This gallery contains 40 photos.
Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. Henry James
This gallery contains 40 photos.
Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. Henry James
When the funding behind projects comes to an end sometimes the drive and actions generated can inadvertently fizzle out too. The hardest thing to achieve is making the drive and actions self-sustaining so that without the initial funding and without particular individuals those things become habitual, more likely to continue and grow than not.
One such initiative hoping to achieve sustainability is Signature Seafood Yorkshire with its emphasis on locally sourced, seasonally available fish. Not only does this initiative support sustainable fishing* it also aims to be a self-sustaining concept built out of encouraging culinary knowledge, and creating and maintaining local demand in the longer term. Like other successful concepts it includes aspects of the past e.g. the continuing traditions of fishing, and varieties like Whiting and Mackerel, with a modern twist e.g. à la mode recipes, outlets on social media.
Have a look here to find out more – like where to get your Yorkshire seafood and also to access a collection of recipes using seafood sustainably caught off the Yorkshire Coast.
*Sustainable fishing isn’t difficult to imagine, it’s where the amount of fish caught leaves a viable population and where the fishing methods used don’t irreversibly damage the biodiversity and habitats that support the fish population. There are a number of conservation designations – Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation, Site of Special Scientific Interest, Marine Protection Area, Marine Conservation Zone – along the north and east Yorkshire coast because of the importance of the habitats here.
At the very end of the 19th century a number of gentlemen including MPs and a Fellow of the Royal Society formed a company (Ravenscar Estate Limited sometimes called Peak Estate Limited) which purchased the 800 acre Raven Hill Estate on the North Yorkshire coast between Whitby and Scarborough. Their purpose was to transform their renamed property, Ravenscar, into a first class seaside watering place.
The location had a number of attractions – ‘between sea and moor’, ‘romantic situation’, ‘bracing air’, ‘elevated position’, ‘magnificent sea views’, ‘splendid cliffs’; all of which Ravenscar Estate Limited were keen to promote. The site had an existing railway station to bring people in, and also included the old Hall which was soon sold off and turned into a Hotel. The plan was to develop the resort at the same time as selling plots and parcels of plots to other gentlemen to invest in. The plots would be built on adding up to shops, marine villas and lodging houses ‘for which there is a great demand on this favourite and fashionable coast’. Over the next few years these plots were sold on gradually through auctions (often with a free luncheon and sometimes even with a special train laid on) so as not to deflate the price by offering too many at one time. By showing that other gentlemen had confidence in the scheme, the intention was to entice others to get involved too and make sure they didn’t miss out.
‘A NEW WATERING-PLACE FOR YORKSHIRE. Important Property Sale. (BY OUR OWN REPORTER)
The first practical steps towards the creation of a -new watering-place on the Yorkshire coast, near Robin Hood’s Bay, were taken yesterday, when an estate known as Ravenscar was offered for sale in building lots, at the Raven Hill Hotel about half a mile from Peak Station. The site is a picturesque one, and access to it is obtained by the Scarborough and Whitby Railway, which brings the visitor to within a couple of hundred yards from the summit of the cliffs. Standing on the pretty castellated garden terraces in front of Raven Hall, one obtains a charming view. .. Immediately beneath the terraces at Ravenscar, and extending away south as far as Hayburn Wyke, are gigantic cliffs, the highest, with one exception, on the Yorkshire coast. To the geologist many an interesting problem is presented by the dislocation, of the strata, especially on the line of the great fault, where there is a three of fully four hundred feet. The undercliff extends for several miles along the coast, and gives to it an unusual appearance of rugged grandeur. About these cliffs hundreds of sea-gulls have their homes, and foxes and rabbits by scores have also chosen to make their burrows here. Ravenscar, which now consists of little save pastoral land, has a history of its own. The commanding situation of the Peak Hill was seized upon by the Romans for a military outlook camp in the days of Constantine, and later it was occupied by the Danes. Indeed, the names Raven Hall and Ravenscar have been chosen from the fact that the Danes here set up their standard, the national emblem of the Danes being a raven. It was a happy conception that led a number of public-spirited and enterprising gentlemen to form a company for the purpose of conversing this charming spot into a watering-place, and, judging from the keen competition there was amongst the bidders yesterday, their opinion that the place was capable of development was evidently shared by others. A visage standing high up on the cliffs, with the sea on the one side and hemmed in on the other by an extensive tract of moor- land, ought to be a healthy spot. Indeed, few places can boast the combined luxury of refreshing winds from the sea and exhilarating breezes scented from the moors…When their scheme is completed, there will be an esplanade running along the summit of the cliffs, and abutting upon this will be thirty or forty villas. Other houses will also be erected upon roads to be constructed in the proposed village. At present a few long piles of sods, which have been cut out to mark the roads, and a number of staked-out lots for building sites, are the only visible signs of the great transformation about to take place…’
Leeds Mercury, 8 July 1896
There is a lot of mention of Scarborough and the idea of creating a rival or complimentary resort nearby, and also how resorts have been created successfully on the south coast of England. There is much talk of ‘inland’ residents especially in growing towns wanting to access the coast and its special qualities, and an expectations that this demand will grow.
It’s clear from the regional newspapers of the time that gentlemen with money to invest from industrious West Yorkshire were one of the a target audiences for the company. By 1899 the roads were laid out, reservoirs were built to provide a water supply from moorland springs, a drainage scheme was drawn up, and exclusive on site brick making rights had been sold to Whitaker Bros from Leeds. There was hope in the development, so much so that a Curate was appointed to the existing isolated Church with the expectation of growing congregations. However early on the company had to lower expectations of a quick investment win.
‘A good start is sadly needed. It is exactly three years ago this week since the first sale at Ravenscar took place. The estate during that time has been well laid out in streets, and paths have been made. A few houses have been built, but still things have hung fire. Speaking on Friday the estate auctioneer, Mr Stansfield, of Bradford, said he had seen it stated in some quarters that the sales had been bogus, but he assured the company present on his professional honour that such was not the case, and that he had personally sold upwards of £10,000 worth of land since he had been appointed auctioneer. At the commencement of anything progress and development was necessarily slow, but in the future of the estate the company have the firmest confidence, and they were determined to do all in their power to open up its resources and give to Yorkshire another watering-place which in its health-giving qualities, its picturesqueness, and its popularity, would view with the best of those the county already possessed.’
York Herald 11 July 1899
‘LAND SALE. Messrs W G. Stansfield & Co., auctioneers, Bradford, held a sale yesterday at Ravenscar, the new watering place in the process of making on the cliffs between Scarborough and Whitby. This was the first sale of the season, and there was large attendance of bidders from Bradford, Leeds and other places. Ideal weather prevailed, and the visitors were privileged to see the place in its most charming aspect. The hot sunshine was tempered by a cooling breeze, and there was scarcely more than on the broad expanse the North Sea. Mr W Stansfield, after luncheon proposed the health of the King, and the sale then commenced. Mr Stansfield, in his prefatory remarks, pointed out that already £49,000 worth of land on the estate had been sold. The Ravenscar Estate Company had, he said, developed the undertaking wonderfully. Every element needed for success was to be found on the spot. Messrs. B Whitaker & Sons Limited, of Horsforth, had put down an expensive brick making plant, and would be able give a quotation for bricks in June; there was good sand and stone on the estate. There was also a good supply of pure water, the company having themselves provided two reservoirs; and there could be no difficulty with regard to sewage at Ravenscar, where they were close to the sea and 600 ft. above it. In short there was no reason why this should not be unique seaside place.’
Bradford Observer, 21 May 1901
As sales continued so did the optimism, despite the slow pace.
‘Ten years have passed since the auctioneer first flourished his hammer in the Assembly Rooms of the Ravenscar Estate, Limited. People came from all parts the country to buy “eligible building sites” and the transactions were so numerous that it was thought this City of the Peak, six hundred feet above beach, with magnificent outlook over sea and moor, was going to put Scarborough in the shade. Ravenscar, however, is still unspoilt. The old hall, whose carriage on the Roman Road, is flanked with pillars bearing effigies the Danish raven, or the Roman eagle, has been extended or converted into a modern hotel and year by year many holiday makers climb the hill enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the scene. It is an ideal spot for people who would escape from the distractions of the modern seaside town, and as well worth visiting at any time, if only for a peep at the terraces and gardens that have been formed and planted on the face of the precipitous cliffs. Within the last few years shelters have been erected here and there, fenced, of course, to keep the cattle off; and zig-zag paths have been made from the summit to the beach, making the journey much easier that it used to be for ladies and children…People familiar with this lovely district have a good deal of faith in its future. One gentlemen, who is able to speak with some authority, believes that the builder will be busy here within the next few years, for the demand for country and seaside residences in such situations is likely to increase among people of means who feel that they are crowded out of so-called popular resort.’
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 27 August 1907
Then in 1909 the short lived Ravenscar Estate Limited Company went into receivership, leaving Ravenscar behind.
‘Why not try Ravenscar? I remember when this of city of the Yorkshire “Peak” was planned and boomed as likely to jostle Scarborough out of favour as the Queen of the North. But the builders have not made much progress during the last ten years, and, as for the pegged out claims, it takes a mighty fine eye to spy out the pegs, while the claims are still undistinguished by boundary of hedge or wall…somewhere about 1897 the parcels of land were first offered for sale on easy terms. In the course of a couple of years about 700 building plots were knocked down at public auction, and by August 1899, no fewer than twenty one sales had been held on the estate, each sale being largely attended by people chiefly from London and the West Riding. Some plots in “choice positions” were sold in August, 1899, at the rate of £1,100 [approx. £140,000 today] per acre, the sale realising a total (as it appeared in the newspapers) of £2,252 10s, and it was then announced that £34,000 [approx. £4.3 million today] worth of building plots had been disposed of. But the tranquillity of the place is undisturbed. When I saw it a few days ago men were making hay on the building sites between the Crescent, the Esplanade and other roads and avenues, whose names are painted on little wooden posts…The wonder is that the spot was not covered with houses and hotels years ago…All the accommodation at present consists of one hotel, a boarding-house or two, and a few cottages scrambling on the hillsides.’
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 10 August 1909
A few years on and Ravenscar makes an impression, and at last gets compared with Scarborough although not in a good way.
‘The UNBUILT COAST TOWN OF RAVENSCAR – Roads that Wait for Houses. By a Peripatetic.
…”Yon road I enter upon and look around, I be-
lieve you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here”
Those lines of Walt. Whitman sprang to my lip as I walked along. Yes, there must more in this trim road than meets the eye. This road that leads – where? Other neatly-made roads branch off – roads which frankly admit that they lead to nowhere in particular. The place spreads out before one like a huge draught or chess board, but without the pieces. Here a town has been planned and left unbuilt. One could imagine that was intended to be sort of smug Suburbia-by-the-Sea…It was almost uncanny to stand there alone on the cliff and survey the land that waits for the town that yet to built.’
This article then turns to describing the limited amenities the anonymous writer found in 1913 Ravenscar including a lack of any available food, a savage sounding farm dog, an abandoned ship, a locked Bar, and a wild wet wind. The writer also suggests he met one of the owners of a plot, although this might be artistic license – ‘I helped to pay for this road. Why? Because I one lunched not wisely but too well. I saw visions of stately mansions standing there…Would you, he added wistfully, like to buy a bit of land? You can have it at your own price”.’ The somewhat louche writer concludes ‘I will not roam o’er Ravenscar again until they have erected winter gardens which extend a mile or so. Gardens where lamps ape the sun, and where the soft, sweet music of a string band soothes one, and where pretty girls sit alone in cosy corners playing “wallflowers”. Then, and only then, will I take a second glance at Ravenscar, the romantic’.
Yorkshire Evening Post, 14 August 1913
A week later there is a robust reply to the anonymous critic, exalting in the delights of Ravenscar and its environs.
‘THE UNBUILT TOWN OF RAVENSCAR.
Sir, l surprised at your correspondent’s account re Ravenscar. First of all, he arrived on a rainy day. Why did he not remain one night, and would have beheld the very next day glorious with sunshine, pure air, and a magnificent view, and, above all, unlike Scarborough, room to live. He complains that he could get nothing to eat. Why did he not come on to the hotel, where could have had an excellent dinner. He complains of the dullness of Ravenscar. No pretty girls! No string bands! says your blind correspondent. There are many pretty girls in the hotel, both from your home country and America, but even pretty girls like a rest and holiday from admiration and dress occasionally!. And we hope you will keep your string and brass bands to Scarborough, and leave in peace and solitude, from “that madding crowd,” to enjoy the magnificence of Ravenscar…But the less I say of Ravenscar the better, as I want to keep it as it is. We do not want your Scarborough crowds. It seems the only spot left on the East Coast free from commotion…by Ravenscar Visitor’
Yorkshire Evening Post, 18 August 1913. The Editor agreed diplomatically that the fashionable resort e.g. Scarborough and quiet Ravenscar each serves a purpose.
Indeed a glance over local papers around that time reveal that Ravenscar had all sorts of things going on: illustrated lantern slides, Yorkshire folk dancing, on-foot fox hunting foxes on the cliff sides, classes at the Vicarage, archaeological discoveries, recitations, shipwrecks, tennis, sailplane flying, sea water bathing, billiards, wild fires, whist drives, disappearances from the beach, house breaking, patriotic songs and comic duets, an air crash, bloodhound trials, golf, fan drills, snow storms, mines washing up on the beach, gliding, accident deaths by being run over by a train and being blown off the cliffs, egg production, a report of spies signalling out to sea in WW1, picnic parties, landslips, meetings of the Yorkshire Federation of the Junior Imperial and Constitutional League, the ‘Famous Terraces and Hanging Gardens’ (admission two pence), and a wager over whether someone could carry a 10 stone weight up the cliff (he could).
Ravenscar Estates Limited did feature in a number of legal cases in its early years – a failure to pay local rates and breaches of contract over the sewers development – but in the end the development just didn’t take off rather than it being the subject of fraud or conspiracy. One big problem that might have dampened enthusiasm was that the magnificent cliffs providing sea views were also a barrier to reaching the shore and the shore itself is particularly rocky – interesting and exciting to explore, but not like Scarborough. Around the time (as dissected in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer in August 1921) it was noted that by accepting payments by instalments a lot of plot purchases weren’t completed, leaving plots not built on. Another issue was the condition the plot holders could only build houses above a certain value e.g. marine villas, no doubt in order to maintain the ‘first class’ aspect and avoid the expanding working class holiday market, but for the small investors targeted this was a block to reaching development.
The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer in 20 August 1938 who had been so optimistic previously, now presents a different doom laden view worthy of the times.
‘The Phantom Resort. The lost town of Ravenspurn now lies beneath the waves off Flamborough Head. Something akin to it is the lost town of Ravenscar, further up the coast, which I visited this week. But Ravenscar is more of a phantom than Ravenspurn, its only existence was its own imagination. Under the grassland one can still trace macadamised roads, kerbstones, a sea front and , in fact, all the ground plan of the town, but that is all there ever has been of it. Ravenscar is the ruin of a town that never was. It is many years now since the abortive attempt to develop this breezy spot – a scheme which never got further than this making of roads and drainage. To walk there now is to feel the eerie sensation of being in a Wellsian world from “The Shape of Things to Come”. Ghosts of all the unbuilt Marine Terraces and sea views seem to hang in the air. It is a good place to brood for those extreme prophets of woe who like to think in another century or two all our towns will present the same sort of picture…’
Sources from The British Newspaper Archive
Ravenscar did not return to being Raven Hill. It is left with designed street plans you can still trace, the large Cliff House Bed and Breakfast, and the Ravenscar Hotel with its Italian terraced gardens. The village still has its many attractions which interested the developers so much over one hundred years ago.
The National Trust also have a Visitor Centre at Ravenscar. They have a leaflet for a fascinating 2 mile walk around Ravenscar: ‘the town that never was’, tracing what you can still make out of the planned resort and imagining what would have been.
Alison Goodwin, Moor to Sea Project* Officer
Most of us will have seen the shocking images from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 programme: oceans full of plastic and beaches filled with detritus. On our UK beaches, the Marine Conversation Society revealed in 2018 that just under 7 tonnes of litter was collected at a handful of beaches over a 3 year period.
Since then there’s been a grassroots-level movement emerge with people keen to do more. Whitby Beach Sweep is one such community organization. Running since February 2018 in association with Surfers against Sewage, they’ve been organising community litter picks along Whitby beaches. Eager to expand their focus to reach wider audiences, they’ve now linked up with the #2minutebeachclean board initiative. By promoting the scheme through social media, and by having a physical board sited on the beach, it’s hoped others will be encouraged to lend a hand.
These #2minutebeachclean boards are looked after by ‘guardians’ and provide volunteers with all the necessary equipment and instructions. This simple idea run by Beachclean.net has reduced beach litter by 61% in trials. With such good statistics, it’s clear to see why Whitby Beach Sweep thinks it’s a good investment. So we’ve helped support their vision by donating funds towards purchasing more boards.
Last week saw the unveiling of the Whitby board outside Whitby Surf School, who’ve kindly volunteered to look after it. In the next couple of weeks, boards at Staithes and Runswick Bay will also be in situ. Don’t forget to look out for them if you’re out and about – and feel free to share the love and have a go.
Laminaria is a genus of 31 species of brown algae commonly called Kelp. Some species are also referred to as Tangle. They are characterized by long, leathery laminae (leaf blades) and their relatively large size. There are two common Laminaria that grow along the North York Moors coast.
Laminaria digitata or Oarweed is commonly found along the local coastline and grows in the transition zone between the open sea and the deeper part of the rocky shore. The plant can grow up to three and a half metres long. The fronds of the plant are hand shaped with fingers hence its species name digitata. They are sometimes (but not always) found still attached to the stipe or stem secured by a ‘holdfast’ at the bottom of the stem to a rock or ledge. After heavy storms this Laminaria can often also be found washed up on beaches after being ripped up by the strong waves and currents.
Laminaria saccharina or Sugar Kelp is another common kelp from the same transitional zone on the foreshore. This single stemmed seaweed can grow up to four metres long. It has a long leathery blade – unbranched and without a midrib – about 15 centimetres wide. The blade is flat but wrinkly and with wavy margins. It is also known as Poor man’s weather glass as it was used to forecast the weather: if it dries up the weather will be fine; if it swells up and becomes damp, rain is on its way.
Laminaria is an economically important genus. In the 18th century seaweeds were burnt to extract potash (potassium) for use in the glass industry to make the glass stronger, and in the 19th century iodine was extracted for medical usage e.g. as a disinfectant. Seaweeds have long been used as an organic fertiliser and spread on the land, because of the minerals they contain. Seaweed is also now used for the extraction of alginic acid used in medicine; in the manufacture of toothpastes and cosmetics; and in the food industry for binding, thickening and moulding. Please not that like most plants, seaweeds can also have detrimental (poisonous) effects.
LASERS at LASTINGHAM
Lastingham Abbey was originally founded in the mid-7th century AD by St Cedd of Lindisfarne as a Christian monastery. St Bede described the site as ‘among some High and remote hills, which seemed more suitable for the dens of robbers and haunts of wild beasts than for human habitation’. For whatever reason (Vikings have been suggested) it subsequently fell into eventual ruin. Monks from Whitby then re-established a new monastic foundation in 1087 but again it was abandoned as the monks moved on, with the work left unfinished.
What is left on the site is St Mary’s Church, now the parish church of Lastingham. The building is mainly early Norman but with Victorian transverse arches and a vaulted roof added in 1879. The subterranean crypt beneath the church building – is particularly atmospheric. The dating of the crypt (e.g. whether it dates back to an original Anglo-Saxon building) and the usages of the crypt (e.g. whether St Cedd was reinterred there, making it a shrine) have long been debated.
Archaeological debates rely on evidence and data collection. In 2008 ‘early’ laser scanning of the crypt was undertaken by the University of Siena and the Landscape Research Centre. It was one of the coldest, dampest days imaginable on the Moors – so much so that the survey team (and the kit) needed to ‘defrost’ in the warmth of the nearby Blacksmith’s Arms pub afterwards. A short film clip – here – shows the scanning being carried out – it is clear that the technology has moved on a lot since. Back in 2008 the juxtaposition of the modern and ancient seems to add to the sense of eeriness.
“I take a simple view of life. It is keep your eyes open and get on with it”
Laurence Sterne was born in Ireland in 1713. He came to the village of Coxwold on the south west corner of the North York Moors to be the Anglican Rector in 1760. He had previously attempted to supplement his clerical income with farming for a while but then tried his hand at writing instead, publishing a number of sermons and a critical pamphlet which was promptly banned. His first and most successful novel was ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’. He had written the first two volumes as family members died around him and his family life collapsed. Fortunately on publication in 1759 which Sterne paid for himself, ‘Tristram Shandy’ was an immediate success.
‘Tristram Shandy’ leaves out the strictures of ordinary linear plotting, and has no great conclusion or moral – instead “it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retired thatched house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles, – but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life” (Sterne’s dedication of Tristram Shandy to the Right Honourable Mr Pitt).
Sterne took very well to being a celebrated author both in London and the Continent. At the same time his fame meant that in 1760 he was appointed to a good living at Coxwold for the rest of his life with the security that entailed, and he could leave most of his clerical duties to his Curates. He published nine volumes in all of ‘Tristram Shandy’, the last in 1767, as well as ‘A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy’ (a spin off). Laurence Sterne died in London in 1768. Keeping with the tragicomedy of his life and work Sterne was initially buried in London – he may then have been dug up by Resurrectionists before being partly? reburied – but a skull and femur presumed to belong to Sterne were later removed and interred in the Church at Coxwold, whether he liked it or not.
Along with the Rectorage at Coxwold came Shandy Hall. This is the house where Sterne lived and wrote, in between sojourns in London, France and Italy. It is now the home of the Laurence Sterne Trust and is open to the public during the summer.
Professor Sir John Lawton chaired a panel considering “Do England’s wildlife sites comprise a coherent and resilient ecological network? If not, what needs to be done?” The panel’s report – Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological networks – was published in 2010.
One of the starting points was that in many cases habitats for wildlife were usually small and fragmented, missing the coherent and resilient ecological habitat connections across the landscape that would enable wildlife to spread and to move in reaction to change.
The report set out three objectives:
“1. To restore species and habitats appropriate to England’s physical and geographical context to levels that are sustainable in a changing climate, and enhanced in comparison with those in 2000.
2. To restore and secure the long-term sustainability of the ecological and physical processes that underpin the way ecosystems work, thereby enhancing the capacity of our natural environment to provide ecosystem services such as clean water, climate regulation and crop pollination, as well as providing habitats for wildlife.
3. To provide accessible natural environments rich in wildlife for people to enjoy and experience.”
The answer proposed by the report were that “To make space for nature we need more, bigger, better and joined up sites to create a sustainable, resilient and more effective ecological network for England…we need to do more to:
i) Improve the quality of current sites by better habitat management.
ii) Increase the size of current wildlife sites.
iii) Enhance connections between, or join up, sites, either through physical corridors, or through ‘stepping stones’.
iv) Create new sites.
v) Reduce the pressures on wildlife by improving the wider environment, including through buffering wildlife sites.”
For the necessary management, restoration and creation of wildlife habitats the report suggested a number of approaches – including using levels of legal protection and designation, making the most of publically owned land, paying for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting, providing incentives through agri-environment schemes and the tax system.
The report offered a landscape vision of nature alongside people and it presented the encouraging idea that we can do things to make the situation better. It spelled out the interconnected benefits from, and the values of, the natural environment to wildlife and to people, including the possibilities of deriving multiple benefits from land-use so that everyone gains.
“It is a long-term vision, out to 2050, and defines a direction of travel, not an end-point. This vision will only be realised if, within the overall aims, we work at local scales, in partnership with local people, local authorities, the voluntary sector, farmers, other land-managers, statutory agencies, and other stakeholders. Private landowners, land managers and farmers have a crucial role to play in delivering a more coherent and resilient wildlife network.”
The Lawton Report was well received on publication. Many environmental organisations have set out their responses to the report since and are working in line with the principles set out within it. The North York Moors National Park Authority put the principles at the heart of our Management Plan in 2012 – our current habitat connectivity initiative is aimed at achieving long term effective wildlife connections along a number of strategic corridors.
LYKE WAKE WALK
The Lyke Wake Walk is a forty mile moorland crossing over the top of the North York Moors from Osmotherley on the western edge to Ravenscar on the coast in the east. The
idea came from a local man called Bill Cowley who issued an open challenge in The Dalesman in August 1955 to cross the moors on foot from west to east within 24 hours, and its continued as a standing challenge ever since. Everyone who completes the Walk within the 24 hours is entitled to become a member of the New Lyke Wake Club. Lately the Club has been working with National Park Authority Volunteers to ensure the classic route for the Walk remains accessible and erosion problems are tackled.
A ‘Lyke’ is a corpse, and a ‘Wake’ is the watch over a corpse before burial, so the Lyke Wake Walk should therefore be an historic route for carrying the local dead to their final resting place. Except that it actually isn’t. Instead it’s an evocative name given to a recent concept to bring people together to take up a challenge and to champion the North York Moors.
Ravens (Corvus corax) are a relatively common bird in some places. In the British Isles they currently breed mainly in the west and north. But they have been moving eastwards.
Single Ravens are now and again seen over the North York Moors. Excitingly, this summer saw the first breeding Ravens in the North York Moors for a long while, at least 50 years. Three chicks fledged.
The nest was near Ravenscar on the coast. Ravenscar and other places in the North York Moors such as Raven Hill, Raven Heath, Ravensthorpe, Raven Stones, Ravens Gill and Ravensgill Beck, usually share some kind of nearby cliff edge habitat (coastal or inland) where Ravens like to nest. The occurrence of these place names indicate that Ravens were more usual in the North York Moors in the past, so the fact that they have bred again in the North York Moors suggests a return and a boost to the natural heritage of the area.
These places were named so because of the presence of Ravens; Ravens have always been culturally significant. It’s not hard to see why. Their size, colour and sound is striking, but it is also their perceived cleverness, their carrion eating habits and their interaction with human society which gives them a special place in cultural history. Ravens have been loaded with superstitions and connotations. Wariness of the apparent watching and knowing nature of the bird causes unease. They are associated with premonitions of doom; seeing or hearing a Raven has been taken as a sign of imminent death. These dark associations continue, at least in part, today.
So in celebration of this age old cultural fear and to mark Halloween, here is an example of a local Raven tale. The lesson is – never look a Raven in the eye.
Some time ago a man was walking home over the moors.
It was already dusk but he didn’t mind because he didn’t have much further to go and he had made money that day.
He knew the way because he had walked it many times before. He counted the scarce land marks as he went till he knew there were only three more boundary stones to pass before the moors would give way to a gentler landscape and then it was only a few miles to his home.
As the gloom drew in he saw the first of the three boundary stones just ahead of him. A Raven was sitting on top of the stone. As the man went passed the bird didn’t fly away, instead it looked at him, cocked its head and called out in the silence
The man turned his head. The Raven still looked at him.
The man hurried on. He was starting to feel tired but he could see the glow of the lights of his village in the distance just over the horizon of the darkening moors. He thought about the warmth of his fire and the taste of his dinner.
It was getting colder and the greyness around him was turning to black. There were no stars in the sky, and he couldn’t see the moon. There were odd shapes on the moors, in the gloom – ancient silent burial mounds and twisted bitter rowan trees.
Just in front he saw the outline of the second boundary stone. There was a Raven sitting on top. The man didn’t look at it – he walked straight on, looking ahead. The Raven looked at him though.
The man pulled his coat around him. He didn’t know why he was mishearing the bird call. He tried to hum a tune, but he couldn’t think of one.
For a moment he thought about heading off the track to avoid the last boundary stone but he knew he couldn’t because then he would be lost. He thought about the people he’d heard of that had been lost on the moors and who had never got home.
He kept walking. He felt the damp blackness pressing about him. He couldn’t see the last boundary stone. He thought he should have seen it by now. The glow on the horizon didn’t seem any closer, in fact it looked to be receding as if it were being out blotted out by the dark.
He stumbled and nearly fell. There was the last boundary stone and there was a Raven.
The man stopped and looked at the Raven. The Raven looked back at him, eye to eye.
The man became aware of the dead around him and knew in fact he must be dead too. He could go on walking but would never get home. So instead he sat down next to the last boundary stone and waited.
The darkness gathered in.
Ravens make a lot of different noises (listen here) – and can even learn to mimic words.
For a Halloween Raven-themed treat – both ominous and ghastly – try here.
For Cold War intrigue at Hayburn Wyke – have a look at the new Cleveland Way post by Trail Reporter Dave Greenwood.
Gareth Dockerty – Sea Life, See Life Project Coordinator
We’re currently running the ‘Sea Life, See Life’ project, which is funded through the Coastal Communities Fund. Our project includes a number of heritage restoration and cultural enhancement schemes in the village of Robin Hood’s Bay, working with the local community and Parish Council.
We’ve replaced eight street lanterns around the village, removing modern urban plastic lights for ‘Victorian style’ lanterns with modern LED down lighting to limit light pollution. The lantern pattern is unique to the village and is modelled on the original Victorian lantern at the old railway station. Where possible the existing wall brackets or fittings have been restored.
Standpipes and water fountains
We’ve also commissioned the replacement and renovation of some of the village’s other local gems from standpipes to water fountains. Up until the start of the 20th century water was collected daily from standpipes and water fountains located around the village. The project has funded the re-installation of a Victorian water fountain in an original location along with the refurbishment of standpipes and has erected small metal plaques that let visitors know about the heritage significance of such features.
The original fountain as it once stood was removed decades ago. The fountain now installed is a genuine Victorian fountain similar to the original. Generously bought and renovated by a local resident it was installed in full working order by CCF funding and will be looked after by the Parish Council to ensure future generations get to admire it within the streetscape.
It is not the intention to preserve the village in the Victorian era; the style of the lanterns and the fountain and standpipes add to the visual character of the village which is valued by both locals and visitors.
RNLI donation fish
As previously reported on this Blog, Robin Hood’s Bay is the proud location of the oldest known RNLI donation box, in the form of an impressive cast iron cod fish. It has stood in the same place for over a century accepting donations, long after the lifeboat has gone. However, sea air and high tides mean it has needed maintenance a number of times over the past few decades. Our project has funded the complete restoration of the fish and associated plaques by a local business who specialise in oil rig and marine corrosion. The fish will once again stand as a testament to the bravery of the RNLI crews past and present, and to those in peril on the sea.
Bank Top car park
The project has continued with the piscine theme at Bank Top car park. Anyone who knows Robin Hood’s Bay will be aware that the village contains a long steep bank from the top of the cliffs down to the shore.
At the car park our dedicated National Park Coast Volunteers are preparing to install some bollards with a difference. The tired looking posts are being replaced by new locally sourced oak posts, including three carved cod fish, welcoming people to this historic fishing village and linking back to the RNLI fish down the hill.
Volunteers have also installed bike racks in the car park. The lack of suitable bike parking was a priority for the Parish Council.
The current seawall is to be decorated. A 50 metre mosaic installation will hang along a section of the seawall to celebrate ‘the Bay’ through time from the dinosaurs through to the modern day. The mosaic will illustrate landslides and lost houses, smuggling around the wild North Sea, the arrival of the railway and the birth of the bucket and spade holiday destination.
Through suggestion boxes, online surveys and poetry the local community and visitors have shared what the village means to them and how it makes them feel, and what they feel are the most important themes from the past.
There will be over 50 boards in total and the finished artwork will be installed later this year.
Chris Scott – Solstice Heritage, formerly of Archaeological Research Services Ltd and Mags Waughman – NPA Monument Management Scheme Officer. From ‘An Industry on the Edge: the Alum Industry of the North York Moors coast’
Alum production was one of England’s earliest large-scale chemical industries and the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills was the main production area for the first 200 years of the industry, which took off in England when political and religious rivalries in Europe led to a market for home produced alum. Many of the surviving remains of the industry are of national importance and the National Park has eight alum production centres which have been designated as Scheduled Monuments because of this.
The alum industry operated in North Yorkshire from c.1604 until 1871. It was a major component of the wool/cloth trade because the chemical produced acted as a fixing agent for colour dyes. The alum refining process began with the quarrying of shale bedrock which was heaped with fuel into large mounds, or calcining clamps, and then burned for a long period (up to 8 or 9 months). The burnt shale was then steeped in water in a series of pits to release aluminium sulphate into a solution known as alum liquor, which was siphoned between the pits and settling cisterns to concentrate and clarify it. The liquor eventually ended up in the ‘Alum House’ where it was boiled over coal fires to concentrate it further and then an alkaline sulphate was added (human urine or seaweed) to create the required product – alum crystals.
Many of the production sites in the North York Moors were on the coast where alum shale was exposed in the cliffs and could therefore be easily extracted. The sea also allowed for good access to the imported ingredients of urine/seaweed and coal, and for transporting away the end product. However, the soft sediment coastline of the east coast of Britain is vulnerable to erosion and now as a result, these coastal alum sites continue to be worn away and will be inevitably lost over the next 100 years. Six of the scheduled alum production sites in the North York Moors are in such vulnerable locations on the edge of the coast. Since 2009, we have been working with Historic England to improve the condition of Scheduled Monuments at risk in the National Park through our Monument Management Scheme but in the case of these scheduled coastal alum sites, long term conservation is difficult because we cannot remove the threat.
As an alternative to protecting the coastal alum working sites from inevitable erosion, we have been working to preserve the information they hold through archaeological investigation and recording. This may allow us to answer some of the significant questions which still remain about the regional alum industry, the development of the industrial processes and about each of the individual sites. So back in 2014 the National Park Authority commissioned Archaeological Research Services Ltd to carry out initial assessments to establish the current knowledge and condition of each site and to develop mitigation strategies for the most significant remains; using excavation, aerial photography and Lidar transcription, drawn and photographic recording and walkover survey. In all, four sites were investigated, with the aim of researching outstanding questions and where possible, to facilitate the lowering of the ‘Risk’ status attached to the monuments.
Investigation work was particularly difficult and dangerous because of the locations of the sites – on the precarious and eroding cliff edges. Specialist safety, rescue and access contractors Spartan Rescue Ltd were brought in to create site-specific risk assessments, method statements, access plans and emergency rescue procedures. Each member of the excavation team had to be strapped into a restraint harness for most of the time on site. Happily, investigation of all four sites was completed without mishap and the team was able to put together a full report, the highlights of which are summarised below.
Boulby Alum Quarries and Works – this is one of the best examples nationally of a technically advanced 19th century alum-quarrying complex.
The archaeological works at Boulby comprised the excavation of three trenches across a putative pump house, two liquor cisterns and an associated potential building platform, and followed on from previous excavations in the 1960s/70s. The cisterns were well preserved – these circular masonry structures were built within a cut into the shale bedrock, presumably to create the correct finished height to allow alum liquor to be run into them by gravity alone, and sealed with a fine yellow clay as waterproofing. The cisterns had eventually been abandoned, most probably intentionally backfilled, and a later trough for the movement of liquor had been cut through the most easterly tank. Excavation of the easterly cistern showed that the floor and wall had been affected by subsidence at some point, and so one possible reason for its partial demolition may have been that the structure no longer held liquid effectively. The soft geology regularly seems to have been a problem for the alum industry, with oft-reported landslides and subsidence impacting on, and partly caused by, the quarrying operations.
The building platform lay close to the cisterns and was shown to have been created by the mass dumping of quarry waste into a previously quarried area, filling it to a depth of at least a metre, and probably much more. This serves to illustrate both the changing landscape of the ‘New Boulby Works’ during its operational life-span and the limited space within which the quarry functioned. The building on top of the platform had a stone slab floor, made from the local sandstone that had to be removed to access the shale, and timber walls supported on horizontal beams in slots. Evidence for a pantile roof gave a good idea of the overall character of this small industrial building. The other building investigated, presumed to have been a ‘pump house’, proved to be a much grander and well-made structure, with finely built masonry walls and a fantastically preserved flagstone floor. Finely tooled sockets in the walls and chamfered sockets within the floor suggested that machinery had once been fitted into this building. However no conclusive evidence of the building’s function was uncovered.
Saltwick Nab Alum Quarry
Two trenches were excavated at Saltwick and produced archaeological evidence that supplemented the previous survey data compiled by York Archaeological Trust detailing the location of cisterns, warehouses, burnt heaps and tanks on the quarry floor. Work focused on the excavation of an existing erosion scar at the seaward lip of the quarry. Previous visits had noted in-situ eroding deposits, which were investigated in order to try and understand the nature of the deposits being lost to the sea. The trench exposed huge deposits of quarry waste, spent burnt shale and piles of clay and silt which had been dumped by barrow. These overlay surfaces of hard trampled shale and waste: the working floors of the quarry on which were preserved flat wooden-plank barrow boards used to make barrow routes for the movement of materials within the quarry. These boards, worn through by use, spoke of the colossal human effort needed to shift such vast tonnages of stone by hand. Also within the trench, cut into the quarry floor, was a drain heading towards the sea, presumably for draining away the waste from the steeping process.
The evidence at Saltwick showed that, although much of what is being lost appears at first glance to be just dumps of quarrying and processing waste of limited archaeological potential, this material can often bury and preserve the fine detail and artefacts of everyday life in an alum quarry, and it is this which is being slowly washed away and lost to the sea.
The archaeological work at Saltwick included the production of a detailed photographic and drawn record of the foreshore slipway/ramp feature (used for sea transportation), in order to mitigate the uncontrollable and imminent loss of this feature through the ongoing erosion.
Kettleness Alum Works
The Kettleness site had previously benefited from detailed earthwork survey and documentary research carried out by English Heritage (now Historic England), so the new project aimed to examine specific areas of interest identified by this earlier work. The excavation trenches were targeted across a putative calcining place and putative calcining clamp.
A prominent mound at the landward side of the quarry, had previously been interpreted as a spoil heap or, possibly, a rare survival of an in-situ calcining clamp. The excavations demonstrated that it was indeed a calcining clamp, but rather than for processing alum shale it was an equally rare survival of an unburnt clamp for the calcining of ironstone. The North York Moors and then the Cleveland Hills and Middlesbrough, saw large-scale growth of the ironstone industry during the middle and later part of the 19th century. This site may have represented a diversification of production during the later 19th century, moving into the product in most demand (see This Exploited Land Landscape Partnership).
Kettleness is one of the better understood sites and the targeted excavations have answered specific research questions in relation to the site, as well as demonstrating significant evidence of the likely re-use of this alum site for the extraction and refinement of ironstone. The information gleaned from the excavation, together with the detailed earthwork survey, can now be better used as a model from which to interpret earthwork evidence at other sites, particularly potential “clamp” or “spoil heap” features.
Sandsend Alum Quarries and Works
At Sandsend, a complex of three successive alum quarries (Gaytress Quarry, Ness End Quarry and Deep Grove Quarry) extend for nearly a kilometre along the coastal margin. The investigations carried out comprised LiDAR and aerial photographic transcription, followed by a detailed walkover survey to examine remains on the ground. This initial survey work was necessary because there had been much less previous investigation at Sandsend compared to other sites so it was required first to establish a comprehensive baseline of evidence.
The survey at Sandsend identified features relating to the quarrying of sandstone, alum shale and possibly cement stone, as well as barrow-ways, route-ways, spoil heaps, evidence of water management, banks of steeping pits and liquor channels covering the entire scheduled area, and in places extending beyond it. This work has added significantly to the understanding of the breadth of remains within the quarries, as well as the position of the remains in relation to the coastal edge, and therefore the relative risk of erosion. These can now be much more successfully compared and contrasted with other well understood or surveyed sites, such as Kettleness, allowing the production of more targeted research across this group of important sites.
Now that the project has finished, we have a good base of evidence which we will use to inform and support both future management and targeted works to mitigate the inevitable loss of these monuments. We will continue to address the issues facing these sites and look for opportunities to investigate and record the remains under threat in order to achieve ‘preservation by record’ where they cannot be physically saved. The coastal alum sites contain the remains of one of England’s earliest large-scale chemical industries and illustrate the important place the North York Moors had in this industry.
If you want to have a look yourself at a coastal alum working site – the National Trust owned Peak Alum Works at Ravenscar is open to the public and is safe to access without emergency rescue procedures.