A to Z: a slew of Ss

S

SAINTS

A number of saints are associated with the North York Moors. Geographical associations can sometimes be found in the name of parish churches dedicated to particular saints, like St Oswald’s, St Cuthbert’s or St Hilda’s, all Anglo-Saxon celebrities when the north east of England was particularly important for the celtic branch of Christianity before the church in England romanized. Not all saints are Anglo-Saxon, it’s just that quite a lot of them are in Britain, many awarded sainthood before canonization became more centrally organised.

The full name of the church in the village of Oswaldkirk (which means Oswald’s Church) is the Church of St Oswald, King and Martyr. St Oswald (died 642) was a King of Northumbria, the kingdom included most of Yorkshire at one time or another. Oswald converted to Christianity as a young man in exile on the island of Iona, a hotbed of celtic Christianity whilst the rest of Britain was mostly pagan. He regained his kingdom as a Christian and then made it his mission to spread the new religion. He died in battle against pagan Mercians in 642, hence the title of Martyr. His body was supposedly cut up in a pagan ritual, but this meant his body parts were them disseminated across the country, and even onto the continent, as inspirational Christian relics.

St Cuthbert (died 687) was a monk for most of his life, he was the Prior on Lindisfarne before he gave it up to become a hermit on one of the nearby Inner Farne islands. After his death he became a very popular saint widely venerated across the north of England and beyond, probably because of his steadfastness and asceticism as well as his holiness. Over 400 years later he was said to have had an incorrupt corpse when dug up, which always makes an impression. St Aiden (died 651) was the first Prior on Lindisfarne and seems to have had a similar character and calling to Cuthbert, but he ended up partly eclipsed by his successor in the saint popularity stakes. Although there are many St Cutchbert’s Churches round and about the Norht York Moors, but only one within, at Kildale. But there are two St Aidan’s, in Oswaldkirk and in Carlton.

St Hilda (died 680) as an Abbess had status in the Christian hierarchy which gave her authority and influence in her lifetime, her personal qualities meant that continued after her death. She was an advocate of education, and her own wisdom was greatly valued. She was first an Abbess at Hartlepool before re-founding the Abbey of Whitby (not the current ruin), where monks and nuns lived separately but worshipped together. She hosted the important Synod of Whitby in 663/4 at which it was decided that the future of the English church should be Roman. Like Cuthbert, after her death Hilda was widely venerated in the north of England. There are St Hilda’s Churches in Ampleforth, Beadlam, Danby and Hinderwell – which is a derivation of the name Hilda’s well.

The church in Lastingham is named after St Chad but it is St Cedd, his brother, who is buried in the crypt. St Cedd (died 664) was an important person in the hierarchy of the Anglo-Saxon church, as well as founding a monastery at Lastingham he evangelized all over England and was known as the bishop of the East Saxons i.e. Essex. St Chad (died 672) succeeded him as Abbot of Lastingham but spent much of his time converting the re-occuring Mercians in the midlands of England. Both brothers learned their ‘trade’ on Lindisfarne before being sent out by various Christian kings of Northumbria to convert the pagans in the rest of England. There are also St Chad’s Churches in Sproxton and Hutton le Hole.

St Caedmon (died 680) is a particularly local saint, he was possibly a herdsman from Whitby before he became a monk at Whitby Abbey whilst Hilda was the Abbess. He never had a position of authority like the other saints mentioned, he did however have a gift for composing poetry in the vernacular which illustrated Christian stories and ideas, so helping to spread the faith. One thing to note is that there are no churches dedicated to St Caedmon, but he does get to patronise a school in Whitby.

SEGMENTED EMBANKED PIT ALIGNMENTS

Segmented Embanked Pit Alignments (SEPA) are an historic earthwork feature of the north east of the North York Moors, identified by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England as a specific type of monument in the 1990s. Previously this type of feature had been classed as a double pit alignment – two lines of pits marking a boundary. A SEPA earthwork however is made up of two or three pairs of pits inside two parallel enclosing banks largely made from the spoil from the pits, these are generally in what appear to be conjoined segments. The segmentation suggests development over time rather than a linear structure created in one go as a land boundary.

In each case the SEPAs appear to be aligned with nearby Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds), which suggest the SEPA are Bronze Age too and could have had a related ritual purpose. The alignment of all the SEPAs is north-west to south-east. This alignment seems to have taken precedence to any alignment with the barrows. The parallel banks were oddly low, which means the earthworks were not prominent in the landscape when they were constructed, unlike the barrows.

No similar features have been identified in the rest of Britain. SEPAs are therefore particularly important and are now scheduled along with their associated barrows. There are three locations of SEPA earthworks within ten miles of each other – on Middle Rigg, Easington High Moor (SM 1020351), on Danby Rigg (SM 1018782) and on Ugthorpe Moor (SM 1016532 and SM 1016533). Graham Lee, our previous Archaeological Conservation Officer, believes there is also a SEPA monument near to Boltby aligned to a nearby scheduled round barrow (SM 1010343).

SEPA on Middle Rigg, Easington High Moor - the ranging rod is in one of the pits. Copyright NYMNPA.

SHEEP

Sheep are the main stock animal farmed in the North York Moors. According to Defra’s June 2016 agricultural census returns, there were 296,120 sheep in the National Park at that time, five and a half times the number of cattle. Why the pastures, grasslands and moors of the North York Moors are used for sheep is based on current economics and a couple of centuries of custom. Sheep can manage on open moorland for a lot of the year without much input if they’re hefted – which means when a flock keeps to a certain part of an area because of learnt behaviour, rather than needing fencing. But just like there are a variety of different habitats and landscapes in the North York Moors, there are a variety of different sheep breeds and farming methods, and not all North York Moors sheep spend summer amongst the heather.

Blackface sheep on moorland. Copyright NYMNPA.

One of the main breeds in the North York Moors are Blackface. Blackface sheep are hardy and easily hefted, so good on northern hills. Mixing sheep breeds to develop sheep that best suit local conditions and to accentuate their best commercial features is an ongoing endeavour amongst sheep farmers. A mule is a cross breed sheep, mixing the qualities of a Blackface sheep with a more commercial breed either for wool or for meat.

Ram, ewe and lamb are common enough descriptive nouns for sheep, but there are a lot more you’ll need to know if you want to talk sheep with a North York Moors farmer. For instance a tup is another name for a ram, a wether is a castrated male lamb, a hog is an older lamb more than a year old, a gimmer is an older lamb which will be used for breeding.

North York Moors sheep flock. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you want to find out more about sheep, and who wouldn’t – have a look at the National Sheep Association’s very informative website.

SMUGGLING and other criminal enterprises

The North York Moors has high cliffs, sheltered coves and small fishing villages on its eastern coastal edge. So ideal for people with boats in the 17th to 19th centuries  to bring in comestibles whilst avoiding being made to pay custom and excise duties due to the government. This smuggling was never on the scale of that in the south of England because of the distance from the continent, but there were local opportunities for small boats to go out to sea and collect goods from passing ships.

The fact that the terrain of the North York Moors and distance from authority meant it was difficult to collect duties plus the fact that many people didn’t want to pay the duties, together meant organised criminal enterprise was rife. There weren’t very many ways of making money, smuggling was one, as long as you weren’t caught and potentially transported or executed.

Goods were landed, held in coastal villages and farms, and then distributed, all the while the Customs and Excise Officers tried to prevent this with varying enthusiasm and results. The British Government used money from duties to help finance numerous wars in Europe and so always wanted to collect as much money as possible because wars are always expensive. Customs were levied on imported foreign goods (charged at recognised ports) and excise was levied on domestic production.

Such widespread smuggling reached a peak of activity at the beginning of the nineteenth century during the Napoleonic Wars. It wasn’t all brandy, silk and tea however, another comestible which suffered from a high rate of tax was salt, both home produced and imported. The Wagon and Horses Inn, just north of the Hole of Horcum, was surrounded by treacherous and secretive moorland, it was also alongside the main road across the moors connecting the coast around Whitby and the south to Pickering, York and beyond. The name of the inn underlines the importance of the location for transportation, and because of this location it became a criminal hub. Untaxed salt was held at the inn, fisherman from the coast would bring in their fish to be salted and then moved on to be sold. Salted fish could be transported more widely and therefore could make more profit, as long as the salt was untaxed. Everyone knew what was happening and there were frequent raids by Excise Officers. The story goes that on one occasion a single Excise Officer managed to catch the felons by surprise, and he ended up murdered. Elements of stories then got muddled up together. The body is supposed to have been buried under the fire place, a tradition was established that the fire should never be allowed to got out else the devil would arise or the ghost of the murdered man would seek revenge or more prosaically the body might be discovered.

Later the Wagon and Horses was renamed the Saltersgate Inn, the wider site is now called Saltergate. It’s obvious what the first part of the name signifies, and the word ‘gate’ means a road. The Saltersgate Inn recently fell into dereliction, it is due to be demolished and the site redeveloped. So far no body has been found.

SOCIAL CAPITAL

Social capital is defined by Wikipedia as a form of economic and cultural capital in which social networks are central; transactions are marked by reciprocity, trust and cooperation; and market agents produce goods and services not mainly for themselves, but for a common good.

We’ve recently helped a PhD student from Bangor University by putting him in touch with North York Moors Farmers willing to answer questions about what it is that motivates them to engage (or not) with high nature value farming and/or agri-environment schemes.

The research being undertaken is aiming to identify social capital types within farmer groups. It is recognised that there will be significant impacts on farming communities, especially upland livestock farmers, as a result of agriculture policy changes post-Brexit. So having an understanding of how resilient communities are and how able they are to adapt to change will be valuable in the design and potential success of future land management schemes seeking to deliver environmental outcomes. An aim of this research is to try and understand whether high levels of social capital are a driver that encourages a farmer’s participation in high nature value farming and/or engagement in agri-environment schemes? whether a farmer’s participation leads to greater levels of social capital? or are there other drivers that come into play?  Whatever conclusions are drawn from this research, one thing is certain – there must have been some very interesting conversations being had around farmhouse kitchen tables over the past few weeks!

SUNDEW

On particularly wet peaty acidic areas of moorland you might find Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia. It grows low to the ground with upright stems and small white flowers in the summer. Sundews use photosynthesis like many plants to make glucose for energy, but plants also tend to need nutrients and minerals usually obtained by their roots from the soil they grow in. But the wet soils on which this species live have few nutrients and minerals because these have leached away. Many plants would find this habitat too inhospitable but Drosera rotundifolia has a proactive solution to supplementing its diet. It has leaves with sticky inward curving hairs in which unsuspecting insects get trapped when they come to look for nectar, and are then slowly digested by enzymes. It is one of a number of carnivorous plants across the world.

Round-leaved sundew, Bransdale. Copyright NYMNPA.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O , P, Q, R

What happened next?

Before Love in the Countryside, there was Sunley’s Daughter.

British Film Institute - Sunley's Daughter

Back in the 1970s, Barry Cockcroft made a series of documentary programmes for Yorkshire Television portraying engaging characters living a rural life in the north of the county – the most famous of which was Too Long a Winter which starred Hannah Hauxwell farming in Baldersdale in the North Pennines.

There were also a couple of programmes set in the Cleveland Hills/Esk Dale in the north of the North York Moors. One – The Children of Eskdale – has already featured on this Blog. The other is Sunley’s Daughter, filmed in 1974. Like the other episodes the idea was to document real people’s lives in such a way as to construct a ‘drama’, a human interest story.

The Sunley family live on a tenanted farm near Gerrick – Joe Sunley, the patriarch figure, Connie Sunley, his wife, and one remaining child, Mary whose four siblings have all moved away. In this north west corner of the North York Moors it isn’t the climate that is harsh enough to make a story, instead it is the atypical life of 25 year old Mary. Mary works on the dairy farm – hard physical labour – seven days a week. She has done so for years, and will do so for years to come as long as her parents are alive and keep the tenancy of the farm. The farm can’t be passed down, it belongs to the local estate – Ringrose Wharton (now Skelton & Gilling). A farm under tenancy means there is not the incentive to invest in the farm and its machinery, even if Joe Sunley wanted to, which he doesn’t. He wants to live by the tenets of the Bible – a hard life makes that easier to do. He chooses not to have electricity, as he chooses not to celebrate birthdays or Christmas – and so neither do his family, the interviewer gets his wife to admit she misses the electricity. Joe perseveres (a biblical maxim); as Connie says ‘he’ll never give in’. Interestingly Joe doesn’t come from the expected cliché of generations of local farming stock – his father was an ironstone miner and he himself was a fitter until the Great Depression. He worked his way up using allotments for growing vegetables, rearing chickens, making ice cream in Guisborough, before finally getting himself a farming tenancy. Connie worked alongside him all the way.

What Joe, along with a number of other working farmers in the East Cleveland Hills, takes particular satisfaction in is the breeding of Cleveland Bay horses – a local native breed, highly valued today. You see Joe riding a horse, he used to plough with them; the Cleveland Bay is known as a working horse despite looking like a million dollars. The breed declined in the 20th century and during that time it was Joe Sunley and his neighbours that kept it alive. Joe Sunley is and was a renowned breeder, he sold horses to the Queen of England and the Emperor of Japan, but he’s definitely not going to let that make him a fortune. The programme doesn’t explain why he does it, maybe it’s another thing to strive at, to give him a sense of achievement. His horses in particular seem extremely spirited.

According to the programme for Mary every day is the same … until she meets Jim Smith, a farm labourer on the next door farm. He asks her out, and after a year they are engaged. That’s Part One of the programme. Part Two appears to be working up to a marriage and to establishing a new future for Mary. I don’t mean to spoil the programme’s ending for you – but this doesn’t happen. Mary is a thoughtful woman, she has made sense of her life. Like her mother, she’s more passive than proactive, she wants to ‘wait and see’ and expect there will be ‘more chances’ to come for her and Jim. She’s not ready to go at that time.

One of the main themes presented is the unchanging nature of the Sunley’s lives, but this is exaggerated because around them times are changing as they inevitably do. The farm next door has a milking machine, and productive Friesian dairy cows. The Estate Manager at Skelton Castle talks about the expected ingress of Teesside and expanding urbanisation impacting on the Cleveland Hills. He recognises that small farms will become unviable and suggests Jim will need 400 to 500 acres of farmland (150 to 200 hectares) to support a family. For Jim as a farm labourer buying a farm is impossible, and estate farms to rent are few and far between – they’re trapped between lack of income and tradition. There is an opportunity for Jim to work on a ‘modern’ farm at Dunsley, near Whitby, for an 11 hour day at £31 a week (c. £225 today) but with the advantage of having a tied house for him and Mary to live in, as long as they’re married.

But it’s not all Cold Comfort Farm. Mary has been ‘outside’, to Leeds, to Middlesbrough, to Scotland; that may not seem very exotic but it’s not unusual for the 1970s. Mary is allowed to go out with Jim and to get engaged – she’s not forbidden by her father. She curls her hair and goes to the dance at the local Village Hall. The clothes and hair of the people at the dance, mainly women and girls, are very much of the 1970s even if the music is not. Mary’s father acknowledges her value, her mother says she would miss her.

It’s difficult to imagine how the programme got made. Barry Cockcroft must have been good at getting circumspect people to trust him enough to allow him to film them and to tell stories about their lives. The dialogue is encouraged, not coached – the men are much keener on speaking their minds than the women. The programme may over emphasise the romantic music, maybe it’s a bit patronising, maybe it pushes Mary a bit too much to try and get her to react. But it’s interesting for a number of reasons –  reflecting farming in the 1970s, capturing real people only a couple of generations ago even if it is in a directed documentary, or maybe it’s just because of the human interest in the realistic rather than fairy tale ending. I wonder what happened to Mary and Jim – but that’s their business, not mine.

A to Z: a flock of Fs

F

FARMERS

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

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

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

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

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

FARNDALE

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

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

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

FENESTRATION

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

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

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

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

Traditional vernacular cottage - copyright NYMNPA.

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

Classical Georgian House - copyright NYMNPA.

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

Victorian period house - copyright NYMNPA.

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

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

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

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

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

Cottage in Appleton le Moors - copyright NYMNPA.

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

House in Thornton le Dale - copyright NYMNPA.

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

FOORD’S WATER RACES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR (Common or European Ash)

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

Upland Mixed Ashwoods - copyright Mark Antcliff, NYMNPA

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

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

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

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

FYLINGTHORPE SLUG

Fylingthorpe Slug - from Whitby Gazette 3 October 2014

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

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

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

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

Out of Intensive Care and into rehabilitation

Taken from final report for the Cornfield Flowers Project: ‘Out of Intensive Care’

Cornflower - Cornfield Flowers Project

The Cornfield Flowers Project was set up originally to save rare plants of arable fields in north-east Yorkshire. It is spearheaded by the Carstairs Countryside Trust in partnership with the Ryedale Folk Museum, North Yorkshire Moors Association and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The core project area covers the south of the North York Moors National Park. Beyond this it links across the Vale of Pickering, Howardian Hills and on to York and the Yorkshire Wolds in the south and across the moors to Cleveland in the north.Treacle-mustard - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The grant funding for the 3rd five year phase of the Cornfield Flowers Project (‘Out of Intensive Care’) came to an end earlier this year. This phase was funded through the National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, the North York Moors Coast and Hills LEADER programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Carstairs Countryside Trust.

Large-flowered hemp-nettle - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Phase 3 of the Project has managed and enhanced

  • a dedicated public demonstration field at the Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton-le Hole;
  • a cornfield and recreated species-rich meadow at Silpho, near Scarborough;
  • and in addition a new sandland arable site at Water Fulford near York – which was sown in one year due to the available amount of volunteer-grown seed.
Species counts at these sites were either maintained or more usually, raised.
Corn buttercup - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012During Phase 3 the Project introduced suitable open ground species into four disused quarries where the conditions could be manipulated to offer opportunities to increase the number of places where the plants can be allowed to thrive. However the low soil nutrients and harsh micro-climates at these sites have suited only some species e.g. Red hemp-nettle, whilst most others have struggled, suggesting the use of such sites is limited. However one of the conclusions of the Project is that the target species are not just plants of farmed land, but properly plants of disturbed ground and a focus for the future could be other places where the ground is regularly disturbed.
Venus's-looking-glass - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012
The Project is only possible due to the dedicated work of volunteers and the involvement of participating farmers. Phase 3 set out to engage the wider public in further participation in rare plant conservation through recruiting volunteers to expand seed stock and to act as species custodians as well as people, groups and schools willing to plant cornfield flower areas. A core of custodians has remained dedicated to the aims of plant conservation over the years, enabling a vital consistent supply of seed. The creation and management of cornfield beds has proven popular because they are effective even in small areas and the intense flowering display provided by the mix of species has attracted people along with the obvious signs of benefit to bees and other insects. One of the issues that became apparent initially was the widespread misunderstanding about the difference between arable land and meadow land, and the differences between their plants and required management. The ground the arable plants grow in needs to be disturbed (as if cultivated) for them to survive.

Sharp-leaved fluellen - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The Project has worked directly with 14 volunteer farmers managing areas of their farms for arable plant conservation and as species reintroduction sites. The greatest determinant of arable wildflower success is the dedication of the individual farmers themselves, and their willingness to encourage these plants above and beyond what would usually be required from an arable management regime. Maintaining a variety of core farms throughout the project area is essential to provide the widest range of conditions (soil type, microclimate etc.) to benefit the greatest variety of arable plant requirements and mitigate against localised losses at one site. In addition the Project has reached out to farmers through organised events and provision of advice and through working with agri-environment scheme providers to establish what species remain where in the wider area.

Corn marigold - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The sharing and spreading of knowledge is an essential element for the future of the species’ conservation. Hands-on growing of plants has proven to be the very best method for volunteers to become familiar with arable wildflowers, learning as they go through experiences of failures, pests, flowering times and seedling identification, with ready access to a Project Officer to answer any queries when needed.

Night-flowering catchfly - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Documenting the origins and movement of seed to ensure locations and provenance are recorded has been vital and will serve as an historical record of the Project’s work. Because much conservation targeting is based on species rarity, clear distinctions need to be drawn between native sites / plants and those reintroduced by the Project, so as not to impair wider conservation efforts or devalue any species by misrepresenting its true status. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) study UK plant distribution and taxonomy, and operate a recording and mapping scheme that informs national plant Atlases and County Floras. The Project has provided them with records for local vice-county areas 61 and 62 (North-east Yorkshire and South-east Yorkshire respectively). One outstanding issue is how many years an introduced plant must be self-sustaining, without further reintroductions, before its ‘introduced’ status can be relaxed.

Corn mint - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Steadily expanding survey coverage, along with increasing botanical expertise of the Cornfield Flowers Project and its volunteers, resulted in continuing species discoveries of national or regional significance, including a number previously thought regionally extinct. As well as new species found in the area during Phase 3, rare species were also found at new sites.

Upright goosefoot (Chenopodium urbicum)

Small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica)

Purple ramping-fumitory (Fumaria purpurea)

Few-flowered fumitory (Fumaria vaillantii)

Dense-flowered fumitory (Fumaria densiflora)

Corn parsley (Petroselinum segetum)

Abyssinian kale (Crambe hispanica

Shepherd’s-needle (Scandix pecten-veneris)

Common ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis subsp. boraei)

Cornfield knotgrass (Polygonum rurivagum)

Common fumitory - Ian Carstairs, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

The current Management Group are determined to keep the work going to sustain the effective conservation of arable flowers in north-east Yorkshire. A plan for how to move forward – to maintain the momentum of the project, provide responsibility for maintaining the seed stock, consolidate affinity with participants over the future of the project, and provide ongoing enthusiasm and focus – is still taking shape. In the meantime the Carstairs Countryside Trust are providing funding for an additional year.

Common poppy - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Tom Normandale and Chris Wilson have been the  whole-hearted proactive Project Officers for the Cornfield Flowers Project. Chris is now retiring from that role but will continue his involvement. Tom remains as a dedicated Project Officer.

Cornfield Flowers - Patrick Ferguson, Cornfield Flowers Project Millennium Seed Bank Exhibition 2012

Cornfield Flowers Project – Latest CFP Newsletter 2014-15

Cornfield Flowers – species cards

Cornfield Flowers Project, Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire, YO62 6UA.

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

A week in the life of a Land Management Adviser

Ami Walker – Land Management Adviser

Places like the North York Moors National Park may at first glance seem like areas of wild, natural beauty, but in reality they are largely managed landscapes. As a Conservation Land Management Adviser working on the Habitat Connectivity – Linking Landscapes Programme (“bigger, better, more connected”), I work with farmers and landowners to encourage and assist them in managing their land in a way that maintains and improve conditions for our native wildlife.

My week is usually a mix of sitting at a desk and being out and about in the North York Moors (no prizes for guessing which I prefer). By far the best bit of my job is the people I come into contact with. The North York Moors is a tough environment to farm in but we are blessed with some wonderful characters who have a deep sense of pride in what they do and where they live, and I love working with them.

Lately a typical week has started with a visit to a farmer who is willing to get involved in the Linking Landscapes Programme. This requires an on site survey looking in very fine detail at the important habitats and features on the farm – and working out opportunities to link these areas together to enable movement of wildlife around the countryside.

I spend a day walking the area to get an idea of what already exists conservation wise on the ground – making lists of plants and birds seen, whether there are any veteran or ancient trees and any good examples of other habitats such as hedges or species rich grasslands. I’m also looking for the potential to improve the farm for nature conservation – by fencing river banks, or planting new hedges and trees. At the same time I’m noting whether there is any archaeology that could benefit from protection and making sure any planned natural environment work won’t detrimentally affect irreplaceable historic environment features.

Back in the Office, I consult other National Park Authority Officers on the farm holding e.g. Area Ranger, the Ecologist, the Archaeologist, the Rights of Way and the Woodland Officers, to see whether anyone has any insights and comments on my findings. This culminates with me working up a Conservation Agreement management plan with the farmer to agree habitat improvements on their farm.

In the same week I’ll be back on another farm, this time for a catch-up on how things are going with a Conservation Agreement that was set up earlier in the year; checking to see how the planned capital works have gone e.g. hedges planted and new fences installed correctly to allow effective grazing of important grassland sites. Each individual holding is an important part of the bigger programme of habitat connectivity. The more farm holdings involved, the greater the achievable connectivity will be.

As well as the farmers, I also love working with our dedicated Conservation Volunteers and our work experience students; passing on my enthusiasm for nature conservation and hopefully inspiring them to stay involved long term for the good of the North York Moors.

My job enables me to go to places where only the farmer usually has access to – something I feel extremely privileged to be able to do. I get to see wading birds, deer, owls, rare plants, all with the backdrop of stunning views and lots of peace and tranquility. I feel a small part of something much bigger.