Swainby Beck Side Appraisal



Swainby Village, North Yorkshire


October 2015

Ideal Dimensions

Whorlton Parish Council Swainby Beckside Fencing

Strategic Appraisal                                                                                                                                     

SBF001_01 October 2015



Swainby Beckside: Boundary Treatment Study






1 – Introduction, Scope and Purpose and Definitions

2 – Designations and Landscape Character

3 – Context, Constraints and Ownership

4 – Design Statement


Drg No. 129_DRG_SA001 Site Appraisal

Drg No. 129_DRG_PBT_002 – Proposed Beckside Treatments



Ideal Dimensions were commissioned by Whorlton Parish Council in September 2015 to undertake a strategic appraisal of the beckside at Swainby and its existing timber rail to assess the importance of the rail as a traditional element of the village from both an amenity and safety perspective. The purpose of the study is to present options for the future management of the existing boundary treatments. The Appraisal will be used by the Parish Council as the basis for discussions with the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNP), the County Council and village residents with the aim of agreeing a preferred option for the removal/renewal/replacement of the fencing in order to provide a long term and economically sustainable solution.

Scope and Purpose

The objective of this study is to address the following with the aim of providing a long term and economically sustainable solution:

  • The need for a rail/barrier;
  • Opportunities for its removal;
  • Visual Impact;
  • The importance of character and the local vernacular; and
  • Alternative solutions.

For clarity it should be noted that it is not the intention of this study to provide or represent a Health and Safety Risk Assessment in relation to the study area or the use of barriers within it or provide a detailed commentary on the condition of specific elements or features present. Neither is its purpose to undertake historical research in relation to the area or carry out a detailed review and commentary of existing historical material. It should also be noted that it is not the purpose of the study to provide phasing recommendations for the implementation of the proposals presented. For the purpose of the appraisal and the objectives of the study the proposals being presented have taken into account the following considerations:

  • Impact upon the village character and local vernacular;
  • Pedestrian safety;
  • Parking Issues; and
  • Highway safety


Extent of the study area: For the purpose of this study this is defined as the area of beckside from the A172 entrance to the village, southeastwards along its length as far as the junction with Scugdale Road and the Picnic area in that location which is owned by the Parish Council.



The village of Swainby including the beckside appraisal area associated with this study is located within the North York Moors National Park. Additionally the majority of the village including the nearby Historic England Scheduled Ancient Monument of Whorlton Castle is included in Hambleton District Conservation Area. The area is also included with the North York Moors National Park Authority Local Development Framework Core Strategy and Development Policies Plan (November 2008). Such policies clearly state the purpose to conserve, enhance and preserve the special qualities of the North York Moors National Park its character, appearance, landscape, setting and historic environment which is a significant consideration in the context of any proposals associated with the study area.

Landscape Character

Swainby and the study area associated with the beckside lies within the ‘Character of England Map’ (Natural England) North East Region National Character Area (NCA) 23: 'Tees Lowlands’. This provides a description of the natural and cultural features that shape the landscape, how the landscape has changed over time, the current key drivers for ongoing change and a broad analysis of the characteristics and ecosystems.

In addition to the National Character Area designation Swainby and the study area is also included within the Cleveland Foothills Character Area of the North York Moors National Park Landscape Assessment Character Assessment prepared by White Young Green for the North York Moors National Park in 2003/4

Consideration of all such designations and inclusions is important in determining the treatment of the beckside area within the village of Swainby.



The majority of the beckside area is currently bounded by a timber birdmouth rail approximately 750mm high. The condition of the rail varies throughout its length but large sections are of a poor condition and is in need of repair. Some sections have been broken, are unstable or have collapsed and as such are dangerous and present a safety hazard and poses an ongoing maintenance problem and financial outlay. In addition to this because of its deteriorating condition the rail is also beginning to detract from the areas visual amenity.

Whilst generally accepted by the local community as a traditional element of the beckside, it is understood from the Parish Council that the timber rail was only installed approximately 20 years ago. Whilst not applicable along its entire length, overall the rail appears to serve two specific functions:

  1. Protection of the beckside from encroachment by traffic and horses; and
  1. As a safety function in warning pedestrians and vehicles of the steep drop from the highway to the beck.

Along a section of the highway on the south side of the beck a kerb has been installed which appears to deter vehicular encroachment and this is also evidenced along the bankside opposite the village shop where there is also a kerb but no timber rail. In the case of the latter where vehicular and pedestrian traffic is at its busiest no issues of encroachment or safety incidents have been reported. It is understood that encroachment by horses has historically been an issue but a bye-law was passed restricting equestrian access to the river to a location further east at the junction with Scugdale Road which is currently being respected.

Constraints and Ownership

The timber rail is in part the responsibility of the Parish Council and in part the North Yorks County Council as the Highways Authority. The Highway Engineers have confirmed that the County Council does not own any of the land associated with the beckside and that it is all owned by the Parish Council. However, they have agreed that the timber rail was in all likelihood installed by the County Council possibly as a request or historic informal agreement with the Parish Council and is therefore ‘owned’ by them specifically along the south side.

It is generally accepted that in terms of safety, the design of the timber rail would not prevent vehicles entering the Beck and is simply a barrier which serves as a visual deterrent. Unless advised to the contrary by the County Council it should be noted that any conclusions of this study reflect this basis but it is advised that County Council and Highways approval should be obtained prior to the implementation of any works.

In view of the above it is understood that the County Council has no specific opinion or view on the replacement or removal of the timber rail and that any options put forward by the Parish Council would be considered. Due to severe budget constraints the County Council have advised that where the rail is in disrepair and does not serve any form of safety function it will be removed and not replaced. There is also unlikely to be any financial contribution to assist the Parish Council but support may be possible through the provision of materials.

The Parish Council is keen to avoid piecemeal maintenance and replacement where the timber rail is retained or options exist for an alternative design. It is the purpose of this study to contribute to this process and develop and establish an overall strategy for the treatment of the beckside which in all likelihood, due to financial constraints, will be implemented in a phased manner.

It is understood that it has been agreed by the main stakeholders that it would be appropriate in terms of safety to retain a barrier at both sides of all the junctions including Middle Bridge, the footbridge, and the bridge adjacent the Blacksmiths public house. Similarly it is considered that the barrier between the Church and the Middle Bridge should be retained to provide a halt for traffic on the north side travelling east. The County Council has also advised that a barrier should be retained along the tarmac footpath from the Pinfold towards Emmerson Close to provide some protection to pedestrians using the footpath. It is also recommended that a barrier is maintained to the area surrounding the seat and litter bin just east of the footbridge on the south side for the same reason.


Existing Site Conditions

Currently there are four types of boundary treatment along the beckside area upto Scugdale Road as illustrated on the Site Appraisal Plan (Drg No. 129_DRG_SA001) and detailed below:

  1. Timber Post and Three Rail Fence;
  1. Timber Birdmouth and Single Rail fence;
  1. Timber Birdmouth Trip Rail; and
  1. Timber Post and Two Rail Fence with Double Top Rail.

Whilst this is not an excessive variety of different treatment types bearing in mind the variation of setting along Swainby Beck the greater issue is the variation of styles for similar or same treatment requirements along the beck giving rise to the types listed above. Where different styles of fencing have been used along the beckside, to effectively meet the same requirement, a lack of continuity occurs giving rise to the appearance of an inconsistent and piecemeal approach.

Design Proposals

As stated in the introduction the purpose of the study is to present options and an overall design strategy for the future management of the existing boundary treatments to Swainby Beck. It is not intended to represent a detailed design for the area but a concept that will provide a consistent and cohesive approach to be followed to avoid adhoc and piecemeal solutions which inevitably detract from the quality of the overall setting and character of the village

Based upon an assessment of the existing boundary treatments along the beckside area it is proposed to simplify and reduce the different types of treatment to two although it is accepted that a third type of boundary treatment may need to be maintained at the Beck crossing on Scugdale Road where specific considerations in relation to the Beck may be required. Such design proposals are shown on Drg No. 129_DRG_PBT_002. This Plan illustrates possible options for the two types of boundary treatment from which a single treatment type for each can be agreed upon and selected. It is then intended that these two types of treatment are based upon a single design style to provide a consistent and cohesive design approach through the village. On this basis the style, size, variety of wood, style of posts and rails etc. will remain consistent.

In keeping with the open bankside to the south of Middle Bridge it is proposed to remove the existing timber trip rail to the north of the bridge along High Street and leave the bankside open to retain the open character and setting along High Street as far as Emerson Close where a timber fence is proposed as protection to the existing pedestrian footpath which runs from this point up to Maynard Bridge. As with the area adjacent the village shop a kerb has previously been installed to this section of the highway and it is considered that this will similarly deter vehicular encroachment.

Specific consideration has been given to the sensitive treatment of the junctions and meeting points of the proposed boundary treatments and existing structures such as the stone bridges. It is proposed that timber bollards of graduated height placed at graduated centres on gentle curves are used, as illustrated by images No.3 on Drg No. 129_DRG_PBT_002, to sweep away from or surround existing features and be sensitive on the eye and replace the current straight lines and rigidity of the existing treatments.