This autumn a collaborative conservation effort began at Robin Hood’s Bay to restore the cliff slope grassland there. It will be followed up with a programme of enhancement management to maintain this important habitat and its species. You can read about it on the excellent Connecting for Nature Blog.
Gareth Dockerty – Sea Life, See Life Project Coordinator
We’re currently running the ‘Sea Life, See Life’ project, which is funded through the Coastal Communities Fund. Our project includes a number of heritage restoration and cultural enhancement schemes in the village of Robin Hood’s Bay, working with the local community and Parish Council.
We’ve replaced eight street lanterns around the village, removing modern urban plastic lights for ‘Victorian style’ lanterns with modern LED down lighting to limit light pollution. The lantern pattern is unique to the village and is modelled on the original Victorian lantern at the old railway station. Where possible the existing wall brackets or fittings have been restored.
Standpipes and water fountains
We’ve also commissioned the replacement and renovation of some of the village’s other local gems from standpipes to water fountains. Up until the start of the 20th century water was collected daily from standpipes and water fountains located around the village. The project has funded the re-installation of a Victorian water fountain in an original location along with the refurbishment of standpipes and has erected small metal plaques that let visitors know about the heritage significance of such features.
The original fountain as it once stood was removed decades ago. The fountain now installed is a genuine Victorian fountain similar to the original. Generously bought and renovated by a local resident it was installed in full working order by CCF funding and will be looked after by the Parish Council to ensure future generations get to admire it within the streetscape.
It is not the intention to preserve the village in the Victorian era; the style of the lanterns and the fountain and standpipes add to the visual character of the village which is valued by both locals and visitors.
RNLI donation fish
As previously reported on this Blog, Robin Hood’s Bay is the proud location of the oldest known RNLI donation box, in the form of an impressive cast iron cod fish. It has stood in the same place for over a century accepting donations, long after the lifeboat has gone. However, sea air and high tides mean it has needed maintenance a number of times over the past few decades. Our project has funded the complete restoration of the fish and associated plaques by a local business who specialise in oil rig and marine corrosion. The fish will once again stand as a testament to the bravery of the RNLI crews past and present, and to those in peril on the sea.
Bank Top car park
The project has continued with the piscine theme at Bank Top car park. Anyone who knows Robin Hood’s Bay will be aware that the village contains a long steep bank from the top of the cliffs down to the shore.
At the car park our dedicated National Park Coast Volunteers are preparing to install some bollards with a difference. The tired looking posts are being replaced by new locally sourced oak posts, including three carved cod fish, welcoming people to this historic fishing village and linking back to the RNLI fish down the hill.
Volunteers have also installed bike racks in the car park. The lack of suitable bike parking was a priority for the Parish Council.
The current seawall is to be decorated. A 50 metre mosaic installation will hang along a section of the seawall to celebrate ‘the Bay’ through time from the dinosaurs through to the modern day. The mosaic will illustrate landslides and lost houses, smuggling around the wild North Sea, the arrival of the railway and the birth of the bucket and spade holiday destination.
Through suggestion boxes, online surveys and poetry the local community and visitors have shared what the village means to them and how it makes them feel, and what they feel are the most important themes from the past.
There will be over 50 boards in total and the finished artwork will be installed later this year.
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The true wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, is the only species of wild daffodil that is native to the UK. Wild daffodils thrive in partially shaded areas such as woodlands, on river banks and in fields with clay or loam soils that are not too acidic. It is locally abundant in the North York Moors, with Farndale being a well-known location.
The wild daffodil differs from the varieties we are so used to seeing in our gardens; the plants are smaller and the flowers are a pale yellow. Despite their diminutive size, there is always an impressive display each spring at locations across the National Park. We aim to promote the importance of the wild daffodil and there are guided walks each spring led by our Voluntary Rangers to explain the wild flowers to visitors and to present them in all their glory.
The National Park Authority’s Species Action Plan for the daffodil also includes a target to monitor the population of wild daffodils within the National Park. Monitoring takes place each spring time in Farndale and Rosedale to record the size and extent of the population. Dedicated volunteers take photos from a fixed point each year when the daffodils are at their best; this is a great way to compare populations year by year. The daffodils in Farndale have been monitored for many years and a baseline survey was undertaken in Rosedale in 2013 so that monitoring can take place in subsequent years. Threats to the wild daffodil include invasive non-native plant species, incompatible grazing regimes and trampling by stock and people; we work closely with land owners and managers to make sure that the daffodils can be conserved and encouraged.
Deer Parks were essentially mediaeval game reserves, enclosed by an internal ditch and outer bank to make escape for the animals more difficult, the latter often topped with a wooden fence or even – as time went on – a wall. The boundaries would generally also include deer leaps which made it easy for deer to jump into an emparked area but very difficult to jump out again – thus increasing the size of the ‘trapped’ herd. Some early parks are thought to date from the Anglo-Saxon period but the number increased greatly under the Normans, where they were used as hunting preserves principally for sport. The name ‘park’ and also ‘hay’, a term also used, refer to the fence or hedge which enclosed the parks, and thus came to also mean the area enclosed. Initially largely a royal prerogative, members of the nobility and landed gentry also came to be allowed to hold and maintain Deer Parks which would also be valued as additional sources of winter food from a self-supporting herd of deer. These exclusive game reserves meant that an important potential food supply was legally denied to the local common people.
Creation of a Deer Park generally seems to have required a royal licence (for which payment would, of course, be due) but many examples are known for which no licences have yet been found. It is thought that if your land was remote from the monarch’s deer parks and forests, you might chance your arm and create your own prestigious park without seeking royal permission. Although more exotic animals are recorded at times within certain royal parks, the ‘beasts’ within would normally be fallow and red deer.
In the North York Moors we have records of at least 20 Deer Parks, varying in size from c.51 acres at Danby Old Park up to c.2,240 acres at Duncombe Park, considered at one time to be the 6th largest Deer Park in England. The parks are likely to have varied in size over time – both shrinking and enlarging as their boundaries were moved to better fit the landscape, using valleys and rivers, and to reflect changes in land ownership, wealth and taste. The post-medieval representation of Deer Parks on maps is likely to portray their later function as prestige structures within managed landscapes alongside great houses. They were considered to be of sufficient importance in the early days of national surveying in the 16/17th centuries to be mapped by Christopher Saxton, John Speed and others – a good indication of their viability and continued existence – although Saxton’s survey did miss out a number of important local Deer Parks in this area which were almost certainly still in existence at the time (such as Carlton, Fylingdales, Ingleby Greenhow, Kildale).
Some local dialect words tend to hang on in some way despite of or because of the universality of modern communication, and new words are always being invented and adapted, whilst others just seem to disappear.
From a Dialect Glossary of words and idioms in use in the North Riding of Yorkshire by Richard Blakeborough published in Saltburn by the Sea in 1912, here are some past (?) examples:
A Pig is a Dakky, a Swift is a Devil-screamer, and a Ladybird is a Doody or Dundy-cow.
A Donnot is a dirty-bottomed (untrustworthy in every way) immoral female and is no doubt a daudle (a slovenly idle person) as well, probably bedecked in danglements (superfluous trinkets) and all set on an evening of dilldrum (boisterous merry making).
At darkening, dal’d oot ‘n dowly Daytalman mayk’s ‘is way ‘oam down’t road through drazzle, ‘n feels t’ deeath-smear as ‘ee stumbles on’t dozzen’d deear-stan ‘n lays deeazment ‘n deafly.
The North York Moors provide a variety of architectural characteristics and influences which add to the special qualities of our built heritage which can be seen today. Whilst there are many distinguishing features to talk about, for the purposes of this particular blog post (i.e. things starting with D) we are looking at doors and the array of different styles throughout the National Park.
Planked doors – The earliest timber doors were of a simple planked construction consisting of vertical planks, sometimes up to 12 inches wide and unequal in width, with a simple pencil mould detail fixed to horizontal timber ledges. These types of doors are characteristic of the small moorland farmsteads and cottages where buildings were simple and functional. The more modern equivalents are often made up of narrower boards (around 6 inches) with a plain v-groove (rather than a traditional pencil mould detail) surrounded by a frame and lack the character, detail and interest found with the older doors.
Panelled doors – These styles of doors are a feature within our villages and towns as home owners often remodelled their properties to keep up with the then current architectural style. Panelled doors are used to describe the doors from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras and are usually divided into four or six sections with some panels filled with glass. Unlike the modern off the peg doors of today, a joiner made door can incorporate traditional details such as ‘raised and fielded’ panels or the use of a ‘bolection mould’ which are distinctive features of good quality historic door.
Non-vernacular style doors – The coastal villages of the North York Moors such as Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay are perhaps where you find the greatest variety of styles. It is clear to see in Staithes that the village underwent somewhat of a 1930’s re-vamp as these styles of doors are common throughout the village and now add to its architectural character and interest.
Robin Hood’s Bay is perhaps more unique with a host of different styles incorporating elaborate panelling, frames and canopies.
In order to help protect these features, many of the designated Conservation Areas within the North York Moors are covered by an Article 4 Direction which means that planning permission is required for the alteration or replacement of doors and other features such as windows and boundary treatments. If you are thinking on carrying out alterations to your property it is always best to seek advice first from the Local Planning Authority.
Needing a local celebrity starting with D, and it being around Halloween, and although Whitby isn’t actually within the National Park it is an iconic town in the North York Moors, and although he is a fictional rather than a real character …Bram Stoker was real, and he definitely visited the environs of the North York Moors.
“(PASTED IN MINA MURRAY’S JOURNAL)
From a correspondent.
One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experienced here, with results both strange and unique. The weather had been somewhat sultry, but not to any degree uncommon in the month of August. Saturday evening was as fine as was ever known, and the great body of holiday-makers laid out yesterday for visits to Mulgrave Woods, Robin Hood’s Bay, Rig Mill, Runswick, Staithes, and the various trips in the neighborhood of Whitby…
…Shortly before ten o’clock the stillness of the air grew quite oppressive, and the silence was so marked that the bleating of a sheep inland or the barking of a dog in the town was distinctly heard, and the band on the pier, with its lively French air, was like a dischord in the great harmony of nature’s silence. A little after midnight came a strange sound from over the sea, and high overhead the air began to carry a strange, faint, hollow booming…
…Then without warning the tempest broke. With a rapidity which, at the time, seemed incredible, and even afterwards is impossible to realize, the whole aspect of nature at once became convulsed. The waves rose in growing fury, each overtopping its fellow, till in a very few minutes the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and devouring monster. Whitecrested waves beat madly on the level sands and rushed up the shelving cliffs. Others broke over the piers, and with their spume swept the lanthorns of the lighthouses which rise from the end of either pier of Whitby Harbour.
… The wind suddenly shifted to the northeast, and the remnant of the sea fog melted in the blast. And then, mirabile dictu, between the piers, leaping from wave to wave as it rushed at headlong speed, swept the strange schooner before the blast, with all sail set, and gained the safety of the harbour. The searchlight followed her, and a shudder ran through all who saw her, for lashed to the helm was a corpse, with drooping head, which swung horribly to and fro at each motion of the ship. No other form could be seen on the deck at all.
A great awe came on all as they realised that the ship, as if by a miracle, had found the harbour, unsteered save by the hand of a dead man! However, all took place more quickly than it takes to write these words. The schooner paused not, but rushing across the harbour, pitched herself on that accumulation of sand and gravel washed by many tides and many storms into the southeast corner of the pier jutting under the East Cliff, known locally as Tate Hill Pier.
There was of course a considerable concussion as the vessel drove up on the sand heap. Every spar, rope, and stay was strained, and some of the `top-hammer’ came crashing down. But, strangest of all, the very instant the shore was touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by the concussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand.
Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over the laneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones, thruffsteans or through-stones, as they call them in Whitby vernacular, actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight.
…Already the sudden storm is passing, and its fierceness is abating. Crowds are scattering backward, and the sky is beginning to redden over the Yorkshire wolds…”
From Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897.
Along the western edge of the North York Moors are the Hambleton Hills which form an escarpment edge to the plateau of the Moors. Running along this edge is the Hambleton Drove Road part of a long distance north-south route used by Drovers moving herds of cattle down from Scotland and through England to market towns, the biggest destination being Smithfield Market in London.
Moving cattle (i.e. wealth) around has gone on for 1000s of years. Where more animals could be raised than were needed for subsistence a value could be realised and hence a trade developed and it was only sensible to move the cattle alive under their own steam to where they would raise the best price. Large scale droving reached its peak in Britain in the 16th to 18th centuries before changes in agriculture and transportation negated the need.
The Hambleton Drove Road route itself is known to be a prehistoric ridgeway valued for its panoramic views by subsequent Drovers as well as the original Iron Age farmers. The Drovers appreciated the same higher ground for security from wild animals and dangerous people. The uplands also provided wide verges and free grazing, and to some extent softer ground for the cattle’s feet. In the 18th century when toll roads were built, the green trackways of the uplands remained unobstructed and free of charge.
The Hambleton Drove Road survives as a trackway route worn by feet, hooves and cart wheels over centuries of droving.
Drystone walls (or dykes in Scotland) are walls built without any mortar to bind the stones together. The skill in their construction comes from interlocking stones and using compressional forces to construct a solid boundary (hence why if building a wall on a slope you start at the bottom and work your way to the top). They are typically seen in areas where there is abundant stone in the landscape or where the weather conditions are unfavourable for supporting a hedge boundary. Drystone walls are part of the heritage of the North York Moors, having crisscrossed the landscape for generations.
Drystone walls vary from location to location. Even within one area such as this National Park there are many different building styles. Most walls consist of a layer of foundation stones at the bottom, with stone then built up in layers and finished off with coping stones at the top. Every join on the wall should be bridged by a stone above. Double skinned walls have two outside ‘skins’ of stone which are filled with hearting stones. The two skins should taper from bottom to top (this is known as the batter) and throughstones should be used which help bind the wall together. Single skinned walls on the other hand consist of only one skin of stone, and therefore don’t use heartings.
Coping stone style varies from wall to wall as well. Some walls use large upright coping stones, whilst others use thinner pieces laid at an angle. Some even use coping stones laid face down.
There are many features of interest often built into drystone walls. Smoots (or bolt-holes) are used to give water and small animals passage through the wall. Sheep-creeps (or lunkys) on the other hand allow larger animals like sheep to pass through the wall, and in historic times would be blocked off or opened up with a large stone as and when needed.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…
Robert Frost’s words in Mending Wall strike a chord for many of our drystone walls in the North York Moors. Although a well-built drystone wall will usually stand for at least 20 years, the sheer number of walls in our National Park means that at any one time many are in a state of disrepair. The National Park Authority’s Traditional Boundary Scheme aims to help land managers conserve some of the most visible walls in the North York Moors.
It is common practice when building a wall that will be used as a stock-proof boundary to also use either top wire or top netting. This helps ensure that cattle or sheep don’t cause unnecessary damage.
There are miles of drystone walls across the North York Moors, with some believed to demarcate boundaries going back to the Iron Age. It is certain that they are of historic and cultural importance to the area so here’s hoping that they will still be standing in another thousand years!
DUKE OF BURGUNDY (Hamearis lucina)
The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is found in scattered colonies in central southern England, but isolated colonies also remain in the south of Cumbria and the southern edge of the North York Moors.The species is in decline nationally; at sites monitored by transect, numbers have decreased by 49% between 1979 and 2012 (source: www.ukbms.org.uk). It is now one of the rarest butterflies in Britain.
The Duke of Burgundy likes a habitat mosaic either scrubby grasslands or sunny woodland clearings, and requires large lush cowslip or primrose plants where the female can lay her eggs on the undersides of the leaves and which the larvae eat when they hatch. The sun can make a real difference – following warm spring weather the butterfly can emerge 2 to 3 weeks earlier on south facing slopes compared to north facing slopes and so extend the season.
The butterfly faces a series of threats, in particular inappropriate habitat management (e.g. too much/not enough scrub control, too much/not enough grazing), habitat fragmentation and population isolation. Habitat stepping stones and corridor connections between sites are important to improve gene transfer between the small populations and to enable recolonization within the local range.
Butterfly Conservation has been leading a project in the south of the North York Moors aimed at stabalising the existing Duke of Burgundy colonies, re-colonising extinct sites and establishing new colonies through re-introduction. Work undertaken has included an extensive programme of habitat management to open up sites and establish the conditions best suited to the species.
CANON ATKINSON – a literary celebrity
John Christopher Atkinson (1814–1900) was an author and antiquarian. He was born in Essex, and ordained a priest in 1842. Progressing from a curacy in Scarborough, he first became domestic chaplain to the 7th Viscount Downe in 1847 before in the same year being made Vicar of Danby. So Atkinson relocated to this isolated Parish in the Cleveland Hills.
Danby Parish and the surrounding area offered a new panorama to a gentleman antiquarian. Atkinson explored the history and natural history of his parish and acquired a unique knowledge of local legends and contemporary customs using primary sources i.e. his parishioners and the landscape around him. He produced studies on local dialects and, in 1872 he published the first volume of ‘The History of Cleveland, Ancient and Modern’. He went on to write and edit a number of books and was recognised in his lifetime with an honorary degree from the University of Durham. By far his best-known work was a collection of local legends, traditions and reflections on modern rural life which he published in 1891, with the title ‘Forty Years in a Moorland Parish: reminiscences and researches in Danby in Cleveland’.
Atkinson died at the Vicarage in Danby, on 31 March 1900, and is buried at St Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale. He was married three times and fathered thirteen children, in between his writing.
Clapper bridges are rare in the North York Moors and where they do survive they are often hard to find due to their simple functional appearance which is often hidden by a modern highway road obscuring their unique construction.
They are one of the earliest known bridge designs – the design is found across the world. Clapper bridges were built with long, thin slabs of stone to make a beam-type deck and with large rocks or piles of stones for piers. Some clapper bridges were wide enough to accommodate a cart, while others were designed for pedestrians or horse riders only, with carts crossing at a ford alongside the bridge. The word “clapper” could derive from an Anglo-Saxon word – cleaca – meaning “bridging the stepping stones”, but it is also suggested that the word derives from the Medieval Latin – claperius – meaning “a pile of stones”.
Clapper bridges would have once have been common in Britain but over time these bridges began to fall into disuse as more substantial methods of bridge construction were needed and, undoubtedly, many clapper bridges were destroyed to make room for newer bridges.
Clapper bridges are most commonly found on upland areas in Britain. Elsewhere the importance of these bridges is recognised and protected through designation but as yet there are no listed clapper bridges in the North York Moors. We’re keen to make sure that all surviving bridges in the North York Moors are at least recorded; please let us know if you come across one. Graham, our Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer, found this one near Castleton while out walking. An application has been made to Historic England to help secure its survival.
The Cleveland Practice of blast-furnace technology for iron-making relates to a move away from large stone furnace structures towards larger, less enduring iron-clad construction. The zenith of this practice was reached in the Cleveland area from the mid-1860s, when for about 10 years the region took a world lead in blast-furnace practice. By 1875, the Cleveland area was producing 32% of the national output making it the greatest single iron-making district in the world.
The Cleveland Practice was distinctive, with the ironstone always first roasted in a calcining kiln, close to the blast-furnaces, to which it would be transferred whilst still hot. The blast-furnaces took the form of tall cylinders, rising to a height of 80 feet, with an average capacity of 30,000 cubic feet. Furnaces were worked with closed top systems to avoid heat loss, with multiple hot-blast blowing engines used at higher speed / pressure and with powerful machinery to move supplies to the kiln tops more efficiently. This technique was developed specifically to smelt large quantities of relatively low grade ironstone as cheaply as possible and, to achieve this, reliance was placed on improving energy efficiency – the height of the furnace stack was increased in order to utilize the heat generated at the base of the furnace to heat the materials being charged in at the top. The disadvantage of poor quality Cleveland ironstone (generally with a purity of only 26-33%) was offset by the huge quantities that were available locally and the high quality coke from the Durham coalfields to smelt it.
The transition from the old style blast furnaces to the new ‘Cleveland Practice’ style can be seen between the sites of the Beckhole and the Grosmont Ironworks in the North York Moors. The low quality ironstone from the Moors was contributing to the total at this stage but our most important period was pre-1850; once the Eston Mines came on-stream in the 1850s they were producing enormous quantities of (relatively poor-grade) ironstone which invigorated the rise of Teesside at the end of the 19th century.
Unlike in many other National Parks across the world, National Parks in the UK have human populations. People continue to shape the landscape, conserve their cultural heritage and maintain their natural environment. The nature of the North York Moors landscape means we have a pattern of dispersed settlements and individual farmsteads making up the communities in our National Park. The majority of communities are small fairly isolated settlements with a limited range of services and facilities. Given the chance however communities work hard to make the most out of what is practical and to provide essential services as well as retaining and promoting a strong proactive sense of community and identity. The National Park Authority’s planning policies within our Local Development Framework allow for some limited development opportunities including the creation of new facilities, housing and employment. We have a long track record of working with communities whether that’s information exchange through regular Parish Forum meetings or the provision of funding support for community ideas through our Community Grant and the recent North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme. See also below.
COASTAL COMMUNITIES…in particular
The North York Moors National Park has 26-miles of coastline with towering cliffs and rocky shores, steep wooded valleys, sheltered bays and sandy beaches. To showcase this fantastic coastline and the natural, fishing, artistic and culinary heritage of the coastal villages such as Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes and Runswick Bay, we’ve secured £455,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) to deliver the ‘Sea Life, See Life’ initiative from now until the end of December 2016. The Fund aims to encourage the economic development of UK coastal communities, and through this project we’re looking to attract new visitors who want to do something different, and to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more.
It’s a partnership project, with the National Park Authority working with local businesses and communities to define what really makes this area special and different. Workshops and skills training will set up local businesses and communities to be ready to guide visitors to the high quality experiences available and encourage them to support local supply chains to strengthen and sustain the North York Moors’ economy. The project includes small-scale infrastructure projects such as interpretation, heritage restoration works, village improvements, and new public artwork to be delivered alongside a strong public relations and social-media led campaign. There’s also support for new events, festivals and activities, including an interactive trail in Staithes to capitalise on CBeebies’ Old Jack’s Boat, which is filmed in the village.
COMMON COTTON GRASS Eriophorum angustifolium
Patches of cotton grass – featherlike white smidgens of fluff – flutter in the early summer across the wetter areas of moorland .
Cotton grass is a sedge, not actually a grass. A sedge is a grass/rush like plant with triangular solid stems and unassuming flowers which usually grow on wet ground.
We do go on a bit about Habitat Connectivity on our Blog. That’s because it’s the fundamental concept articulated by Sir John Lawton in his Making Space for Nature review in 2010 which is guiding natural environment conservation efforts across the country. In the North York Moors we’re putting connectivity principles into practice working at a local scale.
BETTER ecologically valuable habitat sites through improving condition
MORE ecologically valuable habitat sites through creation and enhancement
BETTER CONNECTED ecologically valuable habitats through creation/enhancement of corridors and stepping stones
The result is a connected landscape making it easier for species to move through
The remains of stone crosses can be found across the moorland area of the North York Moors. They are such a particular feature of the area that the North York Moors National Park took Young Ralph’s Cross to be its emblem.
The survival of original moorland crosses is very variable – some only comprise the base or socket stones, whilst others appear more complete, although the latter may be due to modern repairs or replacement – such as Ainhowe Cross on Spaunton Moor which was replaced in the 19th century. There are different styles of cross-heads – such as wheelheads (White Cross and Steeple Cross) and the simple upright cross shafts with projecting arms (such as Young and Old Ralph, Mauley and Malo crosses) – the latter make up the majority of the surviving examples.
In the North York Moors the most relevant reasons for the original crosses seems to be as way-markers, boundary markers and memorials – potentially all three at once. For a Christian traveller coming across a symbol and reminder of Christianity whilst crossing the desolate moorland must have given hope and succour. Crosses may also have been erected by landowners to mark boundaries and as a good deed, or pre-existing crosses used as a local landmark to help define a boundary. The most famous memorial cross on the Moors is also meant to be the earliest – Lilla’s Cross – which is said to mark the burial site of the servant who sacrificed his own life to save that of his King, Edwin of Northumbria, in the 7th century AD. Although the surviving roughly cut maltese cross is actually dated approximately to the 10th century AD.
After the Protestant Reformation in England, the cross came to be seen by some as a symbol of superstition and this led to the slighting and destruction of individual moorland crosses. This may help to explain – in addition to weathering and deterioration over hundreds of years – why so many crosses today are missing their upper shafts and cross arms.
John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer
The six ponds installed last year through our Habitat Connectivity programme (“Linking Landscapes”) are thriving with life this spring. I’ve just returned from a site visit to the area north of Robin Hood’s Bay and found the ponds full of tadpoles, water boatmen, backswimmers and whirligig beetles. It’s a marvellous sight given that these shallow hollows in the landscape previously held no water at all and contained very little in the way of wildlife.
We arranged the project with the landowner (National Trust) and tenant, and paid for the contractor with his mini digger to form these scrapes and ponds. The ponds were fenced off to allow the vegetation around them to grow up and not be grazed off by stock. This type of habitat should be ideal as breeding sites for amphibians.
Whilst looking for submerged wildlife, I also saw my first Swallow of the year as it swooped to drink from the ponds freshwater after its long journey of migration. The Yorkshire Coast must have been its first landfall for thousands of miles. It’s incredibly satisfying to think that you’ve added to the whole biodiversity and wildlife interest of the area with a few scoops from a digger.
Further up the coast at Wrack Hills near Runswick Bay, hardy Exmoor ponies are settling in well on the undercliff grassland. Undercliff habitat is found alongside soft cliffs where the land has slumped and settled, and been recolonized by vegetation over time. During the winter we’ve fenced off part of the existing SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and installed a watering point. The fencing, in part, follows an historic fence line which implies that there was stock in the past on this useful, if difficult to access, rough pasture. We were previously talking about putting cattle on the undercliff but instead the land manager has managed to arrange for Exmoors to begin to tackle the coarse grasses and scrub that have been taking over the site. This conservation grazing regime is aimed at halting the decline of the patches of species rich grassland that are left here. Big thanks to the land manager and the Exmoor Pony Trust for taking on this challenge. We’re promoting this type of grazing management on the National Park’s coastal undercliffs wherever possible.
The two ponies (one small mare and one larger gelding) were introduced to the site in April. Since then the paths they’ve made (and dung piles they’ve left!) show that they’ve explored much of the site and have started to make an impact on some patches of grassland. Encouragingly there are plenty of primroses, bluebells and a few early-purple orchids in flower, so it doesn’t look like the ponies are eating the flower heads.
It might be good to have more ponies on the undercliff when the ground is drier and less liable to poaching up. Otherwise combining ponies with the land manager’s own shorthorn cattle might be advantageous. Mixes of ponies and cattle have an added benefit that ponies can graze the best grass very tightly, which encourages cattle to tackle the rough stuff before the ponies might get round to it. In addition, after the bird breeding season, if human labour is available, it might be worth strimming some of the edges of the bramble patches, or creating routes though them which the ponies can then expand. The same could apply to bracken patches, although I hope the ponies might make inroads there themselves.
John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer
I work out on the glorious North York Moors coastline and I’m currently spending a lot of my time re-linking the myriad of habitats found there. Magnificent gill woodlands, orchid filled cliff top grass fields, coastal slopes that have escaped the plough, ancient hawthorn hedges and lichen encrusted stonewalls all make up the diverse range of land based wildlife habitats that exist alongside the sea.
As part of our habitat connectivity programme I recently negotiated the planting of 3,020 metres of new hedgerow with local landowners on the coast. Hedgerows will provide vital highways for wildlife to move through in years to come. In the main, the National Park Authority have provided the materials – the plants and the fencing needed to protect the hedgerow as it initially grows, whilst the landowners have provided the labour. Hedging shrubs (known as whips) that have been planted include Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel, Holly, Field Maple and Crab Apple. If you want to see what’s been going on – recent planting is visible as you drive along the A174 out of Lythe village towards Runswick Bay.
In Fylingdales Parish, nearly a hectare of seed rich ‘green hay’ has been cut from a donor site and transported to a cliff top location north of Robin Hood’s Bay to boost the currently species poor meadows there which have a lot of potential. Fingers crossed that the seed germinates and we have a flower filled buffer strip in early June for the benefit of pollinators.
Elsewhere on the coast, hardy native breed cattle are returning to the cliff slopes during the summer where it’s accessible and manageable. I’ve been working with a landowner north of Runswick Bay to enable restoration of the flower rich coastal undercliff at Wrack Hills which is part of the Runswick Bay SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). The cliff slope has been fenced, a water supply installed and half a dozen cattle will be led down to begin grazing later this year. The cattle will battle the scrub and bracken that is gradually engulfing the rare plant life there. Wrack Hills gets its name as an area where locals used to dry the seaweed, known locally as wrack, before applying it to the cliff top fields as a natural fertilizer!
Future negotiations with coastal landowners will include pond creation, scrub control and tree planting possibilities. I’ll you know how it goes.
The objective of our Connectivity programme, put simply, is to protect and enhance the best bits, and to extend and connect them to other sites where possible. To do this we’re going to be working in the National Park towards:
- improving the quality of current wildlife sites by better management;
- increasing the size of existing wildlife sites;
- enhancing connections between sites, either through physical corridors or by ‘stepping stones’;
- creating new sites; and
- reducing the pressure on wildlife by improving the wider environment.
Our Management Plan illustrates the strategic corridors (“wildlife super highways”) in the North York Moors, and we’ve come up with specific areas along these corridors where we’re going to concentrate efforts for the next few years. Different people in our Conservation Department have been allocated different ‘polygons’ (target areas) to lead on.
We’ll be keeping you up to date with what is happening on the ground.
Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser
I’m well underway with Connections 5 to 8 which run from Dalby to Levisham (in the south east of the National Park). The first step has been to ascertain which habitats and species are found in this part of the North York Moors and to see if the current management is beneficial or detrimental to these interests.
Species rich grassland areas and road verges are just one of the important habitats in this area. I’ve been surveying those that we are already aware of to make sure they are in tiptop condition and I’ve been looking for any potential to extend these assets further. There is a particular site just outside Lockton village that has got that potential! It is a steep grassy bank which lies between a road verge with lots of flowering plants and another area of flower rich grassland. Managing flowering grassland by cutting or grazing is necessary to maintain the diversity of this habitat or else it will be overcome by rank grass and scrub. By getting this intermediate bank site into good management using a positive grazing regime, in this case with native breed sheep, the flowering plants will be given a chance to flourish so increasing the good habitat for pollinators, such as bees and hoverfly, which birds and other animals feed on; and linking up two separate sites of species rich grassland into one larger extent.
In the same target area, I’m going to be trying to extend the valuable habitat at Sieve Dale Fen SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) by setting up a National Park Authority Land Management Agreement to conserve and encourage the wetland plants in the next door field to the SSSI and so increasing the extent of this diverse wetland habitat.
There are also deciduous woodlands in the wider area which mainly run in a north/south direction. Where new actual tree planting isn’t appropriate there is still the possibility to strengthen the hedgerow links (east/west) around Lockton and Levisham instead, in order to connect up the wooded areas in Dalby to those in nearby Newtondale.
Lockton and Levisham village both have large areas of communal/amenity grassland and I’m thinking there may be potential to turn some of this grassland in to village nature areas. While I’ve been out surveying with my clip board I’ve been approached by locals and visitors who’ve all been receptive to the ideas behind what I’m trying to do. It’s really important to get local people on board as well as specific land managers and I’ll definitely be reporting back to the local community on how the project progresses in their area and the wider National Park. Village nature areas would be a great way of getting local people involved, if they’d like to.
The next phase is to start doing practical work on the ground such as grassland management and enhancement, installing fences so that positive grazing regimes can be instigated, and setting up the hedge planting for the autumn. In most cases this will be done through agreements with land managers and farmers. Money from national schemes and National Park grants will assist by paying a contribution to help cover the cost of capital works and acknowledge profit foregone.
John Beech – Coastal Project Officer
I’ve been out ground truthing a target area round Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast, with an emphasis on reconnecting existing habitats. A mixture of grasslands, hedgerows, wooded gills, wetlands and streams all provide scope for improvement works to connect, extend and create a more robust mosaic of habitats.
I’ve been talking to landowners in that area to identify work which we want to support and which they are happy with. I’ll be working up the details in the next few weeks with an idea to implement the work over the coming autumn/winter.
Whilst out and about a further two project ideas (pond creation, species rich grassland donoring) have come up in previously surveyed areas – proof that the connectivity message is spreading!
We’ve already installed six new ponds close to Robin Hood’s Bay, and now that it is summer they are already attracting aquatic life including invertebrates such as greater water boatmen, whirligig beetles and pond skaters. Curlew, Swallow, Grey Wagtail and Snipe have also been seen using the ponds. In partnership with the National Trust (land owners) and the tenant farmer, the ponds have now been fenced to prevent cattle and sheep accessing them which has solved the siltation and effluent problem.