Busy counting

Aside

NOT TOO LATE – we’re nearly at the end of this year’s Great British Bee Count but there is still a chance to join in and record bee sightings in the North York Moors up to the end of June. Reported records will help to build up a snap shot picture of the national bee population in 2017.

Bees, like all pollinators, are a vital cog in the workings of biodiversity. Volunteers are a crucial constituent in data recording that means trends and issues can be recognised and understood. With understanding there is a chance of addressing the issues.

Summer days

Kate Bailey – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Grasslands are important habitats in the North York Moors supporting a wide range of plants and wildlife. They’re habitats that have suffered severe declines all over England in the past decades. Therefore conserving, restoring, creating linked grassland habitats is one of the key focuses of our Habitat Connectivity initiative.

National Park Volunteers carry out regular tasks like scrub control in order to maintain and restore grassland sites. But volunteers are also essential when it comes to monitoring our grassland sites. Botanical monitoring is a key tool to ensure that the prescribed management is having a positive effect on the site, and the information collected through the annual monitoring process ensures management can be tailored to each site to help ensure each is in the best condition they can be or are at least moving in the right direction. Repeat annual monitoring means changes, good or bad, can be quickly identified.

Our Linking Landscapes Grassland Volunteers have been across the National Park this summer monitoring grassland habitats. We currently have ten enthusiastic volunteers who kindly give their botanical expertise and diligently undertake an annual botanical survey at their ‘adopted’ site/s.

Back in June the LLG Volunteers attended an informal workshop to work through the survey methodology and brush up on field identification skills before embarking on their own surveys for 2016. Copyright - NYMNPA.

This summer I’ve also been out surveying a number of grassland sites which hadn’t been surveyed previously; getting to visit some lovely spots whilst improving my botanical identification skills and collecting information.

Common spotted orchid in an old limestone quarry sites - nearly twice as tall as my clipboard! Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Both the volunteers and I have followed the same simple methodology for monitoring our site/s. A walking route is marked out on an aerial photograph for the surveyor to follow – the approximate ‘W’ shape ensures that a fair representation of the site is surveyed. The surveyor walks along the route stopping at regular intervals – ten stops is usually adequate. At each stop a square metre (quadrat) of vegetation is assessed and each species present is noted down – this is usually where the ID books and hand lens are invaluable.

The monitoring route for an area of species-rich grassland at Sutton Bank National Park Centre. Aerial photography copyright GeoPerspectives 2009 all rights reserved.

At the end of the ‘W’ shaped monitoring route, a survey sheet will look something like this.

One page of the grassland survey sheets - filled in - NYMNPA.

Because we’ve recorded which species are present in each quadrat at each of the ten stops we can work out the frequency of each of the species:

A species is rare (R) if it occurs in one or two stops out of ten;
It is occasional (O) if it occurs in three or four stops out of ten;
Frequent (F) species occur in five or more stops out of ten.

Common spotted orchid and Betony. Copyright NYMNPA.

Additional information is also recorded, including the amount of bare ground and height of the sward, the amount of scrub and bracken on site, and the presence of pernicious weeds (such as thistles, nettles and docks). Lots of photos are helpful, plus any sightings of notable wildlife!

All this information allows a site to be assessed and assigned one of the following categories:
Good quality species-rich grassland;
or
Good quality semi-improved or degraded grassland of high species-richness;
or
Semi-improved grassland of moderate species-richness;
or
Species-poor semi-improved grassland.

The National Park is keen to see an increase in the area of species-rich grassland. For the North York Moors that means the priority habitats lowland meadow and lowland calcareous grassland. By this regular monitoring we can get a clearer picture of the changing status of each site and use it to advise restoration methods. Altering the grazing regime, clearing bracken and scrub and/or sowing locally sourced wild flower seeds/spreading green hay can improve the quality and diversity of a grassland site with the ultimate objective of achieving and maintaining good quality species-rich grassland.

Ragged robin and Greater bird’s-foot-treofoil- indicators of the Lowland Meadow priority habitat. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

Common bird’s-foot-trefoil, Knapweed and Field scabious on a species-rich area of calcareous grassland. Copyright Kate Bailey, NYMNPA.

We’ll be out again next summer, doing it all again.

Patience and perserverance

We’ve launched a new concerted effort against two of the most threatening non-native invasive plant species in the North York Moors, bolstered by funding from Yorkshire Water over the next four years. We’re chasing down Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in the River Esk and River Rye catchments.

As well as damaging existing ecosystems and decreasing diversity, both these species tend to overwhelm other plant species along river banks and the danger from this is that during the winter when these non-natives die back the banksides are left bare of vegetation so subject to erosion which increases the sediment getting into watercourses and smothering the water habitat.

Both plants are vigorous growers and virulent spreaders. Himalayan balsam disperses thousands of seeds per plant through exploding seed pods that can propel the seeds metres from the original plant. If the plants are next to watercourses the seeds can be carried downstream to colonise new areas. Japanese knotweed spreads through its underground rhizomes which are so effective that all remnants of the plants need to be carefully disposed of because even a small fragment of rhizome if given the chance to re-root will form a new plant.

The only way to have any real impact on the plants is to tackle them systematically starting at the top of catchments and moving downstream, and repeating the control year after year to remove any vestiges of the plants. This new funding will provide a much needed boost to efforts made over the last few years.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) - it has a sickly, sweet smell, pink flowers and a bright green hollow stem. It can grow up to two meters tall. Copyright - NYMNPA.

Japanese knotweed grows to around three metres tall and has large alternate heart shaped leaves and a characteristic zigzag stem covered in purple speckles. Its flowers, which appear in late summer, consist of clusters of tiny creamy-white flowers. Copyright - NYMNPA.

We’ll be surveying the current extent of the plants and then resurveying each year to monitor the effects of the control. We’re using tried and tested control methods – hand pulling the Himalayan balsam before it gets the chance to seed and propogate, and treating individual Japanese knotweed plants with directly administered glyphosate injections to carry the chemical down into the rhizomes. We’ll be using contractors and volunteers to carry out the work coordinated by National Park staff.

Controlling and hopefully eradicating non-native invasive species in an area takes a long time. Simon, our River Esk Project Officer, is a real enthusiast for non-native invasive species control because he sees the detrimental effects the plants have on the river environment and on his beloved Freshwater pearl mussels. He can see the years of attrition starting to pay off as native vegetation starts to recolonise sites where invasive species have been removed.

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose” — Benjamin Disraeli

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

Habitat connectivity: back to basics

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Currently this National Park Authority has two strategic priorities: one is to promote the North York Moors and the other is to improve the connectivity of habitats in order to benefit the biodiversity and landscape of the area, and mitigate the encroaching impacts of climate change.

Habitat connectivity features quite heavily on our Blog; that’s because it’s important to us. Habitat connectivity is the main driver for the work of the Conservation Department. It’s generally accepted that some of the most (ecologically) important habitats within our countryside have declined and fragmented over the decades and good quality habitat now tend to only exist in isolated pockets across the landscape. The first step is to conserve these remnants and then go on to establish connections, buffers, corridors, stepping stones – linking and increasing the habitat resource and therefore its sustainability into the future. These connections, buffers, corridors, stepping stones allow animals, birds, plants to move through the landscape between the habitats they need which helps populations thrive and grow (helping to mitigate the effects of climate change) – ‘stitching’ the landscape back together for wildlife.

Imagine a habitat e.g. native woodland and the biodiversity that depends on it e.g. oak, ash, birch, hazel, bluebell, wood anemone, wild garlic, great spotted woodpecker, nut hatch, wood warbler, tawny owl, ringlet butterfly, feathered thorn moth, barbastelle bat, wood mouse, not to mention the ferns, fungi, lichens, mosses, beetles and spiders etc. etc. We want to better the condition of existing native woodland habitat, to increase the extent of native woodland habitat, to create new native woodland habitat, and to ensure native woodland habitat is better connected; all to ensure a linked landscape for native woodland and the wildlife that depends on it.

Woodland with bluebells, near Hawnby - copyright NYMNPA

So what does this mean in practical terms?

Back in 2012 we sat down with a map of the National Park and considered where we were at. As discussions developed a clear picture of where concerted effort was needed began to emerge. We knew more or less where the surviving key habitats were and we also knew where we wanted to enhance other habitats more generally e.g. the areas which had been key habitats in the past and could benefit from restoration. Key habitats such as Ancient Woodlands, species rich and semi-improved grasslands, riparian strips and coastal hinterland were used as focuses around which to plan for greater connectivity. In the North York Moors, heathland/moorland which makes up around a third of the National Park would seem a likely key habitat but as this is already well connected with large expanses stretching as far as the eye can see, it does not require the attention that more isolated habitats do in terms of habitat connectivity.

We identified the strategic corridors where our efforts would be best focused in our 2012 Management Plan. We then identified the key ecological gaps along these corridors as well as a number of essential gaps to address more widely – 132 of them in total.

Strategic Connections Map from the North York Moors National Park Management Plan 2012

Target Connection Sites map from North York Moors National Park Business Plan 2012

What we then needed was a method of implementing our thoughts and vision. We draw polygons around the gaps to provide a framework for practical implementation. Officers are assigned individual or groups of polygons and using the original objectives for each ecological gap (e.g. restore PAWS to having Ancient Woodland characteristics, develop a mosaic of habitats, enhance species rich grassland) we develop rationales setting out what might be done on the ground and how best to do it. If we are going to carry out work and spend money in these target areas we need to establish sound reasons for doing so and to be able to justify our decisions. We start by carrying out a desk study of the habitat interest and records in that area – this includes previous habitat surveys, species information, existing and previous agri-environment agreement areas, public access, historic environment records, designations, and aerial photography. The records are important because as well as looking for opportunities we need to also consider potential constraints such as the historic environment because we don’t want to accidentally damage a valued feature by attempting to achieve the aims of Habitat Connectivity.

Once we have this background picture of a target area we need to get our boots on and get out on the ground to see what’s really there. We’re looking initially from Public Rights of Way only (unless specific permission to access the land has previously granted) – we need to assess how much of the information we have matches the real situation on the ground. A key requirement is to take good quality photographs (both of individual habitats and the wider landscape) as well as making accurate field notes, annotating our original maps and at the same time looking out for possible linkages across the landscape. As our main habitat survey information (a Phase 1 Survey) is nearly 30 years old it is not always still accurate as habitats have changed and shrunk since then. This is especially true of unimproved grasslands identified in the late 1980s where scrub, bracken and bramble succession has since encroached.

Once back in the Office with the results of the field work, we consult with specialist Officers (Rona the Senior Ecologist, Mark the Woodland Officer etc.) to agree the best way forward i.e. how to make a difference. A plan of action is developed using the following principles:

  • Identify – find and assess the current condition of the key habitats.
  • Protect – ensure that quality habitats are in some way ‘protected’ i.e. conserved. If there are particularly important species e.g. breeding waders, making use of a habitat e.g. rough pasture, that habitat might be enhanced but shouldn’t be transformed.
  • Enhance/restore – most areas of habitat need some form of continuing care and maintenance to prevent decline or loss.
  • Expand – are there any adjacent buffer areas of land that could be incorporated into the habitat?
  • Create – establishing new areas of habitat nearby – this is easier for some habitats e.g. woodland than others e.g. grassland. Long term commitment is required.

To take forward any ideas the involvement of landowners/land managers is essential. In many cases for a land manager and their family the land is their living. To protect, enhance/restore, expand or create the landowner/land manager has to be willing. We’re talking about facilitating capital works like fencing to control stock, scrub control, tree/hedge planting, spreading wild flower seeds, cutting grassland, managing woodland etc. Following negotiations, the National Park Authority can provide grant assistance, use its own Volunteers and Apprentices to carry out the required tasks, or buy the necessary materials and the land manager provides the labour. Longer term requirements are met through maintenance clauses or land management payments over time.

Then once the work is organised and underway, at some point we need to be able to declare whether the gap has been addressed and the looked for key ecological connection made, or rather is on the way to being made. We do that by returning to the rationale – have we been able to achieve what was identified as being required at the beginning of the process?

Although the process takes time it is necessary in order to ensure that we achieve the best workable and sustainable linkages we can.

Little Fryupdale - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

Operation Luzula

Kate Bailey – Conservation Graduate Trainee

Since starting as the Conservation Graduate Trainee last September, I have had lots of opportunities to get out and about with our hardworking National Park Volunteers undertaking practical conservation tasks across the National Park.

Last week, I joined the River Esk Volunteers for a day planting woodrush along the banks of the River Esk. Greater woodrush Luzula sylvatica is a native, perennial member of the rush family which grows in damp shady places. It thrives along river banks in the North York Moors, where it grows in tussocks providing great ground cover which helps stabilise the river bank.

A good example of Luzula sylvatica growing along the River Esk - copyright NYMNPA

However there are sites along the River Esk where the banks are void of any vegetation. When stock have access to the river, any natural regeneration gets nibbled off and the river banks are left bare and susceptible to erosion leading to sediment entering the water and choking the river habitat. Woodrush planting coupled with river side fencing to exclude stock and create a bankside buffer strip is potentially one of the solutions to this problem.

Planting woodrush as a means of stabilising the river bank has not been carried out before in the National Park. Simon, our River Esk Project Officer, identified a trial site which could benefit greatly from some conservation effort. The river was fenced off over winter, excluding stock from the damaged river banks and young trees – Hazel and Oak Luzula sylvatica being grown at Mires Beck Nursery– were planted. Last summer National Park Volunteers had helped collect woodrush seeds from other sites along the River Esk (to maintain the local provenance) which were then sent off to the Mires Beck Nursey near Hull. The Nursery primarily produces wildflowers for conservation projects whilst providing opportunities for people with learning difficulties to get involved with horticulture. Our woodrush seeds spent the last eight months being grown on and cared for by the knowledgeable staff and volunteers at Mires Beck Nursery. The plants were delivered back to the North York Moors last week, ready to be planted.

Woodrush planting task - copyright NYMNPA

It was an extremely well attended planting task for a Monday in March – and it was sunny. The River Esk Volunteers were joined by three members of staff from Mires Beck Nursery who made the journey up from Hull to deliver the 3600 woodrush plants. Hopefully the newly planted woodrush will flourish and the river banks will be covered in vegetation once more, safeguarding the River Esk habitat and all its associated species.

Planted woodrush on the banks of the River Esk - copyright NYMNPA

Woodrush planting is one element of the Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project which is working to sustain Yorkshire’s last remaining population of Freshwater pearl mussels Margaritifera margaritifera. The River Esk Project has been boosted with a £300,000 grant from Biffa Award. The grant forms part of a larger £1.5 million Biffa Award project led by the Freshwater Biological Association that involves river restoration in a number of Freshwater Pearl Mussel catchments in the country, including in Cumbria and Devon, as well as Yorkshire. “This project is an exciting opportunity to save one of the most long-lived animals from extinction; the freshwater pearl mussel can live for more than 100 years and is internationally protected” – Gillian French, Biffa Award Programme Manager,

Biffa Award logo

Biffa Award is a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. More information on the award is available at www.biffa-award.org.

This Exploited Land – past, present and future

Louise Cooke – This Exploited Land Heritage Officer

We’ve had excellent news from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) – we’ve got the funding for This Exploited Land (TEL).

TEL landscape - copyright Louise Cooke, NYMNPA

This Exploited Land: the trailblazing story of ironstone and railways in the North York Moors Landscape Partnership Scheme aims to understand, protect and enhance the landscape and its legacy of ironstone exploitation.

We will tell the story of ironstone mining and the associated railways in the North York Moors during the hundred years between 1830 and 1930. It is an exciting and little known story of discovery and industrialisation in a landscape which what is now designated as a National Park. For most visitors, and even for some residents, the extent of the ironstone industry in the 19th century is a surprise. The scale, the extent and the influence it came to have on the development of the North East of England as a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution at the height of the Victorian Period is poorly understood and the story has never been properly told.

Warren Moor Mine Chimney - copyright Louise Cooke, NYMNPA

TEL will conserve, protect, record and present a range of important industrial archaeological sites within a distinctive landscape. It will strengthen natural habitats within that landscape: restoring ancient woodland, managing hay meadows and enhancing riparian corridors; and assist rare and threatened species such as ring ouzels and water voles.

Top of Ingleby Incline - copyright Louise Cooke, NYMNPAThe Scheme contains a range of projects under different themes:

  • Historic Environment;
  • Natural Environment;
  • Interpretation, Access and Engagement;

as well as cross-cutting elements which include community grants, a volunteer programme, training and education. The breadth of the Programme hopefully provides something for everybody and is structured in such a way that over the next 5 years and beyond we hope more people can get involved and share our passion for the landscape and the stories that lie at its heart.

Sil Howe Minehead - copyright Louise Cooke, NYMNPA

Which of the 46 individual projects to be delivered over the next 5 years am I currently most excited about?

After the very long period of project development, it is the very first one – the works to repair the landslip at Rosedale East and to unblock the railway culvert at Reeking Gill.

These are essential works to (1) enable access along the Rosedale Railway to be maintained (and in subsequent years of the project allow access for conservation works) and (2) to ensure the survival of the manmade embankments along the route of the Rosedale Railway – and to retain this important feature of the landscape intact.

Exploring the TEL landscape - copyright Louise Cooke, NYMNPA

Thanks very much to everyone involved so far who have got us to where we are today.

Stay posted – this Blog is going to be an important means of sharing stories and pictures as TEL picks up steam.

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A little less salt, a little more species abundance

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

If you’ve driven up or down White Horse Bank near Kilburn recently you might have noticed the appearance of some new green lided boxes at the side of the road. These are grit bins which are now in place to hold the rock salt available to help in icy conditions on this 1 in 4 gradient road.

Looking up White Horse Bank, Kilburn - spreading salt heap. Copyright NYMNPA.Looking up White Horse Bank, Kilburn - salt bin replacing salt heap. Copyright NYMNPA.

It’s the most recent example of us working in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council Highways over the past few years to replace salt piles with salt bins at certain sites around the National Park. Holding the salt in bins limits leaching where rain washes salt into watercourses and limits ground salination, in both cases the chemistry of the water and the soil is altered by the accidental addition of salt.

The National Park Authority is involved because we’re particularly interested in the conservation of the small number of remaining species rich roadside verges, and the potential restoration of degraded species rich roadside verges, around the North York Moors. By holding onto and better controlling the salt source the idea is that the plant life of roadside verges will be less damaged.

The bins were paid for by the National Park Authority and NYCC Highways will refill them when empty. Salt is far from the only threat to our roadside verge habitats. Other dangers include over management, badly timed management and the lack of management; as well as through the encroachment of vehicles on one side and the affects of land management on the other. The replacing of sprawling salt heaps with the green bins is a cost effective and useful small scale initiative – which still helps keep roads passable in the winter but also means through the rest of the year the remnant grassland habitats found on verges have an improved chance of continuance. Botanically rich roadside verges are ecologically valuable in their own right but also provide useful connecting corridors between habitats for species such as pollinators. They also provide an accessible glimpse for many people of the colour and beauty of our wildflowers.

With spring just around the corner we’ll be looking out for a plethora of wildflowers growing on our species rich verges this year – on White Horse Bank the plants along this woodland edge roadside verge include Dog Violet, Primrose, Foxglove, Stitchwort, Wood Avens, Wood Sorrel and Wild Arum.

A number of our identified species rich verges are monitored by local volunteers who, working safely, record the presence or lack of it of key species, and keep an eye on the verge management. This monitoring is important so that change can be identified and then addressed if appropriate. If you’d like to help please contact us.

Example of a species rich verge in the North York Moors - copyright NYMNPA

Ghosts in the Landscape

Louise Cooke – This Exploited Land Heritage Officer

Operating from 1861-1929 the Ingleby Incline section of the Rosedale Railway is a significant landmark in the TEL landscape. The incline connected the edge of the upland with Battersby Junction below, and the line onwards to Teesside and County Durham.

At this point the railway line rose up to 417.5m from a lower elevation of 183m over a distance of just 214m. The gradient of the incline itself averaged 1:5.5 and was 1:5 in places. It was a self-acting incline allowing ore laden wagons to be lowered down from the upland top whilst pulling back up empty wagons from the Battersby lowland level. The operation of the incline was not without risk, including the danger of runaway trucks – and a number of fatalities were recorded during its time in operation.

After the abandonment of the railway in 1929 the remaining features at Incline Top were later destroyed by the Royal Engineers in World War II to prevent their use as a navigation aid for aircraft, potentially guiding the way to industrial Teesside. However a large amount of very substantial stone work, brick work, timbers and metalwork survive on the surface, or buried just below the surface.

The whole site has been damaged by weather and erosion – resulting in fracturing of brickwork, erosion of mortars, deterioration of timbers and stone. The fragmentary nature of the site and the damage and the subsequent removal of brickwork and stonework makes this site particularly fragile and the archaeological features are particularly difficult to read as so little remains in situ. But our understanding of the site is greatly enriched by surviving engineers’ plans and historic photographs – by T W Brotton (photographs c. 1890-1910) who worked at the Weigh House at Ingleby Incline Foot, and photographs by Tom Page, William Hayes and Raymond Hayes.

Structures at Incline Top:

  • Brake Drum House. Stone, timber and slate roofed structure. Constructed 1859-61, this original structure (which was the northern-end) housed 14ft diameter drums, this was damaged by fire in 1869 and repair carried out with replacement 18ft diameter drums. The drums wound the cables lowering and raising the laden and empty trucks. The structure is no longer in situ. The very large blocks of stonework have been pushed to the eastern side of the track bed.
  • Brake House 1 (eastern). This was constructed 1859-61, and served to control the speed of wagons on the incline when the 14ft diameter drums were in use. This was left as a ‘spare’ after the 1869 fire. This structure survives only slightly with some brick walling on the western side (where it is more protected from the raised ground). The surviving brickwork is now extremely fractured.
  • Brake House 2 (western). This was constructed in 1870 and served to control the speed of wagons on the incline when the 18ft diameter drums were in use. Little of this structure survives in situ – with just a few courses of the eastern wall. However there are very substantial quantities of timbers, and fractured brick work that has fallen down the slope to the west. The surviving brickwork is extremely fractured but has distinctive stamps of ‘Hartley … Castleford’.
  • Keps. These inclined planes with stone revetment walling were part of the incline control mechanism to prevent run-away trucks. They survive as low earthen ‘mounds’ with some of the revetment walling still in situ – but this is truncated and now fragmented where stonework has been robbed and/or fallen. Much of the mortar has washed out so the surviving stonework has enlarged joints that will be more susceptible to damage.
  • Cottage 1. A brick and slate roofed semi-detached cottage, some historic photographs show the garden plots having high-wooden fencing. This is now very fragmentary with little evidence on the ground but it did stand as more substantial walls until the 1960s/1970s.
  • Cottage 2. A brick and slate roofed semi-detached cottage with a single-storey ‘office’. Much less now survives of Cottage 2 and examination of the aerial photographs shows that this was already substantially taken down prior to Cottage 1.
  • Track. There were 5 tracks at the top of the incline, converging into two tracks for the incline itself, with diversion routes sited near to the top to manage ‘run-away’ trucks. In situ timbers are exposed at the break of slope but these are damaged by pedestrian and vehicle access resulting in further surface erosion and exposure of the timbers.

Last May, during the TEL development stage, a brief survey was undertaken at the incline site lead by members of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group. On site, we discussed and interpreted the extant features, measured the extant stonework, and created a photographic record. Subsequently the Group have analysed historic aerial photographs showing changes to the site over time, carried out archive research and assessed the condition of the remaining features.

Should HLF funding be forthcoming, the plan is to undertake further survey and documentation at the incline site, and at other sites across the TEL area. These smaller sites may not look as majestic now as remains such as the Rosedale Calcining Kilns, but each are an important gearwheel in the story of the ironstone industry and its communities.

As part of the investigative work back in May as series of evocative images were generated by John Davies of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group – see below. John explains how the images came about –

I have always been fascinated by old photographs and, since it was formed nearly 10 years ago, I have been acting as photo-archivist for Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group. One of our first projects was to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Rosedale Ironstone Railway, and in the course of the production of a heritage trail and a web site (www.rosedalerailway.org.uk), I had access to a number of old photographs of this awe-inspiring enterprise.

Last year, as part of the TEL project, I joined a group of fellow History Group members and NYM officers to survey the old industrial remains at the top of the Ingleby Incline. I took with me copies of old photographs and endeavoured to take new images from as near as possible to the old viewpoints. My initial plan was to produce “Now and Then” pairings of the new and the old but while processing the new ones, I came up with the idea of merging the century old photographs with their modern equivalents. With the help of the photo-editing software “Photoshop”, I managed to produce ghostly images appearing to loom out of the current landscape. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and for me these images evoke feelings that we are sharing the landscape with all those who have walked within it in the past.

Ghosts in the landscape - copyright John Davies of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group

Ingleby Incline ‘in operation’ – Cottages, Brake Houses, Brake Drum House.

Ghosts in the landscape - copyright John Davies of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group

Ingleby Incline ‘in operation’ – Cottages, Brake Houses, Brake Drum House, and 2 small boys in the forefront.

Ghosts in the landscape - copyright John Davies of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group

Ingleby Incline ‘in operation’ – empty trucks being pulled up the track by the cable.

Ghosts in the landscape - copyright John Davies of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group

Ingleby Incline ‘in operation’ + operator – looking down the tracks.

 

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