Electrifying activities

Victoria Franklin – Conservation Trainee

Last week some National Park Volunteers (all fully trained) have finally been able to carry out the first electro fishing surveys this year along the River Esk. Delays had been caused by the weather.

The priority are sites up and downstream of the Sewage Treatment Works (STW) and one Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) in the upper catchment. The first day of surveying was at Commondale.

The concept of electro fishing is to collect samples of fish living within the river, the higher the fish count the healthier the river should be. This will also show the type of fish living in our rivers, the cleanliness of the river and theoretically what the invertebrate population is like along that stretch of river.

The river levels had settled down by Thursday meaning the water was back to a slow flow and all the previous rain had made the water clear giving the perfect conditions for electro fishing.

We fished the river in two 50m sections, one upstream and one downstream of water treatment works. This was done using a zig zag motion to ensure that no area was left unfished. Each 50m section was fished three times to ensure a fair population of fish were caught.

Esk electro fishing October 2019. Copyright NYMNPA.

The equipment used to stun the fish is called an electro fisher and consists of a positive charge the anode at the front and a negative charge called the cathode which trails along the back. These are both attached to a battery which is worn by the person conducting the fishing, today it was Volunteer Paul. Both the anode and the cathode must be in the water to cause an electro charge which is what stuns the fish, but don’t worry rubber thigh waders were worn by everyone so the electro pulse did not affect us humans like it did the fish. The rest of us were in charge of catching the stunned fish in nets alongside the anode, which is harder than it looks as the fish soon spring back to life! They are then transferred into a bucket from the nets.

Esk electro fishing October 2019. Copyright NYMNPA.

We set the voltage output at 150- 200 volts which is enough to temporarily stun the fish making them easier to catch in the net. Once the section of river has been fished the data collection begins. The fish are identified – on this day we found 57 trout downstream and 104 upstream with the largest being 180mm and the smallest recorded at 52mm. The information collected will now be analysed before being sent onto Yorkshire Water, they will then compare this with the other locations which are due to be fished over the next few weeks, and that will all help inform management of their sites as necessary.

An amazing day was had by all the volunteers and staff that attended. More data collection will happen in the next few weeks on different sites along the Esk.

Esk electro fishing October 2019 - small trout. Copyright NYMNPA.

Goodbye to all that

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Kim Devereux-West – Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant It’s that time already; my two year contract with the Land of Iron is almost over! With only a few days left on the clock I wanted to take a moment to … Continue reading

How to be an archaeologist…

Sara Goodridge – Land of Iron Archaeological Finds Intern

This summer I have been granted the privilege of working with the Heritage Fund‘s Land of Iron Landscape Partnership as an Archaeological Finds Intern, through the Santander Internship Programme at Durham University. The internship has provided a unique opportunity to not only learn all about the inner workings of community archaeology but also to expand my knowledge of the beautiful North York Moors National Park and its industrial heritage.

When the email advertising the post of intern landed in my inbox, I was intrigued, I knew nothing about archaeology other than what I’d seen on the television and in text books but I knew I wanted to learn more. As a student of History rather than Archaeology my knowledge of what the internship would involve was very limited to say the least, despite this I decided to go for it – after all if you don’t try you don’t achieve. However, I felt my desire to learn may not be enough to secure me the position so I turned to the North York Moors National Park website for some much needed research. It is here that my journey began as a volunteer. Having followed the registration process I signed up for the day hoping for a crash course in how to be an archaeologist in time for my intern interview the following week.

I arrived eagerly at a car park in the middle of the moors ready to learn all about archaeological recording. As it turned out the welcome was incredibly friendly and I was expertly guided through a whistle stop tour of archaeological contexts and features. This very first day’s volunteering introduced me to the friendly approach taken by all involved in the Land of Iron Partnership and from that moment on I was hooked. The site of my first ever archaeological experience was at the former Rosedale Railway and inspired the Historian in me to find out more.

Rosedale saw rapid development in the later part of the 19th century due to ironstone mining. By 1861 the Rosedale Railway had been built, with the additional Rosedale East Railway branch completed in 1865, in order to export the iron ore north to Teesside and County Durham. An estimated 11 million tons of iron ore was removed from Rosedale. The opening of the Rosedale Railway way was documented in the Newcastle Journal on the 19 April 1862, and describes the importance of the railway coming to Rosedale;

“The opening of the North Eastern Company’s branch line to Rosedale, by the vice-chairman, George Leeman, Esq., and the directors, took place at Rosedale on Wednesday.  Early in the forenoon a large party arrived by special train from the northy, including the directors of the company and many of the iron masters, and other distinguished persons connected with the great iron trade of cleveland and the district…  After inspecting, with delight and astonishment, the Rosedale Mining Companiy’s magnificent quarries and mines of magnetic ore, the whole party retired to the Crown Inn, Rosedale Abbey, where an excellent dinner awaited them”.
(Extract transcribed by Linda Cummings)

Photo credit; Rosedale Mines and Railway (Hayes and Rutter, 1974)The experience of that volunteering confirmed my desire to learn more about archaeology and made me want to secure the position of intern even more. Luckily my interview for the position was a success! In the meantime I didn’t have to wait long to volunteer again as the Land of Iron community excavation at Combs Wood this summer provided me with the opportunity to not just learn about archaeology from the side of a trench but to actually get in and start digging myself. Over the two week period that the excavation ran I volunteered for a couple of days each week. In these days the knowledge I gained was immense I learned everything from the complexities of measured drawing to the correct use of a trowel. The approach on site, that no question was a silly question, meant that I spent my whole time learning.

Due to my experiences volunteering before my internship had even started I had learned valuable skills and felt ready to take on the finds processing role. Along with my fellow intern Louis we’ve now spent the last five weeks engaging with and learning from the finds that have been discovered across the numerous archaeological sites within the Land of Iron. Louis’s recent blog, The Everyday, the Intriguing and the Odd shows some of the more unique and interesting finds that have crossed our desk so far and is a must read for anyone who wants to find out more about some of these finds.

The industrial heritage of the North York Moors National Park has become a new found fascination for me, in particular the material culture of the Victorians has certainly sparked some interesting conversations between myself and Louis as well as with volunteers during our task days. So much so that I have decided to use the subject for my dissertation when I return to university for my third and final year at Durham in October. The knowledge I’ve gained so far during my time as an intern has been invaluable however it is only the beginning of my research.

Land of Iron logos

If, like me, you have a desire to learn more about the Land of Iron there is an upcoming Heritage Open Days on 15 September with a walk and talk through the incredible ironstone industry (Grosmont to Esk Valley). For more information and to book tickets visit the National Park website.

Standing up for standing stones

Nick Mason – Archaeology Officer

In the last couple of Monuments for the Future inspired blogs, we’ve looked at the hillforts and barrows of the North York Moors. This time we’ll ponder another monument type which often springs to mind when we think of prehistoric archaeology visible in the landscape today: standing stones.

The North York Moors has an abundance of stones set upright in the ground for various reasons. Not all of these stones are prehistoric: indeed the Historic Environment Record records 161 individual stones across the park recorded as ‘standing stones’, of which 129 are of likely prehistoric origin. But there are a further 1459 monuments recorded as ‘boundary stones’ with a medieval or later explanation. The distinction between standing stone and boundary stone is not always completely clear, as we shall see below, but these figures do mean that erected stones of one sort or another account for approximately 8.5% of all recorded monuments in the North York Moors. Let’s not even think about the number of historic gateposts out there…

People started to erect standing stones across the country in the late Neolithic period (2500-3000 BC), and carried on doing so up to the end of the Bronze Age around 700 BC. Like much of prehistoric archaeology, it can be very hard to know what was going on and to impose definitions on these big lumps of rock. Sometimes multiple stones are used in conjunction to create circles (often referred to as henges) or other shapes, or long rows stretching hundreds of metres, and then others stand alone. But why were people doing this?

It’s a long running joke in archaeology that if we don’t understand the function of a feature then it must be part of a long forgotten ritual, but for many surviving prehistoric features it seems that that is the most likely explanation. Some stones are associated with other features, such as a large slab next to a bridleway over Danby Rigg which forms part of a cairn under which Victorian archaeologists found deposited urns. Others accompany barrows, pits or stone-lined chambers. The common theme so far is death and burial: were people using standing stones to mark the spots belonging to the dead? were they a commemoration, in the same way we use gravestones and memorials today? or perhaps the stone warned others not to get too close…

Danby Rigg standing stone and ring cairn. Copyright NYMNPA.

Whilst many stones may have been raised to honour the dead or perform ritual practices around, others may have had a more mundane but useful purpose. If you’ve been out and about on the moors you’ll know how disorientating they can be, especially in bad weather. The last thing you want to do is get lost and stumble into someone’s barrow, and so we think some stones might have been erected as way markers, as a familiar point in the landscape to meet at or to help get you home.

Over time, some stones gathered cup and ring marks, and people buried items around them. These stones might be crossing the gap between the sacred and the profane, a physical object people can relate to, but which represents far more than the sum of its parts.

I mentioned at the start that there is not a clear distinction between some standing stones and modern boundaries. Some continue to have a function today, having been re-used by people looking to make their mark. A great example is the Cammon Stone, which stands on the parish boundary between Bransdale and Farndale West. This was initially erected on the watershed by prehistoric inhabitants of the area, perhaps marking a territorial boundary or route. At some point in the post-medieval period letters were carved into it, proclaiming the land ownership to anyone who came past. Then in the 19th century someone wrote ‘Hallelujah’ on it, followed by the Ordnance Survey who inscribed a survey benchmark into the base! So over the years the Cammon Stone has served as a boundary symbol for different cultures, in multiple religious functions, and as part of the very modern practice of mapping.

Cammon Stone with inscriptions. Copyright NYMNPA.

 

Cammon Stone with further inscriptions. Copyright NYMNPA.Another stone which might represent different sacred uses is Low Cross, just north of Appleton-le-Moors. This curious piece of limestone, with a hole cut right through it, started life as a large prehistoric stone, but was transformed into a wayside cross by some enterprising mediaeval person. It probably served a very similar function in this role, reminding people of their religion and marking out a safe route. Since then it has fallen apart, a plaque seems to have come and gone, and it’s thought the hole might have been used to pay tolls, but it remains in place today as a lasting reminder of the people who once lived there. A 3D model of Low Cross today can be seen here – Low Cross standing stone by Nick Mason Archaeology on Sketchfab

All of this is why standing stones are so exciting to archaeologists – they stand in place today as physical emblems of the prehistoric, when so little else of those people remains. That’s why any examples which are in good condition are likely to be protected as Scheduled Monuments. All of those mentioned in the text here are Scheduled, and as solid as they may seem, sometimes they need some work to look after them. Unstable ground, visitor numbers, even cattle can cause a stone to become threatened. Work was recently carried out to reinstate one of the Newgate Foot stones which had fallen over. This project restored the collection of stones (which might be a small henge monument) closer to what they originally looked like. This is a more complex operation than it sounds, as the ground had to be carefully prepared and excavated to ensure that deposits which might give us valuable dating evidence were not being disturbed.

A similar operation was carried out on Wade’s Stone near Lythe, a monument with giant-related folklore ascribed to it.

If you’d like to see some archaeology and take in a breath of fresh air there are many popular walks around the North York Moors which pass close to prehistoric monuments as they run along the higher ground. As ever, you can always find out more about the fascinating past of the North York Moors using our interactive Historic Environment Record map, so why not find your closest monument and pay a visit. The Monuments for the Future project is always on the look-out for monuments at risk, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think a standing stone needs some attention. You can always volunteer with the National Park if you’d like to help with conserving our monuments.

Seeds for the future

Alasdair Fagan – Woodland Creation Officer

In a previous blog, on the Year of Green Action, we mentioned the planting of 3,500 trees near Danby by National Park staff and volunteers. Our volunteers form an integral part of the work we are able to do, this is particularly the case with woodland work.

Last year saw the origins of the Acorn Volunteer Group. The task for this Group is to collect tree seed from the ancient woodlands and trees of the North York Moors to then be propagated and grown on at local tree nurseries with the ultimate aim of the trees being used in future woodland creation schemes throughout the area.

We focused in the first year on acorns as the National Park Authority has a bit of a history of acorn collecting and so we already knew some good spots to try. We managed to collect over 25,000 acorns. Going forward we are looking to diversify the tree species we collect to include species such as rowan, elder and wild cherry.

One of the North York Moors' oldest Ancient Oak Trees. Copyright NYMNPA.

So why is collecting tree seeds important?

There are ongoing discussions in the world of woodland and forestry about what is the best approach for new woodland planting – whether it should be young trees grown from seed which has been collected from the local area (‘local provenance’) or trees grown from seed sourced elsewhere in the country e.g. further south.

Local provenance seed has benefits such as being from trees which we know grow well on a kind of site or in a particular area , but seed from a more southerly zone has the potential to be better suited in the future because of an increasingly warming climate.

The predictions for climate change vary in severity based on the potential for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, but what is certain is that our summers will be warmer and drier (this is especially true in the east of the Britain) and our winters will be wetter. This means that the climatic conditions of the places where we are planting trees today to create woodlands could be significantly different in 100 years time. 100 years is not a long time within the lifetime of a woodland. Woodland managers need to consider the effects of their work over these long timescales. Planning now to survive the effects of climate change is essential to give our woodlands the greatest chance of reaching maturity.

Skipster Hagg. When the right site is chosen to plant woodland the rate at which the young saplings grow can be surprising. Copyright NYMNPA.

Ayton Banks. Stitchwort and bluebells growing on a site with newly planted trees. These woodland indicator plants grow on woodland soils and show where woodlands once existed. Copyright NYMNPA.Currently the advice for woodland managers is that the best approach depends on the characteristics of the site proposed. On sites where the woodland soils have remained relatively undisturbed, with intact woodland plant communities – such as bluebells and wood sorrel – planting local provenance trees is still the best choice, particularly if it is adjacent to an existing ancient woodland. However if the site is less sensitive then it makes sense to try and improve the woodland’s chance to withstand the effects of climate change and the resulting pests and disease as much as is possible; making the woodland more ‘resilient’.

This type of resilience is increased by having a higher number of tree species as more diversity means that any one pest or disease is unlikely to have a catastrophic effect on the entire wood. If you also incorporate into this diverse mix of tree species a mix of genetic stock, such as you would get from planting a mixture of trees sourced both locally and from further afield, then this is certain to improve a woodland’s chances of adaptation and survival in the future.

Setting up a seed collecting project is a way to make sure we have some locally sourced trees to plant, including some of the genetics of our oldest living trees. The project is also a great way to include volunteers and give them the opportunity to visit some of the ancient trees and woodlands hidden away in secluded parts of the North York Moors.

One of the many handfuls of acorns that made up the 25,000 that were collected in 2018. Photo credit – Tessa Bunney.

If you think you might like to sign up as an Acorn Volunteer with the National Park Authority then please contact me by email or ring me on 01439 772700.

The Madness and Delight of a North Yorkshire forest at dawn   

Getting up at 3am to start a bird survey at dawn deep in the North Yorkshire countryside may seem like madness to many people but for Ginny the delight has been far greater than the sacrifice…

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project logo

Ginny Leeming, Turtle Dove Volunteer

A few years ago I was walking in Broxa Forest when I became aware of a strange low bubbling, turring sound. For a minute I just couldn’t place it – perhaps a frog? Then it clicked – I hadn’t heard it for years but it had once been so familiar to me. I went home and looked up some facts and figures and was horrified (though not entirely surprised) to learn of the drastic fall in numbers of a bird that was once so well known (and still is widely known by name if only through the 12 Days of Christmas). So when I heard about the Turtle Dove Project I was immediately keen to get involved. OK, so getting up at 3am to be in the forest ready to start a survey at dawn is somewhat daunting, and I even felt a bit nervous at the thought of walking through the forest in semi-darkness. But once up it is a truly magical time to be out there. I’ve had close encounters with badgers, deer, hares and much other wildlife.

On my very first survey I was nearing the end, almost resigned to a negative result, when I approached a clearing and before I could see through the trees I heard that unique sound. It turned out to be 3 singing males. I really had to stop myself shrieking with delight! Since then I’ve had less luck, but the memory of that moment has helped to maintain my feeling of anticipation. It has also been really encouraging to know that the data from that first survey has already been used to target conservation measures on local farms. Perhaps in a few more years encounters with these iconic birds will become more common.
A North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Volunteer in Action. Copyright NYMNPA.
Our North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project surveys start again in May. We will be holding two meetings this spring to explain the surveys and to allow volunteers to meet up. One meeting will be in the Dalby Forest Courtyard Building (YO18 7LT) on 24 April at 7 pm and the second at the Yorkshire Arboretum (YO60 7BY) in the Howardian Hills on 2 May, again at 7 pm. If you’d like to get involved please come along or alternatively email Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer.

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project partnership logos

 

From strength to strength

Note from Maria (Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Officer) – Through the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme we’ve organised a number of historic building volunteer events ranging from lime mortar workshops to surveying. One of our volunteers was Dr Ian Wyre who has a PhD from Northumbria University as part of the Virtual Medieval Newcastle project. Ian attended almost every task and demonstrated high potential and a strong background. Because of this he was selected to attend a week’s training event with Historic England and subsequently undertook initial surveying alongside core staff ahead of conservation works. From then Ian has gone from strength to strength and gained a hard sought after position with an archaeological consultancy. So we at the Land of Iron could not be more proud – we wish him well on what will undoubtedly be a successful career ahead.

Ian very kindly agreed to write about his time volunteering and to share his enthusiasm…

Rosedale - Dale Head with railway and water tower - copyright NYMNPA

Dr Ian Wyre – one time North York Moors Volunteer now Historic Buildings Officer with Archaeological Research Services Ltd

Since living in the north east I had always been on the doorstep of the North York Moors, however it was a place you would visit only for day trips and holidays. A Facebook post calling for heritage volunteers for help with This Exploited Land of Iron project has given me a new, lasting connection with the National Park and its unique heritage.

At the time I had found myself long-term un-employed and, as many people find out, this can become isolating and significantly affect your overall wellbeing. I grew up with language and other neurological difficulties which had also come to the fore at this point in my life. At this time, re-starting any sort of career seemed out of reach; there was a lot I thought couldn’t do and any change seemed overwhelming. The Facebook post however, came across as something I could do. It was an invitation to be involved with historic building conservation of the industrial monuments found throughout the ‘Land of Iron’ area, the North York Moors.

Through the support of the project, guided by its Cultural Heritage Officer, Maria, my volunteering offered a varied sets of tasks encompassing a wide scope of heritage skills, arranged around the National Lottery funded Landscape Partnership Scheme project.  It was all built on a practical, hands-on and welcoming basis (something necessary for me at that point!), open to all ages and abilities, set in the stunning National Park.

Joining the project, within months I had learnt to repair with lime mortar through to high tech laser-scanning of historic structures. A highlight for me that summer was the archaeological dig at Goathland Incline. Within the trench I worked in were foundations continuing below almost a metre and a half depth from the surface. The team of enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers and staff had found the substantial remains of stone walls for the engine house, as well the wagon turntable, with which to piece together the previously little known history of the site. The dig took place with visits from many a walker along the old track bed and the sound of steam trains from the nearby North York Moors Railway, aspects which all added to the experience.  Another highlight has been contributing to the Historic Building Recording with Kim, the project’s Cultural Heritage Assistant. Some of this included survey of the enormous ruins for the iron kilns lining the sides of the stunning Rosedale valley. These contrast to the human scale of the workers cottages which help to tell an almost disappeared social story of the area.

For me, primarily, the project has added to the tapestry of the stunning North York Moors landscape. The remnants of the immense and historic ironstone industry scattered amongst the peaceful, green and idyllic landscape feeds the imagination. Seemingly not so long ago, the sky was orange and black from the ever-burning furnaces which roared above the clatter and squeal of railway trucks. The conservation the project has achieved of the archaeological remains will keep this rich industrial history for generations to discover for years to come.  For me, the project also enabled a step to finding work with an archaeology company. I have been a historic buildings project officer for a year now. Even when the work was difficult the hands-on skills the project brought me form the day-to-day basis of my role. This Exploited Land of Iron truly forged links for me and others with the North York Moors National Park and its important heritage.

Land of Iron Goathland Dig 2017 - discussions. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you want to get involved with the Land of Iron or might be interested in any other volunteer opportunities please contact our Volunteer Service.

Land of Iron LPS logo banner

YoGA: taking action

Laura Barr – Marketing and Product Development Executive

2019 has been designated the Year of Green Action.

The Year of Green Action (YoGA) is part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and is a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds to take actions that improve the natural world. We want to encourage and inspire others to do the same.

Everyone can get involved in projects, whether it’s in your own garden, at school, in the workplace or as a consumer. A small change can make a big difference…

Take part in a local litter pick or beach clean, make water, waste and energy-saving improvements, or simply head out into a local green space and appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

Throughout 2019, we will be hosting events and activities across the North York Moors National Park aiming to help people connect, protect and enhance nature.

Some excellent tree planting activity. Copyright NYMNPA.

To kick things off, over the past few weeks National Park staff along with volunteers, youth groups and corporate teams have been planting trees to create a new native woodland near Danby. Incorporating a mixture of oak, silver birch, hazel, rowan, crab apple, wild cherry, hawthorn and blackthorn, the team are on schedule to plant more than 3,500 trees in six weeks.

Some more excellent tree planting activity. Copyright NYMNPA.

There are lots of different opportunities to get involved and take action. Events coming up in and around the North York Moors include:

  • Health and Wellbeing walking festivals including our own WalkFest (25 – 27 May), and the Redcar & Cleveland Walking Festival (15 – 23 June) to celebrate the Cleveland Way’s 50th birthday.
  • The Lost Words (13 June – 29 July) – an exhibition on tour from Compton Verney Art Gallery that reconnects adults and children with the natural world using the power of words and art. A programme of treasure hunts, art workshops, nature expeditions and more are scheduled throughout the summer.
  • Rosedale Wildlife Week (23 – 29 June) – Join the ‘Land of Iron’ project team for a week’s worth of wildlife-themed walks, family activities, talks and workshops in Rosedale from moth-trapping and wildlife walks to natural history lectures and mammal-monitoring.

Help us take positive steps to help our natural environment!

Finding out how to identify tree species. Copyright Daniel Wildey.

You can find out what activities we’ve got going on across the North York Moors here.

You can follow the latest news about YOGA across the UK using #yearofgreenaction

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.