World Ranger Congress in Colorado

Back in February I received some very exciting news – that I have been chosen to represent the National Trust at this years World Ranger Congress in Colorado, USA (!!!).

Taking place in May, the Congress will be based at the Estes Park Centre in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Organised by the International Ranger Federation (IRF), this triannual event (previously held in Tanzania, Bolivia, Australia, South Africa, Costa Rica, Poland & Scotland!) brings together delegates from 40+ countries to explore the various ways rangers and protected area professionals are actively protecting and preserving the world’s natural and cultural resources from ever-increasing threats like climate change and poaching. It also acts as a forum for fellow rangers to meet and share experiences.

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I have no doubt that it will be an invaluable experience – an opportunity to learn new skills, share knowledge and create lasting partnerships (and friends!). Being a ranger is something I’m incredibly proud of, and I think it will be very inspiring to meet other rangers from around the world, and find out first hand what they get up to in their roles.

Not satisfied with that – after the Congress I will be staying in the USA, travelling to the Pinnacles National Park for 3 days of volunteering with their ranger team.


This will involve patrols with one of their Law Enforcement Rangers, working with their Education and Interpretation Team, meeting their Wildlife Biologist and getting involved with their California Condor reintroduction programme.

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I will keep an online diary whilst I am away, sharing my experience through the DAY IN THE LIFE OF A RANGER blog. So keep tuned for further updates!

Now, as some have suggested, it might be worth learning about these before I go…

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Chris | National Trust

 

A new hedge at Roseberry Topping

In October last year I was successful in a grant application to the North York Moors National Park as part of their Traditional Boundary Scheme.

Our application focused on planting a new hedge, following a 700 metre stretch of our boundary at Roseberry Topping.

With over 4,200 trees to plant, the task was no small undertaking. At the start of January, with help from our volunteer John, we started on the first section, quickly getting to grips with the hedge planting routine yet barely scratching the surface of what needed to be done.

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The first section of hedge after being measured out in 1 metre sections

 

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And the planting begins…

We needed some extra hands!

I called on the help of a range of volunteers from different organisations to help us complete the hedge.

Some facts and figures:

  • 29 different volunteers helped plant the hedge, with time given from the North York Moors HOBS group, a Ordnance Survey work party and our very own National Trust Midweek volunteers and Sunday volunteers
  • That equates to about 318.5 hours of hard work from volunteers, or 49 work days
  • With help from 3 members of staff, a total of 461.5 hours of individual work was undertaken
  • We planted over 4,200 trees, put in 4,200 stakes and wrapped around 4,200 spiral tree guards over 700 meters of our boundary
  • That equated to 86 bundles of trees, 17 bags of stakes and 17 boxes of guards, hefted up and over muddy footpaths to site, that’s without the additional tools necessary for the job
  • 2,940 Hawthorn, 420 Blackthorn, 252 Hazel, 210 Dog Rose, 126 Guelder Rose, 126 Field Maple, 126 Crab Apple and 20 Sessile Oak were planted
  • All materials for the project cost just over £2,000
  • We also created 20 habitat piles close to the new hedge using brash taken from existing trees in the hedgeline, which will allow light into the new trees but also provide additional valuable habitat
  • And finally, to keep us going we ate two batches of Alan’s Peanut Slice, some of Gill’s Potato & Pesto Roll, Chris’ Banana Loaf, Margaret’s birthday Fruit Loaf, along with a box of Fox’s Biscuits, a box of Cadbury Roses and a box of Nestle Quality Street. I thought I was putting on weight…

At any opportunity, I think it’s important to praise the help we receive from our volunteers. As always, we couldn’t do what we do without you.

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North York Moors National Park HOBS group

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Ordnance Survey work party

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National Trust Sunday Volunteers

 


Through snow, rain and sunshine, smiles, groans and laughter, hard graft, thorned fingers and heavy calorie consumption – we finally completed the hedge in early February, just over one month after John and I started.

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Alan, from the National Park’s HOBS group had the honour of planting the last tree

And so, what was the reason for planting the hedge?

Traditional field boundaries, specifically dry stones walls and hedges, are a major part of the landscape character of the North York Moors National Park. The purpose of the National Park’s scheme is to encourage these to be managed or restored.

Specifically with the hedge at Roseberry Topping, there is evidence of a previous, older hedge having been in place along part of the current boundary, with a number of mature, sparsely grown Hawthorn trees along its way. We wanted to re-instate this historic feature.

Also, the wildlife value of creating a new hedge will be considerably huge, creating shelter, food, nesting spots and valuable habitat for a huge range of species – from flowers and insects, to birds and small mammals. It will also form a wildlife corridor, allowing species to move between different habitats and allowing the continuation of viable populations.

Finally, with the hedge being alongside a public footpath, we can take a walk alongside it and enjoy it individually, seeing it establish over the coming years!

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Chris | National Trust

Bridestones Nature Reserve

On this blog, we show you a lot of what we do on our sites and why we do it but explaining our sites generally is something that is important to gain more of an understanding and context on our more specific blog posts.

So I am going to tell you about the Bridestones Nature Reserve.

Bridestones Nature Reserve is found at the south side of the North Yorkshire Moors with the nearest urban area being Pickering. Bridestones Nature Reserve is an extensive area of heather moorland dissected by steepsided stream valleys with areas of semi-natural and partially ancient woodland and former wood pasture. The Bridestones are a prominent feature of the site and their distinctive shapes and geological significance is a major feature of the reserve. Bridestones Nature Reserve contains within it Dovedale Griff, Bridestones Griff and Bridestones Moor.

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Bridestones Moor is an area of upland heathland unlike many others as it is unintensively managed. The Bridestones heath is therefore in unusually good condition for nature conservation, with good diversity of dwarf shrub age, including old heather with collapsing canopy and natural dwarf shrub regeneration in the gap. It contains a mixture of wet and dry heathland including cowberry, crowberry and cranberry. The Bridestones also houses uncommon ferns and lichens. Tracks alongside the moor are home to a large amount of sundew.

However, due to the lack of intensive management on the moor we suffer from birch and conifer scrub and large areas of bracken. A lot of the management we do on the site is to reduce the scrub on the moor as it shades out and kills the heather

One anomaly that is seen on the moor is a small area of calcareous grassland. It contains common knapweed, birds’ foot trefoil, and the rare plant Adder’s-tongue fern. It is surrounded by banks of mostly bracken and bilberry. The calcareous grassland is the circled area on the map

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Bridestones Griff and Dovedale Griff

Bridestones and Dovedale Griff are both areas of semi-natural woodland is a sessile oak-birch woodland which also includes hazel and ash on the lower slopes. The woodland support a good range of native tree and shrub species such as rowan, holly and aspen. It has an excellent age structure which includes older trees and collapsed canopies and new canopies and trees.

The valley sides are dominated with bracken but also includes some dry heath. There also some birch, pine, rowan and shrubs occurring on the valleys. The valleys are a key habitat area as they provide a rare ecotone from down slopes to woodland.

Physical and Geological

The Bridestone Nature Reserve is underlain with sediments of the Upper Jurassic Age. It mainly consist of sandstones and shales. The Passage Beds form the outcrop over the Nature Reserve including the Bridestone themselves. The Bridestone are made up of alternating bands of siliceous and calcareous sandstones. Siliceous sandstones are more erosion-resistant than calcareous and has created the top heavy appearance of the Bridestones.

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The griffs are made up of younger sediments that outcrop which are made up of shale clays, shales and sandstone beds.

Historical Information

The Bridestones main historical connection is with the Brigantes who were a Celtic people of the North East of England. The association of the Bridestones are with the goddess Bride is based on name and their location in a part of England once occupied by the Brigantes. They are all liminal places set in wild moorland. It is also suggested that their name derives from the Norse for edge stones. The Bridestones are seen as a shrine to the Goddess Brigantia.

Local stories about some of the Bridestones tell a tale of petrified bridal parties lost in the mists that descend on the moor.

The area has also been used for mining sandstone in the 19th and limestone was mined from the calcareous area of the moor. Here are two OS Maps from the 1850’s showing the quarries in the Nature Reserve that exists now.

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Jonny | National Trust

Gone in a flash

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This autumn has flown by! ‘Time flies when you’re having fun‘ comes to mind. Or maybe, ‘Time flies when you’re busy at work (and having fun)‘. Day to day tasks as a Ranger can vary, with certain jobs necessary on a weekly, monthly and seasonal basis. This autumn, as always,  has seen us carry out a huge variety of different jobs…

Back in September, we began work on the management of our lime-rich pasture at Bridestones. This enclosed area of grassland on Bridestones Moor is special due to it being a unique habitat, where a number of notable species can be found. Our job was to cut and rake the area to make sure the grassland species can continue to flourish.

We carried out some small mammal trapping at Sonley Wood in Farndale in September too, as part of our on-going wildlife surveys there. These surveys can help us determine how we manage certain areas.

In Bransdale, we have spent a bit of time helping to repair and rejuvenate some of our tenanted properties that are currently empty, so they can be re-leased in the future. This involved re-building the wall below, but also lots of grass cutting, weeding and general tidying up.

Autumn is the time of year that we clean out and repair our birdboxes at Roseberry Topping, ready for spring. Our chief birdbox surveyor is our volunteer John…

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Chris putting up a new birdbox

We also started a new project at Roseberry Topping, to replace the long flight of steps in Newton Wood that form part of the main route up to the summit from the car park at Newton-under-Roseberry. See Jonny’s blog post HERE for more information.

In October, I went on a Tree Safety Management training course, ran by the National Trust at Fountains Abbey. I learnt how to survey trees to detect potential problems, how to mitigate against issues that could arise and when to take action.

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Gathered around a tree at Fountains Abbey as part of the Tree Safety Management course

Putting this into practice, we made a start on our annual tree surveys for the year in November, subsequently taking out some dangerous trees on tenanted properties in Bransdale, as well as dealing with issues arising after the heavy winds in October!

Over the last few months we have spent a few days down at Ravenscar on the Yorkshire coast, helping out the ranger team there with a few tasks – including some post and rail fencing at the Peak Alum Works, and some specially built timber steps on a footpath that had become quite treacherous. 

Another task which we begin at this time of year is scrub clearance. We have areas that we manage at both Roseberry Topping and Bridestones were scrub is removed to conserve and protect a particular habitat. In November we had our super group of volunteers from the National Park’s HOBS out, helping us tackle scrub on Bridestones Moor.

As always we make sure we get out on all of our sites as often as possible, keeping them clean, tidy and litter free for everyone to enjoy.

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Jonny doing a spot of litter picking

Finally, and most recently, we have been cracking on with a large scale fencing repair job at Bridestones. With this, like most of our tasks, we couldn’t get done what we do without the help of our volunteer team…

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The Three Amigos – volunteers John, Mick and Fraser, as happy as ever!

Let’s keep our fingers crossed winter will keep us just as busy, and just as happy!

 

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Chris | National Trust

Stepping up in Newton Wood

One of our main projects this year is to replace the steps in Newton Wood which have become a bit of a tragedy. (See what I did there. Steps… Tragedy). The steps which have been in for about 5-6 years were made from major thinning we had done in Newton Wood of large Sycamore’s. Unfortunately these steps have began to rot and lost their function as steps. Also as the steps begin to rot the stakes become more pronounced which could cause people to trip over. Furthermore, over the winter the steps become really wet and muddy and with the steps having become rotten too, it causes a slope rather than steps and may cause people to fall.

We have considered all options when it has come to the replacement of the steps. Firstly, we considered using Oak steps as it would be more environmentally friendly than using sawn and treated timber but we didn’t have financial resources to pay for such a large amount of timber.

We also considered trying to keep the steps looking similar to the old steps but there was no scope for such a large scale removal of Sycamore from Newton Wood or Cliff Ridge Wood and it would not be feasible to move such a large amount of timber due to lack of access, cost of trying to move the logs and getting contractors to do the work and general lack of staff resources. We even considered removing the top steps altogether and trying to re-vegetate it but the worry would have been that people would still try and walk up it and it wouldn’t re-vegetate. The only feasible way to replace the steps, which was necessary, was to use sawn treated timber.

So far, since starting, we have completed 20 steps and have plenty more to do. Hopefully we should be finished by the end of the year, but possibly later.  Here are some pictures of how the new steps look.

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Jonny | National Trust

Jonny | National Trust

Keeping the sheep at bay

Sheep are pretty clever. At least, some of the time. Keeping them within a certain area can sometimes be harder then you would think. Sheep filled with (shear) determination and ideas of escape can usually turn on their supersheep strength at will, along with their pogo stick legs, to bounce off, over, on and through boundary walls and fences.

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Sheep tricks

Recently, we have been having issues with sheep escaping on a particular boundary wall at Roseberry Topping. So the team have been out to try and solve the problem.

The wall in question is on Newton Moor, and runs parallel with the Cleveland Way National Trail. From it, you get some pretty impressive views of the surrounding area, including Roseberry Topping itself.

A super view!

A super view!

Newton Moor also comes into its own at this time of year – the heather bloom turns the landscape awash with purple and the panoramic views are spectacular.


Not a bad place to work!

To begin with, we made a start on patching up the wall in places where it had collapsed. With the help of the North York Moors National Park HOBS group and our own handy volunteers we soon got the wall in a much better condition.

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Our super vols after patching up a bit of wall. Only Alan dare be on the same side as the sheep.

Repair to the dry-stone wall alone was not enough though. Even after repairing the worst of the damage, at much of its length the wall is lower in height than is generally ideal. As I mentioned before, sheep have a knack at escaping and with the stones in the wall also providing a convenient footing when needed, sheep can scramble and then launch themselves into the air, sometimes causing the wall to collapse in the process. It’s a pretty amazing sight, but one we’re definitely trying to discourage…

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A member of the Wool Tang Clan, eyeing an escape.

So, to finish the objective of sheep-proofing the boundary, we then decided to install a half-netting fence alongside the wall to act as an extra deterrent whilst also adding some additional height. A wall and a fence, a-ha! – surely there’s no sheep brave enough to tackle that?

Again, with the help of our volunteers we soon had the fence installed.

We’re confident this’ll do the trick and solve our problems. However, never underestimate sheep. This story may contin-ewe…

Jonny: What happens if a sheep gets stuck in the fence?                                                                 Chris: Another sheep will say “I will get ewe out”. © Mick Garratt

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Chris | National Trust

Chris | National Trust

Managing our meadows

Recently the ranger team has been busy managing the meadow in Dovedale, part of our Bridestones property. Each year we cut the grass here, then rake off the cuttings. Doing this has a number of conservation benefits. It stops scrub species coming through as any trees or shrubs that have set seed are cut out before they can become established. By removing the cuttings we are also gradually removing nutrients from the meadow. Rank grasses and undesirable species such as nettles, thistles and docks all need plenty of nutrients in the soil to fuel their vigorous growth. They cannot survive in nutrient poor soils and instead wildflowers thrive instead. They are already many wildflower species in the meadow including harebells, black knapweed, tormentil, ragged robin and common spotted orchids to name a few. With continued good management we hope even more species will grow here.

Common spotted orchids

With good management wild flower meadows can become spectacular

Completing the work is quite a time consuming process. The easy part was getting it cut. Using a power scythe on the flatter areas helped us get the bulk of the grass cut. We were all novices using it and there were a few times where it ended up stuck in a ditch due to our poor control!

Jonny on scythe driving duties

Meanwhile the rest of the team used strimmers to cut the more uneven parts of the meadow. We managed to crack on with the job and got the whole area cut in one day.

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Chris doing with strimmer dance

For the raking and removing of the grass it’s very much a case of more hands make light work. We called on the National Park’s Hobs volunteer group to help us for the first day. It was a very still and slightly muggy day, which unfortunately made it ideal weather for midges and they came out in droves. Despite all the volunteers coating themselves liberally in midge repellant and fashioning interesting anti-midge outfits, working conditions were pretty unpleasant.

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Alan’s very fetching anti-midge outfit

Despites the midges the volunteers did a great job of raking a decent proportion of the meadow. We’ve since been back with our own volunteers and will be returning several more times before it’s finished. Let’s just hope the midges leave us alone next time.

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The Hobs in action

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Gareth | National Trust