Guest blog – Save the Dukes of the North York Moors by Steve Bamford


Steve Bamford writes: I am an amateur naturalist and volunteer recorder/worker of Butterfly Conservation.







This is a plea for donations, no matter how small, to save an iconic species of butterfly that is just holding on after years of decline in an area where it used to be abundant not so long ago. This is the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, a specialised species that loves calcareous grasslands and coppiced woodlands and its caterpillars host plants are the cowslip and primrose.  The reason for the decline is from changes in land use, cessation of coppicing and the planting of conifers which in turn shades out populations and also isolates colonies which die out due to genetic instability.  We need to reverse this decline and restore its preferred habitat, which also benefits many other species of wildlife before it is lost for good.

Within the North Yorkshire Moors the ‘Duke’ inhabits two areas: the Helmsley network and the Pickering network.  The population around Pickering which I have been monitoring over the last 8 years is desperately low and is only present at two sites.  Thankfully Butterfly Conservation has stepped in and with limited funds has managed to widen some rides, start coppicing and manage scrub levels which, if they hadn’t of, this butterfly would have been lost already.  Funding is needed to carry on this great work and there is also a plan for a re introduction to an extinct site which has public access so many can enjoy its return.


An area of woodland already coppiced and occupied be the ‘Duke’;


Coppice which will be worked on shortly


Even the smallest donation (click here) will be much appreciated and hopefully in years to come the ‘Duke’ will still be with us. All donations must be made before 09:30 on Monday 27 February.





Thanks must go out to Dr Dave Wainwright (Butterfly Conservation North of England Officer) and to Robert Parks for their efforts so far in organising work days,


John Muir

I was in Edinburgh over the weekend and took a trip out to Dunbar to see where John Muir grew up.  The house with a very good display about his life and achievements used to be the grain store next to the house where he lived (which is big, and for sale if you fancy it).

If you are in the area it’s well worth a visit, and if you don’t know about John Muir then his wikipedia page is worth a visit too. For more information then why not try Mary Colwell‘s excellent book (reviewed here).

Muir left Dunbar at the age of ten years when his family moved to the USA and he lived in Wisconsin where he saw enormous flocks of Passenger Pigeons less than 50 years before their extinction in the wild (see A Message from Martha p69).

He was an influential campaigner for the protection of America’s wilderness through National Parks.

This quote struck me as relevant today, with our sub-standand, dewilded National Parks and to the difficulty that Scottish Mountaineering has got itself into.

It is impossible to overestimate the value of wild mountains and mountain temples as places for people to grow in, recreation grounds for soul and body. They are the greatest of our natural resources, God’s best gifts, but none, however high and holy, is beyond reach of the spoiler. In these ravaging money-mad days monopolizing San Francisco capitalists are now doing their best to destroy the Yosemite Park, the most wonderful of all our great mountain national parks.’


Statue of John Muir as a boy in Dunbar. There are still lots of Herring Gulls there.


BAWC fundraising is raising funds!

The BAWC fundraiser – to tag raptors in persecution hotspots – is now very close to £15,000.

Thank you to all who have contributed so far.

I understand that field testing continues, tags are being ordered and lots of forms are being filled in.

If you’d like to support BAWC’s first full field project then please click here to donate.




Sad news: Eric Meek 1947-2017

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Dewilding Scotland

Too many trees – you can’t torch the heather anywhere for trees!

Mountaineering Scotland are looking for a safe route down from the ledge onto which they have jumped. Finding themselves cuddling up to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association on an exposed overhang with a big drop below them, they are looking to clamber to safety.

The bit of a row is about Mountaineering Scotland choosing (because I doubt they were marched there at shotgun point) to ally themselves with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association over whether there is a need for trees in Scotland’s mountain landscapes.

Mountaineering Scotland’s chief executive, David Gibson, is quoted as saying ‘Mountaineering Scotland welcomes the passion shown by our members and others but regrets that our position has been substantially misunderstood and has caused concern to members. The feedback has strengthened our resolve to take a stronger stance on conservation issues, including hill tracks and land management practices.  Our collaboration with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association was on a single issue and does not indicate agreement with them on any other policy or issue.‘.

It’s a strange dance where you cling to and embrace one other dancer and then distance yourself from them as much as possible – it’s not how I would do a strip-the-willow (which must be an appropriate dance under the circumstances).

Chris Townsend (whom I have never met, as far as I can recall, but for whom I have a lot of time from what I’ve seen of his views) said: ‘Having read the clarification, I have to say as a member and an ex-president of the MCofS I think it’s pathetic, disappointing and naive.’.

Mountaineering Scotland can have whatever views they like (although it appears they are seriously out of touch with at least some of their members on this issue).  And they can team up with whichever other organisations they like who hold similar views – that makes a lot of sense. But they must realise that embarking on contentious issue with a contentious partner is bound to be noticed by their core supporters and core partners.

Looking at the views of Mountaineering Scotland, they seem pretty much in line with my own for the mostpart. I particularly liked ‘In some places, insensitive development related to industrial-scale energy generation, lucrative field sports and unsustainable tourism is threatening the very wildness, panoramas and beauty that we all cherish.’.