Deconstructing modern mounds

Linda Smith, Archaeological Consultant

You may be familiar with the Cleveland Way as it winds its way across the top of Greenhow Bank and you might have been tempted off your route at Burton Howe to head over towards Baysdale. You may have stopped to take in the view from the mound with the boundary stone stuck on top and perhaps, whilst eating your sandwiches or resting your legs, you might have moved a few stones around or brought up another couple from the track to add to the heap.

What harm could there be in that?

Piles of loose stones can be the remains of something built in prehistory. During the Bronze Age (3-4,000 years ago) it was the custom to bury people in mounds called barrows (sometimes marked as tumuli or tumulus and labelled in gothic lettering on maps). Barrows were often built from stones and located on hill tops or ridges of higher land. The dead may have been buried with pots or flint tools and disturbing these structures also disturbs the archaeological story contained inside. Archaeologists could have used this varied information to build up a picture of what happened in the past, much as a detective would today except there is no one alive from whom to take a statement and corroborate the evidence.

Barrows are located in prominent places in the landscape. They can be found on the skyline or forming a focal point for a modern path or they may have had trees planted on them in the past to highlight a hill or a view. Historically they have often been used as route markers by pedlars or when moving animals over long distances in otherwise featureless terrain, or to mark a property boundary by inserting a boundary stone into the mound. They are often important features in the landscape even today, because of their visibility, or maybe because they have a local legend associated with them. As a very numerous and distinctive feature of the North York Moors landscape, barrows constitute a significant proportion (about 65%) of the 842 protected sites or Scheduled Monuments, within the National Park.

Why people build cairns today

Cairns, simply piles of stone, are often built today by walkers to help mark a route which is difficult to see on the ground and this is especially true in the North York Moors where there are few prominent landscape features such as trees or hilltops, where fog and bad weather can divert the walker from the right route or where the heather is deep and makes the path hard to locate. Or where the top of a hill has a great view but it’s often windy so a wind break has gradually been built up to provide welcome shelter. Or maybe there’s a place people always stop for a breather after climbing a steep hill and look down, perhaps on their home village. A handy nearby pile of loose stone can easily be used as a quarry for creating a new heap or cairn in a better place and it may become the custom to add a stone or two to a modern cairn when anyone passes, or even to deliberately take up another stone each time a place is visited. In this way, cairns are created, and enlarged and become important markers.

What’s the damage?

The problem with building cairns today is that by using stones from existing archaeological features like barrows the information contained within them is disturbed, the clues that archaeologists use to build up a picture of what happened in the past are destroyed – how the structure was built and used, how it was developed for different burials, perhaps over several generations, or what objects were buried with the dead. This does not mean that every archaeological feature will one day be excavated by archaeologists but it does mean that the features are so important that they deserve to be left undisturbed for future generations and new techniques and understanding: if something 4,000 years old is disturbed, that unique information is lost for ever. Many of these barrows have been recognised as being nationally important and so are protected as Scheduled Monuments.

'Codhill Heights' - walkers' cairn and shelter built up on round barrow on Gisborough Moor. You can see a hole next to the scale pole where a stone has been pulled out of the burial mound. Copyright M Johnson.

Some artefacts moved during modern cairn building will not be recognised as such and simply be thrown away, including small fragments of bone which might have revealed a lot about the person buried there. Moving stones may disturb post holes or remains of other structures. Inserting a commemorative plaque adds a modern intrusion, or it may be fixed to a stone with prehistoric carvings or which is part of a prehistoric feature. Modern graffiti are sometimes carved into the stones on a prehistoric monument. Sometimes gamekeepers use archaeological features for siting grouse grit stations; if the ground is not disturbed and no stones are moved this might not start as a problem, but then if passing walkers are tempted to start building a cairn on the same spot a problem forms.

Beyond the obvious problems, these activities can have other impacts. Making a feature more prominent means that more visitors may be attracted to it, creating deepening erosion by following a single line to the summit. In some cases a new cairn might even bury or obscure the historic monument altogether.

Large walkers’ cairn on Drake Howe which draws visitors off the Cleveland Way. Copyright M Johnson.

An even larger walkers’ cairn on a round barrow above Bilsdale. Copyright S Robson.What we can do?

To put things right, work is under way as part of the National Park Authority’s Monument Management Scheme (MMS) which is funded by Historic England. This involves a group of volunteers monitoring the condition of barrows with identified walkers’ cairns, and carrying out remedial work to repair the worst damage. The first of these repair projects has recently transformed a round barrow next to the Cleveland Way on Live Moor. The barrow will be monitored to ensure a modern cairn appendage doesn’t re-appear.

A volunteer monitors the walkers’ cairn on Pike Howe. Copyright S Bassett.

Barrow on Live Moor before remedial work to remove the cairn. Copyright Solstice Heritage.

NPA apprentices help to remove the modern cairn from a burial monument on Live Moor. Copyright M Johnson.Live Moor monument after remedial work. Some loose stones have been left around the centre of the mound to protect the bare ground on the top until the vegetation can re-establish itself. Copyright Solstice Heritage.We want to raise awareness of this issue of accidental damage to archaeological features amongst walkers. When in the countryside, it is best to leave things alone and not disturb anything you find. Be aware of the Countryside Code which includes “Our heritage matters to all of us – be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.”

You can find out if a feature or site is protected by visiting the Historic England website where you can search by a name or on a map.

So the next time you find a nice sheltered spot for a rest on top of a hill, enjoy the view and your lunch and by leaving the site as you found it you could be helping to preserve an important feature for another 4,000 years!

A to Z: a multiplicity of Ms

M

MAGNETITE

As mentioned previously, in the 1850s a seam of iron rich ironstone was discovered in Rosedale. Also known as lodestone, magnetite had long been a valued mineral because of the amount of iron ore it contains, so much so that it is often magnetic.

Rosedale - copyright Colin Dilcock, NYMNPA

The discovery in Rosedale led to the rapid development and expansion of the mining and calcining industry there and in the wider area. There were great expectations …

“Professor Phillips delighted and informed the company by his description of the ‘Ironstones of Cleveland’ … The Rosedale band at its richest points, yielded 50 per cent [ore] and in many places 42 per cent. The Rosedale stone was magnetic and contained phosphorous, it was not merely magnetic, but it had an inherent magnetic polarity … There must spring up over the Cleveland district, through the working of the iron ore, great towns, with a numerous and active population; and, as a result, the moorland would be brought under cultivation and this once dismal tract of 20 square miles would rejoice in all the material means that could promote human happiness and prosperity…”

From a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Leeds, as reported in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 2 October 1858.

However the actual magnetite seam was soon exhausted leaving the industry exploiting poorer ironstone and slowly declining into the 20th century. The magnetite proved to be rather a flash in the pan.

This Exploited Land of Iron logos

MESOTROPHIC LAKES

There are very few natural lakes in the North York Moors due to geology and climate, which makes Lake Gormire on the south western edge of the National Park even more remarkable. In the last Ice Age a hollow was formed by a meltwater channel between the edge of the moving Vale of York ice sheet and the edge of the North York Moors gritstone escarpment. The channel damned up and the lake left behind divided into two bodies of water – Gormire and the much smaller, Buttermere.

These are mesotrophic lakes – containing a narrow range of nutrients in medium concentrations. This type of lake chemistry is rare and becoming rarer as lakes are effected by artificially increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and so become eutrophic. Lake Gormire is surrounded mainly by semi natural woodland and fed by springs and so largely circumvents the risks of artificial diffuse pollution and nutrient enrichment.

Because of their chemistry Mesotrophic lakes can support higher levels of diversity of macrophytes (algae), aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish. The fen (‘mire’, ‘mere’) plants around Gormire/Buttermere reflect the acid soil, so there is Marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris, Common skullcap Scutellaria galericulata and Tufted loosestrife Lysimachia thyrsiflora, as well as Bog bean Menyanthes trifoliata and Water horsetail Equisetum fluviatile. Gormire is particularly popular with noisy water birds, mating toads and freshwater leeches, all exaggerating the primeval sense inside this Ice Age hollow.

Lake Gormire from Cleveland Way, north of Sutton Bank - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

Lake Gormire and the area around it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The cliff slope woodland above Lake Gormire is the Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

MILKY WAY

The Milky Way is a galaxy of billions of stars and planets sometimes partly visible to the naked eye as a milky looking band of light in the night sky.

Milky Way and Perseid Meteor Shower Sutton Bank - copyright Russ Norman Photography.

We’re in the middle of the Dark Skies Festival 2017 here in the North York Moors National Park. The dark skies over National Parks make it easier to see the lights of the galaxies around us. This February is particularly good for viewing Orion and also a very bright Venus.

February 27 1920   The mysterious stars

…Later in the evening a half-moon shone in a filmy sky across which, from S.E. to N.W., ran a Noë-ship of thin white clouds. A soft mist hung in the far valleys, but the nearer moory slopes loomed clearer. In the pastures the furze bushes were startlingly like huge black beasts grazing on the rimmed herbage. No sounds broke the utter silence of the moonlit hills; the wind had almost died away, but as I stepped over the little rill from Thunderbush Farm [Commondale], I heard its faint, musical ripple.

The ever-mysterious stars flashed through the interspaces of the filmy clouds and circled silently above the dim earth. Sirius flashed due south whilst mighty Orion hung high above the moor edge, his glory somewhat dimmed by the moon. What would life have been without the stars?”

A Man of the Moors: Extracts of the Diaries and Letter of Frank Elgee.

MINI-BEASTS

We use the term mini-beasts for the tiny invertebrates that go without notice until they’re looked at under the microscope and a menagerie of marvel and dread is revealed.

Identifying and counting river invertebrates is a very useful way of assessing the health of a river at a particular spot. Certain species indicate good water quality and others, poor water quality; a change in species/numbers indicate a change in water quality e.g. a pollution incident. There is a national programme of riverfly monitoring led by the Riverfly Partnership. Results are recorded centrally and indications of a potential incidents are reported to the Environment Agency. The National Park run a number of local Riverfly Monitoring Workshops for volunteers – the next one is 1 March.

MOSCHATEL Adoxa Moschatellina

Moschatel is a perennial unobtrusive plant which likes the damp, shady conditions found along woodland edges and on shaded hedge banks. It flowers between March and May, producing five lime green flowers on top of a leafless stalk, four flowers face outwards and one flower faces upwards, forming a cubic which has led to the plant’s other common name – Townhall Clock. The plant grows along the ground through rhizomes with the flower stalks growing up through its leaves to only c. 15cm tall. It is a common plant but easy to miss – look out for it in early spring before it gets hidden by taller plants.

Moschatel at Sieve Dale. Copyright Ami Walker, NYMNPA.

MOTTE AND BAILEY

Historic England suggest there are over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles in England. These were early medieval fortifications built by the Normans and made up of a large mound of earth/rubble (the ‘motte’) with a defensive palisade and tower on top, and an embanked enclosure with other buildings (the ‘bailey’) adjoining.

A motte and bailey castle could act as a fort when required as well as providing the residence for the local landowner/representative of the King and a centre for feudal power. They were often built on high ground to take advantage of the extra height to dominate the landscape and overlook access routes.

Soon after the beginning of Norman rule in England came the ‘harrying of the north’ – a military campaign to overcome and overwhelm the population in the north of the country and hammer home the idea that the Normans were here to stay. The new motte and bailey castles were a highly visible tool for holding that ground and reinforcing that message.

By the 13th century castle design had moved beyond the basic motte and bailey. Although the timber structures have largely gone, the earthworks are often still traceable in the landscape, and rubble mottes and the remnants of stone towers remain. Many are scheduled. Examples in the North York Moors include Hood Hill, Easby motte, and Foss Castle.

MOTHS

Moths are often considered the poor cousins of butterflies in the Lepidoptera family. The most obvious difference between butterflies and moths are that the former are active during the day whereas moths are mostly (but not all) nocturnal, feeding on the nectar of night blooming/night scented plants. Another difference is that when resting, butterflies usually close their wings whereas moths leave theirs open and this makes it easier to examine their intricate patterning and refined colouring. But as with most ecological questions – what is the difference between butterflies and moths? – there is no obvious answer and always an exception. Moths can be just as colourful, just as beguiling and just as in peril, as butterflies. For more on moth conservation see here.

Shandy Hall, Coxwold has become a location for moth study and reporting over the last few years. The gardens there provide a semi-natural/cultivated habitat for many species – over 400 different species have been recorded in the gardens to date.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L

A to Z: a horde of Hs

H

HANDALE ABBEY

Handale Abbey Farm nestles in a sleepy valley near Grinkle Park in the north of the North York Moors. On first glance there is little to indicate its dramatic past but closer inspection reveals clues to its history…

The farmstead was once the site of a Cistercian Priory and home to a small community of nuns. Handale Priory was founded in 1133 and is thought to have stood somewhere near
the existing farmhouse. Nuns from Rosedale Abbey in the south of the North York Moors Handale Abbey - mediaeval cross shaft base and tomb lid - copyright NYMNPA.were sent to this outlying subsidiary house as a penance, presumably because of the difficult journey required to get there over the moors and possibly due to the hard day to day life once they got there although little documentary evidence survives to help us understand what life would have been like for the women who lived and worked at Handale Priory.

In the centuries following the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, the Priory’s surviving mill building was used for the manufacture of cotton undergarments and the Priory ruins were incorporated into a new farmhouse and walled garden. Evidence of the Priory can be seen today in the medieval fish pond to the south of the walled garden and the medieval tomb lid and cross base which have been relocated to the base of the medieval wall to the left of the farmhouse. There is a small carved stone that stands next to the tomb which is a memorial to the last cart horse at the farm before diesel engines took over.

There is also a less historic more fantastical tale associated with the site too. Local legend tells of a ‘loathsome serpent’ that lived in the area and would steal beautiful maidens from nearby Loftus, bringing them back to its lair at Handale to devour. One day a brave knight called Scaw killed the serpent and rescued one of the beautiful maidens called Emma Beckwith from the serpent’s lair. The couple wed and presumably lived happily ever after. The nearby wood is known as Scaw’s Wood. In 1830, along with 16 other burials (possibly remains from the nuns’ graveyard) a coffin was found on the site with a picture of a sword and the words ‘snake slayer’ carved in the lid. The skeleton inside was apparently holding a four foot long sword and so naturally was believed to be Scaw himself.

In 2011 the LEADER Programme funded the repairs of the disused, listed walled garden at
the site which was in a parlous state and classified as being at ‘extreme risk’. The project Handale Abbey Farm - bringing the Walled Garden back to life - copyright NYMNPA.also commissioned an imaginatively designed interpretation panel and bench, and a contemporary gate to keep cattle out. At this current time permissive access into the garden is still extant and visitors are welcome. Along with the local apple varieties introduced into the reinvigorated garden there were also initially bee hives. The current owners would be keen to host new hives if anyone is interested in producing Handale Honey.

HEATHER and HEATH

The North York Moors is renowned for its heather – the largest continuous expanse of heather moorland in England and Wales – which blooms purple during the summer months (July/August). The display is mainly made up of three species – Bell heather (Erica cinerea), Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) and Cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix). The main difference between a heather and a heath plant is their leaf structure. In addition there is a record of another heath plant in one location on the North York Moors – St Dabeoc’s Heath (Daboecia cantabrica) – which is more familiar in the west of Ireland.

Heather moorland - copyright NYMNPA.

The moorland habitats of the North York Moors are dominated by heather and heath. The dry climate in the east of England favours NVC (National Vegetation Classification) types H9 Calluna vulgarisDeschampsia flexuosa, with some H10 Calluna vulgarisErica cinerea heath on well-drained areas and large areas of H12 Calluna vulgarisVaccinium myrtillus heath on steeper slopes. However there are also smaller areas of M16 Erica tetralixSphagnum compactum wet heath. From North York Moors Special Area of Conservation site details.

HEDGEROWS

Hedgerows are man-made lines of trees managed and manipulated to demarcate boundaries and to control stock. Every hedgerow will have had a purpose and every hedgerow has a value. Hedgerows can develop their own understorey of plants and provide shelter and food for invertebrates, birds and animals. They act as living connecting corridors between other habitats and are important visual features in an English landscape. Hedgerows can last as hedgerows for a very long time as long as they continue to be managed and the longer they last the more biodiverse they can become – one new plant species establishes in a hedge about every 100 years.

Old roadside hedge, Bilsdale - copyright Ami Walker, NYMNPA.Because of the importance of hedgerows in the North York Moors we’re offering grants to help land managers regenerate and gap up their valued hedgerows.

Where hedgerows no longer have an agricultural purpose they might be seen as a hindrance to modern land management. To remove an agricultural hedge more than 30 years old a land manager must apply to the Local Planning Authority for a Hedgerow Removal Notice (under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997); for the North York Moors National Park we’re the Local Planning Authority. When this happens we need to establish whether the hedgerow is ‘important’ according to a number of set criteria that consider both its ecological and historical value. If the hedgerow is ‘important’ the hedgerow is retained and if it isn’t, the hedgerow can be removed. There are very few applications for hedgerow removal in the North York Moors.

HERBERT READ

Herbert Read (1893 – 1968) was born at Muscoates Grange in Ryedale, just to the south of the North York Moors. As a child, following the death of his father, his family moved from the pre WW1 countryside to the city (Leeds and Halifax to be precise). The feelings engendered of loss and contrast had a profound effect on him.

During his lifetime Herbert Read was an army officer, a bank worker, a museum curator, an academic, a journal and book editor, a writer, a poet, a theorist and critic. He co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts and was President of the Society for Education in Art. He was a prodigious thinker and believed in art as a necessity for society. He saw art as a natural organic phenomenon that comes out of a need for expression and championed modern British sculptors and artists of the mid-20th century. Despite being a theoretical anarchist he was knighted in 1953.

Herbert Read returned to Ryedale in his later years. Here he wrote about his recollections and current thoughts, now that he was back.

Sir Herbert Read - Leeds University Library Special Collections - https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections

From Between the Riccall and the Rye: selected writings on Ryedale from Herbert Read’s poetry and prose (© The Herbert Read Trust):

“I think I heard those hooves again the night my father died, but of this I am not certain; perhaps I shall remember when I come to relate that event, for now the memory of those years, which end shortly after my tenth birthday, comes fitfully, when the proper associations are aroused. If only I can recover the sense and uncertainty of those innocent years, years in which we seemed not so much to live as to be lived by forces outside us, by the wind and trees and moving clouds and all the mobile engines of our expanding world – then I am convinced I shall possess a key to much that has happened to me in this other world of conscious living. The echoes of my life which I find in my early childhood are too many to be dismissed as vain coincidences; but it is perhaps my conscious life which is the echo, the only real experiences in life being those lived with a virgin sensibility – so that we only hear a tone once, only see a colour once, see, hear, touch, taste and smell everything but once, the first time. All life is an echo of our first sensations, and we build up our consciousness our whole mental life, by variations and combinations of these elementary sensations. But it is more complicated than that, for the senses apprehend not only colours and tones and shapes, but also patterns and atmospheres, and our first discovery of these determines the larger patterns and subtler atmospheres of all our subsequent existence.”

HIGHLAND CATTLE

Highland Cattle are great at conservation grazing, they’re particularly hardy, and they’re also extremely placid.

There are currently five Highland Cattle on the coastal slope at Common Cliff (also known as Beast Cliff) near Ravenscar. Common Cliff is a 44 hectare area of undercliff habitat at Ravenscar. The site is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its seacliff grassland communities; however these grasslands are being encroached upon by rank grasses, bracken and scrub. So a 5-year conservation grazing programme was introduced in 2015, hence the cattle.

Highland Cattle grazing Common Cliff - copyright NYMNPA.

Grazing cattle on the site has three particular effects:

Defoliation – The cattle are ideal for removing long, coarse vegetation – they wrap their tongues around the vegetation pulling tufts into their mouths which leaves a tussocky appearance. Removing this coarse vegetation will allow wildflowers, such as the Common Spotted Orchid, to flourish. Cattle are less selective grazers (compared to sheep or ponies) and do not eat flower heads, unlike sheep.

Trampling – Cattle are heavy animals and as they walk around the site, they trample the vegetation, creating pathways through the bracken and scrub, opening up the dense sward and suppressing growth of these unwanted species. Hoof marks can also create germination niches – areas where wild flower seeds can germinate.

Dunging/manuring – Dunging returns nutrient back to the soil whilst also providing a food source for invertebrates.

Because of their hardiness the cattle can remain on the sea edge site throughout the year. They are also very sure-footed, a must for grazing on coastal slopes! The stock is checked regularly, the site has been fenced to help manage the animals, and there is a year round water supply, to ensure that the cattle stay happy and healthy.

 HISTORIC ENGLAND

Historic England (officially the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England) is the Government’s statutory adviser on all aspects of the historic environment and its heritage assets. This includes archaeology on land and under water, historic building sites and areas, designated landscapes and the historic elements of the wider landscape. The National Park Authority works closely with Historic England to achieve shared objectives, recent examples of partnership working include:

Traditional Estates Craft Apprenticeship Project (2012-2014) – In partnership with the University of York, and Historic England we launched a new apprenticeship scheme which offered three young apprentices hands-on experience in a range of building maintenance and conservation skills. Hosted by Estates in the North York Moors the apprentices gained the specialist skills needed for conserving the nationally important built heritage of the National Park whilst achieving their NVQ Level 2 at York College. The initial project was so successful we’re hoping to follow it up with a new Trailblazer Apprenticeship.

New Listings – Historic England advises the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on which heritage assets are nationally important and should therefore be protected by designation. Buildings and structures which meet the criteria for national protection are listed. This protection system has been in place since 1947 and operates under The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. The test for listing is architectural or historic special interest, with the final decision to list being taken by Government. Recently within the North York Moors Historic England has listed a rare surviving Clapper Bridge and a Battle of the Somme War Memorial on Commondale Moor.

Monument Management Scheme – This is a partnership initiative largely funded by Historic England which has been running in North York Moors since 2009; we’re now into Phase 3. The essential aim of MMS is to improve the condition of scheduled monuments and ultimately to remove ‘At Risk’ monuments from the Heritage at Risk Register, using the most practical means available. The current Register includes 54 of the National Park’s 841 Scheduled Monuments (as of November 2015) – a big reduction from the 198 which were ‘At Risk’ when the MMS began in 2009.

Buildings at Risk Survey Pilot – Using funding from Historic England, we created a NYMNPA Buildings at Risk AppNYMNPA Buildings at Risk Appsmart phone survey application to help with condition surveys of listed buildings. The App allows volunteers to remotely access information about the National Park’s listed buildings and enables on-site condition assessments to be carried out and data automatically updated. With a runners-up prize from the Campaign for National Parks’ Park Protector Awards, we were able to refine the App and Historic England have since used the concept to create their own version which is now being trialled prior to launch.

Grant provision and advice – Joint funding projects between the National Park Authority and Historic England have enabled the removal of several key buildings from the Buildings at Risk Register recently, like the Ionic Temple and Nelson Gates at Duncombe Park in Helmsley. The Authority also liaises closely with Historic England in providing coordinated expert advice to support the conservation of important historical sites in the North York Moors, such as Whorlton Castle Gatehouse and Arden Mill on the River Rye.

Whorlton Castle Gatehouse - copyright Paul D Hunter.

Historic England have lots of useful advice notes and guidance on managing and maintaining our built heritage, for example suggesting sensitive and practical ways for home owners to improve the energy efficiency of listed buildings such as draught-proofing of windows, secondary glazing, cavity walls and insulation.

HOBS

A lot of cultures have their own ‘other folk’. These other folk have lots of different names such as Fairies, Trolls and Goblins; in the North York Moors they are known as Hobs. Hobs are little and aren’t renowned for their good looks. They can be very helpful and are keen to work hard, just as long as you are grateful in return. If you’re not suitably grateful or you try and trick a Hob – woe betide you.

The National Park has a team of Volunteers known as The Hobs. They’re not necessarily little or lacking in good looks but they do work hard.

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

Cliff edge archaeology

Chris Scott – Solstice Heritage, formerly of Archaeological Research Services Ltd and  Mags Waughman – NPA Monument Management Scheme Officer. From ‘An Industry on the Edge: the Alum Industry of the North York Moors coast’

Alum production was one of England’s earliest large-scale chemical industries and the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills was the main production area for the first 200 years of the industry, which took off in England when political and religious rivalries in Europe led to a market for home produced alum. Many of the surviving remains of the industry are of national importance and the National Park has eight alum production centres which have been designated as Scheduled Monuments because of this.

The alum industry operated in North Yorkshire from c.1604 until 1871. It was a major component of the wool/cloth trade because the chemical produced acted as a fixing agent for colour dyes. The alum refining process began with the quarrying of shale bedrock which was heaped with fuel into large mounds, or calcining clamps, and then burned for a long period (up to 8 or 9 months). The burnt shale was then steeped in water in a series of pits to release aluminium sulphate into a solution known as alum liquor, which was siphoned between the pits and settling cisterns to concentrate and clarify it. The liquor eventually ended up in the ‘Alum House’ where it was boiled over coal fires to concentrate it further and then an alkaline sulphate was added (human urine or seaweed) to create the required product – alum crystals.

Many of the production sites in the North York Moors were on the coast where alum shale was exposed in the cliffs and could therefore be easily extracted. The sea also allowed for good access to the imported ingredients of urine/seaweed and coal, and for transporting away the end product. However, the soft sediment coastline of the east coast of Britain is vulnerable to erosion and now as a result, these coastal alum sites continue to be worn away and will be inevitably lost over the next 100 years. Six of the scheduled alum production sites in the North York Moors are in such vulnerable locations on the edge of the coast. Since 2009, we have been working with Historic England to improve the condition of Scheduled Monuments at risk in the National Park through our Monument Management Scheme but in the case of these scheduled coastal alum sites, long term conservation is difficult because we cannot remove the threat.

As an alternative to protecting the coastal alum working sites from inevitable erosion, we have been working to preserve the information they hold through archaeological investigation and recording. This may allow us to answer some of the significant questions which still remain about the regional alum industry, the development of the industrial processes and about each of the individual sites. So back in 2014 the National Park Authority commissioned Archaeological Research Services Ltd to carry out initial assessments to establish the current knowledge and condition of each site and to develop mitigation strategies for the most significant remains; using excavation, aerial photography and Lidar transcription, drawn and photographic recording and walkover survey. In all, four sites were investigated, with the aim of researching outstanding questions and where possible, to facilitate the lowering of the ‘Risk’ status attached to the monuments.

Investigation work was particularly difficult and dangerous because of the locations of the sites – on the precarious and eroding cliff edges. Specialist safety, rescue and access contractors Spartan Rescue Ltd were brought in to create site-specific risk assessments, method statements, access plans and emergency rescue procedures. Each member of the excavation team had to be strapped into a restraint harness for most of the time on site. Happily, investigation of all four sites was completed without mishap and the team was able to put together a full report, the highlights of which are summarised below.

Walkover survey at Sandsend - copyright ARS Ltd.

Walkover survey at Sandsend – copyright ARS Ltd.

Boulby Alum Quarries and Works – this is one of the best examples nationally of a technically advanced 19th century alum-quarrying complex.

The archaeological works at Boulby comprised the excavation of three trenches across a putative pump house, two liquor cisterns and an associated potential building platform, and followed on from previous excavations in the 1960s/70s. The cisterns were well preserved – these circular masonry structures were built within a cut into the shale bedrock, presumably to create the correct finished height to allow alum liquor to be run into them by gravity alone, and sealed with a fine yellow clay as waterproofing. The cisterns had eventually been abandoned, most probably intentionally backfilled, and a later trough for the movement of liquor had been cut through the most easterly tank. Excavation of the easterly cistern showed that the floor and wall had been affected by subsidence at some point, and so one possible reason for its partial demolition may have been that the structure no longer held liquid effectively. The soft geology regularly seems to have been a problem for the alum industry, with oft-reported landslides and subsidence impacting on, and partly caused by, the quarrying operations.

The building platform lay close to the cisterns and was shown to have been created by the mass dumping of quarry waste into a previously quarried area, filling it to a depth of at least a metre, and probably much more. This serves to illustrate both the changing landscape of the ‘New Boulby Works’ during its operational life-span and the limited space within which the quarry functioned. The building on top of the platform had a stone slab floor, made from the local sandstone that had to be removed to access the shale, and timber walls supported on horizontal beams in slots. Evidence for a pantile roof gave a good idea of the overall character of this small industrial building. The other building investigated, presumed to have been a ‘pump house’, proved to be a much grander and well-made structure, with finely built masonry walls and a fantastically preserved flagstone floor. Finely tooled sockets in the walls and chamfered sockets within the floor suggested that machinery had once been fitted into this building. However no conclusive evidence of the building’s function was uncovered.

Saltwick Nab Alum Quarry

Two trenches were excavated at Saltwick and produced archaeological evidence that supplemented the previous survey data compiled by York Archaeological Trust detailing the location of cisterns, warehouses, burnt heaps and tanks on the quarry floor. Work focused on the excavation of an existing erosion scar at the seaward lip of the quarry. Previous visits had noted in-situ eroding deposits, which were investigated in order to try and understand the nature of the deposits being lost to the sea. The trench exposed huge deposits of quarry waste, spent burnt shale and piles of clay and silt which had been dumped by barrow. These overlay surfaces of hard trampled shale and waste: the working floors of the quarry on which were preserved flat wooden-plank barrow boards used to make barrow routes for the movement of materials within the quarry. These boards, worn through by use, spoke of the colossal human effort needed to shift such vast tonnages of stone by hand. Also within the trench, cut into the quarry floor, was a drain heading towards the sea, presumably for draining away the waste from the steeping process.

The evidence at Saltwick showed that, although much of what is being lost appears at first glance to be just dumps of quarrying and processing waste of limited archaeological potential, this material can often bury and preserve the fine detail and artefacts of everyday life in an alum quarry, and it is this which is being slowly washed away and lost to the sea.

The archaeological work at Saltwick included the production of a detailed photographic and drawn record of the foreshore slipway/ramp feature (used for sea transportation), in order to mitigate the uncontrollable and imminent loss of this feature through the ongoing erosion.

Kettleness Alum Works

The Kettleness site had previously benefited from detailed earthwork survey and documentary research carried out by English Heritage (now Historic England), so the new project aimed to examine specific areas of interest identified by this earlier work. The excavation trenches were targeted across a putative calcining place and putative calcining clamp.

A prominent mound at the landward side of the quarry, had previously been interpreted as a spoil heap or, possibly, a rare survival of an in-situ calcining clamp. The excavations demonstrated that it was indeed a calcining clamp, but rather than for processing alum shale it was an equally rare survival of an unburnt clamp for the calcining of ironstone. The North York Moors and then the Cleveland Hills and Middlesbrough, saw large-scale growth of the ironstone industry during the middle and later part of the 19th century. This site may have represented a diversification of production during the later 19th century, moving into the product in most demand (see This Exploited Land Landscape Partnership).

Kettleness is one of the better understood sites and the targeted excavations have answered specific research questions in relation to the site, as well as demonstrating significant evidence of the likely re-use of this alum site for the extraction and refinement of ironstone. The information gleaned from the excavation, together with the detailed earthwork survey, can now be better used as a model from which to interpret earthwork evidence at other sites, particularly potential “clamp” or “spoil heap” features.

Sandsend Alum Quarries and Works

At Sandsend, a complex of three successive alum quarries (Gaytress Quarry, Ness End Quarry and Deep Grove Quarry) extend for nearly a kilometre along the coastal margin. The investigations carried out comprised LiDAR and aerial photographic transcription, followed by a detailed walkover survey to examine remains on the ground. This initial survey work was necessary because there had been much less previous investigation at Sandsend compared to other sites so it was required first to establish a comprehensive baseline of evidence.

The survey at Sandsend identified features relating to the quarrying of sandstone, alum shale and possibly cement stone, as well as barrow-ways, route-ways, spoil heaps, evidence of water management, banks of steeping pits and liquor channels covering the entire scheduled area, and in places extending beyond it. This work has added significantly to the understanding of the breadth of remains within the quarries, as well as the position of the remains in relation to the coastal edge, and therefore the relative risk of erosion. These can now be much more successfully compared and contrasted with other well understood or surveyed sites, such as Kettleness, allowing the production of more targeted research across this group of important sites.

Now that the project has finished, we have a good base of evidence which we will use to inform and support both future management and targeted works to mitigate the inevitable loss of these monuments. We will continue to address the issues facing these sites and look for opportunities to investigate and record the remains under threat in order to achieve ‘preservation by record’ where they cannot be physically saved. The coastal alum sites contain the remains of one of England’s earliest large-scale chemical industries and illustrate the important place the North York Moors had in this industry.

If you want to have a look yourself at a coastal alum working site – the National Trust owned Peak Alum Works at Ravenscar is open to the public and is safe to access without emergency rescue procedures.

Moor monuments

Taken from North York Moors National Park Authority Monument Management Scheme: an overview of the second MMS programme 2012-2015 by Mags Waughman and Jo Collins

The Monument Management Scheme (MMS) has been progressing in the North York Moors since 2009 – it’s a partnership scheme between the NPA and English Heritage (now Historic England). The essential aims of the MMS are to improve scheduled monument condition and remove scheduled monuments from the Heritage At Risk (HAR) register, using the most practical means available. The current register includes 54 of the National Park’s 841 Scheduled Monuments – a big reduction from the 198 which were ‘At Risk’ when the MMS began in 2009.

Scheduling is the legal system for protecting nationally important monuments and archaeological remains in England. Its aim is to preserve the best examples of each type of monument for the benefit of current and future generations. Not all scheduled monuments are ancient – monuments and archaeological remains of all dates can be given the protection of scheduling. Some scheduled monuments contain standing buildings or ruins – others have no visible remains above ground.

The second programme (MMS2) ran from 2012 to May this year. The MMS2 continued the three-stage process developed and refined through the original pilot programme:

  • Up to date site inspections (by Historic Environment Volunteers);
  • Production of management plans, negotiation with land managers to secure a legal agreement and necessary consents as well as procuring contractors to carry out practical works (by NPA staff); and
  • Implementation of practical vegetation management and erosion repairs (by accredited consultants and contractors, and sometimes Historic Environment Volunteers).

In addition where possible the MMS has worked through Natural England and existing national agri-environment schemes to make the most of available funding; worked with the NPA’s Ranger Service to tackle the worst erosion problems caused by access across monuments (“killing two birds with one stone”), and elsewhere worked directly with land owners and managers to come to satisfactory and cost-effective compromises.

Green Dike - early mediaeval estate boundary associated with Whitby Abbey - public bridleway runs along length of monument. Legal and illegal use causing considerable erosion and vehicle rutting. Copyright NYMNPAGreen Dike - repairs and heather brash spread along the monument - new bridleway route cut to the left. Work in progress because boggy areas along the new route mean people still using the old route. Copyright NYMNPA.

Danby Rigg Cairnfields - extensive prehistoric landscapes. Volunteers spreading crushed sandstone and heather brash to repair and protect archaeological features along the Danby Rigg bridleway. Copyright NYMNPA

Vegetation management has been one of the most successful MMS methods, accounting for large numbers of monuments being removed from the HAR Register. Growing vegetation such as bracken, gorse and woody scrub breaks up structural remains and hides earthworks that become lost and unappreciated. The need for follow-on vegetation management work, particularly for bracken control, has been very apparent; some monuments have still had some bracken growth after 5 years of treatment and a follow-on programme has been as important as establishing new projects in order to make a real impact on the area’s monuments.

Eden House cairnfield and deer park boundary before bracken spraying - copyright Archaeo-environment Ltd

Eden House cairnfield and deer park boundary after 3 years of bracken spraying - copyright Archaeo-environment LtdThere were also a number of thematic projects advanced during MMS2 to address shared issues across a number of different monuments such as monuments affected by walkers’ cairns where monuments needed to be assessed and if necessary repaired as well as the modern cairns removed or re-located – interpretation will be considered to explain the monuments to visitors and hopefully discourage new cairn building at the monuments’ expense. There was also a large scale study of coastal alum workings which are relentlessly and unavoidably being destroyed by coastal erosion – this will hopefully be the subject of a future post.

Round barrow on line of the Cleveland Way - with very large modern walkers' cairn on top - copyright NYMNPA

Although addressing scheduled sites under arable cultivation was excluded from the scope of MMS2, a preliminary assessment was made. This identified up to 32 monuments where site visits were required to verify condition and management potential, as well as 4 principal areas where cultivation issues are significant. This information was supplied to English Heritage/Historic England to inform planning of their own COSMIC 3.1 project (Conservation of Scheduled Monuments in Cultivation assessment). A number of the monuments were also suggested as suitable candidates for geophysics and/or trial excavation and these may be addressed under the final MMS programme, if and when opportunities arise.

The original target for MMS2 was for 75 ‘At Risk’ Scheduled Monuments to be removed from the Heritage at Risk (HAR) Register and for 60 ‘Vulnerable’ Scheduled Monuments (vulnerable to becoming ‘At Risk’) to have their condition improved. Because of subsequently reduced resources it was decided that the priority should be to address the monuments on the HAR register.

Between April 2012 and May 2015 –

  • 77 Scheduled Monuments were recommended for removal from the HAR register and a further 4 were removed from the NYMNPA’s records of ‘At Risk’ monuments (these monuments never got onto the At Risk Register because as soon as their poor condition was discovered the issues were addressed).
  • 23 Scheduled Monuments were recommended for a reduction in risk status from ‘Vulnerable’ to Low Risk and 7 further ‘Vulnerable’ monuments had improvement works carried out, although other factors (e.g. location at the edge of a major road) did not permit their risk status to be reduced.

Over the last 5 years the North York Moors MMS has made a big contribution to improving the condition and management of the 841 Scheduled Monuments within the National Park. The beneficiaries include not only the National Park Authority and English Heritage/Historic England, but also land managers who have benefitted from the opportunity to access practical assistance with monument management; local consultants and contractors whose management skills have developed; and our Historic Environment Volunteers who’ve gained knowledge of site survey and management requirements, and gained a growing appreciation of the issues facing monuments within the National Park. At the National Park Authority we pride ourselves on having a record of working closely with land owners and farmers providing land management advice and assistance and we think that it is this, along with our exemplar volunteer service, which has underpinned the successes of MMS2.

Round barrow on Potato Nab before bracken spraying and removal of scub - copyright NYMNPA

Potato Nab after scrub removal and 2 years of bracken spraying carried out by land owner - copyright R WatsonThe MMS2 programme was a fully formed scheme following on from the initial pilot programme. In order to address some of the outstanding Heritage at Risk issues within the National Park and to secure the legacy of the first two programmes, a third stage MMS programme commenced in June 2015 and will run until 2018. This final MMS programme will continue and enhance some of the MMS2 projects in order to consolidate the previous work, but will also move into a preventative phase to establish a sustainable future through fostering greater ownership of the historic monuments of the North York Moors by landowners and farmers, volunteers and local communities.

A to Z – a collection of Cs

C

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

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.

Clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPA

Underside of a clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPAThey 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 yetClapper bridge near Castleton - copyright NYMNPA 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.

CLEVELAND PRACTICE

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.

COMMUNITIES…in general

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 PrintCoastal 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.

Fishing coble at Staithes - copyright Brian Nicholson, NYMNPA

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 - copyright NYMNPA

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.

CONNECTIVITY

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.

Slide 1

BETTER ecologically valuable habitat sites through improving condition

Slide 2

BIGGER ecologically valuable habitat sites through expansion and bufferingSlide 3jpg

MORE ecologically valuable habitat sites through creation and enhancement

Slide 4

BETTER CONNECTED ecologically valuable habitats through creation/enhancement of corridors and stepping stones

Slide 5

The result is a connected landscape making it easier for species to move through

Slide 6

CROSSES

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.

Old Ralph Cross - copyright Tammy Andrews, NYMNPA

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.

Lilla Cross - copyright Mike Kipling for NYMNPA

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.

A new stone cross was erected in Rosedale in 2000 to mark the Millennium, continuing a cultural tradition of the local area.Millennium Cross, Rosedale - copyright Jay Marrison, NYMNPA

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

Last year’s top 5 posts

Iron oxide running down walls inside abandoned mine - NYMNPA

1. Hangover from the past

Update posted by Emily just last week with a suggested Hangover cure

 

 

 

Philip Wilkinson, Westerdale - Ami Walker2. A week in the life of a Land Manager Adviser        

 

 

 

3. Peculiarity of Character: part 1 and part 2

11c 11a11b

In addition to the characterful structures mentioned previously – here are three photos of the faces of a stone near to Worm Sike Rigg – it’s inscribed to “G. BAKER AGED 68 YEARS WHO WAS LOST ON THE 5 OF DECEM 1878 AND WAS FOUND HERE ON THE 26 OF JANUARY 1879”. The supposition is G Baker died of exposure out on the moors and the stone was erected as a memorial to the man and the tragic event.

Heptageniid - Emily Collins

4. River Monsters

Emily is carrying on Sam’s good work – this is a photograph she’s taken of a Heptageniid down the end of a microscope.

 

Hovingham Market - Chris J Parker

 

5. 129 Projects in 129 Pictures

Following on from the previous North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme which finished in 2013, we submitted a bid to Defra in September 2014 for a new LEADER Programme which would run from 2015 to 2021.

We’re just waiting to hear whether we have been successful, and we’ll share any news as soon as possible!

If we are successful, the new LEADER Programme will be looking for projects that generate jobs and support the local economy under the following six priority areas:

  • Increasing Farm Productivity
  • Micro and Small Enterprise and Farm Diversification
  • Rural Tourism
  • Rural Services
  • Cultural and Heritage Activity
  • Increasing Forestry Productivity

In the meantime we are working out how to approach these priorities and what we would like to fund over the next six years so we’ll be ready to go as soon as we find out if this area’s LEADER Programme is approved.  Keep in touch through our website, follow us on Twitter  and keep an eye on this Blog.    

Winter landscape - Lower Bilsdale - NYMNPAAnd if you’re wondering whether last year’s blatant attempt to get someone from Iceland to view our Blog succeeded – unfortunately not. But we won’t give up – við hlökkum til annars árs varðveislu í North York Moors þjóðgarðurinn og við munum tryggja að láta þig vita hvað við erum að gera í gegnum bloggið okkar.

Understanding the past in the present

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

Working in archaeology probably consists of a lot more desk work than most people imagine. There are site visits which are necessary from time to time in order to gain specific or detailed knowledge about a site – required for the provision of information or advice. Excavations are actually quite rare and generally undertaken by outside contractors since they are immensely time-consuming both in terms of the time on-site but more so in writing up the final report. Excavation also tends to destroy the features that are being investigated – so it tends to be an option of last resort.

So in terms of desk work one of the most important activities that we carry out is the maintenance and development of the archaeological index for the National Park area, on which we base most of our decisions and which we use to provide information and advice. Known as the Historic Environment Record (HER), this database contains summary information on all the archaeological knowledge that we hold. Presented graphically against a digital Ordnance Survey map background, this allows a very rapid assessment of the archaeological resource or potential of an area. Coupled with historic mapping and modern aerial photography, we have a very powerful tool to help us to understand the development and uses to which the North York Moors landscape has been put.

Below are a few examples to help demonstrate the range of information that exists within our HER.

Levisham Estate - boundary dyke

The first map (below) shows part of the Levisham Estate, which is owned and managed by the National Park Authority. The pink outline defines the area of the Scheduled Monument, the largest within the National Park, which has been designated (a process which confers legal protection) due to the archaeological importance of the range and survival of the archaeological sites it contains.

The National Park contains many moorland areas which have not been disturbed by recent agricultural activity and are consequently rich in prehistoric, and later, remains. The surviving sites on Levisham Moor illustrate the range of uses the land has been put to over thousands of years.

Areas on the map outlined in red or marked with the crossed-hammers icons represent records within the HER. Features plotted in black, with the exception of the mapped field boundaries, are earthworks recorded by the National Mapping Programme (NMP), undertaken for sections of the National Park area by Archaeological Research Services Ltd in partnership with English Heritage. The NMP pulls together existing aerial data and through analysis identifies features of interest. Activity over thousands of years is often clearer when viewed from the air rather than on the ground. On Levisham Moor particular attention has been drawn to the Bercary earthworks, a monastic sheep-farm dating from the 13th century, and the remains of a field system to their north-north-east which may be related. Away to the east of the central track there are a further series of enclosures and field systems – the enclosures which have been dated belong to the Romano-British period.

Levisham HER Blog

By adding our 2009 Geoperspectives aerial photographs as a backdrop (the most up to date aerial photos we currently have for the National Park), the way the archaeology fits within the landscape becomes much clearer.

Levisham HER Blog2

The third map (below) shows Rievaulx village and Abbey. As well as showing the data types mentioned above the map also includes designated Listed Buildings and designated Registered Parks and Gardens in blue, which indicate part of Rievaulx Terrace. The latter was laid out in c.1758 for Thomas Duncombe and linked to Duncombe Park by a picturesque carriage drive. The NMP plotted earthworks reveal evidence of the water management system around the mediaeval Abbey, as well as agricultural terraces, quarrying and even the faint outline of the monastery garden at the bottom centre of the image, just to the west of the pond.

Rievaulx HER Blog

Like I said, in the discipline of archaeology there is a lot of desk work to be done. The results – a better understanding of the impacts that people have left on the landscape over millennia and therefore a better understanding of the people themselves – are always going to be worthwhile.

Rievaulx Abbey by Jen Smith (NYMNPA)

The North York Moors HER is available to be viewed – but at the moment to see everything together, you’ll need to make an appointment and come along in person to the National Park Office because it’s not all accessible on-line. The information can also be supplied for an area on request, for a charge. However the national designations – Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Register of Parks and Gardens – are available to download from English Heritage.

From the mouths of Volunteers

Clair Shields – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator

So many of our blog posts are about what we the professional staff get up to – that with this in mind this post has been written to share the experiences enjoyed by some of our Volunteers, and to elucidate the satisfaction they get out of their efforts.

We’ve mentioned in previous posts about the Monument Management Scheme and the great work that the Historic Environment Volunteers are doing. Volunteers give their time, energy and skills to help the National Park Authority conserve the special qualities of the National Park; in the case of the Historic Environment Volunteers, they’re concentrating particularly on our Scheduled Monuments.

Shelagh

Shelagh has been given three Scheduled Monuments which are known to house badger setts, and regularly monitors badger activity to help inform future management of the monuments. 

For me, as a volunteer surveyor for the badger survey, there are two main thrills…firstly, exploring in detail a scheduled Monument that I may have walked by many times before and not known was hidden in the forest; and…secondly, the knowledge of other creatures (particularly the nocturnal badger) is also exploring these monuments, when others are not around.   

The training back in February gave me the information to recognise these creatures’ (especially the badger’s) presence and it gives me pleasure to look for tell-tale signs when I am out walking.  

I also have the pleasure of watching one particular environment change through the seasons. From seeing a good variety of spring flowers in their prime, through to beautiful swathes of delicate stitchwort and heady wild garlic (that is if you love the smell of garlic!) and now harder to negotiating nettles, brambles and bracken accompanied by enthusiastic bird song, which I expect will gradually die away to more individual sounds. 

So the environment and my enthusiasm are good but what do I see on my roughly 3 weekly walks in Dalby Forest?  

Fortunately, I have one huge badger sett on one of the monuments that I monitor. There is plenty to see – digging, badger runs, hair, scratch marks and a latrine (which are quickly being hidden by the wild garlic). Some of the entrances to the sett have cobwebs and sticks and there are a few paw marks but indistinct so what are the badgers doing? Are they still there? I have searched quite a way along the runs but it is not all as easy to interpret as one might think. 

I record what I see and this means the archaeology team are aware of what is taking place on that particular site. Plus we have the back up of people with extensive knowledge of badger behaviour to turn to if we have queries.  

We are not alone and the archaeological team have reassured us that we should not be inhibited by our inexperience, as everyone has much to learn on this project. Sadly for them I have not found any archaeological artefacts, up to now, and that would be another thrill if I did.

Volunteer inspecting a monument in the depths of a wood

Most of the work undertaken so far by the Historic Environment Volunteers has involved monitoring Scheduled Monument at risk, in order to assess their current condition.

Richard and Tessa

Richard loves orienteering and makes excellent use of his maps, compass, and GPS to locate the well-hidden monuments.

This is an excellent way to spend a day wandering the paths and woods of the North York Moors, with the bonus of fulfilment – when one finally locates and confirms that there really IS a hidden monument in an isolated place far from public gaze! 

Peter and Ann

The farmers were extremely helpful and accommodating. They met us on arrival and walked with us to each site. Helping us locate the barrows and ditches in the undergrowth, saving us a great deal of time.

All in all a happy experience! Is there more to do?

Volunteers visited this remote burial cairn after several years of bracken treatment to look for any regrowth
If words aren’t enough to explain why people volunteer in the North York Moors and what they get out of it – there are a few more enthusing pictures below, taken by Historic Environment Volunteers. 

The two round barrows in this clump of trees are protected from ploughing in the surrounding field, but the scrub growth noted by the Volunteer will need monitoring


Photo 1 - Volunteers visited this medieval manorial centre, fortified house and tower, and fishponds to see whether it is being affected by grazing animals or scrub growth

Photo 2 - Volunteers visited this medieval manorial centre, fortified house and tower, and fishponds to see whether it is being affected by grazing animals or scrub growth The Volunteer here can enjoy the lovely views while recording the condition of this round barrowIf you are interested in volunteering for the North York Moors National Park, we provide a wide range of different opportunities for Volunteers, with further opportunities under development. Take a look at our website to find out more.

View of Cross base - at sunset

Managing More Monuments

Clair Shields – Monument Management Scheme Volunteer Coordinator

Now well into the second phase (2012 to 2015) of the North York Moors Monument Management Scheme, our faithful Historic Environment Volunteers are continuing their condition surveying of Scheduled Monuments within the National Park, and now and again getting their hands dirty.

Quick recap on the Monument Management Scheme (MMS) – The North York Moors has 840 Scheduled Monuments in all, which are assessed as being ‘Low Risk/Not at Risk’, ‘Vulnerable’, or ‘At Risk’ for a variety of reasons. English Heritage publishes an annual Heritage at Risk register to highlight the ‘At Risk’ monuments. The MMS is a joint funded project between English Heritage and the North York Moors National Park Authority and is now in its second phase. The objectives are to update the current condition of the ‘At Risk’ or ‘Vulnerable’ Scheduled Monuments, and to carry out the work needed to lessen the risk, improve the condition and better conserve the Monuments hopefully for the long term.

As well as the necessary condition monitoring to establish what needs to be done for each Monument, our Historic Environment Volunteers have been putting their hands to an assortment of tasks required to manage and maintain the Monuments. This work compliments that carried out by TECAP apprentices and professional contractors.

Bracken and scrub control has formed a significant part of the current MMS work programme. The photos below show a Bronze Age burial mound at Stony Moor near Newton on Rawcliffe which was hardly visible because of bracken. Following bracken control treatment it is now visible and other vegetation has the chance to re-establish.

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Erosion repairs were completed on three monuments at the end of 2013. These included the Bronze Age burial mound at Danby Beacon which had become severely eroded around the beacon pole erected in 2008. Repairs were carried out as part of a training exercise for the Traditional Estates Craft Apprenticeship Project apprentices. After an introductory day learning about repairing historic earthwork features and looking at the issues facing the monuments on Danby Moors, the apprentices spent two days working alongside contractors on site.

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Following erosion repairs on the round barrows at Robin Hood’s Butts, the area was fenced to keep rabbits and sheep out to prevent further erosion.

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Damage caused by badgers can be a big issue for Scheduled Monuments in wooded areas, such as Dalby Forest. In order to better understand the extent of this problem a new Volunteer project has been initiated to monitor the effects of badger activity on Scheduled Monuments and a small group of Volunteers received training in February 2014. In general badger activity is considered to place a monument ‘At Risk’, so by recording the extent and level of the observable badger activity it may be possible to reduce the risk assessment for some Monuments and keep a regular watch on others so that we can see if any new archaeological deposits are being disturbed.

This year the Historic Environment Volunteers’ involvement will be extended to include further vegetation management. There will also be a new project to monitor the effects of walkers’ cairns built on top of Scheduled Monuments.

The use of Volunteers helps to build the capacity and skills of our local archaeological community and their involvement will hopefully establish a management regime for the future monitoring and maintenance of the Monuments, beyond the MMS.

So far, in this phase between April 2012 and February 2014, 43 monuments have been removed from the Heritage at Risk register and a further 19 ‘Vulnerable’ monuments have had their risk status reduced. All in all, this amounts to a grand total of 62 ‘rescued’ monuments so far.

Provisional figures from February 2014 show that out of the 840 Scheduled Monuments within the National Park there are now:

  • 99 ‘At Risk’ (previously 198);
  • 240 ‘Vulnerable’;
  • 501 ‘Low Risk/Not at Risk’.

We’re definitely moving in the right direction. Thanks to everyone involved up to now.

If you’d like to become an Historic Environment Volunteer for the North York Moors National Park – please get in touch.