Big Thank You’s

Kate Bailey – Catchment Partnership Officer

The BIFFA funded project ‘Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England’ came to an end in 2018. We were involved because of the River Esk in the north of the National Park. The £300,000 made available helped towards safeguarding Yorkshire’s last remaining population of Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera).Image of the River Esk, August 2013. Copyright Sam Jones, NYMNPA.

A huge amount of work was achieved in the Upper Esk catchment during the three year period of this project, working closely with the farming community to address diffuse pollution from agriculture. Pollution including sedimentation detrimentally affects water quality and therefore impacts on aquatic species like the mussels.

For most of its three years the project was led by Simon Hirst, our River Esk Project Officer. Simon worked with 38 land managers in the Upper Esk catchment delivering improvement works to help keep pollution including sedimentation out of the river and its tributaries. This has meant:

  • Over 8km of riparian fencing installed
    This helps stabilise the river banks and creates buffer strips to reduce the amount of runoff from fields getting into watercourses, as well as providing rough habitat along the river corridor for insects which are so important for fish, birds and small mammals.
  • 650 trees planted along the river banks of the Esk and its tributaries
    The majority of which were planted by our dedicated River Esk Volunteer Group.
    Trees help stabilise the banks and so. like with the fencing, reduce sedimentation.
  • 34 alternative watering points installed
    This is to reduce poaching in fields and along the river banks, and to keep stock and their effluent out of a watercourse.
  • Approximately 5.5km of riverbank re-vegetated with woodrush planting
    Another 130m of river bank was stabilised using hazel/willow whips. Re-vegetation helps stabilises the river banks
  • Over 500m of guttering and downpipe installed on farm buildings
    To capture clean water before it gets onto the ground, picks up nutrients and sediment, and then runs into a watercourse.
  • 1,237 m3 of concreting in farm yards.
    The new surface is profiled to collect dirty water before it can enter a nearby watercourse.

Big Thank You to Biffa for supporting the Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England project.

Big Thank You to all the local land managers who worked alongside Simon on the Esk, contributing a lot  of their own time and capital to complete these improvement works.

Big Thank You to our dedicated Mussel Volunteers who have played such a vital role in this delivery project, and all the other volunteers that helped out like the Explorer Club and the 1st Marston Moor Scout Group.

River Esk Volunteers, taking a well earned rest. Copyright NYMNPA.

And one more Big Thank You to Simon Hirst. Last year the North York Moors National Park had to say goodbye to Simon because he moved on to a new role working on the River Holme in Huddersfield. His enthusiasm and knowledge will be greatly missed by us and the Esk’s Freshwater pearl mussels.

Troding carefully

Nick Mason – Archaeology Officer

Welcome to the first MOTM blog, a regular feature we will be publishing in conjunction with the Monuments for the Future project. Each month we’ll take a look at a type of Scheduled Monument that we have in the Park: we’ll let you know how to spot monuments when out and about, what different monuments tell us about the people who once lived and worked here, and why these monuments are protected.

This month it’s the Kirby Bank Trod, SM1405913. My computer has immediately told me I have made a spelling error, and if you’re not familiar with the local dialects or the Moors you might not have come across the word before either. ‘Trod’ is a term for a trackway laid with flagstones, and there is a network of historic examples criss-crossing the North York Moors. There are other ancient flagged paths around the UK, but this National Park has the most known surviving trods in one place, and they are seen as characteristic of the area. Sometimes they follow the same routes as ‘Pannierways’, long routes traversed by trains of pack horses loaded with goods. A ‘Pannierman’ was a person who transported fish from ports to inland fishmongers, a primary use of some trods.

A trod is a deceptively simple construction. Flagstones, sometimes carved, sometimes rough, are laid end to end in single file between two points. They are frequently made of stone from nearby quarries, and are usually no more than 0.5 metres (20 inches) wide. Surviving examples today often have a wide concave groove worn along the centre of the path, indicating how much traffic they have supported over the years.

'Tom Bell Lane', Ugglebarnby - copyright NYMNPA

We think the earliest examples were probably built by the local monastic communities, who would likely be the only organisations with the resources to lay them in the medieval period. Trods would have been efficient ways of transporting goods (especially wool) between the many abbeys and priories and granges (outlying properties). As their usefulness became apparent, more and more were laid, linking market towns, villages and farms across the moors.

Further trods were built in the 18th century, and there may have been a bit of a renaissance due to smuggling enterprises on the coast. Although they slowly declined as better road surface technologies appeared which were then followed by railways, as late as 1890 pack horses could still be seen filing through Rosedale.

We hold about 220 records for trods: many of these are fragments, just a few flags left in place, but others can still be seen stretching for miles across the landscape.

'Quaker's Causeway' on High Moor, damaged by vehicles crossing - copyright NYMNPAOne 400 metre (1/4 mile) section of trod has been designated as a Scheduled Monument, protecting it as an archaeological feature of national significance. This is thanks to the continued efforts of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group – Grant Frew and Jackie Cove-Smith from the Group explain the Kirby Bank Trod’s special significance:

Paved causeways are a familiar feature on our Moors, yet surviving ones in good condition are becoming increasingly rare. It has been estimated that around 80% of our trods known in the 19th Century have now gone. With this in mind, ten years ago our local history group ‘adopted’ one – the Kirby Bank Trod.

Trods are notoriously difficult to date, but we know this one was constructed on a man-made embankment in the late 12th or early 13th Century for the Cistercian monks at Rievaulx to link their monastery with their granges, their fisheries and their salt pans on the Tees. Centuries later it was used to transport building stone down from the quarries on the Bank: later still alum for the dyeing industry, jet for jewellery, and today by local and long-distance walkers.

We’ve worked really hard to maintain a high profile for the Trod: holding a Festival of British Archaeology event, producing a Heritage Trail leaflet, publishing articles in the Dalesman, the Voice of the Moors and the local press. On the ground we’ve also germinated and planted replacement hawthorn ‘waymarkers’, arranged geophysical surveys and organised guided walks.

We also carry our spades, edgers and brooms up the Bank twice a year to help keep the Trod from disappearing under grass and gorse!

As a Green Road, Kirby Bank and its Trod suffered from frequent use by trail bikes and 4×4 leisure vehicles, causing serious damage to the stones and sandstone waymarkers and degrading the embankment the causeway rests on. We needed legal protection.

In 2012 Historic England granted Scheduled Monument status to the Trod, in large part because of the man-made embankment (there’s no other parallel in England) and its historical context. Even with this significant status, vehicle abuse continued. Finally this November, after years of lobbying by our history group and by Kirkby Parish Council and with the support of the MP, district and county councillors and a variety of interested organisations (including the National Park Historic Environment staff), the County published a Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting motorised leisure vehicle access.  All is not yet over! Any objectors have until just before Christmas to file for a judicial review of the Order in the High Court. We can but just wait and see!’

Luckily the Kirby Bank Trod is in good hands, allowing locals and visitors to continue engaging with the past by walking in the footsteps of Cistercian monks. But as the Group states, about 80% of known trods have already been lost. Given their location on obvious routes linking settlements, they can often come under threat from modern roadworks. They also represented a very handy source of stone for builders over the past few centuries. The few remaining sections need to be taken care of to ensure our local cultural character and heritage is maintained.

Uncovering a trod at Goathland - copyright NYMNPA

As ever, you can find out more about the fascinating archaeology of the North York Moors using our interactive Historic Environment Record map – you could look up your nearest trod and go and have a look. We’re always keen to hear what you find, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think a trod needs some attention.

Sworn defenders of the Historic Environment

Nick Mason – Archaeology Officer

You might have seem our recent post on the beginning of our new Monuments for the Future project, caring for the Scheduled Monuments in the North York Moors. Over the nine previous years of the Historic England funded Monument Management Scheme we were able to reduce the ‘At  Risk’ status of 212 of our monuments. We are wanting to build on that success and move forward with Monuments for the Future which is being supported by another generous grant from Historic England.

Since July this year we’ve already had a fantastic response from our dedicated Historic Environment volunteers. With volunteers and staff working together, we’re confident that over the next few years we can monitor and maintain the 842 Scheduled Monuments that we have within our boundary, and continue to reduce their ‘At Risk’ statuses, or else remove them from the Heritage at Risk Register altogether.

From coastal industrial sites threatened by erosion and climate change, to grand prehistoric earthworks under attack by flora and fauna, there is a huge range of archaeology at risk. Our scheduled sites represent almost the whole of the human story in Britain, and the list is ever growing with a possible monastic grange site currently being considered for designation. We’re working to protect our historic assets and to tell everyone we can about our wonderful heritage.

Lilla Cross. Copyright NYMNPA.

Over the coming months, we’ll be posting themed blogs focusing on the types of monuments found in the North York Moors, the reasons they are considered nationally important, and why some are currently in trouble.

This month we thought we should start by introducing some of the National Park Authority’s Historic Environment staff and get them to explain themselves in their own words.

Mags Waughman, Head of Historic Environment
After nearly twelve years working for the Authority, first as Archaeological Conservation Officer and later as the Monument Management Scheme Officer, I was very pleased to become Head of Historic Environment at the beginning of the summer. This is an exciting time for the National Park’s Historic Environment work – with new funding to support our work with Scheduled Monuments, new archaeological staff and a new Building Conservation team we are in a very good position to develop our work and look for new directions and projects.

Emma and Jo focus on Monuments for the Future and Nick and I will be working with them on the project, as well as looking after the Park’s undesignated heritage. Suzanne Lilley works with Maria as a second Building Conservation Officer and one day a week they are joined by Clair Shields who has worked in the Building Conservation team for a number of years. Part of my role is to liaise with Maria, Suzanne and Clair to make sure the whole historic environment is cared for equally. I also liaise with the Land of Iron team where Maria has a second role as Cultural Heritage Officer, assisted by Kim Devereux-West. Behind the scenes, one day each week the team still has the benefit of the many years of experience of Graham Lee, a previous Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer. I’m really looking forward to working with the new teams, seeing our plans take shape and watching the different projects make new discoveries or have a positive effect on our fantastic cultural heritage.

Emma Trevarthen, Monuments for the Future Project Officer
I’m an archaeologist with a background in aerial survey and Historic Environment Record (HER) management. My role with the National Park is to look at the threats and vulnerabilities of some of the Scheduled Monuments which have been on the Heritage at Risk Register for some time, and to try to find ways to improve their condition and sustain those improvements in the long term. I’ve already had a really good, positive response from landowners and I look forward to seeing more monuments in the North York Moors removed from the ‘At Risk’ Register over the next three years.

Jo Collins, Monuments for the Future Volunteers and Community Officer
My role is Volunteers and Community Officer for Monuments for the Future. I coordinate a group of volunteers who survey the condition of Scheduled Monuments, monitor walkers’ cairns on Scheduled Monuments and carry out practical conservation tasks. In the near future I’ll also be focussing on helping community groups to care for their local heritage. I’m looking forward to seeing the difference volunteers and community groups can make as Monuments for the Future progresses.

Maria-Elena Calderon, Building Conservation and Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Officer
I have worked in in archaeology for almost ten years, specifically in Built Heritage since 2013 when I was awarded a training bursary by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists hosted by ASWYAS in Leeds. My work has taken me as far afield as Qatar but the majority has been spent in the UK from Orkney to Pontypridd and Cambridge. I have worked for the National Park for nearly two years and I relish the opportunity it provides me to help protect, improve and impart knowledge of the historic environment to residents, tourists and fellow National Park staff. I work as a Building Conservation Officer which involves assessing Listed Building and Conservation Area consent applications. I am fairly new to this role but I enjoy it immensely and receive great support from my fellow officers. We work with homeowners, planners and developers to insure that any development is conducted in a manner that is sympathetic to the heritage assets. As an Authority we also offer grants for the above where the development will result in an enhancement which our team administers. In addition to that we regularly offer advice in regard to traditional buildings either subject to planning proposals or other project based work within the National Park. We also work with volunteers undertaking surveys of listed building as part of the nationwide ‘Buildings at Risk’ scheme.

Nick Mason, Archaeology Officer
I’ve only been with the National Park now for 3 months, but what a time it’s been so far. I have been lucky enough to be an archaeologist all my professional life, but having responsibility for the sheer breadth of archaeology in one place is a new, and very exciting, experience. My role as archaeology officer means that I am interested in protecting all the heritage assets of the North York Moors, including unscheduled archaeology, ancient plough marks, and even possible structures marked on old OS maps. Sometimes development means that these must be affected, and we find ways to mitigate the effect, learning as much as we can as we go. Scheduled Monuments often represent a massive potential for undiscovered archaeology, and their setting in the landscape, the possible finds within, and the stories they can tell mean it’s worth doing all we can to look after them for the future.

Historic Environment Team Nov 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you’d like to be out and about more in the North York Moors and might be interested in volunteering opportunities at the same time, we’d love to hear from you. There are a range of tasks which need doing, from carrying out surveys and reporting on monuments to clearing patches of damaging bracken on wild moorlands.

Similarly, if you think you know of some material heritage currently under threat please don’t hesitate to get in touch, so we can see what can be done.

YAC-king opportunities

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Volunteers Wanted: Join Moors & Valleys YAC Today!

The Moors & Valleys Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) needs people to help deliver a range of exciting and informative archaeology-themed sessions to children across the North York Moors National Park and Teesside. The YAC is a national network of clubs across the UK ran by dedicated volunteers. The Moors & Valleys Club is of the most recent to join the network. Since February 2018, the Moors & Valleys YAC have been delivering monthly sessions at venues throughout the region aimed at entertaining and educating 8-16 year olds.

Moors & Valleys YAC logo

 

Originally set up as a part of the Land of Iron HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme, the Moors & Valleys YAC is currently based at The Moors National Park Centre in Danby – the group welcomes children to join from all across Teesside, Cleveland and North Yorkshire.

Tell me more about the Moors & Valleys sessions…

Children who have joined the Moors and Valleys YAC group have taken part in a variety of craft and educational activities, from visits to archaeological digs and museums to handling artefacts and hearing informative talks. We have even looked at animal and (plastic) human skeletons and learnt about how bones survive in the archaeological record! The session themes change each month and we want to focus on both local history and also topics from different time periods and from all around the world.

Moors & Valleys YAC visiting the Land of Iron Combs Wood excavation. Copyright NYMNPA.

In May we visited St. Peter’s church and graveyard in Brotton to investigate Victorian gravestones. We learnt about the occupations of past individuals, including miners and sailors, and learnt about the types of symbols used on gravestones and what they represented. In July we held an extra session to visit the archaeological excavation at Skelton, as part of an HLF project entitled Skelton Townscape Heritage project run by Tees Archaeology and local volunteers. The excavation was investigating the evidence for, and use of, medieval long-houses close to the site of the castle. We had a great time and learnt a lot about archaeology and its methods in the field.

So, what is the Moors & Valleys YAC looking for…

The sessions are run on the first Saturday of the month, from 11 am – 2 pm, in a number of different locations. So far we have held sessions in Danby, Middlesbrough, Skelton and Stockton on Tees. If this sounds like an interesting and invigorating way to spend one Saturday a month, read on.

We are looking for Leaders and Volunteers to join Moors and Valleys YAC in delivering entertaining and educating sessions. Leaders will take an active part in developing and delivering the session topics, helping to provide a hand with other YAC members. Volunteers will help by attending the sessions, and delivering support for the children in understanding the sessions by providing prompts and discussion points.

Moors & Valleys YAC - Teesside human skeleton session. Copyright NYMNPA.

We are also looking for a part-time Volunteer Administrator who would be able to assist in the office-based activities necessary for the Moors & Valleys YAC. The role will help provide new YAC members with the appropriate membership forms, update members on upcoming sessions, and help relay information between YAC Volunteers and Leaders. Ideally you will be interested in archaeology and history, with a keen interest in making heritage available and accessible for all.

Here at the North York Moors National Park we help provide the base of support for our YAC Volunteers. All YAC Volunteers are registered through the National Park’s volunteer system and we can offer travel expenses as appropriate.

Next step is to get in touch

To apply for the above volunteer positions, or to find out more information about the roles available, please have a look here or email volunteers@northyorkmoors.org.uk. Prior to taking up a role there will be an informal chat to outline and discuss the activities. Please note that a DBS check is required for all the roles above. The North York Moors National Park Authority can help with the application for this and its attendant costs.

Warren Moor Mine: Part Two – the excavation

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

We were back at Warren Moor Mine within weeks of completing the lime mortaring of the winding engine bed, but this time to carry out an archaeological excavation. Five Land of Iron volunteers and two members of staff investigated two trenches dug across the ditch on the site. One trench was between the winding engine bed and the downcast shaft, and the other further upstream, close to the boiler house and chimney. The purpose of the excavation was to build upon the information left to us by those who built and operated the mine site, and the knowledge gained by John Owen and his team from their 1970s investigations.

A very short history recap

Warren Moor Mine was only in use for a grand total of nine years, on and off, between 1857 and 1874. The land was first mined by a John Watson from 1865 to 1868 as part of the Warren Moor Mine Company Ltd. After being taken back by the Kildale Estate (land owners), in 1872 – once the price of iron had risen – a new company, the Leven Vale Company Ltd took out the lease. They further invested in the mine, even building a row of stone workers cottages. However, in 1874 the Leven Vale Company Ltd also failed. These short periods of tenancy at Warren Moor Mine were likely due to the poor quality of ironstone which made deep mining unviable.

105 years later John Owen, an enthusiastic industrial archaeologist, and his team undertook an excavation of the site. They not only investigated the standing buildings, but also explored the upcast and downcast shafts and the pumping engine, providing us with detailed diagrams of the interiors of the structures and how they may have worked (Owen’s report can be found here).

What we got up to this time

This excavation was on a much smaller scale than that carried out recently at Combs Wood, with only two trenches around 1 metre wide and 2 metres long to start with. One purpose was to investigate the bank that ran along one side of the river (Leven). It is thought that the bank had been built up by Owen to change the course of the watercourse in order to reduce the damage being caused to the structures. Another purpose was to investigate the retaining wall around the winding engine bed, to discover its thickness and materials used in its construction, and whether there was a direct relationship to the downcast shaft.

Most of the findings from the trenches were in line with Owen’s previous excavations. In the first trench next to the engine winding bed we uncovered the extent of the retaining wall. There was also a lot of evidence of burning with large lumps of slag (metal waste) and a compacted surface layer. We made the decision to extend this trench after we uncovered the corner of a large worked stone. This stone sat just below the topsoil and appeared to be a block from the winding engine bed. This raised a few questions for us – what was this stone doing here on the other side of the retaining wall? had it been placed here purposefully or just discarded?  We also dug two sondages (test pits) to get a full profile of the layers in this trench.

The second trench, up near the standing chimney, was extended far beyond its original dimensions. The aim of this trench was to explore the embankment. Upon removal of the topsoil we found the embankment to be a roughly piled brick feature. However, the more we revealed of the brick work the more we saw a structural pattern emerge. Then, unexpectedly, one of the volunteers revealed two stone door jamb bases, proving without a doubt that there was a previously unknown building! Unfortunately, this was all discovered on the last day, so we weren’t able to explore it any further at this time. This trench also contained the same burnt compacted layer and slag deposits that were in the first trench.

So what happens next?

Another excavation has been scheduled to establish the dimensions and purpose of the newly discovered building!

The volunteers group will continue to maintain the site. In addition, contractors will be working on site into next year to carry out conservation works and make the site safe for public access and enjoyment.

Keeping hold of history

Jo Collins – Volunteer and Communities Officer

If you are standing anywhere in the North York Moors National Park you will never be more than 1 mile from a known archaeological site.
Help care for this heritage.

We are very excited that we’ve been successful in securing a grant of more than £170,000 to support a new project – Monuments for the Future.  This will help secure the future of historic monuments in the North York Moors and increase public understanding of their significance.

The funds have been awarded by Historic England, who supported the National Park’s previous Monument Management Scheme from 2009 to 2018.

There are tens of thousands of monuments and other archaeological sites in the National Park. Currently 842 of these have been ‘scheduled’, this means they are nationally important and protected in law*.

History and its monuments are embedded in the landscape of the North York Moors.

Young Ralph Cross. Copyright Simon Hirst, NYMNPA.

Young Ralph Cross still stands upright by the road on Rosedale Head. The horizon is spotted with funerary round barrows (marked as tumuli or tumulus on maps), and crossed with ancient dykes thought to mark the boundaries of territories. Look closely and evidence of the lives of our hunter gatherer ancestors can be seen on rocks decorated with ‘cup and ring’ marks. Occasionally flint tools or arrowheads are still found on the moors (recorded as a ‘findspot’ on the HER map**). And of course there are the more recent remnants of history – castles, abbeys, trods, iron works . . . far too many types to mention but all worthy of our care and attention.

Key to the new Monuments for the Future project is providing training and support for an increased numbers of volunteers. We want to encourage and build a sense of ownership for the monuments amongst local communities; engaging people, young and old, with the heritage they have on their doorstep.

So we are looking for people to join our volunteer survey team to look after our Scheduled Monuments. Volunteers working in pairs or individually, with the kind permission of landowners, will visit archaeological monuments to check on their condition. Problems are commonly caused by bracken or erosion and the volunteer surveys are vital to identify issues in order to target practical management which can help sustain the monuments.

To get the most from this voluntary role you’ll need an enthusiasm for archaeology/history, a reasonable level of fitness, and an ability to read a map or else an ability to team up with someone who can. Some sites are easy enough to find but some can be more difficult, volunteers can choose the level of challenge! Training days are planned for August and September this year. Please do get in touch if you are interested in being a volunteer or you just want to find out more – we would love to hear from you.

* The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is the only official, up to date, register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England – listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks, registered parks and gardens, and battlefields.

** This is a map of the North York Moors Historic Environment Record. It’s a handy way to check out our claim that ‘If you are standing anywhere in the North York Moors National Park you will never be more than 1 mile from an archaeological site’. Please let me know if you can catch me out!

More YACking

Kim Devereux-West – Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant

We had our first Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) session in February this year and since then we’ve run a session on the first Saturday of each month – with the exception of March when we had all that snow!).

Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to since February…

Moors and Valleys YAC - April 2018April – Down to the Bare Bones
Teesside University, Middlesbrough
Led by our brilliant volunteer leaders Claire Hodson and Dave Errickson, we got to learn all about the bones in a human body. We learned about what bones can tell us about people, had a go at putting a (plastic) skeleton back together and made our own moving paper skeletons.

May – Getting to Know Gravestones
St. Peter’s Churchyard, Brotton
This was our first outdoor session and the weather was fantastic! We learned how much gravestones can tell you about people from the past, got to explore St. Margaret’s Church (just Moors and Valleys YAC - May 2018across the road) and had a go at recording some of the gravestones.

June – Exploring Anglo-Saxon and Victorian Lives
Preston Park Museum, Stockton-on-Tees
Carolyn from the Museum was kind enough to host  a session for us that explored the lives of the Anglo-Saxons. We got to look at artefacts and play the ancient game of Merrills (or Nine Men’s Morris) – which got pretty competetive! We finished the session playing Victorian games on the Museum’s Victorian Street and got to try out the stocks!

Moors and Valleys YAC - June 2018We’ve got loads more fun archaeological activities planned for the year. Our next YAC session will be on Saturday 7 July at the Land of Iron’s Combs Wood community archaeology excavation in Beck Hole near Whitby. Before then we have an extra bonus trip organised by Tees Archaeology on Sunday 1 July to see their excavation of the deserted medieval borough at Skelton.

To find out more, or to sign up for a session –  please contact us.

We’re also looking for new volunteer leaders so if you have knowledge of history/archaeology and would like to get involved then please get in touch.

Young Archaeologists' Club logo

Feed the Birds

Sam Newton – Natural Heritage Trainee, Land of Iron

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) are a member of the thrush family, and an annual migrant to the UK from Northern Africa. They look similar to Blackbirds (Turdus merula)  but they are slightly smaller and have a striking white neck band which helps identify them (torquatus means wearing a collar). In the UK Ring Ouzels breed in upland areas of Scotland, northern Wales, and north and south west England; hence another name they have – Mountain Blackbird. They can also be seen as they come into and leave the country along the southern and eastern coast.

Male Ring Ouzel - copyright RSPB

Ring Ouzel are a UK Red List species because of their historical population decline – an an estimated 58% population decline from 1988-91 to 1999, and 43% range decline from 1968-72 to 2008-11. This means the birds are endangered in the UK, and are therefore of particular conservation importance. Action is required to try and maintain our population.

Within the North York Moors, local volunteers have identified Rosedale as an important spot for the birds. They’ve studied the population here in detail for the last 18 years.

The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme has become involved with the aim of improving the local habitats, so helping to ensure Ring Ouzel persists in a landscape whose natural heritage has been shaped by its industrial heritage. It is suggested that the remains of industrial structures in Rosedale provide the crags and gullies that the birds prefer to nest in.

Rosedale landscape. Copyright Tom Mutton, NYMNPA.

A factor identified as a reason for national Ring Ouzel decline has been diet, which is mainly made up of invertebrates and berries. The red berries from the Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) ripen from July into the autumn and are particularly important prior to migration in September when the birds need as much nutrition as possible for the long journey ahead. Within Rosedale, existing Rowan (also known as Mountain Ash) is located on the steep moorland edge – less accessible for sheep grazing, and not burnt as part of moorland management. However, many are now veterans, showing that there has been little natural regeneration recently.

Another view over Rosedale. The dead tree highlights the lack of natural regeneration around it. Copyright NYMNPA.

So with advice from the Rosedale Ring Ouzel volunteer monitors along with support and assistance from the landowner, gamekeepers and grazing tenants; the National Park’s Volunteers and Apprentices have been out planting. It took a while because they were working in some pretty wild weather at the beginning of the year but they eventually managed to plant 150 Rowan trees either in small exclosures or as single trees. These new trees will help to provide the local Ring Ouzels with food into the future.

A small number of aged Rowans surrounded by one of the small exclosures and some of the single scattered trees. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

The birds themselves have just arrived back in Rosedale to breed this year.

Have a listen to the BBC’s Tweet of the Day

Electric expeditions

People's Postcode Lottery logoUPDATE

The Yorkshire Esk Rivers Trust have recently been awarded a grant from the Postcode Local Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. This grant means we can purchase our own electric fishing equipment and train more volunteers to undertake surveys in 2018. If you’re interested in getting involved with surveys – please contact Kate

.

Kate Bailey – Catchment Partnership Officer

Electric fishing is a method used to determine fish populations in watercourses, commonly carried out by organisations such as the Environment Agency and the various River Trusts. Sites across the River Esk catchment up in the north of the North York Moors have been monitored using this technique over the past 20+ years as a way of estimating juvenile fish populations. In the last five years an increased number of sites have been surveyed along the Esk and we’ve managed to gain a better understanding of fish population changes.

This summer we took the chance to learn the technique ourselves. Simon Hirst our River Esk Project Officer, six keen volunteers and I went on a fully certified electric fishing course. Our new specialist team is made up of local anglers and existing River Esk Volunteers, all of whom care about the river and want to safeguard the species that live in it.

The two day course was essential to ensure our ‘in house’ monitoring can be carried out safely and to make sure the information we collect is scientifically robust so we can draw conclusions from it.

Methodology

During an electric fishing survey an electrical current is sent through the water which temporarily stuns the fish enabling them to be easily caught in nets. To produce an electrical current one team member wears the backpack which holds a battery and control box. A cathode trails behind the backpack resting in the water and the operator holds a pole with a metal ring on the end (anode). Once the operator places the anode in the water and turns the system on, the electrical circuit is complete and a small current passes through the water. The equipment has multiple safety features to ensure surveys can be carried out safely for all involved – that’s the fish, the operator and all the other team members in the water and on the bankside.

Two or three team members follow behind the operator with the nets and buckets ready to quickly remove the stunned fish from the river.

September 2017 - Electric Fishing in Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Once caught, the stunned fish are transferred into a large holding tank on the bankside. Each fish is measured using a special measuring board – this helps us estimate the relative age of the fish. The size and species is noted down and the fish is then released back into the river as quickly as possible.

September 2017 - Electric Fishing in Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Sites are identified – usually an approximately 50 metre stretch of river – and the team enters the water at the downstream end and walks upstream fishing as they go until they reach the top of the site. It is useful to fish up to a feature in the river, for example a natural barrier like a riffle, to ensure the greatest percentage of fish can be caught. If the end of the site was situated in the middle of a pool, for example, the fish would be driven beyond the far end and hence not be recorded.

Once the site has been fished, it also needs to be measured – this allows us to work out species density (i.e. the number of fish per unit area). We measure the channel width at 10 metre intervals and calculate an average width. This average width is multiplied by the length of river surveyed to give us a total area of river fished! Fish densities are usually recorded as the number of fish per 100 metres2

September 2017 - Electric Fishing in Esk. Copyright NYMNPA.

Health & Safety

Fish welfare (and the welfare of our volunteers and us) is extremely important, there is little point in measuring fish populations to help sustain numbers if we end up with dead fish. When electric fishing is carried out correctly this methodology does not harm the fish. As part of the training we learnt how to set the control box to the correct settings to ensure the electrical current will temporarily stun the fish but will not cause any damage. This is determined by the electrical conductivity of the water – a reading is taken before carrying out the surveys.  It is important to temporarily keep the fish in a large holding tank in the shade to ensure there is sufficient oxygen for them and that the water temperature does not increase too much, and we release the fish back to the river as soon as possible.

Fish aside, all team members who are in the river must ensure they are fully insulated (e.g. rubber chest waders) and must not put their hands into the water when the backpack is switched on. Prior to undertaking a survey each stretch of watercourse is checked for hazards and a site risk assessment produced. This is to make sure there are no ‘nasty’ surprises (such as deep holes!) when the team enter the water.

Why

Electric fishing is a really good way of estimating fish populations and this is extremely important on the River Esk. Atlantic salmon is a species that is struggling due to a wide variety of issues including water quality and habitat issues, barriers to fish migration and poor survival rates at sea. Monitoring juvenile numbers across the Esk every year will help to highlight areas where these issues are magnified and can therefore help target the conservation work we’re undertaking in the catchment to improve water quality and riparian habitats.

Our electric fishing team were out and about in the catchment in the autumn surveying six specific sites. It proved a success – the surveyed fish were released back and all the volunteers survived. Species recorded included Brown trout (Salmo trutta), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Stone loach (Barbatula barbatula), European eel (Anguilla Anguilla), Bullhead (Cottus gobio) and Brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri). Overall our results showed healthy fish populations at each site, although as expected relatively low numbers of Atlantic salmon were found.

We plan to monitor juvenile fish populations annually in September, to build up our understanding of the local status of the Atlantic salmon and the other species found in the Esk.

Talking about Turtle Doves

Richard Baines – Turtle Dove Project Officer

Our Turtle Doves are now in Africa, but that doesn’t mean our work stops.

Turtle dove courtship at Sutton Bank NYMNP Visitor Centre May 2015 by Richard Bennet, North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project

With the majority of results now in for our two formal survey areas (Cropton and Dalby Forests), along with many additional sightings logged this year, we can now announce our results. In 2017 a total of 244 birds were logged over 78 dates between the first seen on 17 April and the last record of one on 25 September near Pickering. Over both the 2016 and 2017 survey seasons we recorded 24 singing males in Cropton Forest. During our 2017 surveys in Dalby Forest we found 12 singing males. Our largest flock was 13 birds including juveniles recorded on 25 July 2017.

These results illustrate how important our area is for these endangered birds. In comparison there were very few sightings in the rest of Yorkshire this year and even fewer to the north of us. We have known for some time our area has been a stronghold for this species due to the committed work of many individual birdwatchers and the local Forest Bird Study Group. However this is the first time Turtle Doves have been surveyed as a single species in the north of England. We would not have been able to achieve these detailed results without the hard work of our volunteer surveyors. I started this project as a volunteer myself, keen to help these beautiful birds and I hoped other people would feel the same. Thankfully a small army have now joined the Turtle Dove brigade! Here’s a quote from George Day, one of our volunteer surveyors this year; “Being part of such an exciting project has been fantastic. It’s been a real treat to spend dawn in the forest with purring Turtle Doves”.

Carrying out these surveys can be fun in themselves, but we are often asked what happens to the data collected and is there a direct benefit to Turtle Doves? Within the first six months of this project the data collected by volunteers so far has been used to identify and target the best areas to set up new feeding sites and attempt to improve nesting habitat. I can now visit a farm, explain to the land manager how important their land is for Turtle Doves based on how many birds are nearby. This makes a huge difference to the delivery of the project.

Richard presenting to an end of term meeting of Turtle Dove volunteers, Dalby Visitor Centre 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

We’re working hard to spread the word and plan sites for new and improved habitat to create in 2018. I have a Heritage Lottery Fund target to deliver 40 talks to groups in the three years of the project and I’m pleased to be on course to complete 20 by the end of the first year! It seems a lot of people want to learn about and help these iconic birds. From a small village community in Sawdon to a national Forestry Commission conference the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove roadshow is purring its way around our beautiful county and beyond….

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