Hangover from the past

The official blog for the North York Moors National Park

Emily Collins – Conservation Student Intern

Have you ever passed a beck or a stream and wondered why it was occasionally bright orange? Perhaps you thought the rock was naturally that colour, or that it was stained with sheep’s urine, or simply that local artists thought it a marvellous place to wash out their yellow ochre paint palettes.

In fact, this ochre colouring comes from underground and is often associated with historic mining activity. When it is washed out of the rock, ‘ferrous’ iron reacts with oxygen and water and forms ‘ferric hydroxide’ particles which join to form a thick layer of sediment. This can often smother the riverbed, quickly turning the water into something resembling gone-off carrot soup.

North York Moors - historic mine entrance

Ferric hydroxide forming undergroundThe thick suffocating ochre deposits can have a detrimental effect on food sources in the vicinity and downstream for things like aquatic plants, algae and invertebrates. They find it difficult to survive…

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