A Restoration Job

Last week the team were working in Bransdale – a beautiful if slightly remote dale in the middle of the North York Moors. Here the National Trust has many tenanted farms and cottages and one of these is currently empty while some repairs have been undertaken before a new tenant is found.


I knew there was a cottage in there somewhere!


Jonny and Chris did a great job of restoring the garden.


While it has stood empty the garden and yard has become a little overgrown so we grabbed our strimmers and some spades and went to make it beautiful again. Jonny and Chris took care of the garden, turning it from a jungle of docks and nettles to something more closely resembling a lawn. Meanwhile our volunteer John and myself took on the yard where we uncovered stonework that probably hadn’t seen the light of day for quite a few years. It was hard work, but well worth it as I hope you’ll agree from some of the before and after shots.


John clearing the stonework around the out buildings.

Now the property is looking good again our Rural Surveyor can get on with finding a new tenant. We’ll look forward to welcoming a new face into the dale.

Gareth | National Trust

Gareth | National Trust


Learning about Butterflies

Learning and increasing my knowledge about wildlife is a key part of being an Academy Ranger as it is essential information when considering habitat management and the effects it might have on wildlife.

At the moment, I am learning about identifying butterflies and their life cycles. The life cycle of most butterflies is pretty similar, for example this is the life cycle of the Marbled White;

  1. Firstly, the egg will be deposited by the female butterfly onto the food plant of the butterfly and this will then fall onto the ground and will eventually hatch after 3 weeks.
Melanargia galathea egg

Marbled white egg

  1. The caterpillar will hibernate on the ground until spring and then will feed on the food plant. The caterpillar stage lasts for around 11 months until pupation begins.
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) caterpillar

Marbled white caterpillar

  1. The caterpillar begins to pupate, hidden in vegetation on the ground (some butterflies pupate on the food plant) and goes into the chrysalis stage which last 2/3 weeks.
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) butterfly pupa

Marbled white in chrysalis stage

  1. Finally the beautiful Marbled White appears and then mates with another male/female Marbled White and the female lays its eggs on the food plant and dies within 2 weeks or less of becoming an adult butterfly.
Melanargia galathea laying an egg

Female marbled white laying an egg on the food plant

  1. The cycle goes round again.

However, some butterflies have much different ways of going through the life cycle such as the Large Blue which once it turns into a caterpillar it exhibits a form of parasitism and take advantage of the common red ant by mimicking it and releasing similar pheromones so that it thinks it is a red ant larvae and transport it to its nest. Once in the nest it will continue its mimicry but at the same time will eat the ant larvae or beg for food by acting like ant larvae. These are 2 strategies, predator and cuckoo.

Red Ant taking caterpillar back to the ants nest

Pupating Large Blues in red ant nest

Large Blue

Another thing about butterflies is that most of them don’t travel very far from their food plant at any stage of their life cycle – except for the Painted Lady butterfly which migrates from North Africa and the Mediterranean to Britain around May/June and then makes reverse journey in autumn.

Painted Lady

There is much more to learn but here are some pictures I took on Wednesday of last week when we did some butterfly spotting.




Small Copper




Female Common Blue


Green-veined White


Essex Skipper


Male Common Blue






Small White


Marbled White


Small Heath


Meadow Brown

Academy Ranger: Woodland & Tractors

I have just returned from college with more knowledge and skills gained and I just want to update you on what I have been up to. At college we have been learning about woodland management and the complexities that going into creating and managing woodlands for different things such as timber production and conservation and wildlife benefits. Learning about the process of starting new woodland for any purpose was very useful to all academy rangers as woodland is something that most of us have to manage on our properties at the moment and will probably manage new or different types of woodland in our future careers. We were shown a large scale example of woodland management at Delamere Forest where after being taught about the nuances of woodland management you saw little things like woodland rides and woodland glades, that really benefit the wildlife, that maybe you wouldn’t usually on a walk through a woodland.


Efforts made to reinstate lowland heath by removing birch scrub and create a glade/clearing for wildlife


Looking across at the forest and the different conifers planted to match soils types in the area.

Furthermore, at college we were trained and assessed on Tractor driving, which was basically a new(ish) experience for us all, so we were all in the same boat. The tractors were very fun to drive and it was a very useful exercise. I can safely say we all had our issues dealing with some aspects of driving a tractor but we all got there in the end and all the Academy Rangers passed the assessment. Look out UK!!

Faith looking ready to rock ‘n’ roll as usual

Finally, we all presented presentations on common mammals such as bats, voles, badgers etc. It was very interesting to learn about mammals as I am not that well-versed when it comes to mammals. Everything so far has gone spiffingly well and I am massively chipper about being the Academy Ranger on the North Yorkshire Moors.


Leigh and Faith looking at me with suspicion


Jonny | National Trust

Jonny | National Trust

North Yorkshire Academy Rangers on Tour: Dry Stone Walling in the Lakes

Last week Patrick (Academy Ranger from Ravenscar and the Yorkshire Coast) and I went on a lovely trip to the Lakes to gain some more experience in drystone walling. Drystone walling is undoubtedly a skill that is important in North Yorkshire so any experience me and Patrick could gain is a bonus. One of the main joys of travelling to the Lakes from North Yorkshire is the scenery along the way (if you take the scenic route).


The Yorkshire Dales

The Lake District greeted us with the beautiful view…


We stayed along with other Academy and Assistant Rangers at High Wray Basecamp for the week. Nick and Luke, the rangers at the Lakes showed us the ropes of drystone walling and helped us build it from foundations to cams/coping stones. By the end of the week as a group we all had a decent grip of what makes a good drystone wall and how to create a drystone wall from the foundations. This was the end result.


I am sure everyone who took part in the drystone walling will agree that it was a fun time yet a great learning experience which in the North York Moors I’m sure I will use a great deal in the near future.


Jonny | National Trust

Jonny | National Trust

Frosty Fencing

This weekend our volunteers braved some pretty icy temperatures to head up to the Bridestones to work on a fencing project.

The team ready to brave the arctic temperatures up on the moor

The team ready to brave the arctic temperatures up on the moor

Bridestones Moor is a little bit unusual as it isn’t managed by burning or cutting like most of the rest of the North Yorkshire Moors are. As a result species like crowberry and cowberry thrive in amongst the heather. The only downside is that we have to do a lot of management work to remove the trees that try to spread into the area.

A snowy day at the Bridestones

A snowy day at the Bridestones

To try and decrease the amount of scrub invasion and help to increase the biological diversity of the moor even further we intend to introduce grazing in the near future. Before we can do that we need to make sure that the cattle can’t escape.

Alan and Chris whack in another intermediate

Alan and Chris whack in another intermediate

The Ranger team and several volunteer groups have already spend a good part of the year so far working on the first part of the fence. On the weekend we were focusing on knocking in intermediate posts and attaching the netting and barbed wire. Fueled by volunteer Alan’s toffee crunch we made short work of it! Another day or two and this stretch will be complete. There’s plenty more to do though with another kilometre to go in at the other side of the moor. That should keep us busy for a while.

Ali attaches the netting and barbed wire

Ali attaches the netting and barbed wire


Gareth | National Trust

Gareth | National Trust

Academy Ranger: Ecology & Road Trip to the Yorkshire Dales

Hello everybody,

My name is Jonathan Skinn and I am the Academy Ranger in the North York Moors and have been since September 2014. I have decided that from now on I will update (every other month) you on what I have been up to in the role.

As part of the job, I have to go Reaseheath College in Chesire, for 2 weeks, every so often to learn about relevant subjects such as wildlife, sustainability, health and safety and so on. I have recently been at College and we have been learning about ecology and how food webs, introduced species (such as sycamore trees, himalayan balsam)and soil profiles can change the way you interact with your properties and make decisions as a Ranger.

A sycamore tree

For a simple example if you have a property that has limestones soils which are alkaline soils and you wanted to fill in potholes on a footpath on that site you wouldn’t you an acidic substance such as gravel as it would change the soil pH and you would lose the wildflowers and wildlife that are special to limestone soils.

Furthermore, over the weekend of 24th and 25th, me and 4 other academy rangers went over to the Yorkshire Dales, Buckden to be precise to help 3rd year Academy Ranger Liz Wade along with her Lead Ranger Peter Katic with some fencing. It was a cold but wonderful weekend as we went to see Aysgarth Falls and also Ribblehead Viaduct on the Sunday after a hard days work on Saturday.

The week after we continued on with ecology but we also got to do other stuff such as rifle shooting with Geoff Guy. It turned into blizzard conditions whilst attempting to shoot white paper targets, which made it twice as difficult for all the Academy Rangers.  Geoff Guy also shared his knowledge of outdoor activities with kids such as fire making, raft building and other activities which were really helpful to learn.


So far being the Academy Ranger in the North Yorkshire Moors has been fantastic and it has been fun to meet the other Academy Rangers who have the same passion for nature and conservation that I do


Jonny | National Trust

Jonny | National Trust

Winter work

Now that winter is well under way it’s time for us to do a little bit of tree work in our woodlands. At the moment we’re focusing on removing some of the sycamores around the woods at Roseberry Topping, and here’s why:

Although a familiar common species, the sycamore isn’t native to the British Isles. It is believed to have been introduced in this country in the middle ages. While it is now so common that it can be considered naturalised we’re trying to control how much of it we have at Roseberry. The other main tree species in the woods are oak and ash, both of which support a much greater number of species than sycamore does. As there is very little oak/ash woodland in the surrounding area it is important that we do our best to keep the woods in the best condition for the wildlife that it supports.


Oak wood loving species like the redstart can be found in the woods at Roseberry.

Sycamores can produce a huge quantity of seed once mature and the resulting saplings grow much better in the shade of the woodland floor than oak or ash does. If left alone and given enough time, sycamore can eventually out compete some of the other trees. We don’t want that happening, so we’ve been working with volunteers to remove sycamore in the worst affected area.


The volunteers in action

Last week our Sunday volunteer group headed into the woods for a day of sycamore bashing. The trees are carefully cut down as close to the ground as possible, then the stumps were painted with a herbicide to stop them resprouting. The felled trees were then trimmed down and piled up to make deadwood habitat. They should provide suitable nesting sites for birds like wrens or somewhere for hedgehogs to hibernate next winter.


Gareth | National Trust

Gareth | National Trust