Moors Messenger November 2021
This week (still October at the time of writing) we’ve been holding our twice-yearly Parish Forum meetings.
It’s been great to get out and meet residents, especially given the distance that the pandemic has created between us all. I’m keen that we’re an open, accessible organisation and these meetings are there for you as residents to hear about the work we’re doing and also to scrutinize and challenge us. Please do come along to the next round in April.
A major piece of work this year has been the renewal of the National Park Management Plan. One of its key and perhaps most significant themes is the role that the National Park will play in relation to climate change. I believe that the weight of increasingly-concerned scientific opinion is right and that we must all play a part in mitigating our impact as well as adapting to inevitable change. As a result, the National Park will need to change. This means being more resilient to both drier summers and the risk of winter flooding through projects akin to ‘Slowing the Flow’ near Pickering. It also means adapting our buildings to be more energy efficient and encouraging sensitive changes in the landscape to sequester more carbon through peat restoration and woodland creation.
It’s important that the Management Plan is more than just warm words, it must be concrete and deliverable in its approach. I have little doubt that this will be challenging, but one of the deep-seated societal changes we’re seeing is the increasing awareness of people, especially the young, to these issues. National Parks can and must play an important role .
(National Park Officer)
We are now almost a year into Defra’s agricultural transition plan, which will see current farm payments phased out and new ways of supporting sustainable farming practices introduced.
Whilst few details have emerged, the new Environmental Land Management Scheme will reward farmers for the public benefits they deliver. For example, improving on-farm habitats, planting more woodlands for carbon sequestration, improving soil management and furthering opportunities for people to engage with and understand the countryside.
In July, the National Park Authority appointed Dave Arnott to join the Future Farming team and oversee the Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme. This three-year programme is designed to help farmers and land managers adapt to some of these changes in agricultural support. Dave says: “It’s about working together. Farmers and land managers can pick up the phone and we can discuss the current programme and the options available to them. As a team we do farm visits, we attend local meetings and more than anything we are here to help.”
Dave acknowledges that managing the land for the environment alongside sustainable food production often requires a change in approach. However, he believes the new system can go a long way in demonstrating to the public the hugely valuable contribution that farming can make towards climate change mitigation and nature recovery.
“It’s not just about planting a hedge or building a pond,” he says. “It’s about creating a wildlife corridor, providing a new habitat and boosting biodiversity in your corner of the countryside. We want farmers and land managers to be driven by and feel proud of the positive contributions they’re making to the North York Moors.”
One of the early recipients of a grant under the Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme is Christine Thompson of Agricultural Business Training (based at Reagarth Farm, Helmsley), who received £1,970 to allow her to run a series of workshops to help other farmers be better prepared for a future without subsidies.
Christine says: “Agriculture is going through its biggest change in 60 years. We’re tenant farmers ourselves, and it’s going to affect us in the same way it affects everybody else.
“The grant from Farming in Protected Landscapes, which has been matched with a contribution from Grow Yorkshire, is allowing us to organise a series of free-to-attend, on-farm workshops which will encourage people to look at their own businesses and understand where they’re at now, so that they can effectively plan for the future. We hope the workshops will help establish an informal local network, so that together we can keep abreast of the changes in policy and ensure that we have what we need to be successful throughout and beyond this period of transition.”
For more information on Farming in Protected Landscapes, please visit northyorkmoors.org.uk/farminginprotectedlandscapes
In the last edition of Moors Messenger the front page article announced that the National Park Authority was starting preparations for a new Management Plan for the North York Moors.
This is an incredibly important plan, arguably the most important document that we produce. Preparation of the Management Plan is, in effect, an ongoing conversation between everyone with a stake in the future of the North York Moors. The aim is to agree a long term vision for the future of the National Park, the challenges we face and what needs to be done to meet this vision.
Last time we asked for your initial views on what you liked about the National Park and what challenges you felt it faced. A total of 928 people or organisations sent in their comments. This number far outstrips any previous engagement exercises we have carried out. Thank you to all who participated.
It was decided early on that the new plan is to be short, clear and most importantly a plan which drives action on the ground. It must not be a ‘book of ideas’, or set of vague aspirations. We’ve identified some of the key challenges the National Park faces. These include the changing climate, the future of farming, nature recovery, improving health and wellbeing, managing the tourist experience, declining village services and the lack of affordable housing for younger people. The new Management Plan will now set out how we can collectively pull together to meet some of these challenges head on.
Towards the end of this month we will publish a draft plan and once again, we would love to hear your thoughts. Please be on the lookout for any publicity or consultation information, and, as always, if you have any questions or need to know more we can be contacted at email@example.com
August saw a new section of the Cleveland Way declared open to walkers, marking a change to the 109-mile route. The new section passes an entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Grace, which stands on the edge of the National Park, overlooking the scenic village of Osmotherley. It was opened on Friday 13 August by the Right Reverend Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough, following the unveiling of a new wooden signpost.
Known locally as The Lady Chapel, the shrine has been a place of Catholic worship and pilgrimage for more than 600 years, but its secluded, hilltop location has kept the site hidden from many. Now, thanks to an inspiring community effort, the Cleveland Way has been
re-routed to pass an entrance to the Chapel, meaning many more people will be able to appreciate its beauty and significance. Importantly, the original route of the Cleveland Way is to remain open, meaning there is an option to bypass the gentle hill climb to the Chapel should people wish to do so. It also creates a brand new circular route for people to enjoy.
Malcolm Hodgson, Trail Manager for the Cleveland Way said: “I am extremely grateful to all of those who have helped in the accomplishment of what has been such an enjoyable and community-minded project. In particular I’d like to say thank you to the landowner, the Diocese of Middlesbrough, and our fantastic volunteers for all their hard work in establishing the new right of way.”
The Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Grace is open for private prayer and reflection all year round and holds regular masses and services. You can find out more about the Lady Chapel and how you can help secure its future at ladychapel.org.uk
The Cleveland Way is now more accessible than ever before, as it joins the Yorkshire Wolds Way and a few other National Trails in being completely wooden-stile-free. Not only is this good news for those who find stiles difficult to negotiate, but also for our four-legged canine friends as well. You may be interested to know that in 1989, a major survey of the Cleveland Way recorded a total of 127 wooden stiles! A few traditional stone ‘squeeze stiles’ remain in place between the very short Middlestye Bank to Osmotherley stretch. These will remain in place as features of our heritage; however alternative routes are available.
More than 700 people regularly volunteer their time for the North York Moors National Park Authority. Volunteers are involved in all aspects of our work, from keeping rights of way in good order to surveying ancient monuments, planting new woodlands and battling invasive species. The Covid-19 pandemic put a temporary hold on volunteering on more than one occasion, but between those periods, our volunteers delivered a fantastic range of work, including new projects such as the virtual walks.
Virtual walk volunteers
Davy Major and Jim Hall are two members of a small group of North York Moors volunteers who, when the pandemic began, sprang into action to deliver virtual walks via Zoom to people in their own homes. Collaborations with Revival North Yorkshire and Ryedale Carers Support meant that help was also available for people who needed assistance setting up the technology or using Zoom for the first time.
Davy said: “I do the chosen walk myself about two weeks beforehand and capture as much detail as I can in photographs and short video clips. It might be a fresh babbling spring up on Spaunton Moor, the call of a curlew flying up on Sleddale or ducklings on a farm in Rosedale.
These sights and sounds often trigger memories for people and provoke conversations for us as we continue on our virtual walk.” In addition to the mental health benefits, the project has allowed people to become more familiar with their computers and modern video conference technology, opening up new avenues for them to correspond with loved ones.
Long Service Badges
A long service badge is awarded to each of our volunteers for every five years they have been with us. Our highest award is the 45 year long service badge, and we have three people – all still actively volunteering in the North York Moors – who have already achieved this amazing milestone.
The Hobs at twenty
In the autumn of 2001, the National Park Authority put out a call for people to join a new volunteer group that would undertake maintenance tasks and rights of way improvements across the North York Moors. Not only was the request successful, but the group has gone from strength to strength, becoming an unwavering and integral part of the practical conservation picture across the National Park. The group became known as the Hobs, a name based on the mythical beings that are believed to help people out by secretly finishing their chores. Twenty years since their formation, two of the original members are still actively volunteering, having been joined by many new faces along the way. We want to say a huge thank you to the Hobs for all the amazing things they have done and for paving the way for other volunteers and volunteering groups over the last two decades.
While many of our volunteers are of an older generation, we are particularly proud of our 80 volunteers who are under 18. Volunteering in the National Park can start from the age of four with our Explorer Club, which receives funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Families attend one session a month for six months and take part in practical conservation projects such as tree-planting while taking a closer look at wildlife and habitats. Alongside this, they work towards gaining the John Muir Discovery Award. We find that the younger participants always pay very close attention to instructions, particularly regarding tools, and are quick to tell their parents if they are doing anything wrong! Upon completion of the six sessions, families are encouraged to either continue volunteering in the National Park by becoming Explorer Volunteers, or to discover projects in their own communities. Options for Explorer Volunteers include ‘adopting’ a section of a trail, such as the Cleveland Way or the Cinder Track, and then looking after it for a year through litter-picking, pruning, improving drainage and clearing paths. For older children and teenagers we have our Young Ranger Scheme, open to those aged 11-17. Activities take place once a month across the National Park and see young people taking part in footpath maintenance, habitat restoration and wildlife surveys. Participants also learn new skills relating to navigation and outdoor safety. Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, transport is also available for young people from the 20 percent most deprived areas surrounding the National Park. We hope that in the decades to come, our lifelong pathway of engagement ensures that many more of our dedicated volunteers achieve their 45 year long-service badge. More than that, we hope they have a lifetime of happy memories of time spent in the North York Moors, helping to cherish and protect this special place for generations to come.
Derek Capes’ life-long fascination with natural history was sparked by a childhood Christmas gift; a book about British wildlife. As a teenager, weekends and school holidays were spent at the Museum of Natural History at Woodend, Scarborough, and he was an enthusiastic member of his local Field Naturalist Society. Although his busy working and family life left little time for him to fully pursue his interests, in retirement, Derek is making an invaluable contribution to our understanding of small mammal populations in the North York Moors.
It was at a meeting of the National Park’s Mammal Forum in 2013 that Derek Capes first volunteered to try and shed some light on the distribution of the harvest mouse within the National Park. Local (and indeed national) records on the species are sparse, though the mice are widely thought to be in decline. Having previously found evidence of harvest mice while analysing owl pellets, Derek decided that this method, rather than the use of small mammal traps or the painstaking search for their nests, was ‘infinitely better’.
“I’m a full-time carer for my wife Jennifer, so time for outdoor activities is limited,” he explains. “Barn owls, however, cover a wide area in all seasons and almost all weather. Their pellets, which are the regurgitated, compacted fur and bones that they are unable to digest, therefore provide a fantastic picture of the small mammals in that area.”
Derek is in contact with a number of enthusiastic licensed bird ringers, who collect samples of 30 to 40 owl pellets as they go about their ringing activities. For analysis, Derek soaks the pellets in water, then gently separates the fur and bones using kitchen sieves.
“I might add that I have my own set of tools for this,” he says. “This avoids any chance of the bones becoming contaminated with last night’s supper!”
His knowledge and experience mean he is able to identify minute differences in the size and shape of the mammal remains in order to identify which species are present in the sample. For harvest mice, it is the size, coupled with key indicators such as the number of roots on the teeth which Derek is looking for. Typically he finds pellets are composed of 40-80 percent field vole (a barn owl’s favourite prey) and up to ten other species. So far, more than a hundred sites within the National Park have been sampled, with some 40 percent positive for harvest mice. However, the majority of these sites lie in the north and central parts of the Park, leaving much of the coast, south and western regions yet to be investigated.
To find out more about the project, and how you can help Derek build a more comprehensive picture of harvest mice distribution in the North York Moors, please turn over to read ‘What to Spot'.
In the last few years, the barn owl population has made a remarkable recovery after many years of decline. One significant factor in this reversal has been the recognition that their traditional roost and nesting sites (hollow trees, stone barns and derelict farm buildings) were being lost, and the subsequent installation of nest boxes to replace them. Their resurgence has opened up opportunities to closely monitor the diet of barn owls, which can help provide a picture of the generally under-recorded small mammal distribution within the birds’ foraging area.
Derek Capes, featured as our ‘Person in the Park’, would be interested to hear from anyone in coastal, southern and western regions of the National Park who has barn owls on their land or who knows of locations where samples of owl pellets may be obtained. The location of the sites would be kept confidential, and those who provide the information will receive a copy of the analysis along with comments on the result. They would also have the satisfaction of knowing that they had contributed to a more comprehensive and balanced picture of the distribution of several species of small mammals, especially the harvest mouse, across the North York Moors National Park. If you think you can help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the last update in Moors Messenger, construction of the new Woodsmith Mine has made substantial progress.
At the main mine site, near Sneatonthorpe, shaft sinking has started in one of the two main shafts and is now at a depth below 118 metres. Preparation works are also taking place on the second main shaft. As the shafts are excavated the screening mounds around the site will be extended to help reduce the impact of the mine on the landscape. Meanwhile, the new tunnel linking the mine with processing facilities at Teesside has reached nearly halfway between Wilton and the Woodsmith site. Along the route of the tunnel two new surface access and ventilation shafts are being built. Shaft sinking at one of these, located just outside the National Park near Lockwood Beck reservoir, is complete and preparation works have just started at Ladycross Plantation, near Egton, with shaft sinking due to start next year. Across the whole project around 1,300 people are now employed.
The National Park Authority’s role in monitoring the impacts of this very large development continues, as does our work on delivering off-site ‘Section 106’ projects to help off-set the impacts of the mine on the National Park. The projects fall into three main categories; landscape and ecology, woodland creation and finally, tourism. The s106 contributions for these projects will continue for the planned life of the mine. For more information, including what has been achieved so far, please visit northyorkmoors.org. uk/Woodsmithmineupdate
From Saturday 13 November until Sunday 16 January, The Moors National Park Centre in Danby will be hosting a seasonal spectacular, with a festive children’s trail and Christmas craft exhibition. Santa will make a virtual appearance directly from his workshop at the North Pole (27/28 November, 4/5 and 11/12 December, drop in between 11am-3pm), and on Sunday 19 December from 3.45pm you can join a lantern-lit, Blog: northyorkmoors.wordpress.com /northyorkmoorsnationalpark @northyorkmoors /northyorkmoors HOW ARE WE PERFORMING? magical adventure with the Lady of the Landscape. The Sutton Bank National Park Centre hosts its Christmas shopping weekend on 27/28 November, featuring local suppliers, tastings, festive music and seasonal offers in the café. As above, a children’s Christmas trail will be open every day from 13 November until 16 January. For more information and booking, please visit northyorkmoors.org.uk/ whatson
North York Moors turns 70
Next year marks 70 years since the North York Moors was designated a National Park. Celebrations will include events and exhibitions that aim to engage all five of the senses, allowing people to connect with the landscapes, environment, history and culture of the region in ways they haven’t done before. While commemorating milestones of the past, we’ll also be considering what we can do for the North York Moors of the future. More information coming soon.
On 2 June 2022, we celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 70th year as our monarch, a feat no previous monarch has achieved. Beacons will be lit throughout the Commonwealth, including the Danby Beacon, in recognition of The Queen’s long and selfless service.
Ryevitalise at Sutton Bank
A new interactive exhibition exploring the history, wildlife and landscapes connected to the River Rye is coming to the Sutton Bank National Park Centre in 2022. Until then, visitors can take part in ‘Nature Lab’, a series of fun and family-friendly science projects. Discover life under the microscope, move mountains and make virtual rain! Each task examines a different aspect of the River Rye, demonstrating its importance to the region.
Venues to be confirmed in line with social distancing restrictions
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