Case Study: The Monument Management Scheme
The Monument Management Scheme is a 4-year partnership project utilising AONB Team staff, volunteers and contractors to manage Scheduled Monuments to remove them from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register. Historic England funding has bought capacity within the existing AONB Team, to organise volunteers to survey and assess sites. Management work is then agreed and implemented by either contractors or volunteers (often working alongside contractors or with a social enterprise group). 75 of the 79 Scheduled Monuments in the AONB have been surveyed, and by the end of Year Two significant management work had started on 39 sites (30% more than the original target).
After years of neglect and decline, the Condition of nearly 50% of the Scheduled Monuments in the AONB has already been directly improved. For this very small AONB Team, obtaining direct funding for core staff to deliver the MMS project has been a major achievement.
What was done
The over-arching objective is to reduce the risk status of Scheduled Monuments (principally those At Risk and Vulnerable in the higher priority categories) and enable them to be removed from the national Heritage at Risk Register. The project has the following goals and milestones, as laid out in the funding application:
- To up-skill a member of the AONB Unit staff and a group of volunteers to carry out survey and management works on the SMs in the AONB – by 31st May 2015.
- To survey the 79 SMs in the AONB, using the recording form already developed by NYMNPA/NYCC. Survey to exclude built structural elements and areas of sites within EH Guardianship – by 1st September 2015.
- To review the database of SMs to identify and prioritise monuments and issues to be addressed. This will be a continuous process, relying largely on personal knowledge in the first year but then incorporating the survey results in subsequent years.
- To liaise with landowners to discuss management issues that are outside the scope of this project, i.e. likely timescale for felling forestry crops growing on SMs.
- To carry out work on approximately 30 SMs where the known or identified Principal Threats are related to bracken, tree, scrub or plant growth. Works to consist of initial clearance work plus essential follow-up chemical treatments(s) – by 31st March 2019.
- Where desirable and feasible, on applicable SMs, to re-establish a benign grass-based vegetation cover (or carry out experimental work to test methodologies) – by 31st March 2019.
- To carry out a follow-up survey in Year 4, to assess the impact of works – by 31st March 2019.
- To create a legacy of skilled AONB staff and volunteers who can continue works after the formal end of the project – by 31st March 2019.
Within the overall parameters detailed above, the project target is for 8 monuments in the AONB to be removed from the HAR Register over the four year course of the project.
Similarly, work to at least 15 Vulnerable monuments should prevent their decline and subsequent entry on the HAR Register.
The budget for the four years of the project is as follows:
- Historic England Capacity Building grant: £44,032
- Howardian Hills AONB: £15,300
- Volunteer time: £19,500.
The funding from Historic England includes allowances to buy-in expert help from the North York Moors National Park’s MMS Officer (a qualified archaeologist), as well as from North Yorkshire County Council’s Volunteer Coordinator. This provides us with additional staff resources at no cost, as well as earning the partner organisations a small amount of income. See below for description of how the work is being carried out and achievements to date.
The use of volunteers to survey sites is relatively commonplace, and training was delivered by North York Moors MMS and Historic England staff. The survey element of the project was therefore completed relatively easily.
One of the keys to success in delivering the practical management element of the project has been the link-up between our group of volunteers and the social enterprise group Moorswork. Larger or more technical tasks, such as herbicide application and the use of chainsaws and chippers, have been carried out by specialist contractors. Using contractors for all the sites would however have been prohibitively expensive for the AONB budget, as our contribution is paying for all the practical works.
With a re-organisation at North Yorkshire County Council, Rangers were no longer available to lead volunteer tasks, and no staff capacity was available within the AONB Team. Liz Bassindale the AONB Officer developed a methodology whereby the leader of the Moorswork group would be trained to lead the AONB volunteers, thereby creating a combined group and allowing tasks to go ahead.
Moorswork is a Social Enterprise undertaking paid conservation work in the eastern part of North Yorkshire. The Moorswork team is made up of adults with learning difficulties and their group leaders. Funding to establish the Social Enterprise came from the North York Moors National Park Innovation Fund in 2013 and the team currently operates for two days per week in the AONB and National Park.
Although not specifically designed as such, the collaboration has had unexpected health and wellbeing benefits for both groups. The AONB volunteers demonstrate the typical volunteer demographic of older, white men, with some of them living on their own. The Moorswork trainees are often in their 20s and all have a range of learning difficulties. Both groups have benefited from working alongside each other, with the Moorswork Leader particularly noticing the improvements in cognitive ability, motor skills and social skills within his trainees. The AONB volunteers have developed new social interactions and had the satisfaction of seeing improvements in the Moorswork trainees.
The principle of ‘contractors’ leading volunteers has also been extended to encompass two local contractors. They are now authorised to lead volunteers and this has increased the number of options available when deciding how to implement management work.
Using these mechanisms, 9 task days were held on 13 monuments in 2016/17, equating to 82 volunteer/days. All the costs for Moorswork and contractors to lead the tasks were covered by the Historic England funding.
Half way through the project the goals are already being exceeded. 75 of the 79 SMs were surveyed by volunteers and practical work is now being targeted at 46 monuments where vegetation such as bracken or scrub growth has been identified as an issue, or where other capital management works might improve the Condition.
To date, practical work has been carried out to improve the Condition of 39 SMs, with 18 At Risk monuments on course for removal from the Heritage at Risk Register by the end of the project. This would be more than double the original target and will significantly improve the condition and public visibility of the historic heritage resource within the AONB.
The main keys to success with this project have been:
- Developing the project over a long timescale, garnering and utilising expertise from other existing projects.
- Building paid assistance from these other projects into our own project, enabling us to benefit from external expertise and other organisations to earn a small income.
- The innovative thinking of a member of the AONB Team to unlock the impasse of having many willing volunteers but no Volunteer Leaders.
The melding of all the various benefits into a simple scheme that delivered Historic England’s core aim of managing Scheduled Monuments in order to remove them from the national Heritage at Risk Register, and which allowed the majority of the cash funding to be accessed from Historic England.
Quotes from participants:
“The way that the groups work together is a positive example of social integration. The Moorswork team members are very much part of the bigger team and have responded well to working alongside the volunteers.” – Peter Scott, Director of Moorswork and the leader of the volunteer group.
“Identifying this way of joint working has enabled conservation volunteering to continue in this part of the county. Following budget cuts and restructuring the leadership provided by Moorswork is essential for us to be able to offer conservation tasks in the Howardian Hills to our volunteer team. Everyone involved feels this joint working has been a great success and volunteers and trainees have enjoyed working together.” – Sheila Laking, Volunteer Coordinator, North Yorkshire County Council.
“I am gaining knowledge about the conservation work that is done. It is a positive and inclusive environment. I can see that the people with Moorswork are benefitting, gaining practical and social skills as am I. I do hope that the people supported by Moorswork might develop sufficiently to move into paid employment in the future.” – AONB volunteer
Key search words: Scheduled Monuments, Historic England, MMS
Photo credits: Volunteers at South Wood, Volunteers at Grimpton MMS Monument, Volunteers burning brash, after the work. Howardian Hills AONB.