Wuthering Moors 25

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 treesponsibility@yahoo.co.uk 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.

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 treesponsibility@yahoo.co.uk
or ring 07847 815 926

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15 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 25”

  1. Absolutely Mark. Wish I could be there too (11 hour shift tomorrow). I am firmly of the view that it was a factor in the 2005 floods in Carlisle, for which people up here are still paying. One man’s glorious twelfth is another man’s house insurance premium.

  2. Looking forward to it Mark and the weather is set fair for an enjoyable stroll round Mr Banisters back yard. Hopefully it will attract significant media interest, like the flooding did a few months ago.

  3. I too wish I could be could be there but I have a prior engagement which I cannot cancel.

    Reading about this amazing response to the environmental injustice which has taken place at Walshaw has put a real spring in my step this morning…good luck to all those involved.

    Hopefully they will get some plenty of media coverage, although I’d bank on the Telegraph either not reported it or if they do, portraying all of those taking part as raving environmental activists rather than a peaceful group of local people who are fed up with having their homes and businesses flooded. The Telegraph may as well be renamed the ‘Grouse Shooting Times’!

    I wonder if any future peaceful protests are planned ? Boundary Mill Stores looks like a fair target to me.

  4. Yorkshire Water are quiet on all this seeing as it is drinking water catchment and they own a large part of bannisters shooting land. Why go to all the trouble of restoring peatlands to let someone else wash it into the reservoirs by burning blanket bog?


    I imagine it costs you and I a small fortune to clean the peat, grouse grit chemicals and lead out of the water. I will be sending a freedom of information request to them asking them this

    What measures are in place to reduce water colour?

    How much does water colour removal cost per household?

    Why do you permit damage to your peat on your own land?

    Have you assessed the risk to human health from use of chemicals in grouse grit and lead from cartridges shot on the moorland catchment?

    You can ask these questions or some of your own here


  5. Flooding is caused by extreme weather events and may exacerbated by land management. The biggest problems in most areas are the result of the spread of tarmac and concrete, the loss of front gardens to car parking, and drainage for agriculture and, in upland areas, forestry. The other major problem is often ill-considered flood defence which simply ensures that I stay dry by flooding you. The biggest loss of peat is the consequence of the gardeners of this country refusing to produce and use their own compost. The greenhouse gas potentially absorbed by peat bogs helpful though that is in delaying global meltdown is as of nothing compared to what could be achieved by a simple law requiring all domestic appliances to operate at the same level of energy efficiency as the most efficient currently available.
    But of course it would be no fun at all to attack the Forestry Commision, drive pavers, gardeners and people in search of a really slim ‘fridge. It is much more enjoyable to demonise a grouse moor owner who won a inconvenient court case.
    These moors were made SSSIs, etc, because they were grouse moors not in spite of it. Until recently government and the EU were grant aiding drainage, roads, fencing and the planting of exotic conifers on these sites and by the headage payment scheme ensuring overgrazing was endemic. Those open heather moors that survived this pogrom largely remain in their present state because people prefered to shoot grouse rather than take the money and run.
    If you want to see what the world looks like with no grouse shooting come to Mid-Wales where it never floods and upland bird populations are in robust health. Only joking.

  6. One or two good points there but fortunately, readers and contributers to this blog will also know that –

    a] Peat extraction in the UK for horticulture takes place and always has done on lowland raised mires and has nothing to do with upland blanket peat.

    b] No one ‘won’ anything. All legal matters were withdrawn, and we would like to know why, thats the point.

    c] These moors were designated for their condition and potential at that time, look at past google earth photography, Walshaw Moor was unburned cotton grass moor. Then look at all other moors in the country and you will see the same trends.

    d] Blanket bog is not heather moor. Heather grows best on thin dry moors which is where burning used to be carried out before drainage and modern vehicles moved both heather and rotational burning into places it has never seen.

    e] Blanket bog has survived ‘in its present state’, and been doing ok thank you very much, for 3000 to 5000 years. Its a climax habitat, it will not turn into anthing else and just because a few people turned up recently with guns, doesn’t mean it now depends on them.

    Thank you for allowing me to set that straight

  7. Hen Harriers, if they could speak, would probably have a few words to say to you about pogroms, Ian. And the detrimental effects of burning have been well-known in the geomorphological literature for fifty years.

  8. Good luck to this campaign, for far too long NE and its predecessors have allowed grouse moor owners and managers to burn and drain upland in a totally inappropriate way to the detriment of biodiversity. Here in the Dales I could easily take you to moors that when designated SSSIs were wet and dry heath you can now walk them in trainers, its all dry, all short with grouse and F—– all else is thriving, including the waders the shoot lobby claim benefit. Moor burning ruins plant biodiversity hence invertebrate biodiversity and the tossers with narrow minds and a complete disregard for the law do the rest with blanket predator control. Far from being great places for conservation grouse moors are totally artificial and rapidly becoming intensively managed wildlife black holes, over-burnt, over-drained over-trapped, with no raptors , ask Hen Harriers and much less wildlife and carbon sequestration value than they should and could have. I have nothing against grouse shooting but the current management of many of our uplands exclusively for this ” sport” better business is nothing short of a national scandal that NE and successive governments are unwilling to confront.

  9. The impact of various management regimes on the uplands of the UK is extremely complex and there are no doubt many ways in which it can be improved but to single out grouse moor managers is simply disingenuous. No one can really believe that the management of the moor actually caused the flooding. A similar exreme weather event occured in the Dyfi and Leri valleys with equally extreme outcomes and there is no grouse moor within either catchment.
    I can understand that you don’t like grouse shooters, it is after all a free country and you can dislike people if you want but it does not help progress to a point were the maximum good can be done by the maximum number of people if you demonise a key stakeholder group.
    I am, by the way, aware that garden peat does not come from upland blanket bog. That is not the point I was making. It is much easier and more enjoyable to attack minority groups or individuals than the broader public, in spite of the obvious fact that if you avoid the latter challenge we are all going to hell in a hand cart. On the scale of global consequences this moor is almost invisible, your neighbours lust for peat based compost, multiplied up by the millions of like minded folk is vastly more significant. I’m off to join some theologians arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    1. “No one can really believe….”, really Ian, sticking your fingers in your ears and chatting lalalalala is not going to change the fact that a large number of flooded out people in Hebden Bridge do actually believe that. They believe that because there is evidence it is true. Time to wake up and pay attention unless you want to see your management practices banned in the catchment areas of at risk population centres.

  10. Living on the banks of the Severn we know what flooding is like, good luck to the people, having a house or shop buried in river water is vile, no matter how clean our rivers apparently are. And they take forever to dry out if at all.

    and yes there are many reasons for flooding nationwide but in THIS case it appears to be the burning of bog.

    Perhaps if you had to wade through a river to get to your toilet (or shotgun or tweeds) you might sing a different tune…

  11. This is not isolated and nationally, current management of these moorlands is frankly shameful. I say currently purposefully, as recently, over the last 20 years the increase in burning has become a fanatical obsession that has no precedent or real thought behind it. The wiley old keepers who act like they have been up there since ‘God was a lad’ have no idea what they are actually doing. Each new lazier draft of unqualified experts is just picking up worse and worse habits from the last. This case is merely the tip of a huge iceberg of environmental vandalism in the uplands, so its not really singling one person out. Collectively, this ‘stakeholder’ has greedily manipulated the largest biodiversity asset in the country for a single selfish purpose and amongst other things, driven the Hen Harrier to virtual extiction. My point is that this is not just about one moor, it’s not just about flood alleviation, as our largest natural habitat in the country it IS environmentally significant. Moreover, its about whether someone ordered an end to the public inquiry to make sure that the secretary of state didn’t have to make a difficult decision between European law and the House of Lords. You have to ask yourself – when everyone else abides by the rules, why does one ‘stakeholder’ group have a special exemption from the Habitats Regulations and Wildlife and Countryside Act?

  12. Thankfully Sunday’s walk was well attended and all those on it were able to see first hand what has gone on at Walshaw. All were in total agreement that it was appalling on a number of levels and needs to be addressed. Damaged bogs, unconsented tracks, excessive vehicle use, inappropriate burning, modified habitats, a lack of species and drainage was all easily observed on the ramble. The people of Hebden Bridge are gaining momentum and determined to see action happen to address the unnatural balance created to support a minority pursuit.

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