Not so distant

To mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 fifteen war memorials across the country have received new or upgraded listings from Historic England.

The Battle of the Somme in northern France was made up of a series of offensives and counter offensives which lasted 141 days, and the aftermath was an approximate one million dead and wounded.

One of the newly protected memorials is on Commondale Moor – the Commondale Shepherds’ Memorial. It is a simple and short stone pillar which commemorates two men out of a million – Alf Cockerill and Robbie Leggott. They were young shepherds who worked for the local Guisborough Estate and had been friends since childhood. They went together to London and enlisted in the Grenadier Guards at the outbreak of
World War I in 1914. It must have been an exciting adventure.

Alf was shot in the head in the first month of the Battle of the Somme; he did not die immediately but was declared unfit for further duty. He eventually died back in England in August 1920 at the age of 31(?) as a result of his brain injuries having never escaped from the consequences of the Battle. It is wishfully suggested his ashes are scattered close by the site of the memorial.

Robbie was killed in September 1916 aged 19, during another assault on German lines. His body was not identified and so wasn’t returned to the North York Moors.

There is a war memorial in Commondale village and both men are also recorded there. This specific memorial purposefully placed on the moorland above the village was commissioned by the daughter of the first Baron Guisborough in 1920. In the years immediately following the end of World War I recording and remembering the loss endured became a national preoccupation. The Historic England listing cites the historic interest of the memorial as ‘eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifice it made in the First World War’.



DUTY 1914. Poppies - copyright NYMNPA.

we’re here because we’re here

Conserving our Mussels

Simon Hirst – River Esk Project Officer

The Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project has been going since  2007. The aim of the Project is to conserve the population of the protected Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) in the River Esk by improving the riparian habitat and at the same time raising awareness of this fascinating creature. The environmental improvements will also benefit Atlantic salmon and brown trout populations which are so important to the life cycle of the mussel.

SONDE equipment being installed

SONDE equipment being installed

Water quality monitoring equipment (SONDE) was installed in February on the River Esk. This equipment will measure a variety of water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, nitrate, suspended solids and pH. This work will help us to identify suitable re-introduction sites for the captive bred juvenile freshwater pearl mussels.

This year is the 5th year of the “Salmon in the Classroom” initiative which sees the Project and our Education Service joining up with local primary schools to rear salmon. This year it is the turn of Egton Primary School to host a tank containing 40 Atlantic salmon eggs. The children will look after the fish through the various stages of development (eggs, alevins and fry) and then release them into the Esk later in the year.

Conifers alongside Commondale Beck - see the lack of understory vegetation

Conifers alongside Commondale Beck – see the lack of understory vegetation

One of the National Park Authority’s Volunteer teams focuses particularly on the River Esk carrying out some of the necessary environmental improvements. In the last couple of months the River Esk Volunteer team has caried out three tasks involving conifer thinning and tree planting. Conifer thinning in woodlands next to Commondale Beck was carried out to allow light to get into the understory and allow the native ground flora to re-establish which should help stabilise the soil and reduce the amount of silt getting into the Beck and into the River Esk downstream.

Conifer removal and native broadleaved planting on Lealholm Estate

Conifer removal and native broadleaved planting on Lealholm Estate

On Lealholm Estate, following conifer felling work, broad-leaved tree planting has been carried out in the understory. A total of 300 trees have been planted.

At Southside Farm near Egton Bridge a total of 1095 metres of fencing has been erected. This work will create an important buffer strip between the farmed land and river corridor. Further fencing work and improvement work will be carried out later this Spring.

For further information on the plight of the pearl mussel there is an interesting article at