What’s Ironstone?

Tom Kearsley – Mineralogist

Iron is arguably the most important metallic element in the history of human technology. In the most comprehensive modern reference volume on properties, processing and use of metals – the Metals Handbook edited by Davis, 1998 – there are more pages devoted to ‘ferrous’ metals (‘irons’, steels and high performance alloys) than to all of the other metals combined.

Together with Magnesium (Mg) and Aluminium (Al), Iron (Fe) is an abundant element throughout the Solar System (Lodders, 2010), including the Earth. It was inherited from dust created by ancient giant stars, then brought together over four and a half billion years ago during the formation of the planet from the collision of asteroids and meteorites in the early Solar System. Much of the Earth’s Fe, along with Nickel (Ni) and Sulfur (S), is now in the core where it is responsible for the magnetic field of the planet. ‘Iron’ is also occasionally found on Earth’s surface as a ‘native’ metal, this may come from meteorite falls (which will not be pure Iron element, but will also contain a little Ni), and even a little can be found in some volcanic lavas. This raw material has been used by people for at least 5000 years, but it is so rare that ‘iron’ was not the most widely used metal until much later. In nature, Mg and Al readily form common minerals with Silicon (Si) and Oxygen (O), but they are not found as metals without human intervention, and they have only become widely manufactured and used in the last century.

Although now a little dated, ‘Metals in the Service of Man’ by A. Street and W. Alexander (10th edition, 1994) provides a concise and readable introduction to the sources of metals, their processing, properties and uses. An excellent and detailed explanation of how metals (including ‘irons’) came to be produced, from the earliest methods up to modern large-scale industries, can also be found in ‘A History of Metallurgy’ by R. F. Tylecote (1992). The first widespread use began with discovery that Copper (Cu), and later Tin (Sn) could be extracted relatively easily from their ore minerals, giving rise to the ‘Bronze Age’, beginning perhaps 9,000 years ago. It is likely that the discovery of ‘iron’ smelting was accidental, perhaps around 4,700 years ago, and was possibly linked to the use of Iron-rich material in production of copper. By 3,000 years ago, ‘iron’ was important in human societies, being used widely in making weapons.

To produce ferrous metal in quantity, it’s necessary to find a good supply of a suitable starting material – the ore. Fuel is required to break the ore down into elemental Iron, typically by raising it to a very high temperature, away from air. It’s also important to be able to remove a range of impurities from the molten metal. Improvements in smelting technique have long been driven by pressures of the cost of mining and transporting ore and fuel, but also reflect the availability of different types of ore. Since the Second World War a very unusual type of ore, Banded Iron Formation (BIF) has been mined in enormous quantities in Australia, Brazil, the USA and Russia (among other countries). BIF is a very peculiar sedimentary rock, deposited in ancient seas, more than two billion years ago when the atmosphere and oceans had very different behaviour to the modern world. Because it is available in large quantities (many millions of tonnes per annum) and can be processed quite easily to concentrate the content of Iron, it is now most economic to transport this ore worldwide, rather than smelting at source in areas lacking fuel. Before the use of BIF, most production usually relied upon local supplies of ore, as well as coal, coke or charcoal, and additives to help separate metal and slag. In Britain, we have no BIF, and there’s little in Europe as a whole. The history of ferrous metal production in Britain therefore reflects making do with what was available, and many different types of Iron-rich rocks (ironstones) were used as ore.

Example of 'Ironstone'

The most common natural Iron-rich materials found on the modern Earth’s surface are oxide minerals, carbonates, sulfides and fine aluminosilicates. The oxides may be loose mineral grains from weathering of igneous rocks such as basalt lavas, or may form by reaction of volcanic glass and Iron-bearing silicate minerals (such as olivine or pyroxene) with Oxygen and water, especially during tropical weathering. Two minerals are often formed : Goethite (yellow-brown oxyhydroxide, FeO.OH, about 60% Iron by weight) and Hematite (red-purple-grey oxide Fe2O3, nearly 70% Iron by weight), both contain Iron in an oxidised form, Fe3+, which is not very soluble in water. As anyone who has owned an old car will know, metallic ‘iron’ and steel are also able (and all too willing) to form similar oxidised rust! The insoluble oxyhydroxides and oxides are very widespread as tiny grains in soils, giving brown or red colouration. Accumulation in dense soil layers can produce material suitable for use as ore, but these minerals were also occasionally deposited from warm water flowing through cracks in rock, and may form patches and veins of very high grade ores, such as the red Hematite ‘kidney ore’ of Egremont in Cumbria. BIF contain mainly Hematite, in layers with silica.

However, if the tiny grains are washed away by streams and rivers until they reach still water, they can sink and become gently buried within muddy sediment in a lake, delta-front or quiet-water sea. Here they are effectively cut off from air, and as bacterial decay of organic matter in the mud proceeds, they may again lose Oxygen, releasing soluble Fe2+ ions. In freshwater, the ‘reduced’ soluble Iron may react with carbonate created by bacterial oxidation of organic matter (such as rotting leaves), and can be fixed as an insoluble carbonate mineral called Siderite (FeCO3). This often forms spherical concretions that may become flattened as the muddy layers are gradually squashed by continuing build-up of sediment above. The hardened (lithified) concretions or nodules are grey-green when broken, although may turn brown on weathering. Often found in mudstones between coal seams of Carboniferous age across Britain, these Siderite nodules (called ‘doggers’ by miners) may contain nearly 50% Iron by weight, and were an important source of ore during the Industrial Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Iron-rich mud deposited in seawater may behave differently. The oxides and oxyhydroxides again release soluble Iron as Fe2+ ions, but bacterial activity near the surface of the accumulating sediment removes Oxygen from the sulfate ions in the seawater, creating sulfide ions. This is how disturbed marine muds often come to smell of ‘rotten eggs’, the characteristic signature of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Soluble Fe2+ reacts very quickly with sulfide ions, forming a black iron sulfide, and eventually golden Iron Pyrites (FeS2), with about 45% Iron by weight. This can be used as an Iron ore, but releases acidic sulfur dioxide fumes during processing, and requires both careful handling and large amounts of fuel. However, if deposition of mud is quite rapid, the production of sulfide can stop well before all of the soluble Fe has reacted, and more of the carbonate Siderite will then form, often becoming the main Iron-bearing mineral in shallow marine ironstones.

Iron may also be found in pale green hydrated aluminosilicate minerals (containing Al, Si and water), these are members of the Clay Mineral and Chlorite groups, called Berthierine and Chamosite, typically containing about 25% Iron by weight. How these minerals form is still not well understood, despite many studies of ancient and modern ironstones (Kearsley 1989; Young, 1989; Mücke and Farshad, 2005; Clement et al., 2019). There are probably several different origins. Some may be formed by soluble Fe reacting with the white clay mineral Kaolinite within the mud, or from insoluble Fe oxides reacting with Al and Si hydroxides. Some may form by tiny crystals growing within a slimy gelatinous blob or layer, some may grow as crystals directly from water in the mud. Strangely, these minerals also seem to favour growing in layers around a central core, making a concentric tiny egg, an ‘oolith’ or ‘ooid’. When ooids/ooliths are common within an iron-rich rock, it is described as an oolitic ironstone. It is not uncommon to find ironstones that contain aluminosilicates, Siderite, Hematite and Pyrite all together, including within ooliths/ooids – even with evidence that these minerals have replaced each other during or after deposition of the layer.

Rosedale SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) Minerals - copyright Tony Kearsley

Oolitic ironstones are complicated rocks (see figure above). As their content of Iron can vary a great deal, they may or may not prove to be an economic source of Iron, which may also depend upon the other materials that they contain. High contents of Calcium (Ca) may help smelting, but high Phosphorus (P) can contaminate the metal that is produced. The oolitic ironstones mined in Rosedale and around all of the North York Moors typically contain mixtures of Siderite and Berthierine, as well as Kaolinite and the Calcium carbonate mineral Calcite.

The oxide Magnetite (Fe3O4) may also be found in some oolitic ironstones, it contains over 70% Iron by weight. As the name suggests, this mineral is strongly magnetic, unlike almost all of the other Iron ore minerals. It is quite common in Mg- and Fe-rich igneous rocks (formed from molten material), and can occur in massive deposits with a very high percentage of Iron. For example, magnetite has long been mined in Sweden, and was much sought after by both Allied and Axis industries during the Second World War. Magnetite is well known to occur in rocks that have been subjected to burial heating (low grade metamorphism), probably growing as coarser crystals from iron carried through porous rock by hot water.

However, it has also been found (and almost completely mined out) in sedimentary ironstone deposits in Rosedale, it was so rich in Iron. Here its origin is still a mystery, and there have been differing interpretations of when and how it formed. There are several 19th century accounts of the discovery of magnetic ores in Rosedale (Bewick 1861; Wood, 1969; Marley 1871), as well as descriptions of these rocks in the Geological Survey Reports of Hallimond (1925) and Whitehead et al. (1952). From other evidence in the North York Moors, it doesn’t seem likely that these rocks were heated sufficiently to encourage metamorphic magnetite replacement of other minerals, and these are definitely not rocks formed from hot melt. Perhaps the peculiar setting where these sedimentary ironstones accumulated was an important factor in creating Magnetite? The earlier accounts suggested that the richest ore was found within elongate troughs, eroded into the underlying layers. Young (1994) suggested that there were indeed shallow basins where ooliths were deposited, but that the basins had been formed by fault motion at about the same time. Is it possible that stagnant water saturating the sediment within these hollows allowed Magnetite to form, replacing other more-oxidised Iron-rich minerals?

Ironstones deposited during the early part of the Jurassic Period have been extensively mined throughout England and Western Scotland, as described in Whitehead et al. (1952). There is a wider discussion of other ironstones from a broader range of ages, across England and Wales, in Hallimond (1925).

References

Bewick, Joseph 1861. Geological Treatise on the District of Cleveland, in North Yorkshire, Its Ferruginous Deposits, Lias, and Oolites; With Some Observations on Ironstone Mining. London: John Weale

Clement, A. M., Tackett, L. S., Ritterbush, K. A. and Ibarra, Y. 2019 Formation and stratigraphic facies distribution of early Jurassic iron oolite deposits from west central Nevada, USA. Sedimentary Geology 395 C Web. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2019.105537.

Davis, J. R. (Ed.) 1998 Metals Handbook 2nd Edition. ASM International, Materials Park, OH 44073-0002, USA. i-xiv, 1521 pp. ISBN 0-87170-654-7.

Hallimond, A. F. 1925 Iron Ores: Bedded Ores of England and Wales. Petrography and Chemistry. Special Reports on the Mineral Resources of Great Britain. Volume XXIX. HM Stationery Office, London. p 75, plate IV fig. 14.

Hawley, D. 2019 Rosedale – the magnetic ironstone conundrum. Field Excursion Notes. The genesis of geology in York and beyond. Yorkshire Philosophical Society and Geological Society of London History of Geology Group. 25th Anniversary Meeting Thursday 24th October 2019. Downloaded on 3rd December 2020 from: https://www.ypsyork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/HOGG-YPS-YORK-Rosedale-Magnetic-Ironstone-Conundrum-Oct-2019-ONLINE.pdf

Kearsley, A.T. 1989 Iron-rich ooids, their mineralogy and microfabric; clues to their origin. In Young, T.P. and Taylor, W.E.G. (Eds) Phanerozoic Ironstones. Geological Society of London Special Publication 46:141-164.

Lodders, K. 2010 Solar system abundances of the elements. In: Principles and Perspectives in Cosmochemistry. Lecture Notes of the Kodai School on ‘Synthesis of Elements in Stars’ held at Kodaikanal Observatory, India, April 29 – May 13, 2008 (Goswami, A. and Eswar Reddy, B. eds.) Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. p. 379-417 ISBN 978-3-642- 10351-3.

Marley, J. 1871 On the Magnetic Ironstone of Rosedale Abbey, Cleveland. Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. 19, 193-199.

Mücke, A. and Farshad, F. 2005 Whole-rock and mineralogical composition of Phanerozoic ooidal ironstones: Comparison and differentiation of types and subtypes. Ore Geology Reviews 26:227–262.

Powell, J. H. 2010 Jurassic sedimentation in the Cleveland Basin: A review. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 58:21-72.

Street, A. and Alexander, W. 1994 Metals in the Service of Man. 10th Edition. Penguin Books Ltd, London, UK. ISBN 10: 0140148892

Tylecote, R. F. 1992 A History of Metallurgy 2nd Edition. The Institute of Materials. 1 Carleton House Terrace, London. 255 pp. ISBN 0-901462-88-8.

Whitehead, T. H., Anderson, W., Wilson V., Wray, D. A. and Dunham, K. C. 1952 The Liassic Ironstones. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. pp 47-50.

Wood, N. 1869. On the Deposit of Magnetic Ironstone in Rosedale. Spons’ Dictionary of Engineering, Part VIII (Borings and Blasting), pp 501 – 512.

Young, T.P., 1989. Phanerozoic ironstones: an introduction and review. In: Young, T.P. and Taylor, W.E.G. (Eds.), Phanerozoic Ironstones. Geological Society of London Special Publication 46: ix-xxv.

Young, T. P. 1994 The Blea Wyke Sandstone Formation (Jurassic, Toarcian) of Rosedale, North Yorkshire, UK. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 50:129-142.

Colouring in

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Have a look at these two digitally ‘coloured in’ historic photographs of our local mining communities in the North York Moors, from 100 years ago.

Photograph by Thomas Smith, courtesy Beck Isle Museum. Photo colourised by: Photo Restoration Services.

Our first photograph (above) shows ironstone miners at Sheriff’s Pitt, Rosedale, getting ready for a day of hard labour in 1900. If you look closely you can notice the clothing they wore and the wide shovels they used for helping to move the heavy ironstone and scoop it into the tubs. From the tubs it was taken out of the mine and along to the nearby calcining kilns to remove the impurities to make it lighter to transport via rail on to blast furnaces in the wider region.

Photograph by Joseph Brotton, courtesy Ryedale Folk Museum. Photos colourised by: Photo Restoration Services.

The second photograph (above) was taken by J. Brotton on the 24 July 1903 – it’s of an almighty crash at the bottom of the Ingleby Incline railway. The incline is a 0.8 mile long stretch of rail to the moor top, which reaches a stonking 1 in 5 gradient at its steepest points. It was here that wagons were carefully drawn up and down the incline by a rope pulley system to allow the transport of ironstone from the Rosedale mines on to Teesside for processing into pig iron, before being transported and used across the country and the world.

Does the colourisation help make the people look more relatable? Does it make the scenes seem more immediate? Does it bring the communities of the 1900s to life?

Photos colourised by: Photo Restoration Services

Band of Six

Our Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme has been active now for over 16 months; it’s had quite a time so far. We thought it would be courteous to introduce the very adaptable delivery team.

Upper reaches of the Rye catchment. Copyright NYMNPA.

“I’m Alex, the Programme Manager for Ryevitalise. My main role is to work closely with all of our wonderful partners and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to deliver our Ryevitalise vision to ‘conserve, enhance and restore the natural and cultural heritage of the area, enabling people to reconnect with the history, wildlife and landscapes of the River Rye and its tributaries’.

I’ve always had a passion for nature. Growing up locally I have great childhood memories of taking part in lots of activities with the North York Moors National Park. In my early teens my family moved to the Falkland Islands where I was fortunate to volunteer for Falklands Conservation, spending days on end undertaking penguin chick census checks … it was amazing! My family then moved to Ascension Island where I carried out bird, turtle and endemic plant counts, and these experiences led me to pursue a career in conservation.

Alex Cripps, Ryevitalise Programme Manager. Copyright NYMNPA.I studied Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia, including a year in Canada – my dissertation focused on the impacts of habitat fragmentation on ungulates (moose, elk and deer) near Banff National Park. I then spent two years travelling and working in New Zealand before I decided I’d better get a ‘real’ job.

I was delighted to be offered a job in 2013 working for the North York Moors National Park as their Conservation Graduate Trainee. Since then I have developed a huge passion for rivers; I became the Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership Officer in 2014 before taking on the role of Ryevitalise Catchment Restoration Officer in 2017, part of a small team to develop Ryevitalise. In 2018 the final Ryevitalise application was submitted and now here we are, delivering this ambitious landscape partnership scheme and it’s great to be leading the team as Programme Manager.

I love sharing my enthusiasm for rivers and the fascinating wildlife that our freshwater habitats and surrounding areas support. For those of you who know me you will know that I absolutely love aquatic invertebrates – one of my favourite moments in the Rye catchment was watching mayflies dancing above the River Rye near Helmsley, there’s nearly always a dipper bobbing about here too.

Ryevitalise will be raising the profile of rivers, looking at how valuable these ecosystems are and how important they are to local communities. We will be working alongside local communities, including land managers and young people, reconnecting people to their local river systems and exploring how simple every day actions to help care for our rivers can collectively make a huge, positive difference. So it’s great to be underway, delivering a wide variety of projects, and I look forward to meeting some of you soon!”

Mayflies dancing above the River Rye near Helmsley. Copyright Alex Cripps, NYMNPA.

“Hi everyone. My name’s Paul Thompson and I’m the Programme Officer for Ryevitalise currently overseeing our ancient woodland restoration work, access improvements, and community arts project. I’ve also been supporting land managers in Bilsdale carrying Paul Thompson, Ryevitalise Programme Officer. Copyright NYMNPA.out habitat improvement works. I’ve been really inspired by our community who care passionately about our local heritage and rural landscape. Finding solutions to key conservation challenges that benefit people, the economy and the environment is incredibly rewarding, and demonstrates the power of National Lottery Heritage Fund’s landscape partnerships.”

View of Hawnby Hill. Copyright Paul Thompson, NYMNPA.

“Hello! I’m Amy, Ryevitalise Education & Engagement Officer; my job is exactly what it says really. Anything from working with schools, volunteers, local communities, running events and bit of historical work thrown in for good measure!

I started conservation life as a seasonal ranger for the National Trust on the lovely South East Cornish coast. Then moving closer to home to work for the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust as part of the River Tees Rediscovered project. All my roles have involved people (and rivers) in some way! Whether it’s bossing… I mean working with… volunteers; mammal surveying, running community events or working with local people of all ages. I love seeing folks reaction to the first path they have built, catching their first tad pole or that first cup of tea after a gruelling task. It’s amazing how inclusive conservation can be; wildlife doesn’t care who you are or what you can do.

Having spent many of my days as a teenager walking the Cleveland Way and hiking up Hasty Bank, it’s great to actually work here and show off what a lovely place the Ryevitalise area is!”

Cleveland Hills from Urra Dyke at top of Rye Catchment. Copyright Simon Bassindale.

“Hi! I’m James and I’m the Catchment Restoration Officer. Essentially my job involves working to improve the water quality of the River Rye by engaging with land owners, whether by creating conservation agreements which typically address point source James Caldwell, Ryevitalise Catchment Restoration Officerpollution issues, promoting opportunities to increase habitat connectivity, controlling invasive species, or helping to create a more natural river by removing obstacles to fish migration.

I had a rural upbringing and have always had a passion for the environment which is reflected in my career choice, starting as an assistant ranger for a trust in Peterborough, moving to a countryside ranger position with a borough council in Surrey and most recently settling at the North York Moors National Park Authority. 

I enjoy exploring, whether walking, running or cycling, and am delighted to have such variety on the doorstep that also forms my wider “office” and supplies great photo worthy content.”

Byland Abbey. Copyright NYMNPA.

“Hi everybody! I’m Sam Lewsey, the Field Officer for the Ryevitalise project and my main areas of responsibility are the citizen science programme, and the delivery of practical works with our wonderful volunteers.

Sam Lewsey, Ryevitalise Field OfficerI came to the North York Moors from the National Trust, where I worked as a Ranger for the last few years, and before that I worked for Cambridge University. Both my parents had a huge love of the great outdoors and natural history, and this was something I picked up from an early age. I am passionate about wildlife and love working with volunteers setting up programmes of surveying – developing my own ID skills and helping others develop theirs. Hay meadows and their associated pollinators hold a particular fascination for me. When not crawling about looking at wildflowers and fungi you’ll find me out on a run – the longer and hillier the better!

If you’re keen to get involved in volunteering with us please give me a shout and I can talk you through the opportunities that are available within this fantastic scheme.”

Riparian woodland in autumn, near Hawnby - copyright Paul Harris, NYMNPA

“Hi everyone – my name’s Ann Pease and I am the Administration Assistant for Ryevitalise, overseeing all of the background paperwork that keeps the project ticking Anne Pease, Ryevitalise Administration Assistantalong! One of my many roles is liaising between the team and the National Lottery, helping to collate and provide the evidence needed to receive our funding. 

I’ve volunteered for many years across the conservation sector – and am over the moon to be able to work on a project having such a positive effect on our areas landscape and wildlife. 

Being a local girl I am deeply connected to this landscape – I’ve spent much of my life up on the North York Moors and it’s great to see this project champion what makes the area so special. 

If I’m not working you’ll probably find me out walking somewhere – I am a big fan of National Trails and long distance walks…I am also a big fan of butterflies, moths and birds of prey and never miss a chance to have a bit of a geek out!

At the moment I am on maternity leave having had a baby boy in July (mid lockdown!), so am watching from afar – but am very much looking forward to being back in February to see how the project is getting on…”Ryevitalise logo banner

Way! Hey! It’s Lamprey!

Amy Carrick – Ryevitalise Education & Engagement Officer

My friends in the world of fresh water have always tried to convince me that lampreys are beautiful creatures that are an essential part of our eco-system. I was somewhat unconvinced! Their slippery skin, suckers and razor teeth never quite made them the most attractive of animals. Having grappled with measuring elvers in plastic trays in the last Ryevitalise blog post, I was never convinced that neither eels nor lamprey were anything other than something out of a horror film. However whilst Riverfly monitoring on one hot sunny morning recently along with one of our (socially distanced) experienced volunteers, we came across one of the blighters. Even though notoriously difficult to catch, one landed right in our net after our 3 minute kick sample. As our volunteer excitingly popped it onto his hand and waved it in my face, I really wasn’t sure why he was that excited … so he explained how fantastic they were for our rivers.

Young lamprey temporarily caught during recent Ryevitalise Riverfly Monitoring. Copyright Amy Carrick, NYMNPA.

So why the Rye?

Firstly we have three species of lamprey in this country – sea, brook and river lamprey. These have been a rare sight recently in this area until the past few years. As a result of an improvement in water quality, the removal of migratory obstacles and the installation of special tiles that help movement, the lamprey are navigating through the River Derwent. The population has become so important that the lower reaches of the Derwent now have protected status, reflecting the spawning distribution of the species in the catchment.

That this ancient species has made it back up to the River Rye towards the top of the Derwent catchment is very encouraging. Small numbers have been recorded in the past few years by our Riverfly monitors.

So why should we care?

Well over the past few decades high levels of pollution in our rivers has nearly wiped out any chance of seeing lamprey in the UK. All species of lamprey require clean sandy gravels to spawn. The young larvae then swim off to the soft marginal silt of the river to grow; feeding on the algae, bacteria and detritus. Sediments can also smother spawning gravel sites, also effecting other species of fish too. Dramatic changes in water flow and levels also affect these spawning sites. The migratory sea and river lamprey require good water quality to survive their long journey from sea to spawning sites.

This means that if you do have lamprey in your river, something is going right!

So what can we do to help?

Although the fate of the lamprey population depends on the goings on in the lower catchments, the more we can do in the upper catchments to keep lamprey here the better for our freshwater ecosystem, and that’s exactly what the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme is trying to achieve. The reduction in sediments is one of the biggest factors; reducing Himalayan Balsam eroding our river banks, stopping cattle predation in rivers, changing the way riparian land is farmed to reduce runoff, all helps in the battle against sediment. Water level management and the planting of trees also helps with reducing the dramatic water level changes during the winter. And most importantly (slightly biased) is engagement! If people don’t know why we should care for lamprey, then they never will. Sharing the beauty and importance of this slippery creature with as many people as possible will help in protecting these quirky river species.

Did you know for example lamprey predate dinosaurs by 200 million years?! And my favorite – apparently during the Middle Ages, lampreys were widely eaten by the upper classes throughout Europe. It is thought King Henry I died from overindulging on lampreys.

So while I will still recoil in horror at seeing one, I now know how special lamprey are and I will attempt to make these as popular as the cuddly otter or water vole….well one can try…..

Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme main logo band

Microscopic wildlife

Recently the Hoopoe blog by NHBS hosted an interview with Ben Fitch, the Riverfly Partnership’s Project Manager.

Ben emphasis how important riverfly monitoring is as an initiative because it is such an effective way of monitoring the health of a river through its fly life. Ben also happens to mention the flat-bodied mayfly larva (Ecdyonurus dispar – Autumn Dun) as one of his favourite river flies, particularly the white-spot variant.

Excitingly during a socially distanced riverfly training session a few weeks ago Alex, Sam and Amy from the Ryevitalise Team found this very variant here in the River Rye. Apparently the exotic looking spots might be caused by a recessive gene, but what triggers it remains unknown.

Autumn dun white spot from the River Rye - through a microscope. Copyright NYMNPA.

Riverfly monitoring in the Rye catchment is getting going again now, whilst keeping in line with current Covid-19 restrictions. So we thought we’d have a chat with one of our own riverfly people – Sam Lewsey, Ryevitalise Field Officer.

Riverfly monitoring in the Rye Catchment. Copyright Sam Lewsey, NYMNPA.How long have Riverfly volunteers been out in the Rye catchment this year?

We started the phased return of riverfly monitoring from the middle of June. Amy (Education and Engagement Officer) and myself have been meeting individual volunteers on site to go through revised risk assessments and answer any questions they may have, as well as conducting the first kick-samples of the year. Normally riverfly monitoring would have started up at the beginning of May, but due to restrictions our volunteers understandably weren’t able to get out and monitor for the first 6 weeks of the sampling season.

How many Riverfly volunteers have you got on the Rye?

Currently we’ve got 30 riverfly volunteers registered through the Ryevitalise programme, although not all of these are currently ‘active’; unfortunately due to C-19 we had to Riverfly monitoring in the Rye Catchment. Copyright Sam Lewsey, NYMNPA.cancel our riverfly training and refresher days in April, so some volunteers are still awaiting their official training, including health & safety. Others have received training previously and are in the process of being assigned a site to monitor. Our first phase of volunteers to get back to volunteering were our established riverfly volunteers (8 in total) at sites where they had monitored before.

Riverfly monitoring is a good thing because…
See Catchment Based Approach partnerships website’s explanation of riverfly monitoring

“Riverflies (and other freshwater invertebrates) are at the heart of the freshwater ecosystem and are a vital link in the aquatic food chain. Because riverflies are riverfly populations are affected by many factors, predominately water quality, habitat diversity, water level and flow rate. Their common characteristics of limited mobility, relatively long life cycle, presence throughout the year and specific tolerances to changes in environmental conditions make them powerful biological indicators to monitor water quality, and so are commonly referred to as ‘the canary of our rivers.’  The Riverfly Partnership spearheads an initiative to allow interested groups to take action that will help conserve the river environment. This initiative provides a simple monitoring technique which groups can use to detect any severe perturbations in river water quality…”

Basically this Citizen Science initiative “ensures that water quality is checked more widely [than it would be otherwise] and action taken at the earliest opportunity if any problem are detected”.

Ryevitalise is participating in the national riverfly monitoring scheme run by the Riverfly Partnership. It’s important that we’re part of the wider scheme for several reasons: it standardises the methodology used across the UK; we get top-notch training and support from the Riverfly partnership’s extremely knowledgeable qualified trainers; we can run reports of our results easily from the database that our result go into; and we get to contribute important data on water quality and catchment health to the wider national scheme so that research into trends in the health of our rivers can be carried out and lead to informed changes and positive impacts on terrestrial and aquatic management.

Riverfly monitoring focuses on three groups – the up-wing flies or mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies or sedges (Trichoptera) and stoneflies (Plecoptera).

Such tiny creepy insects are actually fascinating and wonderful because…
See Freshwater Biological Association’s website

  • Riverfly monitoring - Mayfly larvae. Copyright Sam Lewsey, NYMNPA.They are a vital link in the aquatic food chain as a food source for fish, birds and mammals
  • They are one of the longest lived group of animals on the earth (mayflies have been around for over 3 million years, with the first written reference to them being made over 4000 years ago!)
  • Mayfly nymphs are present in the water all year round, and can spend up to two years feeding under the water before emerging as their adult form… but once they’ve Riverfly monitoring - Yellow hawk female. Copyright Stuart Crofts, Riverfly Partnership.emerged they fly for only a few hours (enough time to display and mate) before dying
  • Caddisfly larvae are fantastic grazers that clean up old leaves and twigs from the river bed, and sort through sediment as they go
  • Caddisfly cases used to be made into jewellery because they are so beautiful!
  • Riverfly monitoring - Cased caddisfly larvae. Copyright Sam Lewsey, NYMNPA.Stonefly nymphs are extremely hardy – managing to continue growth even in sub-zero temperatures. They are also able to suspend growth if a river dries up temporarily
  • Overall, riverflies are a vital part of both the aquatic and terrestrial food chains, as well as being key players in sorting sediment on the river bed and breaking down waste products like old leaves and twigs

Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme main logos

Good news story: Turtle Doves in a weedy corner

Richard Baines – North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Officer

On 24 June I got a text message from one of our Turtle Dove volunteer surveyors. The message went something like…

‘A good morning’s survey – I saw five Turtle Doves including two feeding alongside eight Yellowhammers in a weedy corner of a nearby field’.

I was very pleased Andy had seen five Turtle Doves because that was one more than I had seen in the same survey square the previous month. But hang on a minute … ‘feeding in a weedy corner’ ?… that phrase pushed me to the edge of my seat … I messaged Andy back and asked him to send me a map of where they were feeding … as soon as I saw the map, I gave a big hurrah!!!

The ‘weedy corner’ was in fact the wild flower plot sown in the last couple of years by a farmer especially for these endangered birds as part of the grant scheme through the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. Even better – Andy had actually got a photo of one of the doves (see below), great evidence of success! I rang up the farmer to give him the good news – not surprisingly he was very pleased that his hard work was having the desired effect. The flowers in the mix he planted include Turtle Dove favourites such as Common Fumitory, Black Medick and Birds-foot Trefoil. Three species which were once commonly found by the side of arable fields but are now increasingly rare.

The farmer and I had located the flower plot in one of his arable field alongside Forestry England woodland. This forest-farmland edge is a habitat known to be favoured by Turtle Doves, and other species such as the Yellowhammers Andy had also seen.

A Turtle Dove in seeded plot 24.6.20 (North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project). Copyright A Malley.

Our Turtle Dove Project has been overwhelmed by the good will shown by local communities and farmers. Now we have direct local evidence showing that these wild flowers and their seed really do make a difference for these beautiful birds when it comes to feeding – so we can continue our work with an extra spring in our step!

National Lottery Heritage Fund logo

For more about the North Yorkshire Turtle Doves (and Richard) – have a look at a feature on our website called Bid to save turtle doves.

Get creative

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Do you have an artistic side and want to help conserve our industrial heritage in the North York Moors?

If so, take the opportunity to get creative and join in with our fantastic Land of Iron Vintage Poster Competition! We are looking for entries from people inspired by the rich heritage of the moors. You will have the chance to display your unique art work at the Inspired by… gallery at The Moors National Park Centre in autumn 2020, and to have your art shown across the North York Moors and beyond.

The North York Moors has an important industrial history that has left us with iconic monuments and evocative heritage. The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme is celebrating this by conserving and opening up access to many of these historic sites, and telling the stories through interpretation, exhibitions and events. A small army of volunteers has been recruited to get things done and a series of management plans is being developed to help care for the heritage long into the future.

For now please don’t travel into or around the North York Moors, due to the current Coronavirus/Covid-19 restrictions*.

The Land of Iron will be here waiting for you to enjoy when it is safe to do so again. In the meantime you could be designing a competition poster in the comfort and safety of your own home. Use our Land of Iron website pages, this Blog and a couple of our Pinterest Boards – LoI North York Moors Pinterest Board and Railway Posters – to help inspire your sequestered imagination.

This Vintage Poster Competition has been conceived to promote this industrial heritage and to help support its ongoing care. We are looking for a range of vintage and railway poster-style artworks that convey these industrial heritage stories, the monuments left behind, and the nature that has reclaimed the landscape since the industry left.

The competition is now open. It’s open to everyone, regardless of age or ability level – and it’s free to enter. For all the details of how to apply and what happens next please have a look here.

Please contact the Land of Iron team by email or phone (01439 772700) if you have a question regarding this competition.

Don’t hold back – the deadline for entries is Friday 17 July 2020. We are excited to see what you come up with!

*Keep up to date with the latest North York Moors National Park response to Coronavirus

Tree by tree

Ann Pease – Ryevitalise Administration Assistant

On 8 February the local community and members of the public came out in force to show their support for the new Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership – volunteering their time to help us plant trees hundreds of trees at a local farm within a 30m wide buffer strip alongside the River Seph in Bilsdale. It was a fantastic bright and sunny winter’s day as we enjoyed the calm before the arrival of Storm Ciara the next day.

A mixture of native broadleaf trees were planted including oak and alder, as well as a range of shrub species including hazel, crab apple, hawthorn and rowan chosen for their high biodiversity value and food source for local birds and wildlife.

Amy from the Ryevitalise Team - tree planting task Feb 2020. Copyright NYMNPA.

Planting trees alongside rivers helps to stabilise the river’s banks via their extensive root network, and reduces natural erosion processes during high rainfall events when the river is in peak flow. Trees provide habitat, food and shelter for wildlife, and by creating an uneven surface and reducing compaction help to filter runoff from the surrounding landscape which in turn improves water quality by preventing excess sediment and nutrients making their way into the river. Trees create a more naturally functioning system and help restore aquatic habitats, such as sediment-free gravel beds, which are vital for the survival of species such as the white-clawed crayfish, trout and lamprey – all of which can be found within the Rye catchment.

Native White-Clawed Crayfish - copyright Dan Lombard.

To help protect the trees planted Ryevitalise has a funded scheme with the farmer which includes erecting a fence to exclude the livestock and so create a buffer strip between the grazed pasture and the river.  Buffer strips are an important component of a functioning river corridor, which act as superhighways for native invertebrates, birds and mammals.  As well as helping to control pollution and reduce run off, they provide a vital barrier between more intensively managed farm land and the delicate ecosystem of the river.

Tree planting task Feb 2020 - working within the riverbank buffer strip. Copyright NYMNPA.

A team of around 25 enthusiasts – young and old, experienced and novice, passionate conservationists and interested residents – were supplied with hot tea, plenty of cake, and together planted an amazing 300 trees over the course of the morning.

Tree planting task Feb 2020 - more tree planting. Copyright NYMNPA. Tree planting task Feb 2020 - more and more tree planting. Copyright NYMNPA.

Tree planting task Feb 2020 - more, more and more tree planting. Copyright NYMNPA.

This was Ryevitalise’s first public event focussed around climate change and carbon capture. The enthusiasm of the people who attended, their hard work and the difference we made to the area in just a morning combined to make the event a great success!

THE TEAM - tree planting task Feb 2020. Copyright NYMNPA.

The following week members of the National Park Authority’s Explorer Club along with other volunteers spent a day adding an additional 100 trees, with the remaining 400 planted by our amazing team of National Park Authority volunteers on Tuesday 3 March. So overall a very impressive 800 trees have been introduced at this site by the River Seph, providing a big ecological benefit to the river.

The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, North York Moors National Park Authority and other partners. It is a four year project aiming to conserve, enhance and restore the natural and cultural heritage of the area, enabling people to reconnect with the history, wildlife and landscape of the River Rye and its tributaries. Our catchment area is a huge 413km2, spanning the western edge of the North York Moors National Park, parts of the Howardian Hills AONB and arable farmland along the Vale of Pickering. We have 16 on the ground projects (19 in total), covering everything from habitat restoration to built heritage and arts related programs.

If this is something you might be interested in getting involved with, we are actively looking for volunteers to help us achieve the aims of our projects. Whether it’s surveying ancient trees, examining historic records, helping at events, wildlife monitoring or outdoor conservation days – we’re sure to have something you will enjoy.  See our current volunteering opportunities for more details or email us.

Our project officially launches this Spring Bank Holiday (25 May), with a week long schedule of events throughout the catchment area showcasing how fantastic our rivers, wildlife and landscapes are. Fun and informative events will be held right across the catchment highlighting what varied landscapes and communities we have in the Ryevitalise area.

If you would like to be kept up to date with the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme, its events and opportunities, send the Team an email to subscribe to our mailing list.

Pond Purr-fect!

Richard Baines – North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Officer

There is something magical about ponds: the mystery of what’s lurking in the depths, the tranquility of water and the constantly changing scene as many types of wildlife come and go on a fleeting visit or stay on to take full advantage of the precious habitats provided.

Turtle doves are no different from every other bird on the planet – they need water to survive. During the summer when our doves are raising a brood of chicks or squabs, finding water becomes even more important. Turtle doves feed crop milk to their small chicks in the nest in the first four days of their life. The milk is made from secretions from a lining in the crop. After four days the milk is mixed with regurgitated food and slowly changed to solid food as they become older.

That’s why through our Turtle Dove Project we have been keen on providing water sources – in particular now during the winter before our turtle doves return in the spring. This post celebrates one local farmer who has been keen on restoring his dew pond for a long time in the south west corner of the North York Moors and we were very pleased to assist his aim with a bit of project funding, especially as there were turtle doves recorded on the farm in 2019.

Over 100 years ago there were many dew ponds across the landscape. Originally used for livestock to drink from and created at sites which naturally collected water, many of the older ponds have now vanished as farming systems have changed and the ponds have dried up.

This is the story of the recent dew pond restoration revealed through photography…

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond location. Copyright NYMNPA.

Before the pond (the site in summer 2019). The original depression left of the track filled with ruderal vegetation with very little sign of the old pond.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

Digging the test pit. A major success as we found the old dew pond stone base about three feet below ground.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

Taking Levels. This to to ensure the pond is created level to the above ground area, a tilting pond will run dry!

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The first buckets. Spoil was piled up by the side of the site then removed from site using a dumper.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The first layer, weed membrane. A membrane helps to prevent vegetation growth into the water tight clay and provides a level  area for laying the clay.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The second layer. clay lining. Special ‘puddling clay is brought in to provide the water proof base for the pond. A radio controlled roller is used to compact the clay.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The third layer, barley straw . Straw is spread over the clay to reduce algal growth and provide an additional substrate within which essential pond plants can grow.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The fourth and final layer, limestone chippings. Used as a traditional protection layer to reduce the risk of clay drying and protect the pond base from the damaging feet of paddling stock animals.

NY Turtle Dove Project - dew pond restoration. Copyright NYMNPA.

The finished pond.

NY Turtle Dove Project - restored dew pond. Copyright NYMNPA.

One week later! After Storm Dennis we have water in the pond.. All we need now is the vegetation to grow back up and of course our doves to come back from Africa! 

Ryevitalise Discovery: Woodlands

Ann Pease – Ryevitalise Administration Assistant

The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme focuses on a fascinating river catchment landscape encompassing the Rivers Rye, Seph and Riccal. The area contains some truly amazing woodlands which support an enormous array of wildlife, including some real rarities.

River Rye and riparian woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Over the next four years Ryevitalise will focus on the conservation and restoration of woodlands and adjoining habitats such as sunny clearings and marshy grasslands, to support the wildlife that relies on these important sites.

Patience is a virtue, and what can often seem like a quiet woodland setting on first glance can be a veritable highway of activity.  Back last summer a remote, motion sensitive camera was set up in a quiet corner of woodland near Helmsley ahead of an invasive-species control task we ran to control Himalayan balsam, just to see what we could see.  The device was left in situ for two weeks, and in that time stealthily caught the comings and goings of some of our most loved British wildlife. So here are a few of the captured images of the wildlife of the Ryevitalise catchment from last summer to lighten and warm up these cold winter days.  Some are easier than others – see if you can identify the roe deer, the badger, the bat, the fox, the rabbit, the thrush feeding its chick, the roe deer, the partridge.

Spring is not too far away – but the winter itself is a particularly great time to spot wildlife in your local patch.  An influx of winter visitors such as fieldfare, wax wing, and short eared owl boost bird populations, and many animals become bolder in their search for sustenance and shelter and food hotspots can support great concentrations.  If there is a covering of snow (or mud!), head out into the countryside to find footprints and secret paths hidden during fairer weather. The Nature Calendar pages on of the National Park’s website has some great information on the types of wildlife you are likely to see throughout January and February, as well as the best places to see them.

We are always keen to see your photos of wildlife on and around the Rye area – so if you can, when you post them online please include #Ryevitalise or @northyorkmoors so we can see them too. Whatever you do this winter – take time out in nature and enjoy the best that the National Park has to offer.

STOP PRESS
The official Ryevitalise launch event will be held on 25 May 2020 at Sutton Bank National Park Centre including lots of opportunities to learn more about the habitats and wildlife of the River Rye area within that week … more details will be announced shortly!.

If you would like to find out more about the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership, upcoming volunteer opportunities or events keep an eye on our web pages.

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