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.


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.


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.


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…


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


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.


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.


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.


The Hobs in action



Gareth | National Trust

It’s good to be back!

It’s good to be back on the A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A RANGER blog!

After spending two years living and working on the National Trust’s Lanhydrock estate in Cornwall, I have returned back up north to work for the Trust as a Ranger, here in the beautiful North York Moors. I began my career here as an Academy Ranger back in 2011.


Back in October 2011, learning to hedgelay

It’s nice to return to where it all started for me. Coming back has made me appreciate just how amazing this part of the world really is!


I’ve been very busy so far, time has really flown over since I began in May. I’ve been getting to know the sites we manage again (which have slightly changed since I was last here). There are those sites I was already familiar with from my previous time working for the team, including one of my favourite places in the world, Roseberry Topping. And then there are the sites which are quite new to me – Bransdale and Bridestones.


Roseberry Topping


Exploring Bridestones

Re-acquainting with old colleagues/volunteers, as well as new, has also been especially rewarding – the team here are truly ace and I look forward to working together as we continue to manage our wonderful places into the future.



So, keep your eyes peeled for more posts from me covering what we’re getting up to on the property!



Chris | National Trust

Chris | National Trust

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