Conservation at Work

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Aim to Sustain hails Wild Justice defeat as “vindication of upland managers”

18th January 2022

AIM TO SUSTAIN partner organisations have said another legal defeat for Wild Justice is vindication of those who manage Britain’s uplands. Wild Justice again attempted to launch an appeal after the High Court last month refused their application for a judicial review of the Heather Burning Regulations for a second time. But the Rt Hon Lord Justice […]

MOORLAND ASSOCIATION WELCOMES PRISON SENTENCE FOR MOORLAND FIRE

18th January 2022

The Moorland Association welcomes the news that an individual has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for causing a fire which destroyed  285 hectares (two square miles) of Marsden Moor last April. Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “It is well known that moorland is highly susceptible to wildfire in the spring […]

NEW RESEARCH CONFIRMS IMPORTANCE OF CONTROLLED BURNING

6th January 2022

Prescribed burns lock greenhouse gases in the soil Research by the University of Cambridge published in the journal Nature Geoscience confirms that controlled burning can increase carbon storage in the soil. The study found that controlled burns cause changes in soil composition which not only offset immediate losses but can actually lock in or increase […]

BEAUTIFUL CUCKOO PICTURE WINS MOORLAND PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

22nd December 2021

  This captivating image of a Cuckoo taken in the Northern Pennines has won a wildlife photography competition. Entries to the competition came from all over the north of England and show the variety of native wildlife thriving in upland areas. The rare bird was spotted by keen photographer Ryan Williams from Manchester, who had […]

MOORLAND ASSOCIATION WELCOMES PROPOSED BAN ON DISPOSABLE BARBECUES ON MOORLAND

7th December 2021

The Moorland Association welcomes the Disposable Barbecues Bill, proposed by High Peak MP Robert Largan. The Disposable Barbecues Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament. If approved, the legislation would provide local authorities with the power to ban the sale of disposable barbecues and would also prohibit their use on open moorlands, which are […]

WILD JUSTICE LOSE IN COURT AGAIN AS MOORLAND BURNING VINDICATED

2nd December 2021

Leading rural organisations have welcomed a decision today to refuse Wild Justice permission for a judicial review on ‘burning’ in England for a second time. Mrs Justice Lang found all four of their grounds challenging the lawfulness of the burning regulations were unarguable. The regulations introduced by Defra this year restricted the burning of vegetation […]

NINE-YEAR LABOUR OF LOVE TO RESTORE PEAK MOORLAND

 

Peak District farmer and Moorland Association member Geoff Eyre has spent nine years restoring 425 acres of moorland from impenetrable bracken back to a more diverse heather-rich habitat, providing a boost for native wildlife and adding to its carbon capturing potential.

From a virtual desert, today the restored area is home to a wide variety of birds and animals including Brown Hare, Skylark, Meadow Pipit,  Ring Ouzel, Kestrel, Barn Owl, Snipe, Lapwing, Curlew, Golden Plover, Red Grouse and Heron with various songbirds, bees, frogs and newts.

Geoff Eyre has been a farmer for 60 years, and has restored Derbyshire moorlands over the past 30 years, developing a variety of techniques to revegetate bare peat and restore moorland flora and fauna.

The work at Abney Moor began in 2013 with the removal of a huge area of dense bracken, some of it reaching six feet in height. The bracken was treated with herbicide to prevent any regrowth and subsequently burnt to ensure vigorous regrowth of target plants. Abney Moor had been owned by the same family since 1735 prior to Geoff’s ownership.

Bracken is an invasive species and generally provides good cover for foxes, which are significant predators of ground-nesting moorland birds. Its spores are carcinogenic and bracken is also known to be a habitat favoured by ticks, which can carry debilitating human diseases such as Lyme disease.

Once cleared, the next step was to seed the area with plants that are ideally suited to the conditions in the uplands, including Heather, Cottongrass, Tormentil, Bedstraw, Heath Rush, Wood Rush, Sheep’s Sorrel, Agrostis, Sweet Vernal, Wavy Hair-grass, and various berries and mosses.

The plants took very well and grew in abundance within two years of seeding.

Ongoing management was required to maintain the diversity rather than letting one plant dominate over all the others, thereby providing homes for a greater abundance of species.

Geoff Eyre says: “The Peak District moors have some bog, but only a tiny percentage, unlike those wetter moors further north, we have also wet areas on shallow peat and very dry areas on deep peat. Sphagnum moss is only growing in small pockets.

In order to keep the moorland in good condition and reduce the threat of wildfire, we carry out controlled burning in the winter months. This promotes the growth of Sphagnum Mosses and Heathers, providing good quality habitat for our indigenous Red Grouse and a wide range of birds that use the moors for breeding in the spring.

“I have been delighted by the results of the managed burn this year. The heather has flowered exceptionally well, attracting bees, and the growing plants lock up carbon from the atmosphere. The Meadow Pipits and Skylarks are now too numerous to count.”

Working with the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Liverpool, Geoff Eyre sought to compare the advantages of using a cool burn to manage the vegetation, in comparison to cutting the area. Both of these techniques will reduce the threat of wildfire on moorland, an increasingly serious problem in recent years.

Rob Marrs, Emeritus Professor of Applied Plant Biology at the University of Liverpool, assessed the cool burn conducted in March 2021 and found that it removed just 10 to 15 per cent of the plant mass. The stalks are generally left behind and were covered in charcoal,  potentially trapping carbon. In fact on examination the stalks were found to be made up of 50% carbon.

Geoff Eyre believes that the alternative, cutting the vegetation, does not produce the same results: “Where cutting is used as a moorland management tool, the vegetation is often left to rot, which can release methane, the worst of the greenhouse gases. By contrast, a quick, managed burn allows the plants to regenerate quickly, locking up more carbon in the process and the charcoal layer also means that carbon can’t breakdown and escape.”

MOORLAND EDUCATION FOR HULL UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

1st November 2021

Students from the University of Hull spent a day on Spaunton Moor in the North York Moors this week studying upland conservation. Dr Alastair Ward, Head of the Department of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Hull, organised the visit to provide an opportunity for the students to gain a better understanding of […]

STATEMENT ON MOORLAND BURNING

12th October 2021

The Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners in England, issued the following statement today in the wake of reports alleging that government legislation which restricts heather burning on deep peat may be being breached. Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “The claims that are being made today about alleged breaches of government legislation […]

ROBUST AND RESILIENT RAPTOR POPULATIONS ON NORTH YORK MOORS

14th September 2021

New data published by the Moorland Association shows a flourishing raptor population on grouse moors in the North York Moors for the third year running. Spaunton Estate saw a total of 1,552 raptors in its annual counts, double the number recorded in 2018. The most populous species of raptor is Buzzards – 726 sightings were […]

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – 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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UPDATE FROM DEFRA ON GAMEBIRD LICENSING The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has issued an update today on the arrangements for publication of the general license for gamebird release on special protection areas and their buffer zones for this year. The original intention was to publish the general licence at the beginning […]

SCOTTISH LICENSING: IMPROVED BUT SIGNIFICANT CONCERNS REMAIN Plans to license grouse shooting in Scotland (both walked up and driven) are inching forward. The stated policy aim of the legislation is to protect bird of prey populations, but needless to say this has expanded. The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, as it is called, has now completed the second stage of its […]

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