Historical woodlands

Around the North York Moors there are mediaeval place names that indicate the presence of managed woodland in the past, and in some cases the woodlands and the names are still present today. Where a woodland has existed for at least 400 years it is classed an ‘ancient’.

Hagg or Hag, Spring and Fall in a name suggest growing/managed/enclosed woodland. Hagg/Hag and Spring are both common in the North York Moors, Fall less so. There are numerous unimaginative but practical occurrences of ‘Hagg Wood’ and ‘Spring Wood’, as well as Hagg End, Hagg House, Hagg Common, Spring House, Hagg Hall and Spring Farm. There are also both ‘Ash Hagg’ and ‘Birch Hagg’; these two tree species respond well to coppicing.

Brockill Hagg, Skiplam - the multi stemmed tree in the forefront at the right is a lime, lime is one of the indicator species of ancient woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Ancient woods are as near to natural as woodland can be in this country, however they are unlikely to be entirely natural. Most woodlands has been managed in some way in the past. In the mediaeval period timber, coppiced wood, pollarded wood and the underwood itself were valuable for fuel and materials. Woodlands were managed, just as fields were cultivated, to produce a valued crop. A managed wood could be sustained over time to regenerate with new wood growth and made to be valuable to its owner and others with rights to its commodities. Planting new woodlands (i.e. plantations) and waiting for years for the trees to grow required the luxury of long term thinking beyond normal life spans.

Greencliff Hagg Wood. Copyright NYMNPA.

The two main types of mediaeval woodland management – as recorded in the Domesday Book – were coppicing (silva minuta – small wood) and wood pasture (silva pastilis).

Coppicing is where the trunks of trees are cut leaving the stump to regrow, many native broadleaves respond well to coppicing and produce new wood. Areas of coppiced wood would need to be enclosed to prevent stock chewing on the new growth hence the use of the word hagg meaning fenced enclosure. By careful rotation over the years a coppiced woodland could be maintained to produce all sorts of different size and types of wood product. One particularly important product was charcoal or white coal (dried wood – not carbonised like charcoal), usually manufactured on site and used as fuel for nearby industrial enterprises such as iron production. The big medieval monastic organisations e.g. Rievaulx Abbey, were early industrial pioneers. Close to the Rievaulx site are Lambert Hag Wood, Greencliffe Hag Wood, Abbot Hagg Wood and Hags Wood.

Brockill Hagg, Skiplam - you can see how conifers have been planted onto this ancient woodland site. Copyright NYMNPA.

Wood pasture was usually common land where commoners could graze stock and collect firewood and occasionally timber. The presence of stock would keep the number of trees down as they nibble at new growth. Without continued grazing, sites of previous wood pasture may now have become denser woodland. One element that might indicate a wood pasture origin is the presence of pollarded trees – lower branches were removed to encourage growth higher up in the trees to produce new wood out of the reach of the stock. The shapes of the oldest trees may still indicate this past practice.

Mitchell Hagg Wood, Fadmoor. Copyright NYMNPA.

About half of Britain’s ancient woods are still made up of native trees and so are known as ‘ancient semi-natural woodlands’; others have been planted with newer non-native species. Ancient semi-natural woodlands have usually regenerated through coppicing or by the natural regeneration of native trees on the site. Only 1.2% of Britain is ancient semi natural woodland.

Ancient woods provide a link between man and his environment over time and so are of cultural and archaeological as well as landscape importance. An ancient wood also provides a specific biodiverse habitat – soils which have only been minimally disturbed and contain remnant ground flora and fungi, as well as native tree stocks that have regenerated in that place, over the centuries. The habitat still requires management to replicate the past and retain the open woodland species which developed. Once any of these elements are lost, they cannot be replaced and the ancient woodland becomes a fragmented echo of itself.

Mitchell Hagg Wood, Fadmoor - the remnants of broadleaved woodland are surrounded by conifers making this a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS). Copyright NYMNPA.

Thanks to Historical Atlas of North Yorkshire, edited by Robin A Butlin.

Fostering hedgerow trees

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Mature trees within a hedgerow network are an important feature in the countryside. This is where land managers across generations have allowed single hedgerow plants to grow to their potential, alongside hedgerow plants that are coppiced, laid, and managed to create a boundary. Hedgerow trees have no particular value in terms of land management, but have huge value for wildlife and for the landscape.

Re-laying a hedge - copyright NYMNPA.

Traditionally Elm, Ash and Oak trees were the dominant hedgerow tree species reaching heights of up to and over 30 metres tall, towering above the hedgerow corridors. Saplings that are allowed to grow higher than the surrounding hedge do not need to compete for light and therefore grow and spread their canopy high and wide up into the air. This provides a wonderful habitat kingdom for many species of wildlife, free from the clutch of ground based predators. Such trees act as key wildlife ‘stepping stones’ between woodland habitats and across a mixed landscape.

Large hedgerow tree near Low Askew - copyright NYMNPA.

The intensification of agriculture in the latter half of the 20th century including increasing field sizes resulted in the loss of thousands of miles of hedgerows along with their hedgerow trees. The outbreak of Dutch elm disease from the late 1960s onwards removed some 20 million elms from our countryside, mostly from hedgerows. It is therefore quite rare now to find a mature Elm tree within a hedgerow. Similarly Ash trees are now threatened by Chalara dieback.

In 1998 there were an estimated 1.8 million hedgerow trees in Britain (CPRE survey). Many of our over mature hedgerow trees today are beginning to die and slowly retrench. There is an adage that an Oak tree takes over 200 years to grow and then 200 years to die.

Planting hedgerow gaps between old hedgerow trees - copyright NYMNPA.

To check the loss of hedgerow trees we need to be planting new ones to replace the ones that are dying back. The 1998 survey revealed that only 1% of hedgerow trees were in the youngest age class (1-4 years old). Without successional planning there is a danger that these key features will be lost for good from the landscape and the disconnection between farmed land and semi natural woodland will become more marked than ever. It takes a leap of imagination but by planting now land managers will be leaving their mark on the landscape for their children.

Trees take time to grow. Native wildlife species use hedgerow trees but birds, bats and butterflies in particular favour mature hedgerow trees.

Hedgerow trees in the landscape - copyright NYMNPA.Tawny Owls take advantage of mature trees both as nesting sites and day roosts usually hiding close up against trunk. From a tree perch owls can see the movement of their potential prey on the ground below them. Bullfinches clamber amongst the branches searching for seeds, buds and insects. Treecreepers and Nuthatches use their Hedgerow trees in the landscape - copyright NYMNPA.acrobatic skills to forage for insects, nuts and berries and Woodpeckers drill away into the deadwood high in the canopy to make a home and feast on any tiny invertebrates in the wood. Butterflies such as Hairstreaks forage for honeydew from aphids and lay their eggs high up in the Oaks and Elms. Rich lichen communities also grow on the branches of old hedgerow trees.

In some of the older trees, holes and crevices provide ideal habitats for a variety of bat species. Around three quarters of British bat species are known to roost in trees. Bats use different parts of the tree for different reasons, depending on the time of year and temperature. In the summer bats use the higher canopy sites to have their young in warmer temperatures. In winter, they move deeper and lower into the tree to hibernate. Trees such as Oak, Beech and Ash are particularly suitable for bats, but any hedgerow tree has potential for a bat roost – especially if it has cavities in the trunk or branches, woodpecker holes, loose bark, cracks, splits and thick ivy. In Britain, all bat species and their roosts are legally protected by law.

Single hedgerow tree alongside an arable field - potential 'stepping stone' - copyright NYMNPA.

We’re working on enhancing wildlife corridors and connections through our habitat connectivity initiative, and as part of this we’re actively encouraging the planting of hedgerow trees where appropriate. With the loss of Elm and the threat to Ash, Oak is now the main species being planted in the North York Moors to become the hedgerow trees of the future. With good care and maintenance the trees should grow into vigorous specimens.

Mature hedgerow trees as a feature in the landscape - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA.

To foster hedgerow trees:

  • Select suitable saplings from within an existing hedgerow and add a tree tag to the top of it. This shows/reminds the person who cuts the hedge to leave this strong sapling to grow into a mature tree.
  • Alternatively, plant a hedgerow tree adjacent to an existing hedge to add variety and height. This has the added advantage of widening the hedgerow and enables useful wildlife buffer strips to develop along the hedge bottom. If there is an existing gap within a hedgerow that is wide enough to accommodate a hedgerow tree then plant a new tree there.
  • Try to avoid uniform planting and instead plant the new trees at irregular intervals along the hedge line. Planting two or three together may also be suitable for instance if a site is next to a field corner.
  • Plant trees with local provenance that will be used to the local conditions and be more likely to flourish.
  • It is best practice to add a tree guard or tube attached to a stake to protect a tree in its early years from stock, rabbits or deer. A mulch mat around the base of the tree helps to keep the weeds down. This will give the tree every chance to grow strong and straight.

Practical help and advice can be provided by the National Park Authority. Contact us.

The aesthetics of trees

Gallery

This gallery contains 41 photos.

Throughout the seasons, trees are like works of art in the landscape. Reason enough to value trees, not to mention they provide wood; clean and stabilise soil; produce oxygen and hold carbon dioxide; slow the flow of water; give shade and act … Continue reading

Herbivory in West Arnecliff Wood

Sam Witham – Conservation Research Student

During my placement year with the National Park I’m required to complete a research project.

It was important to me to ensure the research will be useful for the National Park. So I am looking at the effects of deer herbivory* on the regeneration of broadleaf woodland on areas of selectively-felled conifers.

* Herbivory is the eating/grazing/browsing carried out by herbivore species e.g. animals that have a diet composed entirely of plants.

I am conducting research at West Arnecliff Wood near Glaisdale. The woodland is designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and as a SAC (Special Area of Conservation). It is also classed as ancient woodland i.e. woodland has been present since at least 1600.

Inside West Arnecliff Wood in 2010 - copyright NYMNPA.

Six former conifer areas within the wood were chosen for the study – where conifers had been planted under established native broadleaf trees. The conifers had been felled in 2011 to help restore semi-natural woodland conditions. The felled conifers were all c. 40 years old and were mainly Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), but also included Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Grand fir (Abies grandis), Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and various Larch species (Larix sp.). The removal of the conifers was part of the North York Moors National Park Authority’s long term efforts to encourage and support PAWS (plantations on ancient woodland sites) restoration.

In the six former conifer areas in West Arnecliff Wood, twelve fenced areas have been erected to exclude deer. The number of deer exclosures erected in a selectively felled area was proportional to the size of that area, although this was not always possible exactly due to extensive brash cover. The deer exclosures needed to be erected on areas as free of brash as possible. Six of the fenced areas include rabbit wire to exclude rabbits, while the other six allow rabbits to enter. As much as possible the fenced areas were kept to 6 x 6 metres, although the size and shape do vary because of obstacles on the ground.

A 4 x 4 metre quadrat has been created inside each fenced area to standardise the survey area. A 4 x 4 metre unfenced quadrat has been created next to each deer exclosure on similar vegetation to act as a control.

One of my exclosures at West Arnecliff Wood - copyright Sam Witham, NYMNPA.

I completed the first vegetation surveys in March, and I will be carry out another series of surveys in the summer to compare plant growth within the fenced areas and without, in the unfenced areas next to them. I recorded lots of data during my surveys this spring, including the percentage cover and mean height of each species of plant in the quadrats, and the number of deer bites per species. I also recorded background data such as the number and species of mature trees within 20 metres of the quadrats so that the surrounding tree seed source is known. Geological data such as soil depth and the percentage cover of rocks/brash was also recorded.

The results of my research will inform the National Park Authority’s methods of PAWS restoration so as to ensure that once conifers are removed the long term regeneration of broadleaved ancient woodland species is given the best chance of success.

A to Z – a flock of Fs

F

FARMERS

David Winship, farmer in Bilsdale - by kind permission of Mr Whinship - copyright NYMNPA.We talk on our Blog about the important species that make the North York Moors their home – wading birds, rare arable flowers, water voles etc. however Ami our Lead Senior Land Management Adviser would argue that the most important species whose home is the North York Moors, are the Farmers!

The North York Moors may look wild and full of natural beauty but it is a largely managed landscape and it is the farmers that undertake the majority of that management which makes the area what it is. The National Park depends on its farmers.

A few of their number have migrated here from other populations however the majority are born and brought up here and will spend all their working lives in the North York Moors. Their children often work on the farm but may also have to find work elsewhere to sustain the general population. This population is contracting with a decline in the number of farmed holdings in the National Park, from 1608 in 2007 to 978 in 2013 (Defra Farming Statistics).

Keith Prudom, farmer from Mickleby, by kind permission of Mr Prudom - copyright NYMNPA.

“No matter what their origins, all the farmers I meet have a great sense of pride in what they do and where they live – farming and the North York Moors is in their blood”.

FARNDALE

Farndale is probably the most famous dale in the North York Moors, mainly due to its population of wild daffodils which bring the visitors in spring to admire the golden views.

Farndale Daffodil walk - copyright Mike Nicholas for NYMNPA.Looking north up Farndale - copyright NYMNPAHere are five facts about Farndale.

  • In 1955 (just three years after the North York Moors National Park was created) Farndale was designated a Local Nature Reserve to help protect the wild daffodils growing there. The designation meant specific local byelaws could be brought in urgently to prohibit the digging up and removing of bulbs which was considered a major threat at the time. Wild daffodils are also known as the Lent Lily, as they often bloom and die away between Ash Wednesday and Easter. But not always, and it’s worth keeping an eye on the National Park’s website to see when the flowers are blooming each year.
  • In Wordsworth’s elegiac poem of 1798-99, ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’, the solitary and idealised Lucy lives and dies close to the ‘springs of Dove’. It has been suggested that this is a reference to the source of the River Dove which snakes its way down through Farndale and joins the River Rye. But there are also River Doves in Westmorland and Derbyshire, so a real river cannot be identified and the ‘Dove’ remains a poetical expression. It’s not yet been suggested, or maybe it has, that Wordsworth’s ‘host of golden daffodils’ in the poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ were the wild daffodils of Farndale.
  • In the late 1960s Farndale was almost drowned through a plan to dam and flood the steep sided dale in order to create a source of drinking water for cities to the south such as Hull. The 1960s saw a rush of reservoir building aimed at securing water supplies. The proposed Farndale Reservoir would have covered 400 acres, submerged 20 farm-holdings and held 8 million gallons of water. But the plan was abandoned.
  • In 1990 (a year before the original national Countryside Stewardship Scheme was piloted) the National Park officially launched its own Farm Scheme (1990 – 2014), a local agri-environment scheme which provided grant aid for capital works and annual payments for environmental land management. The local scheme came about because unlike most of the other upland National Parks at the time, the North York Moors was never designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) for its landscape, wildlife and/or historical value, and therefore land managers here were missing out on ESA grants. Nine farms in Upper Farndale were the first to join the North York Moors Farm Scheme, and all nine later secured national Higher Level Stewardship agreements because of their conservation value.The original Farndale Farm Scheme Farmers - an evocative press photograph from 1990
  • There are many examples of early field systems at the top end of Farndale. These most likely date from early medieval times (and some could potentially even be prehistoric), providing a visible example of how man has worked and managed the landscape for centuries. The field systems are still visible at the dale head because the conditions are difficult and so the farming remains extensive.

FENESTRATION

The word Fenestration is an architectural term used to describe the arrangement of windows in a building and derives from the French word ‘fenestre’ meaning window.

The vernacular fenestration in and around the North York Moors comes in many different forms from the more common styles of the Yorkshire sliding sash (below top) and vertical sliding sash (below middle) to the more unusual ‘Whitby composite’ (below bottom) which is a window style generally only found in the coastal area of the North York Moors.
Yorkshire sliding sash window - copyright NYMNPAVeritcal sliding sash windows - copyright NYMNPA'Whitby composite' windows - copyright NYMNPA

Windows are the ‘eyes’ of a building and their size, location and style play a key role in defining the character of a building. The choices made in relation to window replacements and their alteration may affect the character, appearance and ultimately the value of a property.

Traditional, vernacular cottages have small, simple and functional fenestration. This is generally concentrated on the principle elevation with fewer openings to the rear elevation which was a deliberate effort to minimise heat loss in cold winters.

Traditional vernacular cottage - copyright NYMNPA.

In contrast elegant and classical Georgian houses have symmetrically arranged, multi-pane windows without ‘horns’ – projecting pieces of timber at the base of the top sash – and are an intrinsic detail of this architectural period. Note how the windows become smaller towards the top of the house. This reflects the status and business of each floor and, in design terms, prevents the building looking ‘top heavy’.

Classical Georgian House - copyright NYMNPA.

During the Victorian period glass making techniques developed and larger panes of glazing became more fashionable and affordable. ‘Horns’ were added to the top sash to add rigidity to windows which contained fewer glazing bars.

Victorian period house - copyright NYMNPA.

Crown glass in situ - copyright NYMNPA.Glazing is an important element in any window. Crown glass is one of the oldest forms of glass and is now very rare. Its main characteristic is its “wavy” or “rippled” appearance which really adds to the character of a property. It scintillates when you walk past and creates a beautiful quality of light internally. Crown glass was widely used until the mid-19th century but ceased being manufactured in the early 20th century. Therefore where old or historic glass remains it is very important it is not replaced.

Float glass is the modern form of glazing invented in the late 1950s and involves flowing the molten material over a bath of molten tin. It is completely flat and therefore lacks much of the interest of earlier glass. Treatments added to float glass to increase its thermal performance can also make glass look like Perspex and so from a Building Conservation perspective this should be avoided if possible and alternative means of minimising heat loss should be considered.

The timber lintel (i.e. cheaper than stone) is a feature of vernacular buildings which is often seen on simple cottages and farm buildings due to their comparative lower status. They can also be found on the rear elevations of higher status properties i.e. out of sight, and are an important insight into the hierarchical status of different elevations and buildings. Often people rush to replace timber lintels with stone but by maintaining timber lintels in situ or installing them appropriately in new buildings people can help conserve this important feature variation.

Where traditional fenestration has been lost through the introduction of poor quality or modern styles, the Building Conservation team are always keen to see the
reinstatement of the original style of window. However it is common for a property to Part stone mullioned window - copyright NYMNPA.display several different historic styles as owners were influenced by different architectural periods over the long life time of the building. Where this happens, it’s always important to try to keep the clues that tell the story of the past. This stone-mullioned window (right) could easily be reconstructed, but the later nineteenth-century casement window is vital evidence of the building’s evolution over time.

This cottage in Appleton le Moors (below) was formerly a farmhouse before becoming the village shop in the 20th century until it closed c.1980. Likely to have originally contained Yorkshire sliding sashes, this 19th century ‘Arts and Crafts’ revamp is a high quality addition that adds to the building’s architectural and historic character and contributes to the area’s local distinctiveness – its quirky and characterful.

Cottage in Appleton le Moors - copyright NYMNPA.

There are always windows which don’t seem to fit into any style and go against all the normal design principles. This house in Thornton le Dale (below) with four pane sashes at first floor provides a horizontal arrangement which goes against design principles, yet it is uniquely charming, adding character and interest to this Georgian property.

House in Thornton le Dale - copyright NYMNPA.

Historic England have useful guidance on the care, repair and upgrading of traditional windows. For the different stages of window repair see our previous blog post.

FOORD’S WATER RACES

During the 18th century, Joseph Foord, a self-taught engineer and surveyor, worked out that it was possible to bring the copious amounts of water available from the springs and becks of the high moors down to the drier limestone pastures of the Tabular Hills plateau in the south of the North York Moors, by means of gravity alone.

The farms and settlements of the Tabular Hills were recorded as suffering summer droughts in the mid-18th century, which caused high stock losses and considerable distress to the local populations. By bringing a dependable water supply to these areas, agricultural productivity could be increased and the conditions for the villagers improved, and therefore once their worth was clear the local landowners were prepared to commission Foord’s practical solution.

Foord (1714-1788) was a yeoman farmer with an interest in a colliery near his home in Fadmoor, and who also specialised in water mills. Familiar with water leats and their management, the first commissions ran across Duncombe Park Estate land where Foord and his father before him worked as land agents.

His water races (or channels) were a work of remarkable surveying skill and hydrological engineering which enabled the transfer of water using only gravity and created at a time when detailed maps and contours were unknown, Foord stands out as a true visionary and a man of exceptional capabilities.

Rievaulx water race - you can see the channel route coming down across the moorland - copyright NYMNPAOver 75 miles of created water races are known in total and these can still be traced across the landscape over large distances. They survive largely as shallow ditches with low embankments, particularly on the downhill side, which closely follow the contours, and in many places they have structures associated with them, such as stone culverts known as ‘smoots’ where they pass beneath field walls, and ‘brigsons’ where stone slabs are laid across the channels to carry paths and tracks. Some also have small scale aqueducts and tunnels. The longest race – Rievaulx – is 12.7 miles and illustrates Foord’s considerable skills, working with gradients as fine as 1 in 430.

The water races are an important historical and cultural feature of the North York Moors. At present the water races have no statutory designation, but as a group they have been assessed by Historic England as being of exceptional national importance.

Water Race - Bonfield Gill Aqueduct October 2005 after flood damage - copyright NYMNPA

Research into the network of Foord water races was undertaken by Dr Isabel McLean and published by the North York Moors National Park Authority in 2005 as Water from the Moors. The Life and Works of Joseph Foord. Since then, the Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society, with the assistance of the National Park, have been surveying the Foord water races with the aims of locating the individual features identified in Water from the Moors, recording the condition of all known sections of water race and highlighting areas where there may be opportunities for improved management or restoration. This work has been continued in recent years by Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.

FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR (Common or European Ash)

Upland mixed ashwoods (a national Priority Habitat) are an important habitat and landscape element of the North York Moors. Ash is usually the major component of this woodland type, but oak, birch, elm and small-leaved lime may also be present. Typically ash and downy birch are the dominant canopy trees with hazel dominating the understorey. Mixed ashwoods are amongst the richest habitats for wildlife in the uplands. They support a rich ground flora often dominated by dog’s mercury, with common dog violet, early purple orchid, and primrose. Ashwoods can be but may not necessarily be ancient, as ash is able to colonise open ground relatively easily. These mixed ashwoods are usually found on free-draining, base-rich limestone soil, but in the North York Moors ashwoods are also found on slightly acid soils where there is a flushing of nutrients along riverside strips or on flushes and outcrops.

Upland Mixed Ashwoods - copyright Mark Antcliff, NYMNPA

Ash trees are often found in fields and hedgerows too; they are a common farmland tree.

Chalara fraxinea is a tree disease – also known as Ash Dieback – caused by a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), which has been recorded in the UK since 2012. The disease particularly effects Common Ash and usually kills the tree either directly or indirectly (the tree is fatally weakened) – young trees die more quickly than older trees so older woodlands tend to deteriorate slowly over time. The fungus can be spread by the wind, so unsurprisingly and probably inevitably it’s reached the North York Moors.

Not removing ash trees and woodland arbitrarily is important to potentially help identify tolerance. The best hope of a long-term future for ash trees and woods is by identifying the genetics that mean some ash trees tolerate the infection, and then breeding new generations of tolerant ash trees for the future. There has recently been encouraging progress made by the University of York/John Innes Centre. It’s definitely not hopeless – and maybe if you’re reading this Blog in 20 years’ time Chalara will have been made ineffectual.

For now it’s important to report sightings of Chalara because it’s a notifiable disease – Tree Alert.

FYLINGTHORPE SLUG

Fylingthorpe Slug - from Whitby Gazette 3 October 2014

The only known UK location for this beautiful rather large slug is in the grounds of Fyling Hall School in Fylingthorpe. Its closest relative is from the Appennine Mountains in Tuscany.

As to how the species got to Fylingthorpe on the rugged North Yorkshire coast – it is suggested that eggs could have arrived with an Italian marble fireplace imported for Fyling Hall (now the School) back in the 19th century.

This Fylingthorpe subspecies has not yet been given a scientific name.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E

PAWS

Mark Antcliff – Woodland Officer

What are PAWS?

If you are involved in forestry and woodland management you will probably be familiar with this slightly more memorable than average acronym. It has been used for a while now and so likely to stay in use. If you’re not involved in forestry and woodland management – it stands for Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site.

Ancient Woodland Sites are areas of woodland that have had a cover of trees for at least 400 years. Many of these have been converted to forestry plantations and are hence called Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites or PAWS for short.

PAWS Restoration

Ancient Woodlands are our richest wildlife habitats and they also frequently contain a wealth of historical and cultural features. When these woods were converted into plantations of often single age and single species trees a great deal of this interest was lost. Most PAWS contain non-native conifers.

The restoration of these plantations involves protecting any remaining features of interest in the woodland and replacing the trees with native broadleaved species that are better suited to maintaining the special qualities of these woods.

PAWS in the North York Moors

The North York Moors was almost entirely covered in woodland before man started clearing them. Now only 4% of the area is woodland of ancient origin. Over half of this has been converted to plantation forestry giving the National Park in the order of 3,700 hectares of PAWS.

British Ecological Society Forest Ecology Group Meeting

In October this year Ecologists and Foresters with an interest in PAWS met at the National Park Offices in Helmsley to discuss how PAWS and other plantations can be best managed. A range of talks from practitioners and researchers was followed by site visits to Duncombe Park, Robson’s Spring and Wykeham Forest.

There was much lively debate about how to encourage and achieve restoration of PAWS. Woodlands are complicated and highly varied ecosystems and so each site needs to be looked at on its own merits. Even within the National Park a wide range of approaches to PAWS restoration have been undertaken ranging from large scale instant removal of the canopy trees through to very gradual thinning over a long period of time.

The National Park Authority has a grant scheme to help land managers in the North York Moors look after their Ancient Woodlands – just ask.