

The location had a number of attractions – ‘between sea and moor’, ‘romantic situation’, ‘bracing air’, ‘elevated position’, ‘magnificent sea views’, ‘splendid cliffs’; all of which Ravenscar Estate Limited were keen to promote. The site had an existing railway station to bring people in, and also included the old Hall which was soon sold off and turned into a Hotel. The plan was to develop the resort at the same time as selling plots and parcels of plots to other gentlemen to invest in. The plots would be built on adding up to shops, marine villas and lodging houses ‘for which there is a great demand on this favourite and fashionable coast’. Over the next few years these plots were sold on gradually through auctions (often with a free luncheon and sometimes even with a special train laid on) so as not to deflate the price by offering too many at one time. By showing that other gentlemen had confidence in the scheme, the intention was to entice others to get involved too and make sure they didn’t miss out.

NEW WATERING-PLACE FOR YORKSHIRE. Important Property Sale. (BY OUR OWN REPORTER)
The first practical steps towards the creation of a -new watering-place on the Yorkshire coast, near Robin Hood’s Bay, were taken yesterday, when an estate known as Ravenscar was offered for sale in building lots, at the Raven Hill Hotel about half a mile from Peak Station. The site is a picturesque one, and access to it is obtained by the Scarborough and Whitby Railway, which brings the visitor to within a couple of hundred yards from the summit of the cliffs. Standing on the pretty castellated garden terraces in front of Raven Hall, one obtains a charming view. .. Immediately beneath the terraces at Ravenscar, and extending away south as far as Hayburn Wyke, are gigantic cliffs, the highest, with one exception, on the Yorkshire coast. To the geologist many an interesting problem is presented by the dislocation, of the strata, especially on the line of the great fault, where there is a three of fully four hundred feet. The undercliff extends for several miles along the coast, and gives to it an unusual appearance of rugged grandeur. About these cliffs hundreds of sea-gulls have their homes, and foxes and rabbits by scores have also chosen to make their burrows here. Ravenscar, which now consists of little save pastoral land, has a history of its own. The commanding situation of the Peak Hill was seized upon by the Romans for a military outlook camp in the days of Constantine, and later it was occupied by the Danes. Indeed, the names Raven Hall and Ravenscar have been chosen from the fact that the Danes here set up their standard, the national emblem of the Danes being a raven. It was a happy conception that led a number of public-spirited and enterprising gentlemen to form a company for the purpose of conversing this charming spot into a watering-place, and, judging from the keen competition there was amongst the bidders yesterday, their opinion that the place was capable of development was evidently shared by others. A visage standing high up on the cliffs, with the sea on the one side and hemmed in on the other by an extensive tract of moor- land, ought to be a healthy spot. Indeed, few places can boast the combined luxury of refreshing winds from the sea and exhilarating breezes scented from the moors…When their scheme is completed, there will be an esplanade running along the summit of the cliffs, and abutting upon this will be thirty or forty villas. Other houses will also be erected upon roads to be constructed in the proposed village. At present a few long piles of sods, which have been cut out to mark the roads, and a number of staked-out lots for building sites, are the only visible signs of the great transformation about to take place…
Leeds Mercury, 8 July 1896

There is a lot of mention of Scarborough and the idea of creating a rival or complimentary resort nearby, and also how resorts have been created successfully on the south coast of England. There is much talk of ‘inland’ residents especially in growing towns wanting to access the coast and its special qualities, and an expectations that this demand will grow.

It’s clear from the regional newspapers of the time that gentlemen with money to invest from industrious West Yorkshire were one of the a target audiences for the company. By 1899 the roads were laid out, reservoirs were built to provide a water supply from moorland springs, a drainage scheme was drawn up, and exclusive on site brick making rights had been sold to Whitaker Bros from Leeds. There was hope in the development, so much so that a Curate was appointed to the existing isolated Church with the expectation of growing congregations. However early on the company had to lower expectations of a quick investment win.

A good start is sadly needed. It is exactly three years ago this week since the first sale at Ravenscar took place. The estate during that time has been well laid out in streets, and paths have been made. A few houses have been built, but still things have hung fire. Speaking on Friday the estate auctioneer, Mr Stansfield, of Bradford, said he had seen it stated in some quarters that the sales had been bogus, but he assured the company present on his professional honour that such was not the case, and that he had personally sold upwards of £10,000 worth of land since he had been appointed auctioneer. At the commencement of anything progress and development was necessarily slow, but in the future of the estate the company have the firmest confidence, and they were determined to do all in their power to open up its resources and give to Yorkshire another watering-place which in its health-giving qualities, its picturesqueness, and its popularity, would view with the best of those the county already possessed.
York Herald 11 July 1899

Auctions continued.

LAND SALE. Messrs W G. Stansfield & Co., auctioneers, Bradford, held a sale yesterday at Ravenscar, the new watering place in the process of making on the cliffs between Scarborough and Whitby. This was the first sale of the season, and there was large attendance of bidders from Bradford, Leeds and other places. Ideal weather prevailed, and the visitors were privileged to see the place in its most charming aspect. The hot sunshine was tempered by a cooling breeze, and there was scarcely more than on the broad expanse the North Sea. Mr W Stansfield, after luncheon proposed the health of the King, and the sale then commenced. Mr Stansfield, in his prefatory remarks, pointed out that already £49,000 worth of land on the estate had been sold. The Ravenscar Estate Company had, he said, developed the undertaking wonderfully. Every element needed for success was to be found on the spot. Messrs. B Whitaker & Sons Limited, of Horsforth, had put down an expensive brick making plant, and would be able give a quotation for bricks in June; there was good sand and stone on the estate. There was also a good supply of pure water, the company having themselves provided two reservoirs; and there could be no difficulty with regard to sewage at Ravenscar, where they were close to the sea and 600 ft. above it. In short there was no reason why this should not be unique seaside place.
Bradford Observer, 21 May 1901

Image of an 1903 Auction Poster

As sales continued so did the optimism, despite the slow pace.

Ten years have passed since the auctioneer first flourished his hammer in the Assembly Rooms of the Ravenscar Estate, Limited. People came from all parts the country to buy “eligible building sites” and the transactions were so numerous that it was thought this City of the Peak, six hundred feet above beach, with magnificent outlook over sea and moor, was going to put Scarborough in the shade. Ravenscar, however, is still unspoilt. The old hall, whose carriage on the Roman Road, is flanked with pillars bearing effigies the Danish raven, or the Roman eagle, has been extended or converted into a modern hotel and year by year many holiday makers climb the hill enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the scene. It is an ideal spot for people who would escape from the distractions of the modern seaside town, and as well worth visiting at any time, if only for a peep at the terraces and gardens that have been formed and planted on the face of the precipitous cliffs. Within the last few years shelters have been erected here and there, fenced, of course, to keep the cattle off; and zig-zag paths have been made from the summit to the beach, making the journey much easier that it used to be for ladies and children…People familiar with this lovely district have a good deal of faith in its future. One gentlemen, who is able to speak with some authority, believes that the builder will be busy here within the next few years, for the demand for country and seaside residences in such situations is likely to increase among people of means who feel that they are crowded out of so-called popular resort.’
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 27 August 1907

Image of a North Easter Railway (pre 1921) Poster

Then in 1909 the short lived Ravenscar Estate Limited Company went into receivership, leaving Ravenscar behind.

Why not try Ravenscar? I remember when this of city of the Yorkshire “Peak” was planned and boomed as likely to jostle Scarborough out of favour as the Queen of the North. But the builders have not made much progress during the last ten years, and, as for the pegged out claims, it takes a mighty fine eye to spy out the pegs, while the claims are still undistinguished by boundary of hedge or wall…somewhere about 1897 the parcels of land were first offered for sale on easy terms. In the course of a couple of years about 700 building plots were knocked down at public auction, and by August 1899, no fewer than twenty one sales had been held on the estate, each sale being largely attended by people chiefly from London and the West Riding. Some plots in “choice positions” were sold in August, 1899, at the rate of £1,100 [approx. £140,000 today] per acre, the sale realising a total (as it appeared in the newspapers) of £2,252 10s, and it was then announced that £34,000 [approx. £4.3 million today] worth of building plots had been disposed of. But the tranquillity of the place is undisturbed. When I saw it a few days ago men were making hay on the building sites between the Crescent, the Esplanade and other roads and avenues, whose names are painted on little wooden posts…The wonder is that the spot was not covered with houses and hotels years ago…All the accommodation at present consists of one hotel, a boarding-house or two, and a few cottages scrambling on the hillsides.’
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 10 August 1909 

A few years on and Ravenscar makes an impression, and at last gets compared with Scarborough although not in a good way.

The UNBUILT COAST TOWN OF RAVENSCAR – Roads that Wait for Houses. By a Peripatetic.
…”Yon road I enter upon and look around, I be-
lieve you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here”
Those lines of Walt. Whitman sprang to my lip as I walked along. Yes, there must more in this trim road than meets the eye. This road that leads – where? Other neatly-made roads branch off – roads which frankly admit that they lead to nowhere in particular. The place spreads out before one like a huge draught or chess board, but without the pieces. Here a town has been planned and left unbuilt. One could imagine that was intended to be sort of smug Suburbia-by-the-Sea…It was almost uncanny to stand there alone on the cliff and survey the land that waits for the town that yet to built.’

This article then turns to describing the limited amenities the anonymous writer found in 1913 Ravenscar including a lack of any available food, a savage sounding farm dog, an abandoned ship, a locked Bar, and a wild wet wind. The writer also suggests he met one of the owners of a plot, although this might be artistic license  – ‘I helped to pay for this road. Why? Because I one lunched not wisely but too well. I saw visions of stately mansions standing there…Would you, he added wistfully, like to buy a bit of land? You can have it at your own price”.’ The somewhat louche writer concludes ‘I will not roam o’er Ravenscar again until they have erected winter gardens which extend a mile or so. Gardens where lamps ape the sun, and where the soft, sweet music of a string band soothes one, and where pretty girls sit alone in cosy corners playing “wallflowers”. Then, and only then, will I take a second glance at Ravenscar, the romantic’.
Yorkshire Evening Post, 14 August 1913

A week later there is a robust reply to the anonymous critic, exalting in the delights of Ravenscar and its environs.

THE UNBUILT TOWN OF RAVENSCAR.
Sir, l surprised at your correspondent’s account re Ravenscar. First of all, he arrived on a rainy day. Why did he not remain one night, and would have beheld the very next day glorious with sunshine, pure air, and a magnificent view, and, above all, unlike Scarborough, room to live. He complains that he could get nothing to eat. Why did he not come on to the hotel, where could have had an excellent dinner. He complains of the dullness of Ravenscar. No pretty girls! No string bands! says your blind correspondent. There are many pretty girls in the hotel, both from your home country and America, but even pretty girls like a rest and holiday from admiration and dress occasionally!. And we hope you will keep your string and brass bands to Scarborough, and leave in peace and solitude, from “that madding crowd,” to enjoy the magnificence of Ravenscar…But the less I say of Ravenscar the better, as I want to keep it as it is. We do not want your Scarborough crowds. It seems the only spot left on the East Coast free from commotion…by Ravenscar Visitor
Yorkshire Evening Post, 18 August 1913. The Editor agreed diplomatically that the fashionable resort e.g. Scarborough and quiet Ravenscar each serves a purpose.

Indeed a glance over local papers around that time reveal that Ravenscar had all sorts of things going on: illustrated lantern slides, Yorkshire folk dancing, on-foot fox hunting foxes on the cliff sides, classes at the Vicarage, archaeological discoveries, recitations, shipwrecks, tennis, sailplane flying, sea water bathing, billiards, wild fires, whist drives, disappearances from the beach, house breaking, patriotic songs and comic duets, an air crash, bloodhound trials, golf, fan drills, snow storms, mines washing up on the beach, gliding, accident deaths by being run over by a train and being blown off the cliffs, egg production, a report of spies signalling out to sea in WW1, picnic parties, landslips, meetings of the Yorkshire Federation of the Junior Imperial and Constitutional League, the ‘Famous Terraces and Hanging Gardens’ (admission two pence), and a wager over whether someone could carry a 10 stone weight up the cliff (he could).

Ravenscar Estates Limited did feature in a number of legal cases in its early years – a failure to pay local rates and breaches of contract over the sewers development – but in the end the development just didn’t take off rather than it being the subject of fraud or conspiracy. One big problem that might have dampened enthusiasm was that the magnificent cliffs providing sea views were also a barrier to reaching the shore and the shore itself is particularly rocky – interesting and exciting to explore, but not like Scarborough. Around the time (as dissected in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer in August 1921) it was noted that by accepting payments by instalments a lot of plot purchases weren’t completed, leaving plots not built on. Another issue was the condition the plot holders could only build houses above a certain value e.g. marine villas, no doubt in order to maintain the ‘first class’ aspect and avoid the expanding working class holiday market, but for the small investors targeted this was a block to reaching development.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer in 20 August 1938 who had been so optimistic previously, now presents a different doom laden view worthy of the times.

The Phantom Resort. The lost town of Ravenspurn now lies beneath the waves off Flamborough Head. Something akin to it is the lost town of Ravenscar, further up the coast, which I visited this week. But Ravenscar is more of a phantom than Ravenspurn, its only existence was its own imagination. Under the grassland one can still trace macadamised roads, kerbstones, a sea front and , in fact, all the ground plan of the town, but that is all there ever has been of it. Ravenscar is the ruin of a town that never was. It is many years now since the abortive attempt to develop this breezy spot – a scheme which never got further than this making of roads and drainage. To walk there now is to feel the eerie sensation of being in a Wellsian world from “The Shape of Things to Come”. Ghosts of all the unbuilt Marine Terraces and sea views seem to hang in the air. It is a good place to brood for those extreme prophets of woe who like to think in another century or two all our towns will present the same sort of picture…

Sources from The British Newspaper Archive

Ravenscar is in the distance on top of the headland. Credit Ebor Images.

Ravenscar did not return to being Raven Hill. It is left with designed street plans you can still trace, the large Cliff House Bed and Breakfast, and the Ravenscar Hotel with its Italian terraced gardens. The village still has its many attractions which interested the developers so much over one hundred years ago.Image of front of National Trust leaflet - Ravenscar: 'the town that never was'

The National Trust also have a Visitor Centre at Ravenscar. They have a leaflet for a fascinating 2 mile walk around Ravenscar: ‘the town that never was’, tracing what you can still make out of the planned resort and imagining what would have been.

 

 

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.

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Moor mounds

Ellie Leary – Monuments for the Future Project Officer

Welcome to the latest instalment of our blog celebrating the archaeology of the North York Moors. As the newest member of the Monuments for the Future Team I should probably take this opportunity to introduce myself as a new Project Officer. I started out in professional archaeology 20 years ago, working in a variety of roles, mostly in the field, although the last few years have been spent providing archaeological advice to local authorities. Previously I mainly knew the North York Moors through holidays, but now I can really immerse myself in this beautiful landscape and its wonderful archaeology.

Since moving here I’ve spent every spare moment pouring over OS Explorer maps of the area and planning trips. If you’ve ever done this you might have seen the words ‘tumulus’, ‘tumuli’ or ‘cairn’ frequently dotted across them. Marked in the spidery Gothic script used to mark archaeological remains, a tumulus or cairn refers to a mound (either of earth or stone respectively). Many of those marked will be Bronze Age burial mounds known as round barrows or round cairns. Another way to spot these archaeological features on your map is by names, such as Cock Howe or Three Howes – Howe is an Old Norse word for a mound or barrow.

Round barrows or cairns typically date to the Bronze Age, with the large majority constructed between 4000 to 3500 years ago (2000 – 1500 BCE). They can vary quite widely in size, and come in a few different types, but the most common type you are likely to encounter will have a mound shaped like an inverted bowl, constructed from earth and/or stone which cover single or multiple burials (inhumations or cremations), with the mound sometimes originally surrounded by a circular ditch.

These evocative monuments would have been clearly visible in their day and are found in prominent positions. Such clearly visible features would have acted as commemorative and territorial landmarks, but also had significant social and cosmological meaning. They may also have been way markers, tracing out ancient routeways.

This visibility also means that these monuments have attracted attention through the following millennia, drawing people to them. We can see this in their re-use, for example the medieval and later cross at Ana Cross on Spaunton Moor below.

Ana Cross on round barrow with erosion repair carried out under Monument Management Scheme. Copyright NYMNPA.

Here antiquarian digging in later centuries has left distinctive indentations on the summit and sides, and then there are the modern walkers cairns. Our modern curiosity frequently results in inadvertent erosion, as numerous feet make their way onto the summit along the same route.

Very occasionally we have the opportunity to look inside a round barrow. Excavations in 2011 through the round barrow within Boltby Scar hillfort showed that the mound had been constructed in several phases, one of which included the ring of stone rubble visible below.

Inside Boltby Scar Hillfort round barrow, 2011. Copyright NYMNPA.

Many barrows are mapped and marked as tumuli on the OS Explorer, but this really only scratches the surface of the actual number found within the North York Moors. Round barrows make up a substantial proportion (the majority in fact) of the Scheduled Monuments in the National Park, with a total of 541 of the area’s monuments including at least one round barrow or round cairn (64%of the total). A further 680 unscheduled barrows are recorded within the North York Moors Historic Environment Record. Some of the unscheduled barrows are visible earthworks, but many are only indicated by very slight rises in the ground or as cropmarks spotted in aerial photographs.

Current issues affecting round barrows and cairns include erosion, bracken or scrub growth and walkers cairns. A previous blog post highlighted the issue of walkers cairns and the work we were doing under the Monument Management Scheme (MMS). Now Monuments for the Future  is continuing this work, as well as helping to preserve some of the more eroded or overgrown barrows, and monitoring their ongoing condition.

Cock Howe round barrow on Bilsdale West Moor with erosion repair carried out under Monument Management Scheme. Copyright NYMNPA.

We will also be carrying out research into the survival of below ground remains of round barrows under arable cultivation. Some barrows may have been under the plough for centuries so there may be very little to see on the surface now, but burials and other features may survive – our challenge is to find out what lies under the plough soil and determine the best techniques to record remains and preserve them for the future.

With so many round barrows and cairns across the North York Moors, you are never too far away from one. Look out for mounds on the horizon as you travel across the moorland, or you might come across one at closer quarters. Try finding some of these:

Hedgerow equations

Large parts of the North York Moors have either no field boundaries (open moorland) or have drystone walls as boundaries (upland tops and slopes), but round the edges of the area and in the farmland dales there are often hedgerows. A large number of these hedges will have existed for years, but they’re not considered ‘ancient’ unless they’re older than 1700, just like Ancient Woodland.

Hedgerows of course are made out of trees and shrubs just like woodland but are otherwise culturally and ecologically distinctive. Hedgerows have long been a man-made feature of landscapes – boundaries to keep things in as well as out. In other parts of England there are hedgerows that are thought to date back over a millennium. This is not so likely in the North York Moors. Many hedgerows here probably just date back to the 18th and 19th centuries when there was a lot of enclosure and land ‘improvement’ going on, here as elsewhere in the country.

Old roadside hedgerow, Bilsdale. Copyright Ami Hudson, NYMNPA.

Hedgerows have been created through one or more of these three methods – original planting/transplanting, allowing uncultivated field edges to grow up, or by leaving a ‘ghost’/edge of a removed woodland. A curved hedge suggests a ghost hedge because natural woodlands are more likely to have had curved not straight edges, whereas constructed boundaries are often as straight as possible.

Ancient hedges share Ancient Woodland herbaceous ground flora such as Wood anemone, Sweet woodruff and Golden saxifrage. There is also a well-known ‘rule’ (Hooper’s Law) sometimes used to estimate the age of a hedge by counting the number of established woody species over a 30 yard/30 metres stretch or preferably an average over a series of stretches. The equation is then Age = no of species in a 30 yard stretch (or average number) x 110 + 30 years.

Whereas an enclosure hedge (18th/19th century) will have one or two species, a pre Norman Conquest hedge might have more than ten species. However such ancient hedges would have been an unlikely feature in the ‘wastes’ of the North York Moors recorded in the Domesday Book at the end of the 11th century.

Managed hedgerow, Glaisdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Like all rules there is bound to be exceptions. Hooper’s Law relies on the hedgerow being mainly naturally colonised, not planted 30 years ago by a biodiversity enthusiast. Also any hedgerow adjoined to or close-by woodlands are more likely to be colonised at different rate than another hedge. In the end it’s probably best to use other evidence of dating, such as maps and records, as well.

Although original hedgerows may have been planted and laid to incorporate existing older trees it would be difficult to keep such trees alive, and therefore much more likely that in-boundary trees were planted at the same time as a hedge or added later. The first edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch mapping includes individual in-field and in-boundary trees. For the North York Moors area these maps are usually from the 1890s. The presence of a mapped in-boundary tree suggests that boundary was a hedge rather than wall or fence at that time.

Since the middle of the 20th century the amount of hedgerow in the country as well as the number of boundary trees has been reduced. Machinery meant it became easy enough to remove a hedgerow, and to maximise the cutting of hedgerows. At the moment the cultural and ecological importance of hedgerows is valued and lately there have been efforts to use agri-environment schemes to encourage good practice management and to use the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations to control removal.

Briar rose in an old hedgerow. Copyright NYMNPA.

* This is the list of species which count towards Hooper’s Law. The species listed grow in a wide variety of habitats across the country, only some of these would ever have been used in and around the North York Moors. As it is currently winter, identifying different species is particularly difficult and therefore maybe more fun.

Alder Cherry-plum Hornbeam Sallow
Apple incl crab apple Dogwood Lime – ordinary, pry Service
Ash Elder Maple Spindle
Beech Elm – Wych, English, East Anglian, Cornish, Dutch/Huntingdon etc Oak – pedunculated, sessile Sycamore
Blackthorn Furze Pine Wayfaring-tree
Briar (three named species) Guelder-rose Plum incl bulace Whitebeam
Broom Hawthorn – ordinary, woodland Poplar – aspen, blackwhite, grey Willow – crack, white
Buckthorn Hazel Privet (wild) Yew
Cherry Holly Rowan

Fortifying the landscape

Emma Trevarthen – former Monuments for the Future Officer
Emma now works for Historic England carrying out aerial surveys of archaeological sites, so she’ll still be keeping an eye on the moors but this time from the skies

Prehistoric hillforts and promontory forts of the North York Moors

Eight prehistoric fortified sites have been recorded within the North York Moors National Park. These monuments command some of the highest points in the Moors and the ramparts of some can still be clearly seen, their defensive nature apparent.

The earthwork ramparts at Round Hill hillfort. Copyright NYMNPA.

The earthwork ramparts at Round Hill hillfort

With the exception of the hillfort at Round Hill at Westerdale (a mutivallate hillfort with two or more lines of earthwork defences), all are described as Promontory Forts and are located for the most part at the western and northern edges of the Cleveland Hills. Their existence, and that of the long linear earthworks they are associated with, suggests a period of consolidation of settlement and social organisation in the Iron Age, roughly 2,500 years ago.

As the names suggest, hill forts and promontory forts utilise natural topographic features to create defended spaces which would have housed people, animals and various industries. They would have been clearly visible to the surrounding countryside suggesting not only a desire to fortify and protect but also to project the high status of the residents. The defences would have consisted of a series of imposing banks and deep ditches with a break for a well-defended gated entrance. Within the fortified area there were likely to be domestic dwellings, shelters for livestock and storage areas for food and weaponry.

Recent archaeological excavation at Boltby Scar suggests that this site may have been in use from the Late Bronze Age, roughly 3,000 years ago. It is likely to be contemporary with Roulston Scar, the largest Iron Age fort in the north of England, which is immediately to its south with Lake Gormire almost equidistant between the two.

Reconstruction drawing of the defensive banks and ditches at Boltby Scar promontory fort. Copyright NYMNPA.

Reconstruction drawing of the defensive banks and ditches at Boltby Scar promontory fort

Although outside the boundary of the National Park, it is worth noting another promontory fort, Eston Nab, which has also been dated to the Late Bronze Age and with Roulston Scar, Boltby Scar and Knolls End, forms a band of forts from the coast around the western high ground of the Cleveland Hills, overlooking the Tees Valley in the north and the Vale of York to the south.

Place names

The word ‘Scar’ is likely to derive from a Norse word, ‘skera’, meaning a cliff or rocky outcrop with a steep face. It is an element that occurs often in place names throughout the North York Moors, often combined with other descriptive terms, such as in Hagg Scar Wood and Whitestone Scar, or joined with a local place name such as at Boltby Scar.

‘Nab’ has a similar meaning, describing a rocky promontory or outcrop. In the North York Moors there are a number of ‘Nab’ place names including Penny Nab, Highcliffe Nab, lots of Nab Ends and even a Nab Scar.

Folklore

Although the Giants of the North York Moors are credited with a number of landscaping events, there does not appear to have been a connection made between them and the creation of any of the Iron Age forts recorded on the Moors. Nor are there any definite links with horses, white or otherwise, even though Boltby Scar lies adjacent to a historic horse racing track, and Roulston Scar overshadows the (Victorian) Kilburn White Horse.  Themes associated with hillforts in other parts of the country such as buried treasure and slumbering dragons are also absent.

However, the Devil does get a name check at Roulston Scar in the form of the Devil’s Parlour, a natural fissure or cave in the cliff face just below the fort site where apparently the Devil appears at midnight. Also the Devil’s Leap is the space jumped by the Devil when he tried to show off by leaping from Roulston Scar to Hood Hill; a rock from the Scar bearing his footprint is said to reside at the foot of the hill.

The Devil’s Leap: from Roulston Scar to Hood Hill. Copyright NYMNPA.

The Devil’s Leap: from Roulston Scar (on the left) to Hood Hill (on the right)

Any other folk tales or curious place names associated with the forts of the North York Moors would be gratefully received. Remnants of cultural history are always worth collecting.

Access

Of the monuments within the National Park, Knoll’s End (Live Moor), Boltby Scar, Horn Ridge (Farndale), Baysdale and Hasty Bank are accessible via public footpaths, bridleways and areas of open access land; the last, Hasty Bank, is part of the Wainstones Walk

Roulston Scar lies within the grounds of the Yorkshire Gliding Club, a public footpath follows its western edge and forms part of the White Horse Walk

A public bridleway traces the circumference of Birk Bank, near Old Byland.
Round Hill is on private land and landowner permission would be needed to visit it.

Eston Nab can be accessed via public footpaths and bridleways.

Further Reading

Boltby Scar: http://www.landscaperesearchcentre.org/html/boltby_scar.html

Roulston Scar: https://research.historicengland.org.uk/Report.aspx?i=15487

1988 Vyner, B The Hill-fort at Eston Nab, Eston, Cleveland Archaeological Journal 145 p60-98

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.

Troding carefully

Nick Mason – Archaeology Officer

Welcome to the first MOTM blog, a regular feature we will be publishing in conjunction with the Monuments for the Future project. Each month we’ll take a look at a type of Scheduled Monument that we have in the Park: we’ll let you know how to spot monuments when out and about, what different monuments tell us about the people who once lived and worked here, and why these monuments are protected.

This month it’s the Kirby Bank Trod, SM1405913. My computer has immediately told me I have made a spelling error, and if you’re not familiar with the local dialects or the Moors you might not have come across the word before either. ‘Trod’ is a term for a trackway laid with flagstones, and there is a network of historic examples criss-crossing the North York Moors. There are other ancient flagged paths around the UK, but this National Park has the most known surviving trods in one place, and they are seen as characteristic of the area. Sometimes they follow the same routes as ‘Pannierways’, long routes traversed by trains of pack horses loaded with goods. A ‘Pannierman’ was a person who transported fish from ports to inland fishmongers, a primary use of some trods.

A trod is a deceptively simple construction. Flagstones, sometimes carved, sometimes rough, are laid end to end in single file between two points. They are frequently made of stone from nearby quarries, and are usually no more than 0.5 metres (20 inches) wide. Surviving examples today often have a wide concave groove worn along the centre of the path, indicating how much traffic they have supported over the years.

'Tom Bell Lane', Ugglebarnby - copyright NYMNPA

We think the earliest examples were probably built by the local monastic communities, who would likely be the only organisations with the resources to lay them in the medieval period. Trods would have been efficient ways of transporting goods (especially wool) between the many abbeys and priories and granges (outlying properties). As their usefulness became apparent, more and more were laid, linking market towns, villages and farms across the moors.

Further trods were built in the 18th century, and there may have been a bit of a renaissance due to smuggling enterprises on the coast. Although they slowly declined as better road surface technologies appeared which were then followed by railways, as late as 1890 pack horses could still be seen filing through Rosedale.

We hold about 220 records for trods: many of these are fragments, just a few flags left in place, but others can still be seen stretching for miles across the landscape.

'Quaker's Causeway' on High Moor, damaged by vehicles crossing - copyright NYMNPAOne 400 metre (1/4 mile) section of trod has been designated as a Scheduled Monument, protecting it as an archaeological feature of national significance. This is thanks to the continued efforts of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group – Grant Frew and Jackie Cove-Smith from the Group explain the Kirby Bank Trod’s special significance:

Paved causeways are a familiar feature on our Moors, yet surviving ones in good condition are becoming increasingly rare. It has been estimated that around 80% of our trods known in the 19th Century have now gone. With this in mind, ten years ago our local history group ‘adopted’ one – the Kirby Bank Trod.

Trods are notoriously difficult to date, but we know this one was constructed on a man-made embankment in the late 12th or early 13th Century for the Cistercian monks at Rievaulx to link their monastery with their granges, their fisheries and their salt pans on the Tees. Centuries later it was used to transport building stone down from the quarries on the Bank: later still alum for the dyeing industry, jet for jewellery, and today by local and long-distance walkers.

We’ve worked really hard to maintain a high profile for the Trod: holding a Festival of British Archaeology event, producing a Heritage Trail leaflet, publishing articles in the Dalesman, the Voice of the Moors and the local press. On the ground we’ve also germinated and planted replacement hawthorn ‘waymarkers’, arranged geophysical surveys and organised guided walks.

We also carry our spades, edgers and brooms up the Bank twice a year to help keep the Trod from disappearing under grass and gorse!

As a Green Road, Kirby Bank and its Trod suffered from frequent use by trail bikes and 4×4 leisure vehicles, causing serious damage to the stones and sandstone waymarkers and degrading the embankment the causeway rests on. We needed legal protection.

In 2012 Historic England granted Scheduled Monument status to the Trod, in large part because of the man-made embankment (there’s no other parallel in England) and its historical context. Even with this significant status, vehicle abuse continued. Finally this November, after years of lobbying by our history group and by Kirkby Parish Council and with the support of the MP, district and county councillors and a variety of interested organisations (including the National Park Historic Environment staff), the County published a Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting motorised leisure vehicle access.  All is not yet over! Any objectors have until just before Christmas to file for a judicial review of the Order in the High Court. We can but just wait and see!’

Luckily the Kirby Bank Trod is in good hands, allowing locals and visitors to continue engaging with the past by walking in the footsteps of Cistercian monks. But as the Group states, about 80% of known trods have already been lost. Given their location on obvious routes linking settlements, they can often come under threat from modern roadworks. They also represented a very handy source of stone for builders over the past few centuries. The few remaining sections need to be taken care of to ensure our local cultural character and heritage is maintained.

Uncovering a trod at Goathland - copyright NYMNPA

As ever, you can find out more about the fascinating archaeology of the North York Moors using our interactive Historic Environment Record map – you could look up your nearest trod and go and have a look. We’re always keen to hear what you find, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think a trod needs some attention.

What do you think?

As part of the new 25 year Environment Plan, the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs launched a review back in May looking at the roles of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). National Parks and AONBs are the two main landscape protections in England. The idea behind the review is to make sure our protected landscapes are fit for purpose going forward.


As part of this review Defra have issued a call for evidence. In particular they want to hear from interested people who live in, work in, visit protected landscape, and/or care about our landscapes, biodiversity and heritage: what do you think?

 

Defra need views and ideas on National Park and AONBs’ roles in conserving nature and biodiversity, enhancing wildlife and supporting the recovering of our natural habitats, shaping landscape and beauty, protecting cultural heritage, working with farmers and land managers, supporting and managing access and recreation, encouraging volunteering and improving health and wellbeing for everyone.

 

There are also questions about how National Park and AONBs are governed, funded and designated; how different national designations work together; how well National Parks and AONBs work collectively with other organisations and with the public; and how National Parks and AONBs support the local communities who live and work within their areas.

 

Submissions will be considered alongside the evidence being gathered by Julian Glover and his team who are leading on the review. If you want to add your thoughts please note that the public call for evidence closes on 18 December, the final report and recommendations are expected by autumn 2019.

 

It’s an opportunity to make changes for the good.

A winter sunset over Danby Dale from Oakley Walls. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

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.

Making Pictures

Nicola White – Land of Iron Film Maker Intern

I’ve spent the past 12 weeks clambering over the North York Moors with my camera, capturing the elements that form the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme. This adventure has been challenging, hilarious and hot (given the summer we’ve had).

I began with the Combs Wood excavation, bugging the volunteers each morning by crouching on the ground to get the best shot as they dodged their wheelbarrows around me. It was incredible to see them constantly uncovering something new and seeing just how much had been hidden by the nature that surrounded us. See Combs Wood Part 1 – Volunteering, Combs Wood Part 2, and Combs Wood Part 3.

I also got involved with the Warren Moor Mine conservation work this summer. The details of the huge chimney still on site really are incredible. My video focuses on the lime mortar work that the team have completed on the engine beds, as well as all the previous clearing that has taken place during the project in order to preserve the features. It’s impressive to view the impact that Land of Iron has had on this area, and for that reason it’s recorded in my video. See Warren Moor – The Movie

I didn’t just concentrate on the impressive industrial building sights; I’ve also created a video showing the environmental conservation work undergone. From fences and walk ways at Fen Bog to forest work and tree planting across Rosedale, my video illustrates how this work is restoring habitats and encouraging rare species. See what I saw

The final video of my creation sets out to capture the entire essence of the Land of Iron. Focusing on the three main aspects – history, people, environment – this video uses interviews with the core team and footage that I’ve recorded throughout my summer with them, to explain what the programme is all about. See the whole picture …

This summer has been an incredible opportunity to learn and create. The people surrounding and supporting the Land of Iron scheme should receive a medal for all the work they do; constantly typing away on their keyboards in the office or covered in mud down a one-meter deep hole. It’s been a pleasure to dig in the mud with them for such a short time, and I hope I spend all my future summers in a similar way.

Something else … The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme is approaching its halfway point with building conservation works starting on site and teams of volunteers across the North York Moors helping us care for our fascinating industrial heritage. We’re currently undertaking an EVALUATION SURVEY – this is a really important way to check the scheme is heading in the right direction and achieving what it wants to. Please give us a few minutes of your time to tell us what you think. Your feedback will help shape the next stage of the programme.