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1st September 2016

PRAISE for the work of those making a real difference to internationally recognised uplands loved by millions of people has come from the chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks (CNP).

Speaking after a visit to Spaunton in the North York Moors, Fiona Howie said it had been fantastic to hear from moor owner George Winn-Darley and his keeper about decades of work to remove bracken, allowing beautiful purple heather to return.

She added: “As the majority of moorland is privately owned, land managers play a critical role in maintaining places like the North York Moors.

“It was useful to hear more about the economic challenges of managing such substantial tracts of land and their approach, which supports both businesses and the biodiversity of the area.”

The Moorland Association (MA) members manage nearly 240,000 hectares of precious uplands in the National Parks – 42 percent of their combined area.

As part of the Big Conversation on National Parks, in which CNP is seeking views on how to make them even better, Fiona was invited to see the impact of work being done by moorland managers.

She explained that although she has visited moorland before, and talked to people about the challenges of managing the uplands, it was the first time she had the chance to better understand the situation from a shooting interests’ perspective.

“We want our National Parks to be beautiful – they are striking landscapes but we also want them to be rich in cultural heritage and biodiversity,” she said.  “It was really positive to hear how careful management is helping rare bird species breed on the moors.”

Spaunton’s healthy curlew, golden plover and green plover populations had successfully fledged and were not to be seen, but Fiona said that witnessing a barn own, kestrel and three merlin had been very special. The estate played host to two merlin nests and eight thriving chicks this season.

She added: “Merlin are on the ‘red list’ of species, meaning despite conservation efforts many people will never get to see one in their natural habitat.

“It was fantastic to see them on Spaunton Moor. If we want to improve bird populations, and in particular reverse past declines for rare and endangered species, it is essential that people work together.”

Spaunton is in-between the two honey pot destinations of Hutton-le-Hole and Rosedale Abbey, which experience high numbers of visitors throughout the year.

North York Moors National Park Authority wants to increase numbers and Fiona said the ‘beautiful, open moors’ was part of the appeal. Protecting and enhancing wildlife was central to the ethos of National Parks, she added.

“My lasting impression was of the beauty of the vibrant purple heather and a useful reminder of the many and varied interests of those who own and manage parts of our National Parks.”

Spaunton Moor owner, George Winn-Darley, said: “I was delighted to show Fiona how we manage a significant area of the North York Moors National Park for grouse shooting, which conserves and enhances the National Park landscape designation.

“Numerous other designations and special features include birds, wildlife, vegetation, archaeology, carbon storage, as well as public access.”

The picture above shows George and Fiona in a sunken grouse butt, designed to blend into the landscape. Photographed below are Moorland Association chairman, Robert Benson, left, with Fiona and Spaunton head keeper George Thompson.

   The picture above shows George and Fiona in a sunken grouse butt, designed to blend into the landscape. Photographed below are Moorland Association chairman, Robert Benson, left, with Fiona and Spaunton head keeper George Thompson.

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Did You Know?

75% of of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in Britain – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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