Support the National Trust please

This blog has touched on the performance of the National Trust as a nature conservation organisation a few times (including yesterday) and hasn’t always been gushing in its praise for that immensely successful organisation – immensely successful in selling itself, nice cakes and a day out, that is.

But fair’s fair and here is an area where the NT is doing the right thing, where it isn’t, I imagine, completely straightforward to do the right thing and where others will criticise the NT behind closed doors.  That’s why I am asking you to show your support for what the NT is doing.  And you need to do that today or tomorrow, please.

NT is consulting on their vision for the High Peak Moors.  This is an area of upland England surrounded by areas of high population.  At the moment the area is not fulfilling its wildlife potential and all those visitors are cheated out of the wildlife experience which they might have.  The NT is bravely planning to do something about this.  Their vision is for a more natural upland landscape, not dominated by land managed for red grouse shooting, but one which delivers more for wildlife and more for people in terms of those funny things called ecosystem services – carbon storage, water management, high water quality etc.

This all seems very sensible but it is a brave move as there will be some entrenched views on the necessity (how can it be a necessity?) to maintain heather burning and commercial grouse shooting, and in addition people tend not to like any sort of change.

All you have to do to show your support for the NT’s bravery is to reply to their online consultation.  It could be as simple as sending a supportive email along the lines of ‘Well done NT, I think your vision for the High Peak Moors is great!’ to .

But if you want to say more then here is one I completed earlier as far as the first important question is concerned.  You could adapt it as your online response:

Do you think our Vision should have any different or additional outcomes?

No I think it is great!  I am attracted by the more natural landscape that it will provide which will be more attractive to visitors and much better for wildlife.  I also understand that your vision will deliver more carbon storage, better water management and higher water quality from this area of land.  I cannot see many drawbacks at all.

The Derwent Valley is one of the worst hot-spots for illegal raptor persecution in England.  That this is the case in a National Park and where the NT is a major landowner is totally unacceptable to me.  I would see the move away from burning of blanket bog and heather moorland as a very positive one.  Far too many of England’s uplands are dominated by grouse shooting and the illegal persecution of raptors which all too often seems to go alongside it.  The NT is to be commended on trying to make one small corner of the English uplands a more diverse and wildlife-rich , and more attractive, landscape.

I would imagine that wildlife such as goshawks, black grouse, a range of woodland and scrub species (eg whinchat, cuckoo) would benefit from this management – and actually, even if they don’t (which I think they will) it will be very interesting to see which species do benefit as this type of management change has rarely been done in the English uplands.

I have seen the comments on your website from others involved in the consultation which talk up the value of red grouse shooting and heather burning.  i don’t accept that these are the appropriate activities for NT land in this place if they lead to calls for reduced access, burning of sensitive blanket bog, killing of ‘vermin’ and illegal destruction of birds of prey.  This is the time for the NT to stand against such nonsense and as a NT member I am expecting you to do just that.


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47 Replies to “Support the National Trust please”

  1. Done. Thank you for facilitating this. I got a bit carried away and ad libbed a bit but your template was a useful start. I am pleasantly surprised that the NT are doing this and hope that others will follow and NT themselves will do more of this elsewhere.

  2. Thanks for this. I think it will be usefuk to have a large are which shows what could be.....but it will need to be large enough to function properly.

    By the way dont overlook the NTS, they are getting quiet good at looking after there big upland estates.

  3. Well done for plugging this Mark. Let's hope that NT get plenty of public support for doing the right thing. The band of no doubt very dedicated individuals at the Trust who have seen change is needed need praise indeed for taking this forward. They will be dealing with some very opposed views externally and probablly also have internal baggage and criticism to fend off too.

    Folks sat on the fence who believe there coment won't make a difference and nothing will change are foolish. Just look at the totally rediculous comments on the first consultation to see the alternative. I guess they are diametrically aposed to 99.99% of the Trusts members views. The trust need to do this for the bulk of its members and society as a whole. Appeasing a minority on how they damage this land is not an option in this day and age and has parallels to the Walshaw disaster.

    A guest blog after the consultation from the Trust would be great!

  4. Spot on Mark and chapeau to you for raising awareness of this.
    I'm midway through reading and writing my own comments; your informed opinions being an excellent springboard.
    I've spent too many holidays in the uplands of England looking up and seeing clear skies where harriers should be flying, and searching for a personal favourite flower of mine, lesser twayblade; you just don't find it where burning is preferred management. Mel

  5. Gongfarmer's comment suggesting that what NT is proposing is in line with the likely views of the vast majority of its members is probably quite correct. What a pity then that most of these members are probably blissfully unaware of this consultation. A visit to NT's main web-site gives no indication that it is taking place or obvious links to it even from its "Big Issues" pages. Even typing "High Peak Moorlands" into the search box does not produce any link to it. The consultation is on a wholly separate web-site that most members of the Trust are unlikely to find unless they are already engaged with this issue.
    The Trust's members contribute substantial sums of money to its stewardship of what are national assets and it is a great shame that greater efforts were not made to ensure that the entire membership had the opportunity to express its views on this consultation.

    1. Would you mind posting a link to the consultation here Jonathon? As a member of the NT I had no idea this was going on and would like to have a look at it.

      1. Adam M - the link is in my blog (click on the highlighted words your 'online response;') but here it is again

        Responses need to ne made today or tomorrow

    2. I guess they might have been overwhelmed if the entire membership responded. I get emails about whats on in the SW, but I don't recall anything about HPM (I really must stop deleting them as soon as they arrive). Maybe members in Midlands region were informed.

      As for the search: enter "high peak consultation", 3rd link (google) Peak News 12.qxd gets you to a pdf , the consultation link is on p9. So it's there, but not in plain sight or directly

  6. Mark seems to suggest that the management of moorland by burning is not beneficial saying ‘how can it be a necessity to maintain heather burning’. However, it was my understanding that burning heather was a viable management tool which promotes mixed stands of heather, beneficial for grouse yes, but also for other wildlife such as insects. Indeed, the NT proposal says, ‘We believe that burning continues to have a role in the management of dry heath and for fire risk management across the estate’. The NT vision is to stop the burning of blanket bog. I think this is sensible and one which a lot of good game-keepers would agree with. Mark appears to be insinuating that game-keepers would not agree with this. Although I am sure there are many that do not care, there are many who do and who may wish to manage the land better but have financial and management constraints. If I am correct in saying that then those people should welcome the input of the National Trust.

    Finally, regarding the issue of the lack of birds of prey; I am sure there are exceptions but I have met a lot of gamekeepers who want to see more birds of prey and who are actively involved in ensuring their conservation and who the National Trust are already working with.

    1. Gem - thank you for your comment and welcome to this blog.

      You've rather over-interpreted my own views as I didn't say and didn't even insinuate what you claim.

      I enjoyed your remarks about gamekeepers. Have you met any gamekeepers who want to see more goshawks, peregrines and hen harriers in the Peak District? They must be as disappointed as I am about how few there are and angry that their dreams are not realised in this raptor persecution blackspot.

  7. I think that the National Trust is a great organisation regarding conservation issues and I find it hard to believe that some people hold the opposite view. This upland management initiative is a great example of an organisation doing its best to improve the natural environment.
    I have filled out the consultation and have basically said that they should remove sheep and grouse shooters and just leave the habitats to manage themselves. Rewilding seems to be working quite well in places like Ennerdale.
    Heather burning is highly detrimental to plant diversity in the uplands and burnt areas hold extremely low species numbers of mosses, liverworts and lichens.
    I have also suggested that certain areas should hold restricted access to the public to allow the wildlife to live and breed in peace. Long distance footpaths bring large amounts of people into areas which previously were rarely visited and no doubt cause much disturbance to breeding waders and raptors.
    The farming community (sorry Dennis !) constantly state that they are guardians of the countryside and the sheep farmers at least in the Lake District claim that visual aspects of the landscape would be ruined if the hills were not heavily grazed by sheep and that a state of desolation would arise if trees and scrub (God forbid !) was allowed to recolonise the uplands.
    One only has to look at the Borrowdale valley in the Lake District to see a National Trust success story. Here mixed oak woodland covers most of the area and birds which are uncommon through most of the rest of Cumbria can be frequently viewed here such as cuckoo, redstart, pied flycatcher, green woodpecker, wood warbler etc. Rare atlantic bryophyte are equally well preserved.
    My only adverse comment about the National Trust is that this uplands initiative has been very badly publicised. I have just had a quick browse through the latest NT magazine and do not see a mention. I only found out about the consultation today.

  8. To me it is all about diversity - a diversity of land uses leads to a diversity of habitats which leads to a healthier more resilient ecosystem and economy. George Monbiot made an interesting comment on twitter the other day about grazing damage when he said that we need woodland not pasture because woodland is more bio-diverse.

    I was surprised at this from a prominent green campaigner. It seems to me that woodland AND pasture is more bio diverse than either alone.

    On the uplands we need diversity too. That means some grouse shooting, farming, other country sports, tourism &c &c as well as other forms of land management and ownership. That's how we can promote both ecological and economic well being.

    WE need to get a way from thinking in terms of 'OR' and embrace 'AND'.

    1. Giles - yes, I think those are good points. But the north of England is dominated by overgrazed sheepwalk and grouse shooting so the diversity needs to come from organisations like the RSPB at Geltsdale and the NT in the Peak District making that diversity. When they do, as the NT is trying here, they tend to get an awful lot of pressure from certain quarters.

  9. What I want to know Mark and I have struggled to find out, was the National Trust held ballots to elect commitee/board members and the Countryside Alliance and it's cohorts were very active to get some of their members on the NT board, where they succesful and having such people on the board how does it impact on what you've posted in the blog?
    I totally agree with DavidH about the restrictions of people moving/rambling and birdwatching on these areas to give nature a chance to bounce back. If they did this, would NT members be keen to support the proposed plans?

        1. I think the structure of the Council is probably a safeguard against fifth columnists.

          It's surprising how handy Google can be for who's who.

          1. Cheers again, done it, you'd be surprised at who's who....a small clue look at the top of NT. I'm sorry Mark but whatever the plans for the area the NT have I bet £5 to a charity of your choice nowt changes. Should take a look at the CLA and then look at who is who at the NT. An organisation in favour of game shooting? One that doesn't want any changes in reference to lead shot until proven! Hmmm is it worth voting etc

          2. Worry for NT is if its trustees dont see the need for change (and what its membership want) and start to throw their weight about. Given some of the individuals involved ( Im guessing that they may not be too keen on the change - wonder what Simon Jenkins thinks? (here is a clue:

  10. I've sent my email, thank you for helping me with your text. Now just need to get hubby to do the same. I've also completed your survey and wish to add that I am reading and enjoying your book now.

  11. Mark- I accept I may have over-interpreted your comments and apologise. I think I specifically took my interpretation from the line 'Far too many of England’s uplands are dominated by grouse shooting and the illegal persecution of raptors which all too often seems to go alongside it. ' I guess what I was trying to say is that grouse shooting can play a positive part in conservation and NT's vision and needn't be associated purely with illegal persecution. It's not often you hear about the positive contribution gamekeepers can make, but yes maybe that is a different argument all together.

    Regarding the question whether I have met gamekeepers who want to see more peregrines etc in the Peak District-Yes I have met a few and they are actively working with the Peak District Birds of Prey Working Group to improve birds of prey numbers.

    By the way I am not a shooter!

    Also, thank you for your blog. I have only just found it and as a relative new comer to the 'world of conservation' I find it a valuable part of my daily reading and agree with your philosophies and approach.

    1. Gem - thank you. And I think that means that you and I are quite close together in what we think. Glad to have you here - please keep commenting.

    2. I partially agree with you Gem. Shooting (of grouse or in general) COULD play a positive part in conservation, but at the moment the net effect of shooting activities seems clearly to be limiting wildlife and biodiversity. Shoots still operate in the way they did in the Victorian era, with no apparent knowledge or interest in the ecology of the habitats they shoot over except to the extent that they can manage them to produce/sustain yet more pheasants/grouse. It seems that this NT consultation agrees since it states that some current shooting management practices may need to change (and they are being diplomatic!).

  12. I applaud the content contained within the NT's High Peak Moors Vision , so far so good for the NT and I have told them as much.

    However, having read my fair share of glossy vision statements over the years, I am more than aware that talk is cheap. As I have commented before, for me the litmus test for how determined the NT actually are to put words into action is the decision that they make regarding the renewal of the Howden Moor Tenancy.

    If the NT decide to keep the existing shooting tenant in light of the events that unfolded last January (and very well covered by Mark, see link below) then the High Peak Moors Vision process will be completely undermined.

    If the NT are really determined make a statement they should offer the Howden Moor tenancy to the RSPB, I assume that they would be eager to take it on. As there is plenty of biological data available on Howden, it would be fascinating monitor the changes over time. I'd be interested to know how the Grouse Shooting Fraternity would view this, yes they would be outraged at the loss of a shooting tenant, but equally, the changes to Howden Moor would be available for all to see. So if Grouse Moor management is as vitally important to biodiversity of our uplands as they claim, the changes at Howden over time would surely back up these claims....wouldn't they ?

  13. E-mail sent when you blogged a few days ago about this.Think pointing things like this out to your readers a very important part of what you do as Iguess lots of us would not see it unless you blog about it.

    1. Dennis - thanks. i did put something in my 'monthly' 'newsblast' and then I thought it was worth blogging today to remind people.

  14. Well done Mark that was where I must have seen it then ,stand corrected.If the NT gets enough people supporting there stance and they make it work it could change things all over the country perhaps slowly but surely.They are certainly showing some steel as I see that they stopped a shooting syndicate somewhere else I believe.Personally if a organisation makes really good decisions I find it easy to ignore what I may think of as small faults.For quite a while now the NT seem to be making better decisions than they used to so well done to them.
    Think they see themselves as saviours of houses,buildings and coastline etc so we mustn't ask to much of them on wildlife in my opinion,lets see anything they do in that area as a bonus.

    1. Dennis - you are kinder to the NT than I will be. The NT regards itself as the 'Europe's largest conservation organisation' in its own Natural Childhood report so needs to live up to that title. See my blog of 9 January 2012. But I agree that there are grounds for optimism if they take the right decisions in the High Peak and are not put off by pressure. I'd still like to see NT allow more of its excellent conservation staff to get true satisfaction from doing more to help nature.

  15. Mark I for one find it hard to critise your blog. I lack the knowledge, experience and even education. However after a bit more digging via the internet I have come across gamehunters, wildfowlers and one who tried to overturn stag hunting on NT land. When these people are quite high up in the NT, how much change will there be and what will the end result of the consultation be? I can understand with vast land and mixed use of this land there has to be a variety of people in at the top to represent a variety of views , but to me it seems the important roles have been top loaded with a bias view. Any thoughts about this Mark?

    1. Douglas - the NT is a very broad church with a huge membership. It is unlikely to be all one thing or all another. But like any organisation, it will be fairly careful not to upset those who pay the bills (which is overwhelmingly the public and NT membership) and not to get bad publicity.

      This consultation is a very clear move in one direction. And it is clearly the view of NT staff (otherwise it wouldn't be happening). It would look bad if the consultation was well-supported and then nothing happened, wouldn't it? That's why i am doing quite a lot to encourage NT members and the public to offer their support. Let's see what happens then.

      And, by the way, NT Chair, Simon Jenkins, is on Question Time tonight at 1035 - even money he says something that embarrasses NT staff.

      1. But Mark as an NT member I didn't hear about this topic via a newsletter from the NT or via their website, Filbert even mentions a lack of mention in his emails. So picture this scenario if the same has been experienced by two Nt members who read this blog how many others haven't been informed, so if only a small number have been informed via email etc and out of that small number an even smaller number respond in the way you wish, it would be very easy for certain trust board members to say "there isn't the support for this?". Personally my NT membership is up for renewal in Feb' so I'm having my own spending cut backs so if this goes the way I suspect it will £56 saved.
        Yeah I knew Mr.Jenkins was on question time, I'm a regular watcher, but you can guess what the main topic will be tonight!

        1. Douglas - your view, and my view, on this should influence NT through their pockets. Be fair, NT are heading in the right direction at the moment - my fear is that they might be derailed or chicken out. Let's not let them!

        2. "how many others haven’t been informed"

          Quite a lot, probably - 3,999,997-ish?

          I don't think you should read anything sinister into this - the list of consultees in the draft report is pretty comprehensive (and CA were consulted, as were Sheffield Aeromodellers). This is no different from the EA or Defra, who sent invites to the usual suspects - if you want to keep up with what they are doing, you need to lurk about constantly on their websites.

          1. Filbert - excellent point on other consultees. Now NT have published this much needed vision, I'm sure other consultees like RSPB and outside observers (such as you, Mark other members!) will start to ask some pressing questions if the Trust do a conservative style u-turn. In effect by producing the vision and showing us all, they have opened Pandoras box and I think that will take some wriggling out of, however hard some minority interest groups try to undermine the process. If they back out, it's membership need to hurt them in the pocket, I for one will.

  16. "Simon Jenkins, is on Question Time tonight at 1035 – even money he says something that embarrasses NT staff"

    As big as evens...are you quite sure Dr Avery ? To quote the late Alex Bird "that's better than money in the bank"

    How much can I have on ?!

  17. Mark,

    Submitted my comments today. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. One comment I put was that the NT should show fortitude and vision, by adding Vicarious Liability with respect to wildlife crime on their land, regardless of the outcome of national Government's decision (or indecision) following the Law Commission's consultation which ends today, 30th November.


  18. Mark, As someone who spends a lot of his waking hours in the Peak, particularly the moors in question, I enjoyed your skeptical cynicism about the Peak District Birds of Prey Working Group. They may or may not do great work, but having reported optimistically on the efforts to protect hen harriers in the Upper Derwent and tracked the various prosecutions -- and who pays for defence lawyers -- I share your cynicism. I've had several eye-opening conversations with individuals in the know in Peak District pubs. One day someone will 'stand up' the story of what's going on, put it in a newspaper and we may make some progress. In the meantime, the NT needs to be sure that when it sups with the devil, it uses a very long spoon.

    1. "One day someone will ‘stand up’ the story ... we may make some progress."

      Ed - don't be shy. If you know something useful, share it with the NT. Don't just let it ride and hope for a positive outcome.

  19. This consultation is hugely important not just for the National Trust but for the uplands as a whole. The Trust deserve congratulations and have my full support for what they are doing.

    There've been a lot of comments but two points are outstanding for me:

    Firstly, I understand where those who question glossy statements are coming from - I've had huge difficulty seeking hard statements of policy in much Trust literature in the past. This is different. There are an number of short, sharp policy statements, especially on birds of prey, where the Trust have drawn themselves a clear line in the sand. It is brave and they may not always be able to live up to them: but we can all support them in trying to do so.

    Second, The Trust have got is absolutely right in making it clear that it is the health and environmental sustainability of this moorland environment and its wildlife that is their guiding principle. They rightly have not come out against any particular activity - what they have said that is all activity on these moors must follow the vision, either adapting or going if it is incompatible. Its not just birds of prey: they have rightly pointed out that some features that might be seen as positive, such as high density of Golden Plover due to overburning, may have to give way to the longer term sustainability of the moors.

    The Trust may well face some loss of income, though hopefully HLS will fill the gap. For both the Trust and it's tenants there are big issues for them which spill over into the wider debate about financial support for the countryside: the Trust rightly emphasises the importance of carbon and water: I very much hope we are heading for a future where the Trust plays an increasing role in leading, not just following, how farming and the countryside is funded.


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