Rye Reflections

Rye Reflections is our oral histories project, which focuses on the stories of local people, working, living and playing both within and around the River Rye.

In partnership with Teesside University Business School, we wanted to capture how the river has shaped communities and their sense of connection or disconnection from the water.

This work has formed the foundations of our work with younger generations to give them a platform to share their experiences of living by the River Rye. Explore some of these stories below including short pieces of verse.

Rosy Eaton

A woman floating in water. Black and white image.

"In summer the river is mostly calm and tranquil and in winter we love watching how dynamic the river is and how it has changed.

You get to know the river much better by being in it, the shape of the bed, the size of the gravels and where the currents flow."

Fraser and Rosy

Regenerative farmers

Two people standing among a fallen tree. "We’re Rosy and Fraser and we’re as much about working with nature as we are about farming it.

"Our relationship with Ryedale began eight years ago. We moved from an upland farm on the moors near Bilsdale to a lowland farm not far from here.

"We’d been looking for a farm with ecological value for about four years. One that had been spared the hedge and tree clearances of the 60s and 70s and had retained its wildlife and character. Throstle Nest ticked all the boxes - 300 year old oaks, ancient hedgerows and the River Rye running along its boundary. There are otters, kingfishers, barn owls, yellow hammers and dragonflies, as well as veteran trees and traditional hedgerows.

"We set about the challenging task of running our farm as a business while keeping nature at its heart. Working regeneratively for the good of the landscape while trying to make a living at the same time isn’t easy. The soil is a heavy clay here for one thing. It’s tough to work with.

"We’re Rosy and Fraser and we’re as much about working with nature as we are about farming it."

"But we’re learning every day. When to act and when to let things be. We’ve been working on a meadow to encourage insect life. We’re involved in a couple of tree planting projects to stabilise the soil and provide food and shade for livestock and birds. And we’re helping to stabilise the riverbank by fencing sections of it off from livestock and coppicing bankside trees.

Although it’s hard work, this is our life as well as our business. It’s our home as well as our farm. There was a beautiful day last summer when we saw the mayflies hatching on the river. We packed up a picnic tea and our four-year-old and headed down there to watch. It was magical sitting on the bank seeing clouds of mayflies skimming over the water that evening. And that’s what it’s all about."

Tom Storrar

Estate manager

Man sitting on the edge of a moorland near bracken.

"I’m Tom and though I didn’t grow up round here, I’m very glad my children do.

"What a place it is! A landscape where moorland meets woodland, meets farmland meets the river. Steep valleys, ancient woods and beautiful old farm houses. And as the Estate Manager at Hawnby, I have the privilege of caring for 15,000 acres of it. Views like you wouldn’t believe.

"Those shallow, meandering stretches where you can hear the water rushing over stones and see the light dancing on its surface."

"The estate is covered in footpaths and I made it my mission to walk every one of them. I’ve learned so much from doing so. I’ve seen mink, roe deer, birds of prey of all kinds. I could show you the site of the most northerly colony of Duke of Burgundy butterflies and all sorts of geographical and geological phenomena – from cairns to prehistoric burial mounds. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.

"And it was here that I first fell in love with the River Rye. Those shallow, meandering stretches where you can hear the water rushing over stones and see the light dancing on its surface. And on summer days when the mayfly rise in clouds and the fish jump. That’s very special. They’re beautiful those wild brown trout."

Gordon Clitheroe

Black and white photo of a man near a river.“I’ve always worked in water quality,

I used to have to take readings at the spring at East Ness.

I’d go up once a day and I used to see kingfishers.

It was the part of the job that I liked the best.

I’m Gordon, by the way.”

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