An amazing local reaction – I wish I could be there
On Sunday August 12th, flood-hit residents of Hebden Bridge and
campaigners from across the country will set out from the town centre on a
BAN THE BURN protest walk to the Walshaw Moor grouse-shooting estate.
Following the walk, the BAN THE BURN national campaign launch will take
place at Hebden Bridge Trades Club (6pm).
The walkers and campaigners are demanding a ban on burning and drainage
of blanket bogs, and an end to environmental stewardship subsidies to
landowners who burn and drain this legally-protected habitat – Walshaw
Moor Estate has recently been given a £2.5million stewardship contract
with a special exemption to permit burning on blanket bog.
Anyone who would like to take part is welcome to contact the organisers,
by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or ringing 07847 815 926.
Timed to coincide with “The Glorious Twelfth” (the opening of the
grouse-shooting season), the day of action will highlight the damaging
effects of burning and draining blanket bogs:-
– increased flood risk downstream
– very significant carbon emissions
– adverse impacts on water quality
– the destruction of a globally significant habitat type
Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd. own a significant part of the moorland catchment
above Hebden Water. The company came to public attention when Natural
England initiated a prosecution for 43 environmental breaches in the
Estate’s management of land in a Site of Special Scientific Interest
(SSSI). Natural England abruptly dropped the case in March this year, and
have subsequently entered an Environmental Stewardship agreement with the
Walshaw Estate. This agreement will pay the Estate over £2.5 million in
public subsidies over the next ten years. It will permit “controlled”
burning activities on blanket bog, under an exemption from the Heather and
Grass Burning Code’s rule that burning must not take place on sensitive
areas such as peat bog and wet heathland.
Dongria Kondh, one of the walkers says, “Here in Hebden Bridge we know the
real hardship of flooding – shops and businesses in our town are still
shut, and many of our friends and neighbours have suffered irreplaceable
loss. In order to reduce our town’s vulnerability to flooding, we need
the upland catchment to be managed to promote healthy blanket bog, with
sphagnum moss to act as a sponge in heavy rainfall events.
“It seems grotesque that the taxpayer is paying for the exact opposite –
£2.5 million is about five times as much as is in the Calder Valley flood
recovery fund! If Walshaw Moor wants public subsidies, it must use them
for the public good and completely restore the blanket bogs on its
A further press release will be issued on Sunday night, giving links to
photos and video footage of the event.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Natural England advocates restoration of peat bogs in order to reduce
the risk of flooding. It says,
“By increasing the natural capacity of the countryside to absorb and hold
excess water, the risk of flooding could be dramatically decreased.
“Investing more money in traditional flood defences by constructing
concrete and earth embankments may no longer be adequate or sustainable in
the long-term. We must look to more sustainable solutions including those
involving land-use change,” said Andrew Wood, Natural England’s Executive
Director for Evidence & Policy, at the committee inquiry today.
“The capacity of the countryside to absorb water must be increased. To do
this we must start by reversing changes made to landscapes. Restoration of
peat bogs in northern uplands would slow water reaching the streams and
lowland rivers, reducing the threat to towns such as Ripon, Hull and
Sheffield – all of which have experienced severe flooding”
2. Landowners like Walshaw Estate drain and burn blanket bog in order to
create a habitat where grouse can breed and feed. Draining blanket bog
dries the peat, so that heather can replace the peatland bog vegetation,
such as sphagnum moss and cotton grass – heather is a plant that doesn’t
like to get its feet too wet.
Once heather is established, burning is carried out to limit the height
of the heather, because grouse can’t survive in long heather -they need
short heather to nest in and raise their young.
3.Blanket bogs are protected under the European Union Habitats Directive
and the UK Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 , updated
by the The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 , which
consolidate all the various amendments made to the 1994 Regulations in
respect of England and Wales. More information about this legislation is
available at http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1374
According to Natural England
“Blanket bog is one of the rarest wildlife habitats in the world. Its
importance is recognised in Europe by its inclusion in the EU Habitats
Directive as a priority habitat.
In addition to its importance as a wildlife habitat, the role of blanket
bog in the provision of a number of ecosystem services is significant.
This includes the ability to capture and store large amounts of carbon,
its role in securing high water quality and its ability to reduce flood
risk downstream through slowing hydrological pathways. Blanket bogs also
fulfil an important function as repositories of archaeological and
palaeoecological material, with some blanket peat over 9,000 years old.”
Apparently side-stepping regulations to protect this rare habitat, Natural
England has signed a Notice of Proposal and Consent for the Walshaw Moor
Estate that suspends the Heather and Grass Burning Code’s rule that
burning must not take place on sensitive areas such as peat bog and wet
4.Despite laws and regulations to protect peat bogs, the government isn’t
protecting the country’s peatland carbon sinks. Walshaw is not an isolated
case – the latest data on the condition of Blanket Bog within Sites of
Special Scientific Interest in England found that only 11% by area are in
favourable condition, although 83% is in recovering condition mainly on
the basis of management agreements and other measures in place. Primary
reasons cited for unfavourable (no change or declining) condition are
overgrazing, inappropriate “moor burning” and drainage.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK Committee’s
Peatland Programme reports estimates that 10 million tonnes of carbon
dioxide are being lost each year from the UK’s damaged peatlands. This
has serious implications for worsening climate change. A recent Commission
of Inquiry on Peatlands reports that:-
“A loss of only 5% of UK peat carbon would equate to the total annual UK
human green house gas emissions.”
In the process of draining and burning blanket bog, the sphagnum moss is
destroyed and a carbon sink is turned into a carbon source. Damaged UK
peatlands currently release almost 3.7 million tonnes of CO2e a year –
more than all the households in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds (Source – The
Commission of Enquiry into UK Peatlands).
5.(For more background information, type Wuthering Moors into the search
engine of https://markavery.info/blog/)
6. For more information about the event email email@example.com
or ring 07847 815 926