Bee Bole Conservation Project
An old drystone wall near Glaisdale houses the largest number of ‘bee boles’ ever recorded in England and Scotland.
A conservation project managed by the North York Moors National Park Authority aims to protect these extremely rare nesting places for bees, which could date back to the 18th century.
The wall has no fewer than 77 recesses for ‘skeps’ – bee hives made of wicker, heather or straw – which are thought to have been brought to the moor so the bees had a short flight to the flowering heather in late summer.
The average for other such walls in Yorkshire is 5 bee bole recesses, mostly located in gardens and orchards.
Researcher Caroline Hardie, of Archaeo-Environment Limited, explains: “The large number of recesses suggests that their use was either communal or commercially driven. Shared use of a site by bee-keepers is not unknown, especially at heather sites, but the construction of such a large quantity of bee boles is extremely unusual. Large-scale bee-keeping was not unusual though. There were hundreds of hives on stones at Saltergate, and others on Rudland Rigg, and on Goathland, Egton and Wheldale moors.”
The Glaisdale bee boles are a long way – hundreds of metres – from a farmhouse, but a paved trackway suggests the hives were transported by wagon from the farm to the wall.
Bee boles and bee-keeping were hugely important because honey was the only source of sweetener in food until sugar beet and cane became commercially available in the 16th century. Honey was also fermented to make mead and the wax was used to make candles.
A farm on Danby High Moor is still known as ‘Honey Bee Nest’. English writer William Marshall referred to the moorlands and the northern margin of the vale as “bee country” in Rural Economy of Yorkshire in 1788.
And in 1891, the Rev J C Atkinson wrote about the custom in the parish of Danby of “telling the bees” of the death of their master – a familiar practice in many parts of northern Europe. In Danby Dale black material was tied round each hive, which was then tapped three times with the key of the house before the bees were informed of the death and who the new master was to be.
Glaisdale’s fascinating bee boles raise many unanswered questions. Why are some of the recesses so small? Many appear to be too slim to accommodate a bee skep. And why were there so many? Perhaps the boles were used all year round and not just in the summer.
More research is needed to answer these questions. In the meantime, the National Park Authority has worked with the landowner and Natural England to repair the poor condition of the wall without changing the character of the historic site. The repairs have been carried out by Donald Gunn, a specialist in historic, drystone walling.
Partners and funders
Natural England (www.naturalengland.org.uk) has funded the conservation work as a special project under Higher Level Stewardship. The National Park Authority is managing the project on behalf of the agreement holder, Chris Padmore of Bank House Farm, Glaisdale (www.bankhousefarmhostel.co.uk), and we commissioned the consultants Archaeo-Environment Limited (www.aenvironment.co.uk) and the walling expert Donald Gunn (www.drystone-walls.com) to undertake the conservation work.
Graham Lee, Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer, 01439 772700, firstname.lastname@example.org
Winners of the Design Awards announced - affordable housing development wins again
A group of volunteers are surveying and monitoring grassland sites in the North York Moors to ensure new management agreements set up by the National Park Authority are having the right effect.
Two free family festivals top and tail the North York Moors National Park’s celebrations for this year’s National Parks Week. ParkFest, on Sunday 27 July at The Moors National Park Centre, Danby sets the scene while MoorFest on Sunday 3 August at Sutton Bank National Park Centre, rounds off a week of guided walks, children’s events and adventure activities.
Family-friendly and adventure cycling trails with some of the most spectacular views in the country open in the North York Moors this Saturday.
New work by members of Ryedale ArtWorks (RAW) explores the varied landscapes of the North ...read more
Let National Park Rangers show you the enchanting woodlands of Mulgrave, taking in treasured ...read more
For lovers of all things creepy and crawly! Take a walk around the grounds looking for ...read more
High-octane holiday adventures for 9 to 16 year olds (families are welcome too) at East ...read more
Are you an intrepid explorer and up for a challenge? We have lots of weird and wonderful ...read more
Get to grips with GPS! We'll show you how to use one so that you can search for hidden ...read more
Sutton Bank and The Moors National Park Centres - great places to start your discovery of the North York Moors…
Featuring artists inspired by the North York Moors, the gallery has a changing programme of exhibitions throughout the year…