Deconstructing modern mounds

Linda Smith, Archaeological Consultant

You may be familiar with the Cleveland Way as it winds its way across the top of Greenhow Bank and you might have been tempted off your route at Burton Howe to head over towards Baysdale. You may have stopped to take in the view from the mound with the boundary stone stuck on top and perhaps, whilst eating your sandwiches or resting your legs, you might have moved a few stones around or brought up another couple from the track to add to the heap.

What harm could there be in that?

Piles of loose stones can be the remains of something built in prehistory. During the Bronze Age (3-4,000 years ago) it was the custom to bury people in mounds called barrows (sometimes marked as tumuli or tumulus and labelled in gothic lettering on maps). Barrows were often built from stones and located on hill tops or ridges of higher land. The dead may have been buried with pots or flint tools and disturbing these structures also disturbs the archaeological story contained inside. Archaeologists could have used this varied information to build up a picture of what happened in the past, much as a detective would today except there is no one alive from whom to take a statement and corroborate the evidence.

Barrows are located in prominent places in the landscape. They can be found on the skyline or forming a focal point for a modern path or they may have had trees planted on them in the past to highlight a hill or a view. Historically they have often been used as route markers by pedlars or when moving animals over long distances in otherwise featureless terrain, or to mark a property boundary by inserting a boundary stone into the mound. They are often important features in the landscape even today, because of their visibility, or maybe because they have a local legend associated with them. As a very numerous and distinctive feature of the North York Moors landscape, barrows constitute a significant proportion (about 65%) of the 842 protected sites or Scheduled Monuments, within the National Park.

Why people build cairns today

Cairns, simply piles of stone, are often built today by walkers to help mark a route which is difficult to see on the ground and this is especially true in the North York Moors where there are few prominent landscape features such as trees or hilltops, where fog and bad weather can divert the walker from the right route or where the heather is deep and makes the path hard to locate. Or where the top of a hill has a great view but it’s often windy so a wind break has gradually been built up to provide welcome shelter. Or maybe there’s a place people always stop for a breather after climbing a steep hill and look down, perhaps on their home village. A handy nearby pile of loose stone can easily be used as a quarry for creating a new heap or cairn in a better place and it may become the custom to add a stone or two to a modern cairn when anyone passes, or even to deliberately take up another stone each time a place is visited. In this way, cairns are created, and enlarged and become important markers.

What’s the damage?

The problem with building cairns today is that by using stones from existing archaeological features like barrows the information contained within them is disturbed, the clues that archaeologists use to build up a picture of what happened in the past are destroyed – how the structure was built and used, how it was developed for different burials, perhaps over several generations, or what objects were buried with the dead. This does not mean that every archaeological feature will one day be excavated by archaeologists but it does mean that the features are so important that they deserve to be left undisturbed for future generations and new techniques and understanding: if something 4,000 years old is disturbed, that unique information is lost for ever. Many of these barrows have been recognised as being nationally important and so are protected as Scheduled Monuments.

'Codhill Heights' - walkers' cairn and shelter built up on round barrow on Gisborough Moor. You can see a hole next to the scale pole where a stone has been pulled out of the burial mound. Copyright M Johnson.

Some artefacts moved during modern cairn building will not be recognised as such and simply be thrown away, including small fragments of bone which might have revealed a lot about the person buried there. Moving stones may disturb post holes or remains of other structures. Inserting a commemorative plaque adds a modern intrusion, or it may be fixed to a stone with prehistoric carvings or which is part of a prehistoric feature. Modern graffiti are sometimes carved into the stones on a prehistoric monument. Sometimes gamekeepers use archaeological features for siting grouse grit stations; if the ground is not disturbed and no stones are moved this might not start as a problem, but then if passing walkers are tempted to start building a cairn on the same spot a problem forms.

Beyond the obvious problems, these activities can have other impacts. Making a feature more prominent means that more visitors may be attracted to it, creating deepening erosion by following a single line to the summit. In some cases a new cairn might even bury or obscure the historic monument altogether.

Large walkers’ cairn on Drake Howe which draws visitors off the Cleveland Way. Copyright M Johnson.

An even larger walkers’ cairn on a round barrow above Bilsdale. Copyright S Robson.What we can do?

To put things right, work is under way as part of the National Park Authority’s Monument Management Scheme (MMS) which is funded by Historic England. This involves a group of volunteers monitoring the condition of barrows with identified walkers’ cairns, and carrying out remedial work to repair the worst damage. The first of these repair projects has recently transformed a round barrow next to the Cleveland Way on Live Moor. The barrow will be monitored to ensure a modern cairn appendage doesn’t re-appear.

A volunteer monitors the walkers’ cairn on Pike Howe. Copyright S Bassett.

Barrow on Live Moor before remedial work to remove the cairn. Copyright Solstice Heritage.

NPA apprentices help to remove the modern cairn from a burial monument on Live Moor. Copyright M Johnson.Live Moor monument after remedial work. Some loose stones have been left around the centre of the mound to protect the bare ground on the top until the vegetation can re-establish itself. Copyright Solstice Heritage.We want to raise awareness of this issue of accidental damage to archaeological features amongst walkers. When in the countryside, it is best to leave things alone and not disturb anything you find. Be aware of the Countryside Code which includes “Our heritage matters to all of us – be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.”

You can find out if a feature or site is protected by visiting the Historic England website where you can search by a name or on a map.

So the next time you find a nice sheltered spot for a rest on top of a hill, enjoy the view and your lunch and by leaving the site as you found it you could be helping to preserve an important feature for another 4,000 years!

Favourite restorations and reinstatements

We like Top 10 lists on this Blog – here’s a Top 5 instead. Our Building Conservation team pick their Top 5 projects from the last financial year.

Clair Shields – Planning Policy Officer/Building Conservation Officer

These Top 5 building conservation projects are some of our favourites and have been selected to give a snap-shot of some the work the National Park Authority has been involved in. Not all these projects involved direct grant funding but they all included our input in one way or another. The projects aren’t in any particular order and are featured for a variety of reasons such as size and scale, uniqueness, quirkiness, or because the works have been a labour of love carried out by the owner!

 Robin Hood’s Bay Window

Robiin Hood's Bay window BEFORE - copyright NYMNPAThe replacement of modern unsympathetic windows and reinstatement of old style vastly improves the appearance of a property. This can be a simple task to undertake when there are old photographs for reference, or the size and shape of the opening clearly indicates its former style. However in this case, it is obvious that the existing downstairs window was a relatively modern intervention and therefore in order to find a suitable style and arrangement to compliment rather than detract from the host property lots of sketches were drawn up to compare and consider. This resulting unequal sash adds to the diversity of the area’s architectural features.

Robiin Hood's Bay window AFTER - copyright NYMNPARobiin Hood's Bay window AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes (1)

Last year there were several projects in Staithes which saw the reinstatement of more traditional style windows to properties located in the heart of this important Conservation Area.

This is Chapel Cottage – where modern windows were replaced with traditional vertical sliding sash windows and Yorkshire sliding sashes to the dormer.

Chapel Cottage BEFORE - copyright NYMNPAChapel Cottage AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes (2)Staithes - historical reference material

Here, old photographs were used to evidence an older style of window. Consideration was given to the possibility of removing the render to the front, however the old photos shows that this was a former shop and therefore the stonework underneath was unlikely to be of good enough quality to expose. The two tone paint colour, (a typical feature of coastal villages) enhances the local distinctiveness.

 

Staithes building BEFORE - copyright NYMNPAStaithes building BEFORE - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes building AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

Staithes building AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes - historical reference material - 1960s photo

Goathland Waymarker Stones

Waymarker stones may seem relatively insignificant as listed structures compared with castles and cathedrals, but they were culturally important. Historically they were guide features for people traversing the moorland, defining the route to follow in a landscape which has very few points of reference. For this reason, waymarkers are still found across the moors. However where modern roads follow the same historic routes often waymarkers have been lost through damage or theft, which was the case along the Pickering to Goathland road. Of the seven recorded listed waymarkers, only one was still in place.

In order to maintain the evidence of this historic route, we worked with the Estate to reinstate six of the lost waymarkers. A local farmer was particularly keen to see them reinstated as in winter when the snow covers the moors they still define the line of the road which is as useful now as it was in the past.

New waymarker - copyright NYMNPA

Ionic Temple at Duncombe Park

In contrast to waymarkers and windows, due to the sheer scale of the work involved the Ionic Temple project was a milestone for the National Park Authority. The Temple had been on English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ register since its inception in 1985. The repair of the Temple was a big project to be involved in, alongside many other funding bodies. See our previous blog post for more details.

Close up - repairs to Ionic Temple - copyright NYMNPAClose up - repairs to Ionic Temple - copyright NYMNPAClose up - Duncombe Park Ionic Temple - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

The companion Tuscan Temple, at the other end of the Rievaulx Terrace, is due to be repaired through Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.

 

A Classical Restoration

Clair Shields – Planning Policy Officer/Building Conservation Officer

Ionice Temple, Duncomber Park - NYMNPA

Architectural drawings - Ionic Temple - Peter Gaze Pace ArchitectThe Ionic Temple at Duncombe Park is a Grade I Listed Building in a Grade I Registered Park and Garden. Dating from the early 1720s it is attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh – the celebrated and multi-talented English architect, best known for designing the neighbouring Castle Howard and also Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

The temple is classical in its construction – perfectly geometrically proportioned and ornately sculptured. It is named after the Ionic order – one of the three orders of classical architecture, the other two being the Doric and Corinthian. The term Ionic refers to the capitals on the tops of the columns, with their distinctive ram’s horn motif. Architectural drawings - Ionic Temple - Peter Gaze Pace ArchitectThis style of architecture was developed first by the Greeks, then imitated by the Romans, and then reimagined through neoclassicism in 18th century Europe and wherever else the European “Enlightenment” spread.

Constructed of sandstone, the temple forms an open rotunda with ashlar masonry under a leaded, domed roof; a stepped podium with nine ionic columns supports a plain architrave and frieze with a dentilled cornice.

Ionic Temple - close up on erosoin - NYMNPA

The Ionic Temple has been included in English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register since the Register’s inception back in 1985.

Significant deterioration of the temple’s stonework has been evident for many years and particles of stone regularly fall from the columns. There have been signs of structural movement causing stresses in the columns, exacerbated by the weathering of the column shafts. The capitals have been deteriorating and a number of volutes were missing.

Ionic Temple - close up on erosoin - NYMNPAThe causes of this erosion are thought to be three-fold:

The local sandstone used in this temple, and the nearby Tuscan Temple and Nelson Gates on the same estate, forms a hard crust which breaks away leaving particularly soft and friable stone below.

In order to achieve substantial pieces of masonry with which to build upon, masonry was laid with the beds running vertically Ionic Temple - close up on erosoin - NYMNPAinstead of horizontally. As such, the layers of soft sandstone are especially vulnerable to water ingress and are gradually de-laminating like layers of shale.

The location of the temple at the exposed northern end of the Terrace has exacerbated the rate of erosion with the temple particularly exposed to wind and rain over the years.

 

To address the deterioration before it becomes too late – the National Park Authority has assisted the Duncombe Park Estate to secure a funding package for the necessary repairs which will cost approximately £200,000. Donations have been forthcoming from English Heritage (£120,650), the Country Houses Foundation (£50,000), the CLEARY Fund (£3,000) and the Yorkshire Gardens Trust (£1,000). We’ve donated £10,000 from our Historic Buildings Grant pot.

EH logoCountry Houses Foundation logoThe Georgian Group (CLEARY FUND) logoYorkshire Gardens Trust logoNYMNPA logo

 

The repairs will involve stone repair as well as stone replacement and the replicating of the intricate carvings. Ebor Stone of York have been appointed as contractors and work is expected to be completed in spring.

Ionic Temple - repair work 2014/15 - NYMNPA

 

Ionic Temples - replacement stone carved features Ionic Temples - replacement stone carved features Ionic Temples - replacement stone carved features

This remedial work should help secure a longer term future for this small national ornament set in the North York Moors.

Last year’s top 5 posts

Iron oxide running down walls inside abandoned mine - NYMNPA

1. Hangover from the past

Update posted by Emily just last week with a suggested Hangover cure

 

 

 

Philip Wilkinson, Westerdale - Ami Walker2. A week in the life of a Land Manager Adviser        

 

 

 

3. Peculiarity of Character: part 1 and part 2

11c 11a11b

In addition to the characterful structures mentioned previously – here are three photos of the faces of a stone near to Worm Sike Rigg – it’s inscribed to “G. BAKER AGED 68 YEARS WHO WAS LOST ON THE 5 OF DECEM 1878 AND WAS FOUND HERE ON THE 26 OF JANUARY 1879”. The supposition is G Baker died of exposure out on the moors and the stone was erected as a memorial to the man and the tragic event.

Heptageniid - Emily Collins

4. River Monsters

Emily is carrying on Sam’s good work – this is a photograph she’s taken of a Heptageniid down the end of a microscope.

 

Hovingham Market - Chris J Parker

 

5. 129 Projects in 129 Pictures

Following on from the previous North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme which finished in 2013, we submitted a bid to Defra in September 2014 for a new LEADER Programme which would run from 2015 to 2021.

We’re just waiting to hear whether we have been successful, and we’ll share any news as soon as possible!

If we are successful, the new LEADER Programme will be looking for projects that generate jobs and support the local economy under the following six priority areas:

  • Increasing Farm Productivity
  • Micro and Small Enterprise and Farm Diversification
  • Rural Tourism
  • Rural Services
  • Cultural and Heritage Activity
  • Increasing Forestry Productivity

In the meantime we are working out how to approach these priorities and what we would like to fund over the next six years so we’ll be ready to go as soon as we find out if this area’s LEADER Programme is approved.  Keep in touch through our website, follow us on Twitter  and keep an eye on this Blog.    

Winter landscape - Lower Bilsdale - NYMNPAAnd if you’re wondering whether last year’s blatant attempt to get someone from Iceland to view our Blog succeeded – unfortunately not. But we won’t give up – við hlökkum til annars árs varðveislu í North York Moors þjóðgarðurinn og við munum tryggja að láta þig vita hvað við erum að gera í gegnum bloggið okkar.

Understanding the past in the present

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

Working in archaeology probably consists of a lot more desk work than most people imagine. There are site visits which are necessary from time to time in order to gain specific or detailed knowledge about a site – required for the provision of information or advice. Excavations are actually quite rare and generally undertaken by outside contractors since they are immensely time-consuming both in terms of the time on-site but more so in writing up the final report. Excavation also tends to destroy the features that are being investigated – so it tends to be an option of last resort.

So in terms of desk work one of the most important activities that we carry out is the maintenance and development of the archaeological index for the National Park area, on which we base most of our decisions and which we use to provide information and advice. Known as the Historic Environment Record (HER), this database contains summary information on all the archaeological knowledge that we hold. Presented graphically against a digital Ordnance Survey map background, this allows a very rapid assessment of the archaeological resource or potential of an area. Coupled with historic mapping and modern aerial photography, we have a very powerful tool to help us to understand the development and uses to which the North York Moors landscape has been put.

Below are a few examples to help demonstrate the range of information that exists within our HER.

Levisham Estate - boundary dyke

The first map (below) shows part of the Levisham Estate, which is owned and managed by the National Park Authority. The pink outline defines the area of the Scheduled Monument, the largest within the National Park, which has been designated (a process which confers legal protection) due to the archaeological importance of the range and survival of the archaeological sites it contains.

The National Park contains many moorland areas which have not been disturbed by recent agricultural activity and are consequently rich in prehistoric, and later, remains. The surviving sites on Levisham Moor illustrate the range of uses the land has been put to over thousands of years.

Areas on the map outlined in red or marked with the crossed-hammers icons represent records within the HER. Features plotted in black, with the exception of the mapped field boundaries, are earthworks recorded by the National Mapping Programme (NMP), undertaken for sections of the National Park area by Archaeological Research Services Ltd in partnership with English Heritage. The NMP pulls together existing aerial data and through analysis identifies features of interest. Activity over thousands of years is often clearer when viewed from the air rather than on the ground. On Levisham Moor particular attention has been drawn to the Bercary earthworks, a monastic sheep-farm dating from the 13th century, and the remains of a field system to their north-north-east which may be related. Away to the east of the central track there are a further series of enclosures and field systems – the enclosures which have been dated belong to the Romano-British period.

Levisham HER Blog

By adding our 2009 Geoperspectives aerial photographs as a backdrop (the most up to date aerial photos we currently have for the National Park), the way the archaeology fits within the landscape becomes much clearer.

Levisham HER Blog2

The third map (below) shows Rievaulx village and Abbey. As well as showing the data types mentioned above the map also includes designated Listed Buildings and designated Registered Parks and Gardens in blue, which indicate part of Rievaulx Terrace. The latter was laid out in c.1758 for Thomas Duncombe and linked to Duncombe Park by a picturesque carriage drive. The NMP plotted earthworks reveal evidence of the water management system around the mediaeval Abbey, as well as agricultural terraces, quarrying and even the faint outline of the monastery garden at the bottom centre of the image, just to the west of the pond.

Rievaulx HER Blog

Like I said, in the discipline of archaeology there is a lot of desk work to be done. The results – a better understanding of the impacts that people have left on the landscape over millennia and therefore a better understanding of the people themselves – are always going to be worthwhile.

Rievaulx Abbey by Jen Smith (NYMNPA)

The North York Moors HER is available to be viewed – but at the moment to see everything together, you’ll need to make an appointment and come along in person to the National Park Office because it’s not all accessible on-line. The information can also be supplied for an area on request, for a charge. However the national designations – Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Register of Parks and Gardens – are available to download from English Heritage.

Maintaining our own heritage: Practical Conservation Advice – Part 1

Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation)

One of the most common enquiries we get regarding old buildings in the National Park is about replacing historic windows in people’s homes, because of natural timber decay. People are concerned that repair would be unfeasible, not worth the bother and/or too expensive.

However this is a general misconception. Windows are made from a variety of materials but the most common is still wood which, if well maintained, can provide a long lifespan as windows can be repaired by replacing individual elements without having to replace the entire sash, or worse, the entire window. So with timber windows it is far less costly to repair what there is rather than replace because this selective repair approach can be taken, and the non damaged elements of the window can be re-used.

For instance, older windows can contain distinctive mouth-blown glass which ripples and distorts reflections, and interesting mouldings and details which may be unique and difficult to reproduce.

Generally repair makes better economic sense and can still be sustainable. Older windows can be made thermally efficient by the retro-fitting of integral draught seals or the use of shutters or secondary glazing.

By retaining the historic timber – which can be of better quality than modern timber due to originating from larger, slow-grown trees – and by retaining the original (or historic)  feature which contributes so much to the appearance of the building and its locality – the special qualities of the North York Moors built environment can be conserved.

Windows are fundamental to the look of many buildings. The loss of traditional windows pose a threat to our local heritage, as it seems windows are now at greater risk than ever from replacement or unsuitable adaptation. The effect will be a cumulative decline of local character.

So below are a series of pictures showing a typical window repair and the extent of timber replacement which can be carried out whilst still retaining historic integrity – in order to give an idea of the level of repairs which can be feasibly undertaken.

Window before repair work commences – window sills, bottom rail and lower frames are decayed. Many owners would now look to replace the whole window. However the most common area of decay is often the bottom rail and sill where water gathers – and in this case the remaining areas of timber are still in sound condition.

Window before repair work commences – window sills, bottom rail and lower frames are decayed.The most common area of decay is often the bottom rail and sill where water gathers - and in this case the remaining areas of timber are still in sound condition.

By cutting out the decayed areas of timber, and carefully removing the cylinder glass (supporting the frame with a batten), new timber can be spliced in and the glass reinstated.

By cutting out the decayed areas of timber, and carefully removing the cylinder glass (supporting the frame with a batten), new timber can be spliced in and the glass reinstated.

By cutting out the decayed areas of timber, and carefully removing the cylinder glass (supporting the frame with a batten), new timber can be spliced in and the glass reinstated.With the timber spliced in it can be traditionally jointed and the mouldings replicated. All that is left to do here is to re-point around the window using a natural lime mortar.

With the timber spliced in it can be traditionally jointed and the mouldings replicated. All that is left to do here is to re-point around the window using a natural lime mortar. Traditional windows repaired and repainted. The characterful windows of the building are secured for many more years.

Traditional windows repaired and repainted. The characterful windows of the building are secured for many more years.English Heritage have recently published new guidance on the care, repair and upgrading of both timber and metal windows. The guidance is aimed at building professionals and property-owners. It sets out to challenge many of the common perceptions and misconceptions about older windows and explains the history of windows over centuries of technical development and fashion. Detailed technical advice is also provided on maintenance, repair and thermal upgrading as well as restoration.

Practical prize winning applications

Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation)

North York Moors - Listed BuildingLast year the North York Moors National North York Moors - Listed BuildingNorth York Moors - Listed BuildingNorth York Moors - Listed BuildingNorth York Moors - Listed BuildingPark Authority took up the challenge of pioneering a more cost and time efficient way of surveying Listed Buildings (see our previous blog post). This was through an English Heritage funded project to come up with the best ways to assess the current state of nation’s Grade II Listed Buildings, for inclusion on the Heritage at Risk Register. There are nearly 346,000 Grade II Listed Buildings in England, so it can seem an overwhelming never ending task.

At the National Park we created a smartphone app loaded with historic data, photos and past survey results to help our Volunteers on the ground locate each listed building. The Volunteers then recorded data on the current condition and use of each building. This data was then synchronized to a database, reducing the risk of duplication or need for data manipulation back at the Office.

From the nine pilot studies funded nationally, ours was the only study to develop a bespoke app and English Heritage are now developing a toolkit which will include reference to the app for other volunteers to use across the country. You can see the overall conclusions from the English Heritage project, here.

And we won a prize – we were the runners-up in the Campaign for National ParksPark Protector Award 2014. The prize (bursary of £1,000) was in recognition of an exceptional project and its efforts to make a lasting contribution to the protection and conservation of the National Parks of England and Wales.

We’re very hopeful that the success of the app and the use of volunteers will transform how this sort of data is collected and make nationwide collection feasible.

Battle of Byland: have a look at this…

Following on from our last post – if you’ve got access to Google Chrome or something similar, you can click on the image below to see a really interesting model from the Roulston Scar investigations (2013) constructed by Professor Powlesland of the Landscape Research Centre.

Capture

Battle of Byland: building up the evidence

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

Sutton Bank areaThis story of mounting evidence starts in 1996 when a survey was commissioned of the east end of a boundary earthwork known as the Casten Dyke North, to the east of the Hambleton Inn at the top of Sutton Bank. Long thought to be prehistoric, probably Iron Age, in date, the Casten Dyke North runs from the escarpment edge above Sutton Bank (north east) into the head of Flassen Gill, a classic cross-ridge type boundary well known for dividing up areas of prehistoric landscape.

The survey results show that the line of the dyke at the eastern end appears to be marked by two shallow ditches and a relatively gentle north-facing break of slope, cut by numerous later hollow-ways. However, running into the steep sides of Flassen Gill itself, is recorded a much more prominent ditch c.4m wide and about 1m deep, flanked by a pair of banks. This latter earthwork boundary, some 100m in length, appears too sharply defined to be prehistoric in origin – it seems much more likely to be historic in date. Defensively, if defence was its purpose, this eastern end of the dyke appears to be facing north, but why had it been added to the line of the earlier boundary?

It was subsequently recorded that the ditch of the main section of the Casten Dyke North (between the escarpment edge and the Hambleton Inn) is also noticeably steep-sided (c.3.5m wide and c.1m deep – with a bank to the north c.6m wide and 1m high – and with a shallow counter-scarp bank to the south). This suggests it was recut in the historic period. The position of the banks and ditch suggest that this south-western half of the dyke faces south.

This raises the question of what could be the reason for adding to or reinforcing this (presumed) prehistoric boundary during the historic period?

The main historic event recorded in this vicinity is the Battle of Byland between the English and Scottish forces on 14 October 1322. Local historian, John McDonnell summarised that Edward II‘s English forces, pursued by the Scottish army, took up a defensive position ‘on a nearby hilltop’, awaiting reinforcements while King Edward rested at the closeby Byland or Rievaulx Abbey. This English force was then routed when the Scots found a way onto the escarpment behind the English, the suggested route still being known today as Scotch Corner.

Could the opposing armies have used existing but presumably modified prehistoric defences to secure their positions, before the English force was eventually routed by a surprise Scottish attack from the rear from the area of Oldstead Bank/Scotch Corner?

The next piece of the puzzle was defined in 2001 by an English Heritage survey of Roulston Scar hillfort, which included part of the Casten Dyke South. This latter earthwork boundary runs from Boar’s Gill in the west to Hell Hole in the east, defining the northern side of a steep-sided promontory of land, c. 28ha in area and with a perimeter of over 2km. The boundary is a flat-topped bank up to 0.9m high with a steep-sided ditch to the north, c.6m wide and up to 1.1m deep. Long thought to be prehistoric in origin, the survey of the adjacent Roulston Scar hillfort recorded the form of the Casten Dyke South as relatively crisp in appearance, suggestive of an origin of historic date, and very similar to the Casten Dyke North – but in this case facing to the north.

Then, in autumn 2013 there was a small-scale research excavation of the defences of 2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations
Roulston Scar hillfort. The excavation was looking for environmental and other dating evidence to help identify a putative relationship with the small nearby promontory fort at Boltby Scar, 4km to the north, where excavations had taken place between 2009 and 2012. The trench across the defences of the Roulston Scar hillfort, carried out by the Landscape Research Centre, indicated that the latest phase of activity represented was a linear trench cut into and along the back of the Iron Age (prehistoric) rampart with associated postholes, probably representing some form of palisade.

Unfortunately, no dating evidence was secured from the trench or postholes but the position of the trench cut (high up at the back of the rampart), the sharpness of remains, and the increased organic nature of the fills, again suggest a short period of use and an historic rather than prehistoric date.

2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations

Further work is clearly required to attempt to secure additional dating evidence from all the potential parts of this battlefield landscape but, at present, we have:

  • the northern rampart of Roulston Scar hillfort, reinforced with a sizeable palisade;
  • the Casten Dyke South, perhaps specifically constructed for this encounter;,
  • both these features with their defensive faces to the north, protecting two promontories of land respectively 24 and 28 hectares in extent;
  • and facing south across a gap of between 880 to 1300 metres we have the Casten Dyke North.

Annotated version of map from English Heritage Archaeological Investigations Report AI/11/2001 An Iron Age promontory fort at Roulston Scar, North Yorkshire by Alastair Oswald & Trevor Pearson

Are these the respective positions of the English and Scottish armies in October 1322, before a part of the Scottish army managed to outflank and rout the English forces?

Only further research will be able to tell.

From the mouths of Volunteers

Clair Shields – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator

So many of our blog posts are about what we the professional staff get up to – that with this in mind this post has been written to share the experiences enjoyed by some of our Volunteers, and to elucidate the satisfaction they get out of their efforts.

We’ve mentioned in previous posts about the Monument Management Scheme and the great work that the Historic Environment Volunteers are doing. Volunteers give their time, energy and skills to help the National Park Authority conserve the special qualities of the National Park; in the case of the Historic Environment Volunteers, they’re concentrating particularly on our Scheduled Monuments.

Shelagh

Shelagh has been given three Scheduled Monuments which are known to house badger setts, and regularly monitors badger activity to help inform future management of the monuments. 

For me, as a volunteer surveyor for the badger survey, there are two main thrills…firstly, exploring in detail a scheduled Monument that I may have walked by many times before and not known was hidden in the forest; and…secondly, the knowledge of other creatures (particularly the nocturnal badger) is also exploring these monuments, when others are not around.   

The training back in February gave me the information to recognise these creatures’ (especially the badger’s) presence and it gives me pleasure to look for tell-tale signs when I am out walking.  

I also have the pleasure of watching one particular environment change through the seasons. From seeing a good variety of spring flowers in their prime, through to beautiful swathes of delicate stitchwort and heady wild garlic (that is if you love the smell of garlic!) and now harder to negotiating nettles, brambles and bracken accompanied by enthusiastic bird song, which I expect will gradually die away to more individual sounds. 

So the environment and my enthusiasm are good but what do I see on my roughly 3 weekly walks in Dalby Forest?  

Fortunately, I have one huge badger sett on one of the monuments that I monitor. There is plenty to see – digging, badger runs, hair, scratch marks and a latrine (which are quickly being hidden by the wild garlic). Some of the entrances to the sett have cobwebs and sticks and there are a few paw marks but indistinct so what are the badgers doing? Are they still there? I have searched quite a way along the runs but it is not all as easy to interpret as one might think. 

I record what I see and this means the archaeology team are aware of what is taking place on that particular site. Plus we have the back up of people with extensive knowledge of badger behaviour to turn to if we have queries.  

We are not alone and the archaeological team have reassured us that we should not be inhibited by our inexperience, as everyone has much to learn on this project. Sadly for them I have not found any archaeological artefacts, up to now, and that would be another thrill if I did.

Volunteer inspecting a monument in the depths of a wood

Most of the work undertaken so far by the Historic Environment Volunteers has involved monitoring Scheduled Monument at risk, in order to assess their current condition.

Richard and Tessa

Richard loves orienteering and makes excellent use of his maps, compass, and GPS to locate the well-hidden monuments.

This is an excellent way to spend a day wandering the paths and woods of the North York Moors, with the bonus of fulfilment – when one finally locates and confirms that there really IS a hidden monument in an isolated place far from public gaze! 

Peter and Ann

The farmers were extremely helpful and accommodating. They met us on arrival and walked with us to each site. Helping us locate the barrows and ditches in the undergrowth, saving us a great deal of time.

All in all a happy experience! Is there more to do?

Volunteers visited this remote burial cairn after several years of bracken treatment to look for any regrowth
If words aren’t enough to explain why people volunteer in the North York Moors and what they get out of it – there are a few more enthusing pictures below, taken by Historic Environment Volunteers. 

The two round barrows in this clump of trees are protected from ploughing in the surrounding field, but the scrub growth noted by the Volunteer will need monitoring


Photo 1 - Volunteers visited this medieval manorial centre, fortified house and tower, and fishponds to see whether it is being affected by grazing animals or scrub growth

Photo 2 - Volunteers visited this medieval manorial centre, fortified house and tower, and fishponds to see whether it is being affected by grazing animals or scrub growth The Volunteer here can enjoy the lovely views while recording the condition of this round barrowIf you are interested in volunteering for the North York Moors National Park, we provide a wide range of different opportunities for Volunteers, with further opportunities under development. Take a look at our website to find out more.

View of Cross base - at sunset