Big Thank You’s

Kate Bailey – Catchment Partnership Officer

The BIFFA funded project ‘Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England’ came to an end in 2018. We were involved because of the River Esk in the north of the National Park. The £300,000 made available helped towards safeguarding Yorkshire’s last remaining population of Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera).Image of the River Esk, August 2013. Copyright Sam Jones, NYMNPA.

A huge amount of work was achieved in the Upper Esk catchment during the three year period of this project, working closely with the farming community to address diffuse pollution from agriculture. Pollution including sedimentation detrimentally affects water quality and therefore impacts on aquatic species like the mussels.

For most of its three years the project was led by Simon Hirst, our River Esk Project Officer. Simon worked with 38 land managers in the Upper Esk catchment delivering improvement works to help keep pollution including sedimentation out of the river and its tributaries. This has meant:

  • Over 8km of riparian fencing installed
    This helps stabilise the river banks and creates buffer strips to reduce the amount of runoff from fields getting into watercourses, as well as providing rough habitat along the river corridor for insects which are so important for fish, birds and small mammals.
  • 650 trees planted along the river banks of the Esk and its tributaries
    The majority of which were planted by our dedicated River Esk Volunteer Group.
    Trees help stabilise the banks and so. like with the fencing, reduce sedimentation.
  • 34 alternative watering points installed
    This is to reduce poaching in fields and along the river banks, and to keep stock and their effluent out of a watercourse.
  • Approximately 5.5km of riverbank re-vegetated with woodrush planting
    Another 130m of river bank was stabilised using hazel/willow whips. Re-vegetation helps stabilises the river banks
  • Over 500m of guttering and downpipe installed on farm buildings
    To capture clean water before it gets onto the ground, picks up nutrients and sediment, and then runs into a watercourse.
  • 1,237 m3 of concreting in farm yards.
    The new surface is profiled to collect dirty water before it can enter a nearby watercourse.

Big Thank You to Biffa for supporting the Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England project.

Big Thank You to all the local land managers who worked alongside Simon on the Esk, contributing a lot  of their own time and capital to complete these improvement works.

Big Thank You to our dedicated Mussel Volunteers who have played such a vital role in this delivery project, and all the other volunteers that helped out like the Explorer Club and the 1st Marston Moor Scout Group.

River Esk Volunteers, taking a well earned rest. Copyright NYMNPA.

And one more Big Thank You to Simon Hirst. Last year the North York Moors National Park had to say goodbye to Simon because he moved on to a new role working on the River Holme in Huddersfield. His enthusiasm and knowledge will be greatly missed by us and the Esk’s Freshwater pearl mussels.

Last year’s top 10 posts

So looking back at last year, these were our most viewed posts:

1.Tales over Tea – upcoming Land of Iron events

Rosedale Iron Kilns, front panorama. Copyright NYMNPA.

This one won by a mile. But there was also 5. Warren Moor Mine: Part Two – the excavation and 6. Making Pictures and 7. Warren Moor Mine: Part One – the Lime Mortar task. The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme grabbed most of our top spots.

These posts reflect the wealth of outreach activities delivered during 2018, as well as the skills of our summer interns. You might also have noticed that 2018 saw the name change – from ‘This Exploited Land of Iron’ to the shorter and friendlier ‘Land of Iron’.

2019 will see major consolidation works taking place on the main historic structures associated with the ironstone industry in this part of the world, as well as a significant roll out of new interpretation. Sign up to stay in touch with what’s coming up this year.

Land of Iron logo

2. Jambs, lintels, sills and grantsExamples of character features within the Fylingthorpe Conservation Area. Copyright NYMNPA.

3. Why why why the Rye?Dipper, in River Rye at Duncombe Park. Copyright NYMNPA.

Following 18 months of consultations, taster events, and project developments the Stage 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme has at last been submitted. There are 19 individual projects included which focus on the river environment, water quality and engagement.

The Landscape Conservation Action Plan which is the main bid document, is really the Partnership’s manifesto and it lays out why the upper and mid Rye catchment is such a special and valuable area for people, wildlife and their habitats, and why it needs support to secure its future.

The application will be assessed by HLF during March 2019. We’ll let you know what happens. If we get a successful outcome recruitment of the delivery team is anticipated to start early summer. We’re still keen to hear from you if you have ideas and views about this particular catchment, and so we will continue to involve as many people as possible throughout the four years of delivery and beyond into a legacy phase. 

4. Autumn delightsPossibly Hypholoma fasciculare photographed by a member of the public in the Danby Moors Centre car park. Copyright Geoff Lloyd.

For 5. 6. and 7. see 1. above

8. Beneath another pile of stones

Roulston Scar and Hood Hill. Copyright NYMNPA.

We’re now well into our new Historic England funded Monuments for the Future project which is looking to ensure a sustainable future for the conservation of monuments in the North York Moors. We’ll have regular posts on the historic environment during 2019 starting with a look at hillforts in the next couple of weeks.

9. What might have been

We’re already looking forward to spring and that includes the blooming of the surviving populations of native wild daffodils that can be seen in Farndale and other dales in the North York Moors.

10. Bad news

Check, Clean, Dry campaign poster

What you can do to help … always follow biosecurity guidelines and advice.

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.

Sowing the Seeds of Recovery

Richard Baines – Turtle Dove Project Officer

There are few more rewarding things in life than creating new habitat for wildlife and then watching with delight as birds and other animals move in.

What would make it extra special would be hearing a Turtle Dove sing its beautiful purring song.

Turtle dove courtship at Sutton Bank NYMNP Visitor Centre May 2015 by Richard Bennet, North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project

A major part of our HLF funded North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project involves working with land managers to create exactly the right feeding opportunities for Turtle Doves. The National Park and the Project have a brand new grant aimed at providing flower rich plots from which Turtle Doves can feed on a natural seed source.

We are really pleased that this autumn 11 farm businesses have established 17 Turtle Dove flower plots covering a total of five hectares within our project area. This is a great start and it’s very exciting that so many land managers are keen to help; however we need many more if we are going to have a chance of making a difference.

The pioneering 11 includes a wide range of landowners and tenants such as our first community Turtle Dove reserve in Sawdon village sown by the local community and primary school, Ampleforth Plus Social Enterprise, the Danby Moors Farming and Wykeham Farm businesses, and Hanson Quarry near Wykeham.

Sawdon Community Group, with Richard on the right - celebrating the first community Turtle Dove plot with a mug of tea!. Copyright NYMNPA.

The sown plots are needed because many of the wild flowers that provide seed such as Common Fumitory and Birds-foot Trefoil are no longer common in the arable landscape which is one of the major reasons Turtle Doves are now at risk of extinction. The plots will also support a range of other scarce arable plants such as the locally rare Shepherd’s Needle. We are working with the local Cornfield Flowers Project – Into the Community to make sure we provide available ground for many naturally occurring but declining local flowers.

Common Fumitory - showing the seeds which Turtle Doves feed on. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

These new plots will not only provide habitat for Turtle Doves they will also provide valuable for a whole range of declining farmland birds. Grey Partridge feed their chicks on invertebrates and need open fallow land rich in small insects. Our flower plots are sown at a very light sowing rate to leave a good proportion of the plot shallow which allows access for Partridge and other birds such as Yellowhammers searching for insects in the summer.

If you have arable or temporary grassland on your farm and you would like to help Turtle Doves please get in touch to find out more about the grant and payments on offer. Contact us or call the National Park’s Conservation Department 01439 772700.

Sworn defenders of the Historic Environment

Nick Mason – Archaeology Officer

You might have seem our recent post on the beginning of our new Monuments for the Future project, caring for the Scheduled Monuments in the North York Moors. Over the nine previous years of the Historic England funded Monument Management Scheme we were able to reduce the ‘At  Risk’ status of 212 of our monuments. We are wanting to build on that success and move forward with Monuments for the Future which is being supported by another generous grant from Historic England.

Since July this year we’ve already had a fantastic response from our dedicated Historic Environment volunteers. With volunteers and staff working together, we’re confident that over the next few years we can monitor and maintain the 842 Scheduled Monuments that we have within our boundary, and continue to reduce their ‘At Risk’ statuses, or else remove them from the Heritage at Risk Register altogether.

From coastal industrial sites threatened by erosion and climate change, to grand prehistoric earthworks under attack by flora and fauna, there is a huge range of archaeology at risk. Our scheduled sites represent almost the whole of the human story in Britain, and the list is ever growing with a possible monastic grange site currently being considered for designation. We’re working to protect our historic assets and to tell everyone we can about our wonderful heritage.

Lilla Cross. Copyright NYMNPA.

Over the coming months, we’ll be posting themed blogs focusing on the types of monuments found in the North York Moors, the reasons they are considered nationally important, and why some are currently in trouble.

This month we thought we should start by introducing some of the National Park Authority’s Historic Environment staff and get them to explain themselves in their own words.

Mags Waughman, Head of Historic Environment
After nearly twelve years working for the Authority, first as Archaeological Conservation Officer and later as the Monument Management Scheme Officer, I was very pleased to become Head of Historic Environment at the beginning of the summer. This is an exciting time for the National Park’s Historic Environment work – with new funding to support our work with Scheduled Monuments, new archaeological staff and a new Building Conservation team we are in a very good position to develop our work and look for new directions and projects.

Emma and Jo focus on Monuments for the Future and Nick and I will be working with them on the project, as well as looking after the Park’s undesignated heritage. Suzanne Lilley works with Maria as a second Building Conservation Officer and one day a week they are joined by Clair Shields who has worked in the Building Conservation team for a number of years. Part of my role is to liaise with Maria, Suzanne and Clair to make sure the whole historic environment is cared for equally. I also liaise with the Land of Iron team where Maria has a second role as Cultural Heritage Officer, assisted by Kim Devereux-West. Behind the scenes, one day each week the team still has the benefit of the many years of experience of Graham Lee, a previous Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer. I’m really looking forward to working with the new teams, seeing our plans take shape and watching the different projects make new discoveries or have a positive effect on our fantastic cultural heritage.

Emma Trevarthen, Monuments for the Future Project Officer
I’m an archaeologist with a background in aerial survey and Historic Environment Record (HER) management. My role with the National Park is to look at the threats and vulnerabilities of some of the Scheduled Monuments which have been on the Heritage at Risk Register for some time, and to try to find ways to improve their condition and sustain those improvements in the long term. I’ve already had a really good, positive response from landowners and I look forward to seeing more monuments in the North York Moors removed from the ‘At Risk’ Register over the next three years.

Jo Collins, Monuments for the Future Volunteers and Community Officer
My role is Volunteers and Community Officer for Monuments for the Future. I coordinate a group of volunteers who survey the condition of Scheduled Monuments, monitor walkers’ cairns on Scheduled Monuments and carry out practical conservation tasks. In the near future I’ll also be focussing on helping community groups to care for their local heritage. I’m looking forward to seeing the difference volunteers and community groups can make as Monuments for the Future progresses.

Maria-Elena Calderon, Building Conservation and Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Officer
I have worked in in archaeology for almost ten years, specifically in Built Heritage since 2013 when I was awarded a training bursary by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists hosted by ASWYAS in Leeds. My work has taken me as far afield as Qatar but the majority has been spent in the UK from Orkney to Pontypridd and Cambridge. I have worked for the National Park for nearly two years and I relish the opportunity it provides me to help protect, improve and impart knowledge of the historic environment to residents, tourists and fellow National Park staff. I work as a Building Conservation Officer which involves assessing Listed Building and Conservation Area consent applications. I am fairly new to this role but I enjoy it immensely and receive great support from my fellow officers. We work with homeowners, planners and developers to insure that any development is conducted in a manner that is sympathetic to the heritage assets. As an Authority we also offer grants for the above where the development will result in an enhancement which our team administers. In addition to that we regularly offer advice in regard to traditional buildings either subject to planning proposals or other project based work within the National Park. We also work with volunteers undertaking surveys of listed building as part of the nationwide ‘Buildings at Risk’ scheme.

Nick Mason, Archaeology Officer
I’ve only been with the National Park now for 3 months, but what a time it’s been so far. I have been lucky enough to be an archaeologist all my professional life, but having responsibility for the sheer breadth of archaeology in one place is a new, and very exciting, experience. My role as archaeology officer means that I am interested in protecting all the heritage assets of the North York Moors, including unscheduled archaeology, ancient plough marks, and even possible structures marked on old OS maps. Sometimes development means that these must be affected, and we find ways to mitigate the effect, learning as much as we can as we go. Scheduled Monuments often represent a massive potential for undiscovered archaeology, and their setting in the landscape, the possible finds within, and the stories they can tell mean it’s worth doing all we can to look after them for the future.

Historic Environment Team Nov 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you’d like to be out and about more in the North York Moors and might be interested in volunteering opportunities at the same time, we’d love to hear from you. There are a range of tasks which need doing, from carrying out surveys and reporting on monuments to clearing patches of damaging bracken on wild moorlands.

Similarly, if you think you know of some material heritage currently under threat please don’t hesitate to get in touch, so we can see what can be done.

It’s dirty work but someone’s got to do it or: When all’s said and dung, don’t poo-poo the Dung Beetles

Sam Newton – Natural Heritage Trainee, Land of Iron

A single cow can produce over nine tonnes of dung per year, so across all domestic and wild herbivores imagine how this would quickly build up to mountainous proportions.

Fortunately there are many invertebrates whose life cycles involve clearing this up. Take Dung beetles – in the UK their annual role in the ecosystem is valued at £367 million, for cattle dung alone.

How the different groups of British Dung beetles utilise dung in different ways. Copyright Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project.

Dung  beetles are a collection of around 60 species in the UK, within the Scarabaeidae family which also includes non-dung feeding Chafers and Stag Beetles). The actual dung feeders are split into the Aphodiinae (dwellers, residing within dung) and the Geotrupidae and Onthophagus (tunnellers, burying beneath dung). Contrary to popular belief there a no dung rollers in the UK, as this group are only found in the tropics and sub-tropics. The adults of all groups feed on liquid within dung, while the larvae eat the solids.

These 60 species utilise dung differently and so avoid competition – they use dung from different animals, they feed at different times of day or year, they live in different habitats and they favour dung of assorted ages. The fact that all the species vary in their ecology enhances the benefits provided in dung recycling to the wider ecosystem, helping fertilise the soil and enhance soil structure, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, dung beetles transport mites between dung piles, which feed on fly and worm eggs, thus indirectly helping reduce fly numbers along with some gastrointestinal parasites that can affect livestock.

A Geotrupidae dung beetle with hitch hiking mites getting a lift to their next pile of dung. From https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/422423640023441381/

Dung beetles also provide an important food source to many animals, for example Aphodius prodromus (a small Aphodiinae dung dweller), which is incredibly numerous in early spring when there are few other invertebrates available.

So Dung beetles are incredibly useful, as well as being beautiful (without mites) and valuable in their own right.

One of the Dung beetles - this is called a Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius). Copyright Kirsty Brown, NYMNPA.

However, all is not well in the dung beetle world. A 2016 review found over 25% of UK species were ‘Nationally Rare’ (found in 15 or less 10×10km squares across the UK) and four may already be extinct.

Changing farming practises and the disappearance of livestock from historic pastures is a major cause of this decline in the UK. The loss of dung structure produced by modern livestock breeds fed high protein diets is also detrimental, as dung beetles essentially end up drowning in the dung. Soil disturbance is damaging to some species, and wormer overuse (e.g. Ivermectin can indirectly reduce larval development and survival) is perhaps the main cause of decline, ironically destroying the role dung beetles played in reducing parasitic worms naturally.

Some of the British Dung beetles. Copyright Beetle UK Mapping Project.

So how can people make changes to help conserve Dung beetles and their role in day to day biodiversity? If you keep any livestock, use faecal egg counts to reduce worming, consider keeping a few hardy livestock out during the winter if your land is suitable, also not removing all the dung from out of horse paddocks enables a constant supply of high quality dung. If you don’t keep livestock, try and support the keeping of native breeds which have better quality dung for a Dung beetle’s needs.

The Ancient Egyptians associated Khepri, god of the rising sun, with a dung beetle (a Scarab) which every day was believed to move the sun across the sky. While I’m not suggesting worshipping Dung beetles per se, we can try and appreciate these beetles, understand their predicament and even try and help.

There is a Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project. For lots of help with identifying between species, and to be able to record sightings and help build up a picture of distribution – see their website.

Apologies for the titular puns.

Autumn delights

Gallery

This gallery contains 26 photos.

It’s UK Fungus Day today. There are many many different types of fungi – classifications and relationships are still being expounded by experts. Sometimes sparsity of knowledge can be intriguing but with fungi the more knowledge acquired the more fascination … Continue reading