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.

A to Z: a jumble of Is, Js and Ks

I, J, K

INTAKE and INBYE

An intake is a parcel of land on the fringes of the moorland which has been “taken in” from the moorland and brought under cultivation i.e. farmed, usually by stock grazing. An intake is often separated and demarked from the moorland with drystone walling using the materials to hand. As a habitat these intakes are often a mix of acid grassland, wet rushy areas and remnant areas of heathland species such as bilberry. There are farms on the North York Moors that have the word intake in their name such as Riddings Intake in Westerdale where the farm holding is nearly all intake.

Inbye land is further down from the moorland, usually closer to the farmstead. Inbye is often the most productive land on an upland farm holding and is used for grass production (hay/haylage/silage) and sometimes arable. Inbye can also provide winter grazing as conditions on the higher more remote areas of the farm, the intakes or the moorland beyond, become too harsh for livestock.

IRONSTONE

Ironstone is a rock that contains minerals with an iron element. In the 19th century if the iron elements could be extracted the rock had a value. The ironstone in the Jurassic mud stones of the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills was close enough to the surface to make it relatively easy to mine, coal and limestone resources for processing were available nearby, the same entrepreneurs processing the iron were involved with the development of the railway network, and together this made exploitation worthwhile for a short lived period. The first ironstone mine in the area was Hays Mine near Grosmont which opened in 1837; by 1863, 78 of the 108 blast furnaces in the north east of England were using iron primarily from the North York Moors/Cleveland Hills. Most of the ironstone was of a low grade with a high phosphorous content – magnetite (a much purer iron ore) was discovered in Rosedale in the 1850s but it proved to be the exception and the seams were quickly worked out leaving lesser grade ironstone to maintain the industry here. The development of the Cleveland Practice in iron making in the 1860s meant that the problem of the phosphorous content became surmountable for a while and boosted the value of local ironstone. Because of the low grade it was economically advantageous to calcine the ironstone in blast furnaces close to mine sites rather than pay for conveying the unwanted dross as well, and so the resulting pig iron was then transported by railway to the developing town of Middlesbrough and its emergent steel industry.

Rosedale Bank Top Calcining Kilns today - copyright NYMNPA.

The financial viability of the industry and the companies involved was somewhat helter-skelter. After the initial rush and a period of consolidation for the local industry, better quality iron ore imports and decline after World War 1 saw the last working ironstone mine in the North York Moors close in 1927.

TEL logo band 2_FINAL_exc DRFThe impacts of the ironstone industry on the North York Moors’ landscape and communities are a major focus of our This Exploited Land Scheme.

 

JET

Jet is fossilised waterlogged wood which has been buried between sedimentary rock layers and compressed over millions of years. Buried in isolation and enriched by organic oils jet is formed instead of fractious coal. The wood was mainly from a type of monkey puzzle tree Araucariaceae which grew when the North York Moors were warmer than they are now; plant cellular structures can be seen in real jet.

Jet is only really used for one purpose – ornamentation. The best jet is always pure opaque black. Whitby Jet is a high quality hard jet formed in saline water and so easy to work. The town of Whitby was at the forefront of an upsurge in the popularity of jet jewellery – following the fashion for mourning set by Queen Victoria after the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1852. Jet had previously been collected out of the cliffs or from the sea shore but the heightened demand meant mines were opened across the north of the North York Moors to the west of Whitby; this line is thought to have been the edge of a salt water swamp some 180 million years ago. The enthusiasm for mourning became a social occupation – a widow was expected to wear mourning i.e. black for two years after the death of her husband, although many remained in black for the rest of their lives. Jet was the perfect accessory for the shrouds of mourning.

In mourning - image from http://www.cvltnation.com

Whitby Museum has a fine collection of local jet jewellery.

JOHN BUNTING

John Bunting (1927 – 2002) was born in London and educated at Ampleforth College on the edge of the North York Moors. The area made a considerable impression on him and he returned to the College to teach art in 1955. He also taught at the York School of Art, and later became sculptor in residence at Ampleforth. Without doubt, his religious faith was central to his work.

In the 1950s John Bunting bought a small piece of land on the edge of the ridge above Byland Abbey and on it he created the War Memorial Chapel . He renovated a derelict farm building on the site himself with the help of a Mr Winspear of Oswaldkirk.

The whole chapel is a work of art. The outside and inside commemorate the dead, in particular four named alumni of Ampleforth College, and the peace the dead sacrificed themselves for. The recumbent stone soldier inside the Chapel wearing WWII commando boots connects the modern age with the past, echoing a tomb of a mediaeval Catholic knight.

The Chapel is also known as the Scotch Corner Chapel; it was round about here that in an earlier conflict the Scots defeated the English in battle.

Scotch Corner Chapel - copyright NYMNPA.

The Chapel is occasionally open to the public.

JUNCUS sp.

There are two genera in the rush family common to the UK, luzula and juncus. Rushes can easily be confused with sedges, and even some grasses. As a rule of thumb, grass stems are usually cylindrical and hollow, sedges are triangular and solid whilst rushes are round and filled with pith – hence the common adage ‘sedges have edges and rushes are round’.

Soft rush Juncus effusus is one of the most widespread rushes in the North York Moors, and on the moorland Heath rush Juncus squarrosus is also commonly found. Other locally important rushes include Jointed rush Juncus articulatus, Blunt-flowered rush Juncus subnodulosus and Sharp-flowered rush Juncus acutiflorus.

Rushes are significant for a variety of animal species. Snipe often build their nests at the base of a clump of rushes near water, whilst meadow pipits feed on the seeds in winter. Lapwing, curlew and redshank also benefit from the damp pasture on farmland where rushes can be found. Rushes are an important food source for butterflies; the Large Heath butterfly feeds on Jointed rush.

Pasture with sharp flowered rush - Bilsdale. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Semi natural rush pasture is usually dominated by rushes. The UK priority habitat – purple moor grass and rush pasture – is found in the North York Moors, on or around moorland and in patches on damper ground around flushes or hollows on inbye land. Rush pasture can be managed with light to moderate grazing. The ideal level keeps the Juncus and Molinia caerulea (purple moor-grass) from becoming dominant and allows other species to flourish in these more vigorous swards. Occasional poaching caused by grazing stock can have the beneficial effect of creating varied soil surfaces and bare ground, which can be colonised by the smaller plants. However, as always, too heavy a grazing level will have a negative impact on the botanical interest. Draining rush pasture removes the vital element of water and will modify the habitat leading to the loss of specialist wetland plants.

Rush pasture in the North York Moors - copyright John Beech, NYMNPA.

JUNIPER (Juniperus communis)

Mature Juniper with good colouration - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.Common Juniper is a coniferous shrub or tree which is both evergreen and perennial. It is also a dioecious plant – plants are either male or female, not both as with many other plant species. It often lives to 100 years and can grow up to 4 metres in height, though it has been recorded at heights of up to 10 metres. It grows in a diversity of forms including as an upright bush, as a low-growing mat or a towering spire. It is typically found on moorland/heathland/downland and in pine and birch woodland habitats. It is one of only three “native” conifers in the UK (alongside Yew and Scot’s Pine).
Juniper bush - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.

Thirty-five insects and three mites are specifically associated with Common Juniper, such as the Juniper carpet moth (Thera juniperata) and the Juniper pug moth (Eupithecia pusillata). Juniper can also provide an important food source for berry-eating birds such as thrushes, fieldfares and waxwing who help spread the seed that passes through them. Juniper berries have Female juniper with berries - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.long been exploited by man too, for their flavour, fragrance and presumed medicinal properties.

Juniper is becoming increasingly rare. There are a small number of plants in the North York Moors. The population here is fragmented, and as Juniper is dioecious to regenerate both genders must be close enough to one another so that the wind-borne pollen of male plants may reach and
pollinate a receptive female. Close up of juniper leaves - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA.Otherwise a population has no chance of successfully reproducing and will eventually die out. Juniper seeds become less viable with age, and natural regeneration of Juniper is also vulnerable to moorland management and grazing. Between 1990 and 2012 over 1750 new Juniper plants propagated from local seeds and cuttings, were planted in the North York Moors through a volunteer initiative. The local Forestry Commission have also been planting Juniper on their holdings, for instance at Bumble Wood. The threat of the pathogen Phytophthora austrocedrae means any further propagation work will need to be self sufficient within the North York Moors.

KILNS

A kiln is a structure capable of holding material at temperatures high enough to effect chemical change. Quicklime (or burnt lime) is used to improve soil structure and increase the fertility of acidic soils which are common in the North York Moors. It is also used to bind and render stonework. To abstract one tonne of quicklime from limestone you’d need a lime kiln, two tonnes of limestone, and half a tonne of coal (or similar) as a fuel source. Stack the limestone and fuel in alternate layers inside the kiln and heat to 1100°C. Leave for 4 to 5 days to cool. Be careful, because the end product is unstable.

There are records of lime kilns across the southern North York Moors dating back to the medieval period. Kilns were more common in the south because this is where the limestone is. Kiln structures ranged from single basic clamp lime kilns on farmland to lines of industrial heat-efficient kilns next to limestone quarry sites. Remains of a number of lime kiln structures can still be seen in the North York Moors landscape.

Lime kiln in Harwood Dale - copyright NYMNPA.

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

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.