Ok I may be jumping to the wrong conclusion here. Less than a month ago the gatepost on the left was toppled along with a section of the dry stone wall reportedly by two or three motorcyclists and a quad biker. The damage then was quickly repaired by the National Trust. This scene awaited me this morning. Too much of a coincidence? It may have been purely accidental. Having stood for two hundred years maybe a sheep tried to scale it. Not as daft as it sounds, I’ve seen sheep atop of walls in the Lake District.
With its beautiful colouring, the pheasant is a familiar sight in woods and dales, usually spotted clucking away in full flight. But is it a wild or a farmed bird? Sure the pheasant is not a native British bird but it’s been around for two thousand years, believed introduced by the Romans. The RSPB lists it in its pocket book of birds and they don’t do that for the farmyard chicken. On the other hand 35 million pheasants are reared and released each year significantly adding to the wild population. With a total annual bag of 15 million birds it is estimated that the proportion of wild pheasants may be as low as 10%.
So is it a wild or a farmed bird? The 35 million birds that are reared each year would have been classed as livestock, this is so that some costs associated in their production will be exempt from value added tax. Furthermore as it is food production there is exemption from certain planning controls.
Now when the pheasants are released you want to be able to shoot them so they then need to be reclassified as wild. You can’t shoot chickens. They have to be sent to the abattoir.
Of course at the end of the shooting season some birds need to be re-captured to use for breeding the next year. As this is usually done with nets and as wild birds aren’t allowed to be caught with nets, the pheasants are then reclassified back to livestock.
Finally if you happen to run over a pheasant with your car, causing considerable damage, you will have no course of action against the keeper who released the bird as of course it’s a wild bird.
So it is a wild bird? I haven’t a clue.
90 AD, around fifty years after Claudius’s invasion of Britannia, and although campaigns were extended as far as Caledonia the northern Brigantes tribes were restless and hostile. To control the natives it is thought a chain of forts were built between Malton and the coast. The Roman camp at Cawthorne was a key part of this chain.
The Romans chose the fort’s location well. On the edge of the limestone plateau that is the Tabular Hills, it had clear views over the moors to the north with a gentle slope to the south. There were actually two separate forts at Cawthorne. An older enclosure in a polygonal plan and a newer following the more typical Roman rectangular pattern with rounded corners both protected by a rampart and one or more ditches. A wooden palisade would have topped the earthbank.
It is thought the camp was occupied for about forty years by which time the northern tribes had been subdued and the Roman efforts were directed at building Hadrian’s Wall as defence against raids by the Picts.
One the best known wayside crosses on the North York Moors. This squat stone stands at the head of Rosedale on Danby Moor and also marks the boundary of the parishes of Rosedale, Danby and Westerdale. It’s traditionally whitewashed hence it’s alternative name of White Cross. Legends abound how it has acquired its rather quaint but not politically correct name of Fat Betty. Some say Betty was the mother superior of the nuns at Rosedale Abbey who got lost lost on the moors whilst trying to meet up with her equivalent from Baysdale Abbey.
I don’t want to sound disrespectful but I was rather dismayed to discover this celebratory inscription on a sandstone outcrop near Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor. It’s very obtrusive, with six inch high capital letters, so overall quite an area.
There seems to be a modern predilection for public memorials to passed loved ones. I know of a whole poem carved in a crag face near Boulby, plaques bolted to rock or screwed into trees are becoming commonplace. There are four memorial benches on Roseberry. How many more can the hill take? Shrines are everywhere too, with bouquets of flowers often still wrapped in their cellophane. At popular beauty spots too there are deposits of little piles of ashes, not scattered to the four winds. Until very recently on Roseberry there were ashes still in the polythene bag supplied by the crematorium. And at this time of the year there seems to be an increasing number of clumps of (non-native) daffodils.
But of course commemoration is not a modern idea. The inscription in the photograph is overlooked by the 19th century monument to Captain James Cook. And of course the four thousand Bronze Age burial mounds that are known to exist on the moors can not be ignored. So perhaps in the past it was always those with power who could make a lasting mark of commemoration.
A view of the final 60′ of Roseberry Topping passing the Cleveland Way sign. It says Helmsley is 46m and Filey 64m but the Cleveland Way National Trail is officially 109 mile so an extra mile somewhere. Or maybe a rounding error. The Cleveland Way was first mooted in the 1930s but not officially opened until 1969. I do not know the significance of the 1995 year. I guess when the stone was placed. If it indeed was. I don’t remember. Maybe it was carved in situ. I do recall the helicopter carrying bags of stone from Aireyholme up onto Roseberry for the paths. That was in 1999 and all done in a day. 200 ton of stone I believe. If you are so inclined you can now do the Cleveland Way from the comfort of your armchair courtesy of Google.
Barden Fell yesterday, Barden Moor today, on opposite side of Wharfedale. Barden Beck has two reservoirs; this is the lower one in bleak Yorkshire weather.
In the foreground a grit tray for the grouse. Grouse need a regular supply of grit in order to digest the hard fibrous shoots of the heather on which they feed. Naturally they can use grit from the banks of streams and eroded rock but to make life easier for the grouse grit is provided. Grouse also suffer from the strongyle worm, a parasitic threadworm which cause large annual fluctuations on the grouse population; and of course the number of grouse available for shooting. A drug called Fenbendazole killed the threadworm but the problem was how to administer the drug to thousands of ‘wild’ birds. It was then in the 80s that the gamekeepers came up with a cunning plan, coat the grit with the drug. The result was a 40% increase in grouse productivity. There are some rules: the medicated grit must not be out within 28 days of the glorious 12th, the start of the grouse shooting season in August. This is minimise the risk of the drug entering the food chain. Most estates now use a two compartment grit tray with medicated grit one side and ordinary grit the other. A lid can be flipped over to cover the medicated grit on the appropriate day.
So if anyone is partial to a morsel of grouse choose your supplier carefully for you are entirely reliant on the integrity of the industry. Unlike other meat destined for human consumption grouse are not regularly tested. Of course if you have a threadworm problem …