Last year’s top 5 posts

Whether by accident or design these were our top 5 posts in 2016, according to the number of views.

Woodland to be thinned - copyright NYMNPA

1.The aesthetics of trees

If you’re a land manager and you’re interested in grant to help you create, manage or improve your own woodland masterpiece – here’s a link to the national funding that’s available. Watch out for the set application windows because they’re often quite short.

The current adaptation of The Crown, Helmsley - copyright NYMNPA.

2.Historic Pub Culture

As part of the renovation of The Crown Hotel in Helmsley the building was subject to a re-assessment of the development of its historic fabric by Colin Briden, an Historic Buildings Archaeologist who reported in April 2016. His report concluded…

Although partly demolished in the 18th century to bring it ‘up to date’, and extensively refurbished in the 20th century to make it look ‘olde worlde’, the building retains considerable evidence for a high-status late mediaeval timber framed house of two jettied storeys (where upper storeys project beyond the lower storey) and attics in a prominent position. The house is of an unusually large scale. Other comparable size houses in the wider area are from much later dates.

Now that the building is free from the unfortunate results of the 20th century remodelling it is possible to see it as it really is – ‘the battered remnant of late mediaeval construction work on the grand scale carried out by an unusually wealthy owner’.

In 1478 Helmsley was sold to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III; it reverted to the de Roos family on his death. The name of the subsequent hotel is suggestive of a reference to this short lived but significant royal ownership.

In its latest adaptation, the building is now a shop.


3.Face to face with the past

Raven - the Watcher by JestePhotography.

4.A ‘Gothic’ icon

Historic England survey of earthworks at Stoupe Brow alum works - copyright Historic England

5.Cliff edge archaeology

Following our work in 2014-15 (reported in early 2016), we were pleased that Historic England were able to remove one of the coastal alum working Scheduled Monuments from the Heritage at Risk register because we had fully recorded those parts of the monument which were under threat. However, four other Scheduled alum working sites remain on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register despite our efforts to record some of their most vulnerable features. So what next?

Working with Whitby Museum and specialists from Historic England, we held a seminar last spring bringing together a group of dedicated people with a strong interest or connection to the coastal alum working sites – landowners, archaeologists, academics and private researchers – to review what we know about the alum industry, to decide what we don’t understand and to look for a way forward to manage the risk to the sites under threat and ensure that we do not lose the valuable information held within them. One of the ideas emerging from the seminar was a further excavation project with an emphasis on engagement and interpretation as well as research.

Archaeological excavations take considerable planning and funds to ensure that they are carried out to a high standard and achieve objectives without causing accidental damage, so it can be a slow process getting started. We are now working towards setting up a project to investigate one of the sites which we didn’t include in the investigations in 2014-15 – the alum works at Stoupe Brow, near Ravenscar. An extensive system of reservoirs and water leats (dug channels) was revealed on the nearby Fylingdales Moor after the 2003 wildfire and we know that this water management system supplied the needs of the alum processing at Stoupe Brow, but other than that we currently know very little about this site. Historic England recently completed a topographic survey of the earthworks so we can now see how the site was laid out, but not how it operated. The site still includes its alum house (where the final processing to produce alum crystals was carried out) and there is still a general gap in knowledge when it comes to how alum houses functioned. As well as trying to discover more about the practical operations at the site the project will record the structures which are currently being gradually lost over the cliff edge. A big advantage of this particular site is that it is more accessible and less dangerous compared to some of the other coastal alum working sites – providing great opportunities for volunteers and visitors.

The first stage of the project is producing a project proposal which will outline what we want to do and how much it will cost, and this is expected by the end of this winter. The next step will be using the proposal to generate partnership support and seek funding. It is early days yet, but we hope this will develop into an exciting project – watch out for further posts as our plans progress.

Mags Waughman, Monument Management Scheme Officer

Historic Pub Culture

Beth Davies – Building Conservation Officer

Builders working on the renovation of The Crown (former Public House) in Helmsley have discovered an historic clay pipe in the roof space. The pipe stem ranges from 5 to 9 mm in diameter and whilst it is brown with age it appears to be made from white clay. The pipe could be helpful in dating the former coaching inn but it also provides a tangible connection to the people who lived and worked in the building in the past.

The first clay pipes were handmade in Europe in the later 16th century and by 1580 pipes made of fine white ‘ball’ clay were increasingly used to smoke tobacco or ‘drink’ tobacco as it was then known. These whitish pipes were very popular in England and at one point there were about 3,000 clay pipe makers in the country. In the early days when tobacco started to be imported and was scarce and costly the pipe bowls were very small gradually becoming larger after 1620 as tobacco became more readily available and increasingly popular across society.

Example of a 16th century pipe

The pipes consisted of a bowl, a stem and a mouthpiece all molded from a single piece of clay. Pipes were produced in molds then trimmed and finished by hand before being fired in a kiln. The stem was often c. 10-15 cm but could be up to 90 cm!

Clay pipe found in roof of The Crown Hotel, Helmsley - copyright NYMNPA

Clay pipe found in roof of The Crown Hotel, Helmsley - copyright NYMNPA

Only three pieces have been found of the pipe at The Crown so it is impossible to know just how long the stem would have originally been. It does, however, have an undamaged mouthpiece suggesting it was only used by one person.American School - late 18th century. Young Gentleman in Dark Green Coat, Yellow Vest, smoking a Clay Pipe. Example of a "Churchwarden" pipe.

With the advent of long-stemmed pipes known as “churchwardens” in the 18th century, the enterprising practice of inns supplying pipes to customers developed. A piece of stem would be broken before the next client regaled himself and the accumulated portions of stem were discarded in bulk with pipes treated as disposable items.

It isn’t clear whether the pipe at The Crown was dropped or deliberately discarded by a craftsman working on the roof, or even whether it was placed there as some form of good luck talisman just as playing cards often were. What we do know is that it is a very human link to the early origins of this building.

The builders on site now have revealed extensive timber framing which is incredibly exciting as it suggests that The Crown was originally a timber framed hall house and is probably one of the earliest buildings in the North York Moors still standing. Dendrochronologists will try and date the timbers and we will let you know what they find out. Watch this space!

Around the end of apple blossom time

Tricia Harris – Helmsley Walled Garden

As the unseasonal cold weather whips the blossom from the fruit trees, it’s hard to think of summer and apple harvests. But sure enough, if the bees have done their work, the branches will have plenty of fruit for us to collect to turn into pies, chutney and juice by then.

James Grieve Apple Tree - Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmsley Walled Garden has over one hundred different apple trees. One particular collection surrounding the community allotments, is the Yorkshire collection. This is a collection of apple trees that have proven to grow well in cooler northern climes. Some, like Acklam Russet, first recorded in the village of Acklam in 1768 have been here for centuries. Others, like Charles Ross, were originally first grown in Apple blossom April 28th 2015 - Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled GardenBerkshire, but have grown well up here for over 100 years. But whether it’s Keswick Codlin or Ribstone Pippin; Hunthouse or Cockpit, all do well in Yorkshire.

All of these apples were grown for their taste and keeping qualities. Cooking apples such as Lane’s Prince Albert and Alfriston, if stored in a cool, dry place without touching, will keep throughout the winter. The Worcester Pearmain Apple Tree - Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Gardenoriginal Walled Garden was created to supply the fruit and vegetables to the nearby Estate House – Duncombe Park – and had plenty of suitable storage space. The current office buildings against the north wall would have had an apple store, a root vegetable store, a grape room plus dark forcing rooms for chicory and early rhubarb. These rooms and the gardeners’ ingenuity, ensured that as required there were supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables all year round.

If you want to find out a bit more about local apples, come and see the local collection here at Helmsley Walled Garden. The Garden will be having an apple day on 3 October when you will be able to try some of them and get to appreciate the subtle differences of taste, smell and texture.

You can also read up on a wide range of apple varieties on websites such as to find out more about Britain’s favourite fruit.

Apples - Orchards of Husthwaite

Traditional Orchards are one of the United Kingdom’s priority habitats. Priority habitats are semi-natural habitat types considered to be the most threatened and therefore requiring conservation action. Traditional Orchards are one of the rarer priority habitat types in terms of area. This composite habitat is defined as groups of fruit and/or nut trees planted on vigorous rootstocks at low densities in permanent grassland; and managed in a low intensity way. An important part of the biodiversity of a Traditional Orchard is the diversity of the fruit itself, valued as something worth conserving and not allowing to be lost for want of trying.

Traditional Orchards are still important for landscape and local heritage, alongside biodiversity. Historically many farmsteads and sometimes villages would have had their own small orchard, you can see this on historic Ordnance Survey maps where little tree symbols are set out in neat rows next to habitation. In the North York Moors Traditional Orchards are mainly still found on the southern edge, in the dales in the Esk Valley, and around Whitby.

Traditional Orchards are an example of a semi natural partly contrived habitat where man has manipulated the natural environment and biodiversity has adapted – perfect little ecosystems producing an end product of value to society. Like many semi-natural habitats, Traditional Orchards need management to survive.

For more information on how to manage a traditional orchard – see here.

Teaching Trees

Clair Shields – Small Scale Enhancements Scheme Co-ordinator

One of the final projects supported by the LEADER funded Small Scale Enhancements Scheme in the North York Moors has been the Teaching Trees project, run by the Royal Forestry Society. The project encourages teachers to bring children of all ages into managed woodlands, and where possible introduces schools into the woodlands in their own vicinity helping to broaden and consolidate regular classroom work by using woods as outdoor classrooms.  The first session was run at Duncombe Park near Helmsley, where younger children foraged for leaves and seeds, hunted for minibeasts and built bug huts while the older children looked into the management of the woodland and helped to decide which trees should be thinned in a particular part of the wood. As a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Duncombe Park contains some of the best veteran and ancient trees in the National Park. Outside the formal parkland the woodlands are managed for a variety of benefits including timber, sport and landscape, as they have for hundreds of years, and therefore the site offered a great variety of interest for the Teaching Trees Project.

While the majority of the schools involved lie within the North York Moors National Park, an important element of the project was about bringing children from a more urban environment into their National Park to experience the special qualities the Park has to offer including some massive trees.

This is what Teaching Trees education officer Julia Cheetham said about it: “I have been working with a group of eleven and twelve year olds who live on a council estate and very rarely if ever visit a wood. Watching these children experience the different sounds and sights of a wood for the first time was truly magical. They couldn’t get over the true size of a tree and were amazed to find out how old they were.  I think the children taking part in this project are gaining a greater understanding of woodlands, how they are managed and, above all, why we need to look after them.”

Pam Sellar, a teacher at Egton Church of England Primary School in the National Park agreed: “Teaching Trees has had a much bigger impact on the children than I could ever have envisaged. It has made them think very carefully about trees and the impact on their lives. Every morning we have had to spend the first part of the day looking at samples of trees, leaves, fruits and seeds they have collected on their way to school.”

For more info on the Yorkshire based Teaching Trees project – click here.

Practical learning

Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation)

Work has started on the Borobeck Store in Helmsley, giving the TECAP apprentices a real-life project to work on from start to finish.

The apprentices have been charged with overseeing the restoration of a vernacular building within the historic core of Helmsley town. Vernacular buildings reflect the locality in design (or rather non design), materials, and adaptation; rather than any particular architectural ‘style’.

An accredited architect has produced a specification for repairs, and the apprentices have produced the programme of works and bill of quantities, and arranged procurement of materials and the disposal of waste, so gaining invaluable experience of project management.

Along the way the apprentices will be advised by expert conservationists to assist them with the more specialist work needed when working on traditionally built buildings – e.g. a local lime specialist will oversee ‘hot mixing’ and supervise the apprentices when they ‘torch’ the roof thus promulgating vernacular, traditional building skills.

Borobeck Store - Architect's Plans

The works are anticipated to take six weeks. There was a quick start to the project with the apprentices stripping half the roof by lunchtime on the first day. Now decisions need to be taken on the quality of the timberwork and the potential for splicing in new sections of timbers.

This is just one of the work tasks the apprentices have been involved with. If you’re wondering what a TECAP apprentice might be …..

Since 2011 a partnership comprising of this National Park, local Estates (Castle Howard, Duncombe Park, Mexborough, Dawnay, and Hackness), English Heritage, York College and the University of York have been working together to address local skills shortages through the implementation of a two-year craft skills apprenticeship project offering ‘on the job’ training and NVQ level 2 qualifications. This is the Traditional Estate Conservation Apprenticeship Project: TECAP for short.

The aim is to train apprentices in traditional craft skills to a level of good practice in the sustainable conservation of vernacular buildings and nationally important archaeological monuments. The Estates provide the practical experience maintaining and conserving the region’s heritage, and the apprentices also attend College on a block release basis to achieve a nationally recognised qualification by the end of their apprenticeship. There are three apprentices at the moment, all from the local area.

The project is currently being funded through the North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme, English Heritage, the Ernest Cook Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, Historic Houses Association (Yorkshire), NHTG Heritage Skills for the Future and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The current apprenticeship scheme ends in 2014.