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Managing our monuments

Lilla HoweLilla Howe

The North York Moors NPA Monument Management Scheme (MMS) was set up in 2009 in partnership with English Heritage (now Historic England) in order to improve the condition of Scheduled Monuments and remove them from the Heritage at Risk Register. The Heritage at Risk Register is published annually by Historic England to highlight the monuments considered to be most under threat. The aim of the MMS is to remove as many Scheduled Monuments as possible from the Register.

Scheduled Monuments are under threat from;

  • Bracken and other vegetation encroachment
  • Foot and mountain bike erosion
  • Construction of modern walkers’ cairns
  • Stock erosion
  • Burrowing animals
  • Some modern agricultural activities

By working with landowners, farmers, and contractors we are able to care for our monuments. We also work in partnership with organisations such as the National Trust, the Forestry Commission and Natural England to find the best management solution for each monument.

Our enthusiastic Historic Environment volunteers are involved in the drive to remove monuments from the Heritage at Risk register. They have been trained to monitor and record Scheduled Monuments and now make regular visits to give us an up-to-date record of their condition. This is immensely helpful as we have a huge number of Scheduled Monuments in the National Park, 842 in total. This is the highest density in Yorkshire, and second in number to only one other National Park. With the help of the volunteers we can identify any problems which may be developing, and try to address them through the MMS.

Our third MMS has been operating since 2015 with a grant from Historic England which will allow us to continue this work until 2018. 198 Scheduled Monuments were on the Heritage at Risk register in 2009; MMS has helped to reduce the number to only 55 - fantastic progress! Our challenge now is to see if we can reduce the number even further and leave a legacy of well-managed monuments in a good, stable condition, to be enjoyed within our wonderful National Park landscape.

Walkers’ cairns

Prehistoric burial monuments or barrows are often situated on high ground with fine viewpoints and these days may be on well-used footpaths, particularly long distance routes. Here the modern practice of building walkers’ cairns can cause damage to the archaeology, putting it at risk.

In spring 2015 an assessment of Scheduled Monuments with walkers’ cairns showed that in some cases the modern cairns had originated as markers for estate or parish boundaries, but that they were now being added to by passing walkers. Damage caused to the monuments varied from very slight to extreme and eight had been so badly damaged by the construction of the modern cairn, or by erosion from too many walkers, that remedial work was identified as urgent.

To put things right, a programme of work is under way as part of MMS. This work includes frequent monitoring of the affected monuments by a group of our Historic Environment Volunteers, raising awareness of the issue within the walking community, and carrying out remedial work to repair the worst damage.

Beside the Cleveland Way on Live Moor a modern walkers’ cairn has been removed from a Bronze Age burial monument. The walkers’ cairn had become so large that it was difficult to see where the edges of the prehistoric mound were. Archaeological consultants completed a survey of the monument and then supervised the dismantling of the walkers’ cairn to restore the monument to a more recognisable profile.

Wades Stone, East Barnby

This large prehistoric standing stone was re-erected through the MMS after it toppled over a few  years ago. Over many years, ploughing had gradually reduced the level of the surrounding ground surface so that the stone became unstable. With the approval of the landowner, the National Park Authority commissioned an investigation of the original socket hole (little of which survived) which was then deepened to provide an adequate trench into which to re-erect the stone.

Two Howes and Simon Howes, Goathland

Major conservation work has been carried out on round barrows affected by foot and mountain bike erosion on Howl Moor and Two Howes Rigg.

The National Park Authority engaged a team of consultants and contractors to repair some of the access routes which have developed over the years. They have also removed and tidied up walkers' cairns, which had been built by people robbing stones from the actual fabric of the Scheduled Monuments.