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.

YAC-king opportunities

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Volunteers Wanted: Join Moors & Valleys YAC Today!

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

Moors & Valleys YAC logo

 

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

Tell me more about the Moors & Valleys sessions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next step is to get in touch

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

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. 

Warren Moor Mine: Part Two – the excavation

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

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

A very short history recap

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

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

What we got up to this time

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

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

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

So what happens next?

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

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

Combs Wood – Another Community Excavation

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

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

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

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

A Brief History of the site

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

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

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

Combs Wood excavation July 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

The Excavation

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

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

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

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

Starting Them Young

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

YAC at Combs Wood excavation July 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

Our Amazing Volunteers

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

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

 

Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme logos

Keeping hold of history

Jo Collins – Volunteer and Communities Officer

If you are standing anywhere in the North York Moors National Park you will never be more than 1 mile from a known archaeological site.
Help care for this heritage.

We are very excited that we’ve been successful in securing a grant of more than £170,000 to support a new project – Monuments for the Future.  This will help secure the future of historic monuments in the North York Moors and increase public understanding of their significance.

The funds have been awarded by Historic England, who supported the National Park’s previous Monument Management Scheme from 2009 to 2018.

There are tens of thousands of monuments and other archaeological sites in the National Park. Currently 842 of these have been ‘scheduled’, this means they are nationally important and protected in law*.

History and its monuments are embedded in the landscape of the North York Moors.

Young Ralph Cross. Copyright Simon Hirst, NYMNPA.

Young Ralph Cross still stands upright by the road on Rosedale Head. The horizon is spotted with funerary round barrows (marked as tumuli or tumulus on maps), and crossed with ancient dykes thought to mark the boundaries of territories. Look closely and evidence of the lives of our hunter gatherer ancestors can be seen on rocks decorated with ‘cup and ring’ marks. Occasionally flint tools or arrowheads are still found on the moors (recorded as a ‘findspot’ on the HER map**). And of course there are the more recent remnants of history – castles, abbeys, trods, iron works . . . far too many types to mention but all worthy of our care and attention.

Key to the new Monuments for the Future project is providing training and support for an increased numbers of volunteers. We want to encourage and build a sense of ownership for the monuments amongst local communities; engaging people, young and old, with the heritage they have on their doorstep.

So we are looking for people to join our volunteer survey team to look after our Scheduled Monuments. Volunteers working in pairs or individually, with the kind permission of landowners, will visit archaeological monuments to check on their condition. Problems are commonly caused by bracken or erosion and the volunteer surveys are vital to identify issues in order to target practical management which can help sustain the monuments.

To get the most from this voluntary role you’ll need an enthusiasm for archaeology/history, a reasonable level of fitness, and an ability to read a map or else an ability to team up with someone who can. Some sites are easy enough to find but some can be more difficult, volunteers can choose the level of challenge! Training days are planned for August and September this year. Please do get in touch if you are interested in being a volunteer or you just want to find out more – we would love to hear from you.

* The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is the only official, up to date, register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England – listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks, registered parks and gardens, and battlefields.

** This is a map of the North York Moors Historic Environment Record. It’s a handy way to check out our claim that ‘If you are standing anywhere in the North York Moors National Park you will never be more than 1 mile from an archaeological site’. Please let me know if you can catch me out!

More YACking

Kim Devereux-West – Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant

We had our first Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) session in February this year and since then we’ve run a session on the first Saturday of each month – with the exception of March when we had all that snow!).

Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to since February…

Moors and Valleys YAC - April 2018April – Down to the Bare Bones
Teesside University, Middlesbrough
Led by our brilliant volunteer leaders Claire Hodson and Dave Errickson, we got to learn all about the bones in a human body. We learned about what bones can tell us about people, had a go at putting a (plastic) skeleton back together and made our own moving paper skeletons.

May – Getting to Know Gravestones
St. Peter’s Churchyard, Brotton
This was our first outdoor session and the weather was fantastic! We learned how much gravestones can tell you about people from the past, got to explore St. Margaret’s Church (just Moors and Valleys YAC - May 2018across the road) and had a go at recording some of the gravestones.

June – Exploring Anglo-Saxon and Victorian Lives
Preston Park Museum, Stockton-on-Tees
Carolyn from the Museum was kind enough to host  a session for us that explored the lives of the Anglo-Saxons. We got to look at artefacts and play the ancient game of Merrills (or Nine Men’s Morris) – which got pretty competetive! We finished the session playing Victorian games on the Museum’s Victorian Street and got to try out the stocks!

Moors and Valleys YAC - June 2018We’ve got loads more fun archaeological activities planned for the year. Our next YAC session will be on Saturday 7 July at the Land of Iron’s Combs Wood community archaeology excavation in Beck Hole near Whitby. Before then we have an extra bonus trip organised by Tees Archaeology on Sunday 1 July to see their excavation of the deserted medieval borough at Skelton.

To find out more, or to sign up for a session –  please contact us.

We’re also looking for new volunteer leaders so if you have knowledge of history/archaeology and would like to get involved then please get in touch.

Young Archaeologists' Club logo

Shaped by people

A new leaflet has been published which highlights the historic environments of British National Parks –Our Historic Environment: special landscapes shaped by people‘. The number one purpose of the National Parks is to ‘conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage’ of their areas.

The cultural heritage reference is not just an add on, a poor cousin to nature. As well as shaping the physical landscape cultural heritage is fundamental to providing a sense of place which is just as important in making a National Park special.

Helmsley Castle - copyright English Heritage

Whereas in British National Parks sometimes it’s easy to overlook the influence of people on the natural environment, whereas the historic environment is all about human impact and residue. Here on the ground in the North York Moors it’s not possible to disentangle the natural and historic environments – a 400 year old veteran tree is a natural feature, but it is there because of woodland management in the past; rare Ring Ouzels breed in Rosedale because of the presence of industrial structures left over from the 19th century; the large conifer forests of the North York Moors are there because of a national policy of afforestation after World War 1.

East Kilns, Rosedale - copyright NYMNPA

Across the country the most important cultural heritage sites are protected through designation by Historic England, Cadw and Historic Environment Scotland. But there are 1000s and 1000s of other significant sites, structures, finds and features, which National Park Authorities are working to conserve on their patch, alongside the protected sites. By building up research, increasing understanding, and informing interpretation National Park Authorities seek to connect and engage people, both locals and visitors, with their heritage and history.

Close up of drystone wall with engraved date - copyright NYMNPA

Since the last Ice Age – the flint tools, hearth deposits, cup and ring marked stones of the subsisting Mesolithic and Neolithic periods; the pottery, earthwork dykes, burial mounds of the ritualistic Bronze and Iron Ages; the forts, settlements, castles of centuries of invasion/assimilation of Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, and then Normans; the abbeys, cruck houses, ridge and furrow of the striving middle ages; the alum works, musket balls and ‘witch posts’ of the religiously provocative Tudor, Stuart and Civil War period; the designed landscapes, water races, stationary engines and railway lines of the industrious 18th and 19th centuries; the radar stations, tank tracks, gas works of the technological 20th century – the North York Moors landscape retains the physical evidence of history (the what and where). Along with documents, maps and other primary sources this provides an historic environment framework, with lots of room left for investigation, imagination and involvement into the how and why.

Coastal archaeology - copyright NYMNPA

Beneath another pile of stones

Mags Waughman – NPA Monument Management Scheme Officer

Archaeology often uncovers the unexpected, but it usually relates to activities which are hundreds if not thousands of years old, but last week we found something which is much more recent.

As part of our work under the Historic England funded Monument Management Scheme (Phase 3), we have been trying to improve the visibility and condition of a number of Bronze Age burial mounds (usually dating to around 1700-2000 BC) which have been obscured in recent years by the addition of modern cairns on top of them. Walkers who may be unaware of the ancient burial mound beneath a pile of stones are sometimes tempted to pull stones out of the prehistoric monument to add to the modern cairn on top and this causes damage the ancient fabric of the monument. Many of these burial mounds are protected in law as Scheduled Monuments so it is especially important that we try to stop the damage and conserve what is left of them. Dismantling modern cairns from the top of these monuments can remove the temptation to extract stones for cairn building and restores the profile of the monument to something which is more recognisable as a Bronze Age burial mound.

One such burial mound on Gisborough Moor is getting an improvement makeover at the moment. This is quite a low and not very imposing mound which is distinguished by having a rough kerb of low stones set into the ground around its perimeter and a larger earthfast stone – a stone slab set vertically into the ground – on its north side. Small standing stones like this are believed to be prehistoric and in this case to have been part of the structure of the burial mound.

We organised an archaeological survey of the monument last autumn (carried out by Solstice Heritage) to be followed up, once the snows had gone, with the removal of the modern stones. During the survey work we were intrigued by a lump of concrete which was visible, poking out from the bottom of the cairn. We were wondering how someone had managed to lift it onto the monument and in particular how we would be able to remove it. Come last week, a team of our volunteers and apprentices guided by Chris Scott from Solstice Heritage took down the modern cairn, taking care to inspect the stones for any signs of prehistoric decoration. None were found, but underneath the modern accumulation of stones, the lump of concrete turned out to be much more interesting than we had originally thought.

Copyright Solstice HeritageAbove: Modern cairn on top of the burial mound: the standing stone is at the left hand side and you can just see the concrete block next to it.

Marked in the top of the concrete were the initials ‘CS’ and ‘JP’  with the date 11/11/1943 and in the centre was a deep and narrow cylindrical hole. We think that the initials are those of the people who cast the block and that it may have been intended to take either a flagpole or a communications mast. We know that parts of the surrounding moorland were used during World War II as a bombing decoy site  – an arrangement of controlled fires which would have been lit during an air raid to  draw enemy bombers away from Middlesbrough – so the presence of concrete dating from this time is not surprising. The 11 November date suggests that it may have been installed as part of an Armistice Day commemoration: perhaps the servicemen manning the decoy site held a ceremony of remembrance for the dead of the previous world war.

Copyright Solstice Heritage

Above: Cast slab of WWII concrete – possibly a flagpole base

Although modern additions to prehistoric monuments often look out of place, in this case the World War II concrete slab is part of the history of this site and so it will be left in place to tell its own story. As for the Bronze Age burial mound – now that the modern cairn has gone, it is much easier to see the shape of the mound and the standing stone set within it as another visible part of the heritage of the North York Moors landscape and its much earlier past.

Copyright Solstice Heritage

Above: Monument after removal of the modern cairn – the standing stone with the concrete block in front of it is at the far side of the mound in the centre of the picture and some of the kerb stones can be seen in the foreground

We will be keeping an eye on the monument over the coming months to see whether the vegetation is regenerating on the bare ground left by the removal of the modern cairn, and if necessary we will return later in the year to give it a helping hand. We will also watch out for the re-appearance of new cairns, but expect that this will be less likely to happen now that there are no loose stones on the surface  –  we would hope that visitors will respect both the prehistoric burial mound and the relic of our more recent past by not building any new cairns on the monument.

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Above: The stoical team after a day’s work in the March wind

YACking

We now have a Young Archaeologists’ Club for the North York Moors and wider area – the Moors and Valleys YAC.

YAC logo

This is a great new opportunity for this area and the local archaeology scene. The aim is to engage young people with the historic environment all around them and inspire the next generation of budding archaeologists. The club is for young people aged 8 and 16 years of age, and it will host a series of events and sessions across North Yorkshire, Teesside and Cleveland; exploring everything from skeletons and pottery, to stratigraphy and henges.

It kicked off on the first Saturday in February with some rummaging through ‘rubbish’ and some fabulous finds drawing. 

Have a look at our blog post on the Young Archaeologists’s Club website to find out more about what happened (involving expensive jewellery and hamster treats) and what’s going to be happening next. Or if you think you might want to get involved…