Facilities and additional information
Although the moors seem wild and natural, their appearance is entirely the result of man s activities. From earliest times to the present day they have been manipulated and managed to suit the requirements of the time. Man first began to clear the forest some 10,000 years ago to create areas of new shoots on which animals would graze and thus be easier to hunt. By about 2000BC most of the woodland on the plateau was being cleared away. Sheep were brought to the area by the monks of Rievaulx and centuries of sheep farming prevented the re-establishment of trees and the moorland landscape of 500 years ago would have looked much as it does today. Although intensive sheep grazing was important in shaping the character of the moorland, it was in the 19th century, when the area became popular for grouse shooting, that management practices began to encourage the growth of heather at the expense of other moorland plants. Keepers were and still are employed by the estates to maintain the moors and to organise shooting parties. The heather is burned in rotation to create a mosaic of young and old plants so that there are young shoots for grouse and sheep to eat and older, leggier plants to provide nesting sites.In 1998 the main moorland area was designated a Site of Special Scientifc Interest in recognition of its nationally important vegetation and bird life. It is also a potential Special Protection Area. This is a designation under the EC Birds Directive which requires Member States to protect the habitats of certain species of birds. These Special Protection Areas form part of a network of internationally important sites within the EU known as Natura 2000. The North York Moors has around 3% of the national populations of merlin and golden plover, and also supports a range of other birds including curlew, lapwing, red grouse, hen harrier and peregrine.