Revitalising the Rye

Tom Stephenson, External Funding Officer

There must be something in the water in the North York Moors, having just started delivering the This Exploited Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, the National Park Authority and its partners* have also been successful at the first stage of securing a further £2 million of Heritage Lottery Fund money to develop our next Landscape Partnership SchemeRyevitalise.

The River Rye and its tributaries rise on the moorland of the North York Moors, flowing through fast and clear upland becks that carve out steep sided dales until the land flattens and the river slows and broadens taking on the character of the undulating Howardian Hills and the flat lowlands of the Vale of Pickering. The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme under development will help appreciate and enhance the Rye’s verdant landscape and clear waters which have been prized for millennia for their beauty and tranquillity resulting in a more natural, better functioning and better understood landscape.

Planned projects will cover four themes:

  • Water Environment, looking at aquatic habitats of the Rye and rare and threatened species;
  • Water Quality, working with land-owners and managers to reduce pollution;
  • Water Level Management, working alongside our delivery partners to harness natural processes to manage the sources and pathways of flood waters; and
  • Reconnecting People, improving the understanding of the river landscape by telling the story of its evolution and helping people to protect their heritage.

Without wanting to spoil the surprise of future blog posts, below are just some of the particular issues we are aiming to address through Ryevitalise scheme projects if we’re lucky enough to be successful in our Stage 2 application due in October 2018.

The wet…

Water is the major theme of Ryevitalise. Through the Ryevitalise scheme, from the high moorlands to the lowland wetlands, we will identify priority areas of riparian habitat for restoration to ensure existing high-value habitats (and their species) are in positive management and can act as nodes from which to extend outwards by creating ‘stepping stones’ and connections between these habitat sites.

Wetter still, we will assess the geomorphology and key features of the aquatic environment and target areas where aquatic habitats could be improved by creating changes to the channel through creating gravel bars, by placing debris to create slacks or by making changes to river bank profile. This work will include a survey of the habitats and species of the oxbow lakes in the lower Rye, and also the collecting and analysis of sediment cores to look for valuable paleoecological data which might shed light on how the local landscape formed.

The dry…

We have previously reported on the problems that fluctuating water levels in the River Rye
in Duncombe Park has on the White-clawed crayfish, the only native crayfish in the UK, White-clawed crayfish - during 2016 rescue in Duncombe Park. Copyright NYMNPA.which is suffering from a “perfect storm” of threats. Ryevitalise will prioritise protective measures for the existing population and carry out a feasibility study to identify where potential local ark sites might be located. Ark sites for White-clawed crayfish would allow populations to become established in isolation, separated from the threat of non-native crayfish and the crayfish plague they can carry.

The small…

Alcathoe bat. Copyright Cyril Schonbachler.One of the Rye catchment’s smallest inhabitants is the Alcathoe bat. Relatively new to science, having been first identified in 2001 and only recently becoming the latest addition to the UK bat family, this little creature has only been found at two other sites in the UK so far. Ryevitalise will seek to establish a deeper knowledge of where colonies of the Alcathoe bat and other key bat populations are, along with the requirements to support their survival.

The tall…

At the other end of the size spectrum and intrinsically linked to bats are some of the Rye catchment’s largest residents – its ancient and veteran trees. The area is a national hotspot for these giants that not only give an air of majesty to the landscape as living witnesses to history but also provide important habitat for many invertebrate species as well as providing important roosting sites for Rye bat populations.

The old…

Not only is the Rye catchment home to iconic built heritage like Rievaulx Abbey, Rievaulx Terrace, Duncombe Park and Nunnington Hall but it also contains a wealth of less obvious heritage that traces vernacular land use and tells the story of the working River Rye. Working with local history groups, Ryevitalise will record the remaining evidence of man’s relationship with the river over the centuries, surveying and recording the traces of the former agricultural and industrial settlements along the river banks. Accurate 3D models will be produced of the principal remaining watermills, iron working sites, water races and leats. Essential conservation and consolidation work will be identified from the surveys carried out.

The new…

Meanders in Rye near Sproxton - can see the water crowfoot beds within the river, September 2016. Copyright North East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre.Like a lot of watercourses, it is not practical to access the river in its entirety at ground level. So as part of the Ryevitalise scheme an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight will record the entire 50km main river from its moorland origins all the way downstream to where it
meets the River Derwent. This will produce an invaluable record and will provide an insightful journey along the river for local communities, highlighting how this vital artery connects them all. Tailored sections of flight data will be made freely available to local schools, businesses, and community groups as a community resource; it will also form part of the scheme’s wider education programme.

We are all really excited about the next steps in developing the Ryevitalise scheme; the opportunity to make the most of the wealth of habitats, species and history surrounding the river; the potential to make a lasting difference to this wonderful landscape, and the chance to create a real splash.

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* Partners currently include East Yorkshire Rivers Trust, English Heritage, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Howardian Hills AONB, National Trust, Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, Woodland Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, as well as local communities.

A scientific perspective

Aside

Natural England‘s Chief Scientist visited the North York Moors last week to see the ongoing work in the River Esk catchment to help save our dwindling population of Freshwater Pearl Mussels.

You can read about why he came and what he thought here.

 

End of an era

Our Senior Archaeologist is taking phased retirement, so before he goes he has been asked to reflect on his time with the North York Moors National Park.

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

graham-leeHow do I sum up a career lasting over a quarter of a century in a few paragraphs? It is a strange feeling to have 26 years seemingly flash by so fast.

I started work for the North York Moors National Park in April 1990, having previously worked in the archaeology section of North Yorkshire County Council since the summer of 1983. I had decided many years before that I loved the north of England and had no desire to return to my southern ‘roots’.

Graham had decided many years before that he loved the north of England, whatever the weather ... Copyright - NYMNPA.One of my first tasks with the National Park was the completion of a management survey of one of our large estates, encompassing moorland and large blocks of forestry. This quickly whetted my appetite for the excitement of making new archaeological discoveries – often very subtle earthworks, no more than a handful of centimetres in depth or relief – despite an exceptional tradition of previous high quality archaeological fieldwork in the region. Working solo in large blocks of conifers was a good test of dedication – crawling under the branches of dense stands of conifers searching for vague earthworks mapped in the 1890s – and the steadiness of nerve, when yet another wretched pheasant exploded out of the leafy vegetation where I was just about to step! In recent years the delights of discovery have been broadening thanks to new technology and techniques, especially LiDAR which provides an aerial view through tree and ground-cover vegetation of archaeological remains that were previously hidden or obscured.

If you have a passion for the past, the North York Moors have something for pretty much everyone – enigmatic Neolithic rock art; surviving prehistoric pitted boundaries and avenues; upstanding Bronze Age funerary monuments and field systems; Roman encampments; medieval castles and monasteries…

Human industry is also well represented – from the earliest iron industry through the search for alum into the full-blown “iron rush” of the mid 19th century, the exploitation of coal and jet, and the plentiful local rivers managed to provide motive power for a range of watermills. Research and conservation priorities relating to these local industries finally led to our new HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme, This Exploited Land of Iron. Some 15 or so years in gestation, it is very rewarding to see new generations captured by the excitement of the important remains of our 19th century ironstone industry and the associated development of early railways – although the original scheme for a canal link between Whitby and Pickering would have been a sight to behold and a major tourist attraction if it had ever been built.

Into the 20th century, remains survive here from both world wars – in the form of coastal defences, army camps as well as troop training and target practice areas. Finds are still occasionally made of 2nd World War unexploded ordnance in former training areas across the North York Moors, in particular after the wildfire on Fylingdales Moor in 2003 which affected two square kilometres of heather moorland.

Fylingdales Moor after teh wildfire in 2003. Copyright - NYMNPA.

Although an environmental disaster – the severity of the fire in reducing the shallow peat cover to ash, this event was an archaeological revelation. Virtually everywhere you looked, subtle archaeological remains became visible, including the drip gulleys around former prehistoric round houses, low stony prehistoric boundaries and cairns, large numbers of previously unrecorded examples of Neolithic rock art and occasional shallow trenches which resembled grave cuts with a subsiding infill. As numbers of the latter quickly increased their interpretation became clear – slit trenches from 2nd World War troop training. I remember my first visit to the site after the fire when the ground was reddened and blackened, covered in ash and still smouldering; few trees had survived and many had toppled after the peat holding their roots in place had been burnt away. Flashes of colour were very noticeable, such as an adder emerging from its underground refuge having survived the conflagration. A major project ensued, both to protect and restore the moorland habitat and to record and investigate the breath-taking remains of surviving archaeology.

Rosedale Calcining Kilns in a perilous state. Copyright - NYMNPA.There have always been new specialisms to get to grips with. A visit to the Scheduled Rosedale iron calcining kilns with the Park’s Conservation Director at the time revealed that a portion of one of the kilns’ firebrick linings had collapsed the previous winter. This led to a major conservation project to stabilise these huge monuments which ran for three years in the mid 1990s, a forerunner of This Exploited Land which will continue the efforts to conserve these monumental sites 20 years on.

Conservation project to stabalise the Calcining Kilns in the 1990s. Copyright - NYMNPA.

It has been such a pleasure working with like-minded and dedicated professionals, both in my own National Park, but also with colleagues throughout the family of British National Parks, and Historic England and Natural England. We’ve shared experiences and ideas to the betterment of our discipline from research to management, and also shared the excitement of attempting to bring our subject, which we love, to life for anyone who cares to see and to get involved.

Graham at work - examining finds at an archaeological excavation - Coxwold Creative Minds Project, March 2006. Copyright - NYMNPA.

The National Park Authority is currently looking for a new Senior Archaeologist to lead on archaeology in the North York Moors. The closing date for applications is 26 January 2017.

Last year’s top 5 posts … and what happens next with TEL

View from Sil Howe Mine - copyright NYMNPA

1. Hangover cure

The work at Sil Howe was carried out. Samples are being collected by the University of Hull in order to measure the impacts of the created reed bed on the iron sediment suspended in the water discharge from the abandoned mine. The University and the Environment Agency are planning to carry out a similar project this winter at Clitherbecks, above Danby.

Miss Bell - Keystone View Company - from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/world/middleeast/gertrude-bell-sought-to-stabilize-iraq-after-world-war-i.html2. Iron Lady

Ionic Temple, Duncombe Park - copyright NYMNPA

3. A Classical Restoration

In October an opening ceremony was held to mark the completion of the restoration project of the Ionic Temple at Duncombe Park (Grade 1 Registered Parks and Gardens). The National Park received a commendation from Historic England’s Angel Awards in recognition of the work that went into the fundraising and the quality of the repairs. The companion Tuscan Temple at Duncombe Park is to be restored through a Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

2015 expedition down one of the Ryedale Windy Pits - copyright NYMNPA

4. Down below

The Ryedale Windypits (Antofts, Ashberry, Bucklands and Slip Gill) are considered to be nationally significant because of their geological interest (mass movement caves), their ecological interest (swarming sites/hibernation roosts for bats), and their archaeological interest (Bronze Age/Iron Age remains) – The Ryedale Windypits Conservation Statement and Management Plan 2006.

LiDAR - Beck Hole Ironworks - a number of industrial structures are served by sidings from the railway line. Bluesky/NYMNPA.5. Falling leaves divulge our industrial past

Top Posts 1, 2 and 5 are all related to the This Exploited Land (TEL) Landscape Partnership application. The development stage was completed at the end of October.

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What we did in the TEL development stage

Landscape Conservation Action Plan

All Landscape Partnership Schemes need an Action Plan – this details the scheme, its significance (Part 1) and the 52 prioritised projects (Parts 2 & 3) that will be made possible by HLF funding.

Cultural Heritage

We carried out archaeological and engineering surveys of the key heritage sites within the TEL scheme area. We needed to know what was there, what condition it was in and how soon it was going to fall down, and what we could do to conserve the structures in their current condition. When this was completed we prioritised what was ‘essential’, and then talked to landowners, Historic England and Natural England in order to secure permissions to carry out the works should funding be achieved.

Warren Moor Ironstone Mine Chimney, Kildale - copyright NYMNPA

Heritage at risk - Rosedale - copyright NYMNPARosedale East Mines and Railway Trackbed - copyright Paddy ChambersWe also commissioned a LiDAR survey to better understand the landscape character and industrial archaeology along the Murk Esk Valley from Goathland to Grosmont (see Top Post 5).

Natural Heritage

We carried out surveys across the TEL area to identify the most important natural environment issues and the most critical sites – the living, breathing, growing aspects of the landscape e.g. woodlands, watercourses (see Top Post 1), hay meadows, water voles, ring ouzels, wild daffodils, that are ‘at risk’ and need a helping hand to survive and flourish.

Farmland in the TEL area - copyright NYMNPA

Natural heritage at risk - Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site - copyright NYMNPA

Natural heritage at risk - Ring Ouzel - copyright John KnightWe worked with a range of landowners and others to develop initial plans that will start to deliver those helping hands, to conserve and create bigger, better and more connected sites across the TEL landscape which will benefit the wildlife species.

Access, Interpretation and Engagement

We carried out surveys of current visitors and non-visitors to the TEL area to identify why people visit, why they don’t, and to find out about the interest in industrial heritage and its landscape legacy.

Ingleby Incline Volunteer Survey 2015 - copyright NYMNPA

We used these surveys to develop an interpretation strategy which encompasses a range of different audiences and we plan to tell the story of This Exploited Land in lots of different ways. The strategy includes the creation of interpretation hubs, the setting up of a community grants scheme, the establishment of an ambitious volunteer programme and the roll out of an education programme. We hope this will ensure positive outcomes and opportunities for people to engage with their landscape and its heritage.

Revising the boundary

The scheme area has to reflect a landscape that tells the story of ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ industry and the ways in which humans have intervened and changed the landscape through time. The rationale of the TEL area is the ‘story-telling’ role of the landscape (from east to west) – the story of early railway and ironstone exploitation that emerged in the key century of industry on the North York Moors c. 1830s-1920s.

We reviewed the boundary in the development stage and made some amendments to reflect the underlying geology and the existing Landscape Character better.

Finalised TEL area outlined in red - copyright NYMNPA

The TEL landscape sits within the North York Moors and shares many of its special qualities including “great diversity of landscapes” and “sudden contrasts associated with this”. For example – upland and valley, nature and industry. The TEL landscape presents a distinct identity based upon the sense of discovery that these now apparently ‘natural’ places were sites of extraordinary industrial expansion, and just as rapid industrial retraction. The ‘feeling’ of remoteness and quietness experienced now on the moorland is confronted by the knowledge that a working railway ran high across Farndale and Baysdale Moors connecting beyond the Cleveland Hills to County Durham, and that the moorland edges of Rosedale reverberated with the sounds of iron production.

Ingleby Incline and views towards Teeesside - copyright NYMNPA

Ghosts in the landscape: Ingleby Incline - copyright John Davies (Kirby, Great Broughton & Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group)

Geoff Taylor from the Kirby, Great Broughton & Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group and member of the TEL Executive Group sums up the TEL area as “connected by history, separated by geography”. This has become one of the mantras during the project development. The connections between Rosedale, Grosmont, and Kildale are not always obvious given the complex topography and modern transport networks, but these communities are connected by their shared history of iron exploration and railways. There are also important connections from the TEL area out to Teesside, Middlesbrough and Redcar, which became the focus for the iron industries of the North-East (see Top Post 2), and beyond across the world.

What now…

We are now waiting on a funding decision from the Heritage Lottery Fund and hope (IF all goes to plan) we will be able to start on delivering the exciting projects that make up the 5 year programme in late spring 2016.

Grosmont - copyright Chris Ceaser

Favourite restorations and reinstatements

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

Clair Shields – Planning Policy Officer/Building Conservation Officer

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

 Robin Hood’s Bay Window

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes (1)

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

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

Chapel Cottage BEFORE - copyright NYMNPAChapel Cottage AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes (2)Staithes - historical reference material

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

 

Staithes building BEFORE - copyright NYMNPAStaithes building BEFORE - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes building AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

Staithes building AFTER - copyright NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staithes - historical reference material - 1960s photo

Goathland Waymarker Stones

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

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

New waymarker - copyright NYMNPA

Ionic Temple at Duncombe Park

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Along the riverbanks

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

A couple of weeks ago a demonstration event was held in Bilsdale, organised through the new (Yorkshire) Derwent Catchment Partnership*.

The event, kindly hosted by Mr and Mrs Lang, was held in order to share knowledge and experience when it comes to managing watercourses for wildlife benefits.

Demo Day 9 September 2015 - copyright NYMNPA

Initial discussions between landowners and Partnership organisations focused on  practical application. The Wild Trout Trust led on the practical demonstrations in the river. This included realigning some of the woody debris found in the channel in order to re-direct water flows. There was a lot of talk around the question of responsibility for trees in rivers, and when and where to remove or leave or realign them.

Demo Day 9 September 2015 - copyright NYMNPA

The practical demonstrations also included using natural materials to help stabilise banks in order to lessen erosion. One of the main issues with the Rivers Rye and Seph in Bilsdale is siltation which smothers river gravels and therefore inhibits spawning areas for fish with a knock on effect on fish populations. Riverside fencing and resulting buffer strips can have a significant effect in lessening agricultural run-off into a watercourse and so improve water quality. Creating 6 metre wide grass buffer strips along banks can not only help halt run off and help stabilise the banks with vegetation but also provide excellent habitat linkages adjacent to the river and so enhance connectivity along the river corridors running through a landscape.

Over this summer the National Park Authority has lead on another round of Himalayan balsam control, this time on behalf of the Partnership. This is the 8th year of this programme aimed at eradicating this particular invasive non-native plant at the top of the Rye catchment. Where the programme started, right at the top reaches of the the River Seph, the aim of eradication has almost been achieved, but repeat surveying and the pulling up of any individual plants that remain is vital to make sure this can be finally realised. Himalayan balsam can grow pretty much anywhere but it is particularly rife along watercourses where seeds are effectively spread downstream by the moving water. The main threat of the plant to a riparian habitat is that it tends to out compete native vegetation and then dies back in the winter leaving banks uncovered and subject to erosion.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - copyright NYMNPA

Enhancing the river for wildlife is a key goal for all members of the new Partnership. What is essential for delivery is the engagement of landowners and the identification of common objectives, and this kind of event can help with that.

*The Derwent Catchment Partnership includes the East Yorkshire Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Natural England, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, North Yorkshire County Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, City of York Council, Howardian Hills AONB, and the North York Moors National Park Authority.

 

Slowing down

Taken mainly from the final report for the ‘Slowing the Flow’ Project

The ‘Slowing the flow’ project is now completed, ahead of approaching winter. The purpose of the project has been to reduce the risk and severity of flooding in Pickering and nearby Sinnington.

The approach has been to slow the flow of water from off the moors into Pickering Beck and the River Severn and subsequently down into the settlements below.

The last element has been the creation of a flood storage area at Newbridge, upstream of Pickering – a site to hold up, and so slow down, extreme flows of water. It can hold up to 120,000 m3.

The ‘Slowing the Flow’ project was one of a number of Defra pilot projects looking into reducing flood risk and impacts. The idea was to make the best use of natural processes by adapting land use and land management to slow down and delay the passage of water.

Phase 1 of the project concentrated on building up a working partnership including with the local community. The National Park Authority were heavily involved in Phase 1 of the project as a major landowner in the area. The National Park Authority owns Levisham Estate upstream of Pickering and a number of tributaries into Pickering Beck arise on the Estate’s moorland.

View of Hole of Horcum (part of Levisham Estate) - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

The land management work undertaken in the two sub-catchments included establishing no burn buffers along moorland watercourses to protect soils and retain vegetation, impeding moorland drains using heather bales to lessen erosion, constructing ‘woody debris dams’ which slow but don’t halt watercourse flow, creating riparian buffer zones in forestry, and large scale tree planting and long term woodland creation because trees prevent sediment runoff and hold and use more water than other habitats. Two timber bunds were also constructed in the River Severn catchment. 

Large woody debris dam during flood - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015

Large woody debris dam secured by angled posts and wire on Pickering Beck - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015Face of upstream timber bund within Forestry - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015Small woody debris dame - Horcum, Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

 

 

Heather bale 'check' dams within moorland drain - from Forest Research: appendices to Phase 2 Final Report, May 2015

Drainage channel - Fen Moor, Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

Slowing the Flow in action - Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

 

 

 

Slowing the Flow tree planting - Levisham Estate - NYMNPA

Phase 1 (2009 – 2011) led to Phase 2 (2011 – 2015) which allowed for the implementation of the outstanding land management interventions planned. One of the lessons learned was that five to six years is a more effective time scale for delivering a demonstration project, especially one that includes persuading landowners to change land use. Another lesson is that the measures undertaken have to be at an effective scale – the bigger the contribution to flood protection required, the larger and/or more extensive the measures need to be at the catchment level to make a difference.  The use of smaller, more diffuse, storage features can collectively contribute a sizeable flood storage volume, depending on their design and management – however catchment level planning/modelling is needed to guide and achieve the optimum placement and combination.

The ‘Slowing the Flow’ project was led by Forest Research, and the partnership that made it happen included the Forestry Commission, the Environment Agency, Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Durham University, Pickering Town Council and Sinnington Parish Council and the local community including vital landowners, and us. The project was possible only because of this joined up and inclusive approach to flood, water and land use management. Another lesson from the project is that efforts to reduce flood risk via land management interventions can be accidentally counteracted by other activities in the same catchment.

Although the main purpose of the project was to lessen the risk of flooding in Pickering, and also the village of Sinnington, the methods used will provide added benefits to biodiversity and the wider ecosystems. The piloting of the practical demonstrative measures have allowed the sharing of good practice, knowledge and skill development (e.g. NYMNP Apprentices).

Some issues…

Concerns over the stability of ‘woody debris dams’ and the potential for debris to wash out and damage downstream structures need to  allayed by the construction methods that use slot trenches and bracing logs to attach the structures to the banksides.

Having a National Park – a designated landscape – in the north of the sub-catchments had implications for the siting and design of land management interventions. For instance from a National Park point of view there was a limit on how much tree planting could be/should be accommodated on the Levisham Estate because of the ecological value of the existing moorland habitats which are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and in some places also a Special Protection Area/Special Area of Conservation.

Persuading people to create woodland can be difficult. The selection of Pickering Beck as a demonstration sub-catchment was partly because of the relatively high level of public land ownership e.g. National Park, Forestry Commission. In the future achieving the necessary sizeable level of change on privately owned land is likely to require greater financial incentives. The new, integrated, Countryside Stewardship scheme should help by providing grant for planting that provides benefits, including reducing flood risk and diffuse pollution.

Conclusions…

Land management measures can make a significant contribution to downstream flood alleviation. They vary in type, size, scale of operation and mode of action but are most effective in combination as part of a whole catchment approach to managing flood risk. More modelling and experience of actual flood peaks is required to better understand the cumulative effect of the measures. In view of the level of commitment and investment required, resources are best focused on small to medium sized catchments that can be expected to deliver large-scale changes in land use and/or management.

It is not suggested that the ‘Slowing the Flow’ project will prevent all flooding in the two sub-catchments, but it is anticipated that there will be less flooding. It has been suggested that the previous 25% chance of flooding in any given year in Pickering, has now been reduced to a 4% chance or less…

Increasing life chances – addendum

Simon Hirst – River Esk Project Officer

A redundant weir on the River Dove at Low Mill in Farndale has recently been removed by the Estate in partnership with the National Park Authority, the Environment Agency, Natural England, and the East Yorkshire Rivers Trust. The weir was in a poor state of repair, and erosion was occurring around the side of the structure. Its removal will allow natural river processes like the movement of river substrates to occur , and also allow migratory fish to move up and down the river to spawn.

Low Mill weir - before removal - NYMNPALow Mill weir - after removal - NYMNPA

The River Dove is a tributary of the Yorkshire Derwent. Part of the River Derwent catchment is designated as a Special Area of Conservation for a very rare fish species called the River Lamprey. These fish would also spawn (lay their eggs) in the upper catchment (in areas like the River Dove), but they cannot access these sections of river due to a large number of barriers, such as weirs, in the catchment. Removing these barriers will also allow other species such as Atlantic salmon to access these important spawning areas too.

Hangover cure

Emily Collins – Conservation Student Intern

The future of Sil Howe, an abandoned mine site above Beck Hole, has changed quite a bit since I first set foot there in early autumn. It was then that we recognised the iron ochre within the mine as being an ongoing potential threat to the surrounding countryside. In the event of high rainfall, this thick orange blanket, which oozes into the watercourse at the slightest disturbance, could potentially form a terracotta cascade potent enough to wipe out whole communities within the surrounding area… Silhowe January 2015 - someone's wellie covered in iron ochre - by Emily Collins

Residents of nearby Darnholm, Goathland and Beck Hole should have no fear though, for I’m talking about a very different type of community to that which might revolve around the local pub. As explained in an earlier post, this iron sediment can smother invertebrate populations in the surrounding watercourses and reduce the amount of food available for important fish populations in the Esk. Even when leaking into the beck at low levels the iron sediment seems to be having an effect, with initial water samples indicating large changes in pH and a loss of aquatic invertebrates close to the entrance of the mine. Now we’re working on a solution.

Silhowe January 2015 - group discussing proposals - by Emily Collins

Earlier this month my colleagues and I were joined by Natural England, the Environment Agency, the University of Hull and the local Head Gamekeeper on site to discuss plans for the installation of a reed bed at the Sil Howe mine entrance. Whilst trying not to become too distracted by the beautiful views and the numbing feeling in our toes, we discussed how the reeds would slow the flow of the water, allowing enough time for the iron to precipitate out of it before it continues downstream.

Silhowe January 2015 - remains of miners' hut - by Emily CollinsOf course, such a venture poses a number of concerns:

Will it be aesthetically pleasing?

Will the bund be large enough to hold the water and where do we get the material from to build it?

Will it have any impact on the neighbouring remains of the historic miners’ hut?

Whilst it meant freezing our appendages off on top of the moor for two hours, resolving these environmental, cultural and local conflicts was vital for strengthening the foundations of the project.

Silhowe January 2015 - mine adit - by Emily Collins

If planning permission is granted the work is due to start around the beginning of February and will last 2-5 days. In the meantime, students at the University of Hull are analysing the invertebrate and water samples we collected from the beck in October and will provide evidence for the detrimental impact that the iron sediment is having on aquatic life in the beck. We will then return to collect more samples once the reed beds have been installed, and again for the following few years to record the changes in water quality over time.

Original plan for remedial wetland creation at Silhowe - subject to change

If this works, we could roll out the same kind of thing elsewhere where the historic environment still impacts on the North York Moors today.

Special qualities

Gallery

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Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation) and Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator The built environment of the North York Moors is just as important as the natural environment in making up the landscape of the National Park. The historic … Continue reading