Two howes Cairn

In Focus

Project Gallery 

Frank - a new member of the survey team   Recording erosion damage at Two Howes  
Walkers shelter to be dismantled at Simon Howe   Reaching the very top - one of the cairns to be dismantled  
All sites were recorded using GPS   Fallen stone to be re-erected as part of scheme  


Simon Howe and Two Howes - Monument Protection Programme Work Assessment

What's happening out on Goathland Moor?

At the end of November, conservation work will be taking place on three prehistoric round barrows on moorland to the south of Goathland. Over the years, wind, rain, frost and snow, grazing sheep and numerous visitors, have all taken a toll on these enigmatic monuments, leading to soil erosion which now threatens the ancient fabric of the barrows. As part of a rolling programme of monument management undertaken by the North York Moors National Park Authority in partnership with English Heritage, NAA is working together with Graham Lee, the NYMNPA archaeologist, on a series of measures to stabilise the three sites and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Two Howes

Much of the work will be concentrated at Two Howes, the closest site to Goathland. As the names suggest, here there are two round barrows dating back to the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, some four thousand years ago. The Two Howes barrows were both robbed in antiquity but, nevertheless, the stone construction material has survived relatively well. Unfortunately, an increase in the numbers of people visiting the site in recent years has led to the formation of a series of paths across the tops of the cairns, eroding away the prehistoric structures. The tradition of placing stones on a 'walkers' cairn' near the centre of the barrows is placing them at risk, with visitors inadvertently removing stones from the structures themselves to add to the cairns. The now visible walkers' cairns also encourage people to veer off the nearby footpath to investigate and add to the cairns and, as a consequence, have resulted in the formation of whole network of impromptu paths – known as 'desire lines' - across the wider area, compounding the erosion problems.

In order to address these issues, the two walkers’ cairns at Two Howes will be removed down to ground level and the resulting stone used to consolidate the monument. This was not a decision taken lightly as the walkers' cairns form part of the more recent history of the moors but, after consultation with English Heritage, it is felt that such a measure is necessary to secure the long term future of the site. Following removal of the cairns, the path across the two barrows will be consolidated with a compacted mineral soil. This will provide a stable route for visitors which will blend in with the natural environment whilst, hopefully, preventing any further erosion. The smaller paths and desire lines will be blocked with heather turves and re-seeded to encourage a single point of entry across the site.

Simon Howe

Just over a kilometre south-east of Two Howes is another barrow site, Simon Howe, located on the summit of a curving ridge, near Beck Slack Head. In contrast to Two Howes, this exposed barrow site has already been much eroded over the years and has been reduced down to a bare platform. Although at first glance it may look in a worse condition than Two Howes, it is actually quite stable and at little risk from any further attrition because so little of the soil and stone of the original structure still survives. The erosion of the surrounding soil has left the kerb stones of the monument exposed, giving visitors a good idea of how our ancestors constructed these sites. These stones are relatively stable, sunk deep into the soil, and are at a low risk of any future damage. However, a shelter or windbreak built against the south-eastern perimeter of the monument could potentially weaken the setting of the kerb stones, loosening them over time.

Remedial works at Simon Howe comprise the removal of the walker's shelter, the stones being put back on the central cairn. In this instance, the walkers' cairn itself will be retained. Simon's Howe's cairn has been a beacon for travellers across the moor for maybe hundreds of years and it is an important feature on the skyline. There is little risk that the barrow itself could be inadvertently dismantled by visitors adding to the cairn as most of the smaller stones in the area have long since been removed, although there is a residual risk.

The final element of this work will be the re-erection of a large standing stone which forms part of an avenue leading north-east from the barrow. This has fallen in the last few years and it is hoped that by restoring this element the interpretation of the site will be enhanced, providing visitors with a better idea of how the barrow may have once looked within its prehistoric upland landscape setting.

pdf symbolPdf of the earthwork survey

How you can help?

The work at Two Howes and Simon Howe is amongst the first of its kind being undertaken in the National Park. Based on its success, the aim would be to conserve similar barrow sites across the Park in the future. This is where we need your help in monitoring the long term success of the conservation measures. We are looking for members of the public who regularly visit the area to take one or two photographs of the site and maybe make a few notes. If you would like to get involved then please contact Penny Middleton at NAA , in the first instance and we will update you.

We would also request all visitors to the monuments to use them with respect and not to attempt to dislodge any stones. At Two Howes, PLEASE DO NOT BUILD WALKER'S CAIRNS, although these seem harmless, extracting stone from the site to build the cairns can cause irreparable damage to the prehistoric archaeology and spoil the heritage of the moor for others. Can we also remind you that all three sites are Scheduled Monuments and, therefore, protected by law.

This work is funded by English Heritage and the North York Moors National Park Authority, with advice from Natural England. The land is owned Duchy of Lancaster and managed by Smiths Gore.

In the coming months, there are also plans to undertake conservation work at Urra Dyke, a prehistoric boundary which stretches for miles across the moor at Bilsdale. Join us on facebook for further updates.

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