Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

An echo of the past silenced as hawthorn trees are felled — a loss for nature and history

Three years ago I lamented on the felling of a patch of semi-open woodland on the southern flank of Roseberry Topping.

It was a parcel of scattered trees, mostly Hawthorn, the felling of which was a significant loss, not only in terms of its wild beauty but also its ecological importance. Hawthorn trees provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for a variety of wildlife, including many birds and insects. Their dense growth acting as a natural shelter against the elements.

Southern flank of Roseberry
The straggly remains of the Hawthorn hedge in January 2020.

But on the far side of the boundary fence, a few stragglers were left, perhaps remnants of the original 18th-century hedgerow planted when the land was enclosed. Walking the hedge has been one of my regular ways back home, especially when avoiding the summit crowds. In winter, flocks of what I later learned to be Fieldfare have often guided me, feeding on the abundant haws and flitting from tree to tree before swirling back behind me. I am told, although I haven’t seen any myself, that Green woodpeckers and Ring ouzels have also been sighted — presumably the latter taking a well-earned rest before continuing their migration to their breeding sites on the high moors.

November 2020: Hawthorn below Roseberry laden with berries.

So I was disappointed to discover that this relict hedgerow itself has now been felled and replaced by a double row of saplings each protected within its little plastic tube.


Why cut down mature trees only to replace them with saplings which may take a decade to reach any size? Surely, even if mature Hawthorns can not successfully be layered, they could still be left as standards, with saplings filling the gaps.

To see a hedge of Hawthorn cut down is to witness the destruction of a living ecosystem. Maybe it was done for practical reasons, what though I can not imagine. The loss of such a habitat must have far-reaching consequences, not just for the wildlife that depended on it, but also for the wider environment.



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2 responses to “An echo of the past silenced as hawthorn trees are felled — a loss for nature and history”

  1. Susan Armstrong avatar
    Susan Armstrong

    I’m a Horticulturist, & I have to say how beautifully you wrote this. You are certainly an amazing Naturalist. It brought tears to my eyes….
    I have a question : I am in the states & am trying to locate on Ebay a map/s of the North Moors area – & not just the Park itself, but hopefully out to the coast & to N. border & to the west toward the Dales & south to the North Riding border. Hoping it could have roads & all villages & noted sites & paths & bridleways. I know that’s asking for a lot in one map & maybe I have to get several. Have found Ordnance Survey maps (N. Moors East & West – separate maps), Leisure map, Tourist map, & numerous books on Walks. Just wondering if there are any specific maps & books that come to mind as favourites ?
    Thank you so much – SuSan

    1. Fhithich avatar

      Thank Susan, are you looking to buy a paper copy? The Ordnance Survey maps are without doubt the best. There are several ways of accessing these online. Perhaps the simplest is to use https://streetmap.co.uk/.

      I have the habit though of using http://www.geograph.org.uk. I have a bookmark on my home page https://www.geograph.org.uk/mapper/combined.php#13/54.4975/-1.0973 which is centred on my locality. Zoom and drag map to the location you want.

      The numbers refer to photos logged against that “grid square”. Click on a number and a pop up opens with photos. Bottom right is a link which says “Grid Square Page”. Click on that and a new page opens.

      Clicking on the little map opens a popup map at 1:50,000. Clicking the ‘+’ zooms to 1:25,000.

      Alternatively there is a link “More Links for …” This opens a new page with links to lots of map sites all open at the correct location. I frequently use the historical mapping of the National Library of Scotland (even for England!).

      Hope this helps.


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