A burning question for the National Trust

This blog has been a bit critical of the National Trust in the past, suggesting that it isn’t taking its nature conservation work sufficiently seriously, and so  it gives me great pleasure to highlight an excellent piece of work, nearing fruition, by NT.  It’s such good news it is worth being the second blog of the day.

The NT is a major land-owner in the Peak District National Park and it is now consulting on the future of the High Peaks Moors.  The National Trust’s way forward will make uncomfortable reading for its grouse-shooting tenants, for the Moorland Association and maybe, considering the earlier events of the week over Walshaw Moor Estate, for Defra too.

The National Trust has looked at the environmental quality of its land, noticed that birds of prey are illegally persecuted there, worried about the impact of burning on blanket bog, thought about carbon in peat, looked at the water running off the uplands  and come up with a document that leads the way for change to create a habitat richer in carbon, birds of prey and woodlands in the cloughs. It’s probably not a bad blueprint for management of other upland blanket bogs.

Here are some quotes:

‘At present we believe that birds of prey are under-represented on the National Trust High Peak Estate.  The Management Plan and its delivery will seek to address this.’

‘The National Trust is clear that bird of prey persecution is completely unacceptable and we will be working with future tenants who share this view’.

‘The National Trust is clear that bird of prey persecution on its land is completely unacceptable.  We will be working with future tenants who share this view and are working with us to ensure that birds of prey are successful.’

‘research suggests that populations of some species such as golden plover are artificially high in some areas of degraded blanket bog.  We would be prepared to accept reductions in overall numbers of particular species if favourable condition of the habitat leads to this result, provided the species remains viable.’

‘…shooting management has contributed to certain areas failing to reach favourable condition through, for example, the promotion of heather dominance on blanket bog through rotational burning. We will be working with our tenants to retain practices which contribute to favourable condition, whilst removing practices that do not.’

‘The National Trust does not wish to maximise heather cover on the blanket bog…’

‘We regard burning as an appropriate management tool for dry heath and, in certain circumstances,  for the management of wildfire risk.  Burning will be restricted where it is damaging soils or habitats for example by drying out deep peat or by hindering the restoration of wet blanket bog.’

‘…there are many restoration issues on the the High Peak Moors that these [farming and grouse moor management] management regimes  have not addressed. We now have a wider understanding of conservation needs, including for resource management such as water and carbon…Therefore changes are needed to achieve favourable condition on the moors.’


How wise and how clever! The National Trust has now surprised me with its conservation thinking.  Good for them!

It’s turning out to be a pretty good week – and there is more to come, I promise you.

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16 Replies to “A burning question for the National Trust”

  1. Really well done to the N T and maybe others will follow their great example,one of the best things I have seen for a long time.

  2. Well done National Trust! A superb and long overdue piece of work that should see this piece of land managed sustainably for future generations and not abused by a minority. If only NE had pushed for Walshaw moor to be managed like this. I hope this brave move will increase their membership.

    Maybe a much needed and long waited bad week for the moorland association!

  3. I have only had a cursory flick through the report, but from the little I have read, the thinking looks good and I like the NT's inclusive approach to the consultation. It appears to be a hugely progressive step in the right direction so credit where credit is due.
    The decision made last year not to renew the family NT membership may have to be reconsidered...that would certainly please Mrs W.

  4. Oh my God!!! Being dropped on the head has had an effect on me, but am I reading this differently to everyone else or what? Yeah it's great on the face of it, but you have to be willing to back them words up with action otherwise it's just hot air!
    What punishments do the NT plan to bring down anyone who does harm to birds of prey? Why the reduction in Golden Plovers? A species that is on the decline, yet they wish to reduce the numbers even more? OK they might be artificially high (how does that happen then?) but when you consider the population in places such as Wales have halved shouldn't we encourage high numbers.

    1. Golden plovers like knackered badly burned and overgrazed moorland as a suboptimal habitat where they don't have pristine wet, slow growing natural bog, un-damaged by land management practices. No conservation NGO would ever promote bad management practices that benefit single species. Good bog benefits naturally distributed golden plover populations plus dunlin, sphagnum moss, carbon sequestration, water quality and more. We don't need to prolong bad practice or you may loose all golden plover.

  5. Excellent news as far as I am concerned.
    I am a member and have always maintained that NT does a great job generally,(notwithstanding the odd ill-considered remark about raptors from their Chairman) but they have fallen short where nature conservation is concerned.
    I'll be interested to see how this pans out.

  6. As far as I am aware the NTS has been avoiding burning for the past 10 years. The heather develops a mixed structure and the fragile species are no longer exterminated. Good news all round. Well done NT.

  7. At last an organisation that owns upland moors finally getting it right at least on paper, NT are to be congratulated, roll on the application of these changes. Oh to be a fly on the wall when the MA discuss this, much gnashing of teeth I suspect!

  8. With this hugely positive move from the NT and the earlier RSPB complaint to the EU about management of a upland and moorland Natura site by others, this week is turning out quite well. Hopefully there is some light being shone into this dark area of this type of monoculture management across the country.

    The idea that moorland management for red grouse is good conservation is, in my view, a fallacy. Grouse moor management may have, for economic reasons, prevented much of upland England being turned to forestry, but that is about it. Anything else positive is as a result of chance.

    As a boy I certainly enjoyed lying in the sun with the smell of the heather and the call of the golden plover on the Durham moors, but as I've come to learn of the sacrifice made by just about everything else on the moor and with a greater understanding of the intensive management and its impacts I've increasingly questioned its validity, especially with the criminality associated with it.

    I had rather naively hoped the Langholm project would show that we could all be friends in the playground, but with pressure beginning to build for control of yet more predators I can't help but think that's another biologically distorted environment.

    Who is being consulted in this NT consultation? How do we congratulate them on their proposals? Are they going to review tenancies and make some changes to tenants?

    I really wish them well. It looks like a model of moorland management that could be followed by other bodies - like water companies?

    1. United utilities have prevented burning on deep peat for some time now, the evidence that it is bad for a range of species, habitats and services is mounting. I'm guessing that others could follow this lead, especially after NE have got it so wrong at Walshaw. We need some enlightened private owners to follow this lead too.

  9. Interesting use of the phrase 'future tenants'. Does this imply that the NT will be making preservation of raptors a condition of new tenancies?

    1. David - it seems to imply that. It certainly suggests that you ought to mention it in your application if you want to be a NT tenant.

  10. Am I right in thinking that the NT's decision regarding the renewal of the tenancy at Howden Moor is imminent ? If so will it not provide a decent litmus test in terms of how determined the NT are to put words into action.
    It may not be completely fair to kick out the existing tenant, but it would send out a very powerful message.


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