Nearby

Rachel Pickering – Woodland Team Leader

2020 was a voyage of discovery for many people and my family were no exception. We discovered nature on our doorstep which we would never have made time to see if we’d have been zipping about to children’s parties and swimming lessons. Most of our daily walks have been in nearby Cropton Forest and Newtondale. Both peaceful and inspiring, and full of nature’s wonders …

The highlight for me was watching badger cubs playing in the sun near their sett. I was whispering to my children that they would never see such a special sight again in their lives. They were enthralled for a few minutes but equally keen to get back to their skipping and shouting!

A simple walk in the forest is filled with signs of wildlife if you know what to look for. We have seen evidence of roe deer from the ‘fraying’ they leave behind. This is where the males rub their antlers against sapling trees to mark their territory.

We found a leaf where an insect had been eating away inside and left a pale trail.

Some wildlife allows you to get close and this Golden-ringed dragonfly was very obliging. This was found on a walk where our son was in a ‘worst day ever’ kind of mood but the second they found a wet ditch to explore it turned into ‘best day ever’. They love a bit of Bear Grylls adventure.

Most children love the gross stuff so this cuckoo-spit, the home of the frog hopper, was also a big hit.

The shear scale of some wildlife is outstanding and there is one part of Cropton Forest which is literally alive with ants – Northern Hairy Wood Ants to be precise. Some whopping great big nests but the whole forest floor and tracks were covered with them too.

Right next to the ant city we found the nest of a bird that eats them. A neighbour told us they had seen the woodpecker going in and out but we weren’t patient enough to wait!

The dead birch tree was not only home to a woodpecker but also a lovely bracket fungi of which we have appreciated many.

The edges of the forest rides are often packed with flowers and I was very proud one day when our daughter was able to identify stitchwort and red campion. Here is a lovely pale pink marsh valerian.

Although a lot of our family walks have been in ‘commercial’ forest we are lucky to have some old broadleaved woodland nearby. This track near home is called locally ‘water bank’ and the age of the beech trees and the form of the land always makes me think of previous generations who have walked down that path, perhaps to collect water from the stream at the bottom.

Like many people we have said many times ‘I can’t believe we’ve never been here before’ and that was certainly the case when we found this verdant gem in Raindale.

If you were to ask my children which was their favour woodland walk they would say ‘swing wood’ for obvious reasons. There is something very satisfying and wholesome about watching the children play in such a natural environment.

So when we all get the chance again the nation’s forest, owned by Forestry England for the enjoyment of us all, will be a great place to go. A surprising amount of wildlife will be on show – in the meantime some animals (and some people) will be happily hibernating – this slow worm is under a pile of leaves until spring.

Even though there is less wildlife on show during the winter months the trees are there and they always make excellent dramatic subjects for the budding photographer, like these taken by my husband.

Always follow the latest Government advice in regards Covid-19.

To keep up to date with the latest National Park situation in regards Covid-19 – see here.  

Learning to understand the dark

Rob Smith – Senior Minerals Planner

That 2020 had been unusual hardly needs emphasising. The need for adaptation and restraint in our routines has, as we all know, continued into 2021. It’s frustrating, and we all wish it could end right now, but we have to be patient a while longer.

For me, back in April and May last year when the first lockdown was at its peak, the main consolation was the lengthening hours of daylight. Combined with the glorious spring weather and the absence of traffic, it was possible to get out for a walk, bike ride, or run and experience the National Park (or at least that little bit of it near my home) as never before. Some of the reasons we all love it – its diverse landscapes, the wide sweeps of heather moorland, its tranquillity and sense of remoteness, the valleys, forests, and of course it’s wildlife – were all brought into sharp focus in a way that I’d not quite experienced until then, and they seemed more valuable than ever. It wasn’t just the long hours of sunshine; more what the place meant to me during that difficult time.

Sometimes we know instinctively that something, or someone, is special even if we can’t put a finger on just why. But when it comes to a place, as for many things, getting to the bottom of this sometimes tricky question is a critical first step towards being able to look after it in way which ensures its intrinsic value is retained for the future.

The North York Moors National Park Authority has tried to identify exactly what it is that makes the area such a special place. These ‘special qualities’ help us describe and understand why it is so valuable and why it needs protecting. They include those qualities I was enjoying on my lockdown excursions in spring but there are many more, in fact twenty-eight in total. All are equally important, even if we each have our own favourites.

NYMNP Special Qualities (from 2012 Management Plan)

Importantly, promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public is one of the two main statutory purposes of a National Park Authority. Alongside the other main purpose, to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, it drives much of what we do as an organisation.

Last year spring turned into summer and then autumn brought lockdown mark two, and this time it was different. The long days of sunshine seemed quite distant. It was dark before the end of the working day and opportunities to get into the outdoors were much harder to find. Chances are when daylight and opportunity coincided, the weather wasn’t cooperating. Which brings me back to the need for adaptation.

One of the National Park’s special qualities is its ‘dark skies at night and clear unpolluted air’. Recently the National Park Authority has been carrying out a lot of work on the dark skies theme and you can find out more about this in previous blog posts by my colleague Mike Hawtin.

Although I’ve always enjoyed looking at the night sky, and appreciate the way that a starscape on a clear winter’s night can be just as inspiring as a beautiful landscape, or a dramatic seascape, as seen during the day, I’ve never tried to carry on with my outdoor activity at night. The thought of going off for a run through the woods or across the moors after dark for my ‘daily’ activity is a bit unsettling, however much your head also tells you there’s no rational basis for this.  But recently, that’s just what I’ve been doing.

It’s been a revelatory experience in many ways. Firstly, that I was easily capable of overcoming that irrational worry that had deterred me from trying it before. Secondly, I wasn’t the only one doing it (in a socially distanced manner)! More importantly, it has opened my eyes to a whole new sphere of ‘understanding and enjoyment’ of some of the National Park’s special qualities – sights, sounds, smells, wildlife –  that wouldn’t have been noticeable through the sensory overload that full daylight can bring. A landscape reduced in scale perhaps, but enhanced in detail and refreshingly new, even in places I’ve visited many times before.

And of course there’s the night sky. Pause to look upwards on a clear night and it’s impossible not to be impressed and inspired. Yes there’s sheer enjoyment in this, but I also feel that each individual night time visit is another step on a journey towards a better understanding of my local countryside that happens to be on the edge of a National Park, and how its special qualities meld together to make a coherent whole. I know it won’t be for everyone, but I’m pretty sure my adaptation won’t be a temporary one this time.

(Cropped) Northern Lights at Saltwick Bay. Credit Andy Dawson Photography.

Always follow the latest Government advice in regards Covid-19.

To keep up to date with the latest National Park situation in regards Covid-19 – see here.  Hang On – Stay Local – Keep Positive.

What’s Ironstone?

Tom Kearsley – Mineralogist

Iron is arguably the most important metallic element in the history of human technology. In the most comprehensive modern reference volume on properties, processing and use of metals – the Metals Handbook edited by Davis, 1998 – there are more pages devoted to ‘ferrous’ metals (‘irons’, steels and high performance alloys) than to all of the other metals combined.

Together with Magnesium (Mg) and Aluminium (Al), Iron (Fe) is an abundant element throughout the Solar System (Lodders, 2010), including the Earth. It was inherited from dust created by ancient giant stars, then brought together over four and a half billion years ago during the formation of the planet from the collision of asteroids and meteorites in the early Solar System. Much of the Earth’s Fe, along with Nickel (Ni) and Sulfur (S), is now in the core where it is responsible for the magnetic field of the planet. ‘Iron’ is also occasionally found on Earth’s surface as a ‘native’ metal, this may come from meteorite falls (which will not be pure Iron element, but will also contain a little Ni), and even a little can be found in some volcanic lavas. This raw material has been used by people for at least 5000 years, but it is so rare that ‘iron’ was not the most widely used metal until much later. In nature, Mg and Al readily form common minerals with Silicon (Si) and Oxygen (O), but they are not found as metals without human intervention, and they have only become widely manufactured and used in the last century.

Although now a little dated, ‘Metals in the Service of Man’ by A. Street and W. Alexander (10th edition, 1994) provides a concise and readable introduction to the sources of metals, their processing, properties and uses. An excellent and detailed explanation of how metals (including ‘irons’) came to be produced, from the earliest methods up to modern large-scale industries, can also be found in ‘A History of Metallurgy’ by R. F. Tylecote (1992). The first widespread use began with discovery that Copper (Cu), and later Tin (Sn) could be extracted relatively easily from their ore minerals, giving rise to the ‘Bronze Age’, beginning perhaps 9,000 years ago. It is likely that the discovery of ‘iron’ smelting was accidental, perhaps around 4,700 years ago, and was possibly linked to the use of Iron-rich material in production of copper. By 3,000 years ago, ‘iron’ was important in human societies, being used widely in making weapons.

To produce ferrous metal in quantity, it’s necessary to find a good supply of a suitable starting material – the ore. Fuel is required to break the ore down into elemental Iron, typically by raising it to a very high temperature, away from air. It’s also important to be able to remove a range of impurities from the molten metal. Improvements in smelting technique have long been driven by pressures of the cost of mining and transporting ore and fuel, but also reflect the availability of different types of ore. Since the Second World War a very unusual type of ore, Banded Iron Formation (BIF) has been mined in enormous quantities in Australia, Brazil, the USA and Russia (among other countries). BIF is a very peculiar sedimentary rock, deposited in ancient seas, more than two billion years ago when the atmosphere and oceans had very different behaviour to the modern world. Because it is available in large quantities (many millions of tonnes per annum) and can be processed quite easily to concentrate the content of Iron, it is now most economic to transport this ore worldwide, rather than smelting at source in areas lacking fuel. Before the use of BIF, most production usually relied upon local supplies of ore, as well as coal, coke or charcoal, and additives to help separate metal and slag. In Britain, we have no BIF, and there’s little in Europe as a whole. The history of ferrous metal production in Britain therefore reflects making do with what was available, and many different types of Iron-rich rocks (ironstones) were used as ore.

Example of 'Ironstone'

The most common natural Iron-rich materials found on the modern Earth’s surface are oxide minerals, carbonates, sulfides and fine aluminosilicates. The oxides may be loose mineral grains from weathering of igneous rocks such as basalt lavas, or may form by reaction of volcanic glass and Iron-bearing silicate minerals (such as olivine or pyroxene) with Oxygen and water, especially during tropical weathering. Two minerals are often formed : Goethite (yellow-brown oxyhydroxide, FeO.OH, about 60% Iron by weight) and Hematite (red-purple-grey oxide Fe2O3, nearly 70% Iron by weight), both contain Iron in an oxidised form, Fe3+, which is not very soluble in water. As anyone who has owned an old car will know, metallic ‘iron’ and steel are also able (and all too willing) to form similar oxidised rust! The insoluble oxyhydroxides and oxides are very widespread as tiny grains in soils, giving brown or red colouration. Accumulation in dense soil layers can produce material suitable for use as ore, but these minerals were also occasionally deposited from warm water flowing through cracks in rock, and may form patches and veins of very high grade ores, such as the red Hematite ‘kidney ore’ of Egremont in Cumbria. BIF contain mainly Hematite, in layers with silica.

However, if the tiny grains are washed away by streams and rivers until they reach still water, they can sink and become gently buried within muddy sediment in a lake, delta-front or quiet-water sea. Here they are effectively cut off from air, and as bacterial decay of organic matter in the mud proceeds, they may again lose Oxygen, releasing soluble Fe2+ ions. In freshwater, the ‘reduced’ soluble Iron may react with carbonate created by bacterial oxidation of organic matter (such as rotting leaves), and can be fixed as an insoluble carbonate mineral called Siderite (FeCO3). This often forms spherical concretions that may become flattened as the muddy layers are gradually squashed by continuing build-up of sediment above. The hardened (lithified) concretions or nodules are grey-green when broken, although may turn brown on weathering. Often found in mudstones between coal seams of Carboniferous age across Britain, these Siderite nodules (called ‘doggers’ by miners) may contain nearly 50% Iron by weight, and were an important source of ore during the Industrial Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Iron-rich mud deposited in seawater may behave differently. The oxides and oxyhydroxides again release soluble Iron as Fe2+ ions, but bacterial activity near the surface of the accumulating sediment removes Oxygen from the sulfate ions in the seawater, creating sulfide ions. This is how disturbed marine muds often come to smell of ‘rotten eggs’, the characteristic signature of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Soluble Fe2+ reacts very quickly with sulfide ions, forming a black iron sulfide, and eventually golden Iron Pyrites (FeS2), with about 45% Iron by weight. This can be used as an Iron ore, but releases acidic sulfur dioxide fumes during processing, and requires both careful handling and large amounts of fuel. However, if deposition of mud is quite rapid, the production of sulfide can stop well before all of the soluble Fe has reacted, and more of the carbonate Siderite will then form, often becoming the main Iron-bearing mineral in shallow marine ironstones.

Iron may also be found in pale green hydrated aluminosilicate minerals (containing Al, Si and water), these are members of the Clay Mineral and Chlorite groups, called Berthierine and Chamosite, typically containing about 25% Iron by weight. How these minerals form is still not well understood, despite many studies of ancient and modern ironstones (Kearsley 1989; Young, 1989; Mücke and Farshad, 2005; Clement et al., 2019). There are probably several different origins. Some may be formed by soluble Fe reacting with the white clay mineral Kaolinite within the mud, or from insoluble Fe oxides reacting with Al and Si hydroxides. Some may form by tiny crystals growing within a slimy gelatinous blob or layer, some may grow as crystals directly from water in the mud. Strangely, these minerals also seem to favour growing in layers around a central core, making a concentric tiny egg, an ‘oolith’ or ‘ooid’. When ooids/ooliths are common within an iron-rich rock, it is described as an oolitic ironstone. It is not uncommon to find ironstones that contain aluminosilicates, Siderite, Hematite and Pyrite all together, including within ooliths/ooids – even with evidence that these minerals have replaced each other during or after deposition of the layer.

Rosedale SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) Minerals - copyright Tony Kearsley

Oolitic ironstones are complicated rocks (see figure above). As their content of Iron can vary a great deal, they may or may not prove to be an economic source of Iron, which may also depend upon the other materials that they contain. High contents of Calcium (Ca) may help smelting, but high Phosphorus (P) can contaminate the metal that is produced. The oolitic ironstones mined in Rosedale and around all of the North York Moors typically contain mixtures of Siderite and Berthierine, as well as Kaolinite and the Calcium carbonate mineral Calcite.

The oxide Magnetite (Fe3O4) may also be found in some oolitic ironstones, it contains over 70% Iron by weight. As the name suggests, this mineral is strongly magnetic, unlike almost all of the other Iron ore minerals. It is quite common in Mg- and Fe-rich igneous rocks (formed from molten material), and can occur in massive deposits with a very high percentage of Iron. For example, magnetite has long been mined in Sweden, and was much sought after by both Allied and Axis industries during the Second World War. Magnetite is well known to occur in rocks that have been subjected to burial heating (low grade metamorphism), probably growing as coarser crystals from iron carried through porous rock by hot water.

However, it has also been found (and almost completely mined out) in sedimentary ironstone deposits in Rosedale, it was so rich in Iron. Here its origin is still a mystery, and there have been differing interpretations of when and how it formed. There are several 19th century accounts of the discovery of magnetic ores in Rosedale (Bewick 1861; Wood, 1969; Marley 1871), as well as descriptions of these rocks in the Geological Survey Reports of Hallimond (1925) and Whitehead et al. (1952). From other evidence in the North York Moors, it doesn’t seem likely that these rocks were heated sufficiently to encourage metamorphic magnetite replacement of other minerals, and these are definitely not rocks formed from hot melt. Perhaps the peculiar setting where these sedimentary ironstones accumulated was an important factor in creating Magnetite? The earlier accounts suggested that the richest ore was found within elongate troughs, eroded into the underlying layers. Young (1994) suggested that there were indeed shallow basins where ooliths were deposited, but that the basins had been formed by fault motion at about the same time. Is it possible that stagnant water saturating the sediment within these hollows allowed Magnetite to form, replacing other more-oxidised Iron-rich minerals?

Ironstones deposited during the early part of the Jurassic Period have been extensively mined throughout England and Western Scotland, as described in Whitehead et al. (1952). There is a wider discussion of other ironstones from a broader range of ages, across England and Wales, in Hallimond (1925).

References

Bewick, Joseph 1861. Geological Treatise on the District of Cleveland, in North Yorkshire, Its Ferruginous Deposits, Lias, and Oolites; With Some Observations on Ironstone Mining. London: John Weale

Clement, A. M., Tackett, L. S., Ritterbush, K. A. and Ibarra, Y. 2019 Formation and stratigraphic facies distribution of early Jurassic iron oolite deposits from west central Nevada, USA. Sedimentary Geology 395 C Web. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2019.105537.

Davis, J. R. (Ed.) 1998 Metals Handbook 2nd Edition. ASM International, Materials Park, OH 44073-0002, USA. i-xiv, 1521 pp. ISBN 0-87170-654-7.

Hallimond, A. F. 1925 Iron Ores: Bedded Ores of England and Wales. Petrography and Chemistry. Special Reports on the Mineral Resources of Great Britain. Volume XXIX. HM Stationery Office, London. p 75, plate IV fig. 14.

Hawley, D. 2019 Rosedale – the magnetic ironstone conundrum. Field Excursion Notes. The genesis of geology in York and beyond. Yorkshire Philosophical Society and Geological Society of London History of Geology Group. 25th Anniversary Meeting Thursday 24th October 2019. Downloaded on 3rd December 2020 from: https://www.ypsyork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/HOGG-YPS-YORK-Rosedale-Magnetic-Ironstone-Conundrum-Oct-2019-ONLINE.pdf

Kearsley, A.T. 1989 Iron-rich ooids, their mineralogy and microfabric; clues to their origin. In Young, T.P. and Taylor, W.E.G. (Eds) Phanerozoic Ironstones. Geological Society of London Special Publication 46:141-164.

Lodders, K. 2010 Solar system abundances of the elements. In: Principles and Perspectives in Cosmochemistry. Lecture Notes of the Kodai School on ‘Synthesis of Elements in Stars’ held at Kodaikanal Observatory, India, April 29 – May 13, 2008 (Goswami, A. and Eswar Reddy, B. eds.) Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. p. 379-417 ISBN 978-3-642- 10351-3.

Marley, J. 1871 On the Magnetic Ironstone of Rosedale Abbey, Cleveland. Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. 19, 193-199.

Mücke, A. and Farshad, F. 2005 Whole-rock and mineralogical composition of Phanerozoic ooidal ironstones: Comparison and differentiation of types and subtypes. Ore Geology Reviews 26:227–262.

Powell, J. H. 2010 Jurassic sedimentation in the Cleveland Basin: A review. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 58:21-72.

Street, A. and Alexander, W. 1994 Metals in the Service of Man. 10th Edition. Penguin Books Ltd, London, UK. ISBN 10: 0140148892

Tylecote, R. F. 1992 A History of Metallurgy 2nd Edition. The Institute of Materials. 1 Carleton House Terrace, London. 255 pp. ISBN 0-901462-88-8.

Whitehead, T. H., Anderson, W., Wilson V., Wray, D. A. and Dunham, K. C. 1952 The Liassic Ironstones. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. pp 47-50.

Wood, N. 1869. On the Deposit of Magnetic Ironstone in Rosedale. Spons’ Dictionary of Engineering, Part VIII (Borings and Blasting), pp 501 – 512.

Young, T.P., 1989. Phanerozoic ironstones: an introduction and review. In: Young, T.P. and Taylor, W.E.G. (Eds.), Phanerozoic Ironstones. Geological Society of London Special Publication 46: ix-xxv.

Young, T. P. 1994 The Blea Wyke Sandstone Formation (Jurassic, Toarcian) of Rosedale, North Yorkshire, UK. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 50:129-142.

The Yew – An Original Christmas Tree

Sam Newton – Woodland Creation Assistant

Yew links to Christmas and Christianity and back beyond into the depths of time. Like other evergreens, branches of yew were brought into people’s houses at Christmas as decoration and also as bitter reminder of the Christian Passion.

Yew trees in St Mary’s churchyard, Goathland. This churchyard contains some of the largest yew trees in the North York Moors. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

Yew trees (Taxus baccata) are now strongly associated with churchyards. They are a connection to the old Norse and Celt beliefs that yew trees protected against bewitchment and death. Pagans celebrated the yew at the mid winter festival of Saturnalia, which later melted into Christmas. Many old churchyard yews may have been planted by church-builders, brought out of the woods and into a civilised setting. Or later on top of graves to ward off evil around the dead and provide branches to be carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals. It became a tradition without a remembrance of its origins.

There are also a number of churchyard yews predating their churches, and even Christianity. Some trees alive today in Britain are truly ancient. The Fortingall Yew in Scotland is possibly between 2,000 and 3,000 years old – a myth tells of Pontius Pilate as the son of a Roman envoy, being born beneath and playing as a child within its branches. While the Ankerwycke Yew witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, as an already 1,000-year-old tree overlooking Runnymede meadows in Surrey.

The first few lines of ‘Lines on the Ancient Yew in Darley Church Yard’ (in Derbyshire)
By Samuel Barker

Thou art an interesting tree,
The fact’s beyond dispute,
Thy monster trunk and giant bows
And intersecting roots,
Rearing in solemn grandeur,
Thy patriarchal head,
Reigning in midnight dimness,
O’er the regions of the dead.

Male yew tree in St Nicholas’ Churchyard, Bransdale, showing the beginnings of next year’s flowers. Yew trees are dioicous, with individual plants either male or female. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

The story of the yew tree is one of life, death, and resurrection. It was said by the noted forester and dendrologist Alan Mitchell, that “there is no theoretical end to this tree, no need for it to die”.

Yews reach such old age through an amazing ability to renew themselves and return from apparent decay. New shoots from the base can coalesce with the main trunk, while lowered branches can put down roots, and fallen trees remain alive as long as the smallest amount of root remains attached. Ancient trees can be split into several parts, and no longer look like one tree, but can go on surviving for many hundreds of years more.

St Nicholas’ Church, Bransdale, and its churchyard yew tree. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

Death lingers in these long-lived trees, with all parts of the plant containing highly poisonous taxine alkaloids. Yet at the same time these same highly poisonous chemicals provide modern day science with anti-cancer compounds. The yew tree can regenerate us, as well as itself.

Yorkshire has a strong but somewhat forgotten link to yew trees. The ancient Celtic name for the City of York is Eborakon, which can be translated to ‘the place where the yew trees grow’, or came from the name Eburos, meaning ‘yew man’. In the North York Moors, yew trees are common in churchyards, and can occasionally be encountered in the surrounding areas.

For more information about this natural and cultural marvel have a look at the Ancient Yew Group’s website

Dark Skies (Part Two): We need to talk about ALAN

Mike Hawtin – Head of Polyhalite Projects

Dalby Playground Iridium Flare by Steve BellEnjoy the National Park after dark
It’s probably as a result of increasing light pollution in urban areas that many more people are seeking out opportunities to experience Dark Skies, which is resulting in a growing interest in Astro Tourism.

We know from the popularity of our very own Dark Skies Festival that increasing numbers of residents and visitors to the National Park value dark skies and love to take part in all manner of outdoor events at night. Started almost six years ago, in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Festival has become the biggest in the country and is contributing significantly to the local economy during what is typically considered the low tourist season. This helps businesses survive through winter and doesn’t add to the busy summer season. The Festival in 2020 attracted over 8,000 attendees to over 100 events and across a two week period and contributed over £300k to the local economy in the North York Moors alone.

The ongoing success of the Festival led to a decision by the National Park to seek worldwide recognition by joining a select group of organisations around the globe in applying for International Dark Sky Reserve status. There are key requirements to becoming a Dark Sky Reserve along with ongoing obligations to maintain the status. These include meeting specific requirements for the quality of our dark skies, organising continued education and outreach events, control of new lighting and making ongoing improvements to existing lighting.

This lengthy process started three years ago with a huge amount of background work including audits of the type of lights and controls used in the National Park along with their colour temperatures and taking dozens of dark skies meter readings to identify where our darkest areas are. We’ve even had support from local and regional councils to install only Dark Skies compliant street lighting at 3000k or less.

This work has fed into the creation of a Lighting Management Plan which will help us ensure that new lighting will meet Dark Skies criteria. We’ve also had letters of support from dozens of parish councils, landowners, organisations, astro groups, businesses and pledges of support from the public, which have all been included in our application.

STOP PRESS – This month we were designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, along with the Yorkshire Dales National Park, one of only 18 in the world.

Dark Skies Lighting Improvement Scheme
To help deliver improvements to existing lighting and to meet our Management Plan objectives of preserving tranquillity and Dark Skies, we’ve also set up a lighting improvement scheme to offer grants in targeted areas to help reduce light pollution. The focus will be on helping clusters of residential properties, pubs, accommodation providers, campsites and visitor centres etc. to become exemplar sites for Dark Skies friendly lighting.

This scheme is being funded by section 106 payments from the Woodsmith Mine development to compensate and mitigate for the negative impacts of the mine development. We’re working on a number of demonstration projects to help property owners understand that it’s not about turning off all lights but about sensitive and efficient use of artificial light at night. Two of these projects have already been delivered with a number of others underway. We’ve even had requests from the Institute of Lighting Professionals and other protected areas to use images of our demonstration projects to help spread the message.

Changing lights on outbuildings from bulkheads and floodlights to downlights provides ample light for access but doesn’t create unnecessary upward light spill. Note the lack of light hitting the tree in the second image above.

Glare from poor lighting in a service compound is reduced, eliminating upward light spill.

Changing floodlights or angling them down provides enough light for operational purposes (in this case loading) whilst at the same time reducing glare and unnecessary light spill.

In recent weeks, we’ve set up a new volunteer role called Dark Sky Monitor and it’s really exciting to announce that the first recruits to this role have attended a live online training session so they are ready to go when restrictions allow. During the session they learnt about why Dark Skies are important, how we can protect them and how to use a tiny box of tricks to take readings which will be added not just to our records but also to an international database.

If you’re reading this and wondering how to do your bit by converting or adjusting your outside lighting, whether it be for reducing energy usage (and cost), stargazing, wildlife or your own health and wellbeing, there are some easy steps to follow…

Light only what you need

Is the light needed? Is it purely or partially decorative or does it serve a specific purpose?
Can I angle floodlights down, shield them or change to downlighting?
Is light projecting beyond my boundary and causing a nuisance for others?
Can my light(s) be seen from a great distance? This gives a good idea of how they are positioned.

Light only when you need it

Are my lights on a timer or a sensor? Consider fixtures where the sensor can be angled independently of the light.
What time do they come on and go off? Ideally 10pm is a good curfew or use of a proximity sensor is even better.

Light only at a level suitable for the situation

How bright are my lights? Unless for operational purposes, one or two lights at a maximum of 500 lumens are usually enough for most residential properties.
Am I using warm white light? Don’t forget that all lights should be no more than 3000k and preferably 2700k.

Milky Way over Ravenscar by Steve BellWe’ve created a Dark Skies Friendly lighting page with a link to a property lighting audit to help guide you through the process. We’d love to see some before and after images if you decide to make some changes.

Keep an eye out on our Dark Skies webpages and social media for information and updates on best viewing spots, events and activities, and announcements.

We hope you’ll continue to follow the ongoing work to protect the Dark Skies above the North York Moors National Park and don’t forget to talk to others about ALAN.

Dark Skies (Part One): We need to talk about ALAN

Mike Hawtin – Head of Polyhalite Projects

The Milky Way over Young Ralph Cross. Image: Steve Bell

Dark Skies – revered by our ancestors, a gateway to science, crucial to nocturnal wildlife and a special quality enjoyed by residents and visitors to the North York Moors National Park – are under threat.

Over 80% of people in the UK are unable to see the Milky Way, our own galactic neighbourhood. In most cities you’d be lucky to see a handful of stars due to light pollution but in truly dark places, like the North York Moors National Park, you can still see thousands. With the availability of cheap high power LED lighting though, those pristine dark skies are increasingly at risk.

You can see many cities from space but you can’t see space from many cities. Figure 22017 composite image courtesy of the U.S. National Geophysical Data Center’s Earth Observing Group. Image source: darksky.org

It’s not all bad news though. Unlike other man made threats to the natural world, this one isn’t so complex that we’re almost paralysed into inaction, we just need to talk about ALAN.

So who on earth is ALAN!? Well, ALAN stands for Artificial Light At Night and when used incorrectly and inconsiderately, ALAN can have a devastating impact, not just on our ability to enjoy Dark Skies but on animal and plant life, and even human health.

Imagine a situation where developments that interrupt or obscure our natural daytime landscapes or that impact on natural habitats and disrupt animal behaviour, were allowed to go ahead unchecked? Well that’s exactly what happens when we go to the middle of those well-known budget supermarkets to buy those cheap super bright white LED lights and put them up around our property. These lights are designed to flood the outside of our homes and garden with simulated daylight, often causing significant glare and nuisance to others, both near and far.

Understandably we can be quite protective of our need for light at night. Let’s face it, we all need it, whether it’s for safe working, recreation, getting to our front door with shopping bags and children in tow or for general feelings of security. At the same time though, we can probably all think of poor examples of lighting, from inconsiderate neighbours keeping us awake into the night, car sales forecourts dangerously dazzling us when driving past, long after closing time or that one floodlight we can see for miles in an otherwise dark and tranquil remote landscape.

The impact of a single farm floodlight on the night sky during a stargazing event (image: Richard Darn)

The rhythms of life
The impacts of light pollution go much further than ‘just’ causing a nuisance. It prevents us from seeing something humans have been able to see for thousands of years, something that has inspired humans to seek to understand our place in the universe, to help explain the fundamentals of science we now take for granted and even helped us navigate, long before we had maps or smartphones.

Throughout evolution, circadian rhythms, present in most living things have been responsible for natural sleep wake cycles. As daylight fades, replaced by warmer light then darkness, it signals physiological changes which signal a slowdown, which prepares us for sleep.

ALAN disrupts these natural rhythms, altering animal and plant behaviour. It can cause bats to think it’s still daylight so they stay in the roost instead of feeding and mating. It attracts moths which increases their predation and prevents them undertaking their role as nocturnal pollinators.

Research to assess the impact of artificial light on insects is ongoing. In mini-ecosystems in the Netherlands, researchers test the effects of artificial light. Credit: Kamiel Spoelstra/NIOO-KNAW.

It even disrupts the migratory behaviour of birds and the dormancy cycles of trees and plants can be altered, impacting on their ability to survive the rigors of winter. As if that’s not enough, study after study shows that too much light (especially blue light) at night also disrupts human circadian rhythms, which has been attributed to weight gain, stress, depression, diabetes and even heart disease and some types of cancer.

We know that many living things are already struggling to adapt to accelerated climate change over the past century. Widespread use of LED lighting technology though is little more than 10 years old and, through an increasing number of studies, we are just beginning to understand the impacts, which, left unchecked, could be devastating for wildlife and human health.

Conservation at the flick of a switch
It’s not often in the world of conservation, at a time when we’re tackling complex ecosystem problems, that we can legitimately say that a problem is solvable at the flick of a switch. Imagine if we could crack plastic pollution, noise pollution or vehicle pollution often with little or no cost or, if in fact that in solving the problem, we would actually save money! Wouldn’t that be something?

In the case of light pollution though, for the most part, it really can be that easy. Tilting lights down to only light where we need and switching them on only when required, and sensitively using low power LED lighting at a level suitable for the situation, will save energy and money. It will also prevent nuisance light pollution from wasted upward light and glare.

The answer isn’t simply urging us all to switch off lights though, with a bit of thought and effort, we can have the best of both worlds. By only lighting what we need, when we need it and at a level suitable for the situation, we can protect our dark skies, our nocturnal animals and even our human health whilst still having enough light to work, play and feel safe at night.

It’s all about control
Think about how you feel when you’re driving towards an inconsiderate or forgetful driver who keeps their lights on full beam, dazzling you and causing danger to other road users. It’s easy to fit a floodlight and angle it up at 45 degrees thinking it’s doing the job intended when in fact half of the light is being projected above horizontal into the sky. So with the exception of those trying to signal the caped crusader or visitors from outer space, that’s up to 50% of light completely wasted. Additionally if we look at those lights, we’re dazzled, preventing us from seeing properly, especially into the deep shadows created, which contributes to reduced safety rather than improving it.

Image source: darksky.org

It’s also understandable to think that leaving lights on all night will offer more security but it has two significantly negative impacts:

  1. It advertises our location for miles around so those unwelcome visitors looking for opportunities will know where to look.
  2. If lights are on all night, we have no idea whether somebody is meant to be there or not.

Using sensors for instance will immediately alert us if there’s an unexpected presence. If we’re concerned about animals setting them off then selecting a light with a separate sensor can help solve this by allowing the light and the sensor to be angled independently of each other.

Warm light good – Cool light bad
The colour temperature or warmth of the light is also very important. Warmer light has less impact on nature and human health. It mimics evening light (remember those circadian rhythms) as the end of the day is approaching and is much less likely to cause disruption to the natural world. Warm light also triggers feelings of relaxation, safety and welcome, most likely developed over thousands of years of sitting around the warm light of camp fires with friends and family, and feeling safe from predators.

Think about driving past that shop, hotel or pub at night and consider what looks and feels more welcoming, warm cosy light or harsh blue white light? Another impact of blue white light is that it scatters much more readily into the atmosphere which means it can cause much greater sky glow if installed incorrectly.

The colour temperature of light is measured in kelvin (k). 3000k is considered a key threshold. Below this is considered warm and over is considered cool. Dark Skies friendly lighting should have a recommended colour temperature of 2700k but where technology or availability doesn’t allow then 3000k should be considered an absolute maximum. The good news is that most lights and bulbs are available in warm white and have this specification stated on the box. It will also usually show the amount of light given off in lumens. 500 lumens is usually ample for most residential applications.

DID YOU KNOW? North Yorkshire County Council have agreed to install fully shielded streetlights with a maximum colour temperature of 3000k in our protected landscape.

Colouring in

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Have a look at these two digitally ‘coloured in’ historic photographs of our local mining communities in the North York Moors, from 100 years ago.

Photograph by Thomas Smith, courtesy Beck Isle Museum. Photo colourised by: Photo Restoration Services.

Our first photograph (above) shows ironstone miners at Sheriff’s Pitt, Rosedale, getting ready for a day of hard labour in 1900. If you look closely you can notice the clothing they wore and the wide shovels they used for helping to move the heavy ironstone and scoop it into the tubs. From the tubs it was taken out of the mine and along to the nearby calcining kilns to remove the impurities to make it lighter to transport via rail on to blast furnaces in the wider region.

Photograph by Joseph Brotton, courtesy Ryedale Folk Museum. Photos colourised by: Photo Restoration Services.

The second photograph (above) was taken by J. Brotton on the 24 July 1903 – it’s of an almighty crash at the bottom of the Ingleby Incline railway. The incline is a 0.8 mile long stretch of rail to the moor top, which reaches a stonking 1 in 5 gradient at its steepest points. It was here that wagons were carefully drawn up and down the incline by a rope pulley system to allow the transport of ironstone from the Rosedale mines on to Teesside for processing into pig iron, before being transported and used across the country and the world.

Does the colourisation help make the people look more relatable? Does it make the scenes seem more immediate? Does it bring the communities of the 1900s to life?

Photos colourised by: Photo Restoration Services

Down in Yon Forest

Rachel Pickering – Woodland Team Leader

Deep in Cropton Forest is a very special place called High Leaf Howe. Its actually just a grassy clearing within the forest with a large mound, the ‘howe’, in one corner and a ruined house in another. Our archaeologists are probably more interested in the howe but for me it’s the ruin that is magical. I recall my grandma Ethel talking very fondly of her childhood at ‘Leaf Howe’ which was a small holding of about 20 acres on the edge of Wheeldale Moor where they grazed 20 sheep. They also had 3 cows and my grandma had hens which she sold the eggs from to help her parents pay the rent to Keldy Estate*. Her dad made besoms (brooms used in the steel works to clean the slag off the rolled steel when it was red hot) from the heather and her mother cleaned the school at Stape to make ends meet.

*The Forestry Commission acquired the freehold of the Keldy Estate in 1948 to incorporate into their Rosedale Forest holding, now named Cropton Forest.

High Leaf Howe, then. Property of Rachel Pickering.Recently I was looking into the census data for Stape and made a remarkable discovery. Not only had my grandma been born at High Leaf Howe but also her father Bertie in 1895 and his father George in 1851. Four generations of my direct descendants lived there.  During the first lockdown I was looking through some old family photos and imagine my delight when I came across a small black and white photo which had the words ‘Leaf Howe’ penned on the back! Even better I could recognise that the girl outside the house was grandma and the shy head poking out of the door was her mother Ada.

I have taken my father and my two children to see the old homestead, and although my son was more interested in climbing a nearby tree at the time I’d like to think my two will see the significance of this special place in the future.

High Leaf Howe, now. Copyright Rachel Pickering.

 

How did the Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire do this year?

Richard Baines – Volunteer North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Officer

2020 Breeding Season

Many people ask me ‘how did the Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire do this year?’ This is always a tricky one to answer because we have only been conducting surveys for five years. This is a short time scale to confirm a population trend. However, this year has been amazing for several reasons. The great weather in spring got us off to an excellent start and must have been good for returning doves. Despite observing the lockdown restrictions at all times we managed to monitor 20 population squares and conduct both visits in each square.

Turtle Dove - North Yorks Forests, Spring 2020. Copyright Richard Baines.

Turtle Dove in North Yorkshire 2021. Copyright Richard Baines.

A maximum of 33 and a minimum of 23 singing males were found in these 1km squares. Turtle Doves were found in 50% of the twenty squares. This compares well to previous years but may have been helped by the good weather. During the surveys I realised how important it is to conduct a Turtle Dove breeding survey in still conditions. It would have been so easy to miss a purring Turtle Dove on a windy morning.

Many additional sightings were sent in to our project this year, a total of 270 birds. Many of the casual sightings will have been seen more than once but the good news is this was 28 more than 2019. These included a minimum of 63 singing males which were found in locations away from our formal survey squares. This gives a minimum total of 86 singing males in our project area in 2020. The number of unique singing males found in each of the four years of our project has been consistently between 50 and 100 birds.

Turtle Dove - North Yor4kshire, July 2020. Copyright Richard Baines.

Turtle Dove in North Yorkshire 2021. Copyright Richard Baines.

With less surveys being possible in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions we are very pleased with the results. A Big Thank You to everyone who sent us their sightings this year. We now know where most of our Turtle Doves are in North Yorkshire. This is a big help, allowing us to target conservation work in the areas where Turtle Doves need it most.

2021 Surveys

 We are hoping to be able to carry out the full suite of North Yorkshire Turtle Dove surveys next spring. We will shortly be announcing the dates for our annual April volunteer meetings, either at one of our regular venues or, if necessary, virtually. Its really important we keep up these surveys and continue working equally hard on improving habitat for Turtle Doves in our area. If you are new to our project and would like to volunteer please email.

Collaborative approaches

Aside

This autumn a collaborative conservation effort began at Robin Hood’s Bay to restore the cliff slope grassland there. It will be followed up with a programme of enhancement management to maintain this important habitat and its species. You can read about it on the excellent Connecting for Nature Blog.