Wuthering Moors 43

Walshaw 28 Aug 2013 212

This is the fourth blog today on the subject of burning of blanket bog (see here, here, and here).  These were sparked (!) by the RSPB releasing data on the scale of the issue and calling for an end to the burning of blanket bog.  There has been a little media coverage of this – see here.

But the site, and the legal case, that started all this off was Walshaw Moor.  The RSPB website has a very handy guide to the ‘case’ (overviewtimeline, and the RSPB’s position).  If you download the pdf document entitled ‘Walshaw Moor, South Pennines RSPB complaint to the European Commission – further submission 2014 Summary’ you can have a look at a map of Walshaw Moor itself.  You will see its boundary nestling cosily within the South Pennine Moors SAC.  The yellow areas of moorland, either dark or light yellow, are areas where heather burning has been consented on blanket bogs – a practice which Natural England has come back to believing is damaging.

The RSPB also comments on its website on the dropped prosecution of the Walshaw Moor Estate by Natural England thus: ‘We also criticised the dropping of the prosecution and the resulting failure to take appropriate steps to rectify the damage caused by the alleged offences. The information provided by the UK Government confirms that NE had charged WMEL with a total of 45 offences. The number of alleged offences appears unprecedented in recent times and reinforces the seriousness with which NE had been taking the case. The information obtained by the RSPB from NE has shown there will be no restoration of the majority of damage to protected SAC/SPA habitats caused by infrastructure (drainage, tracks, car parks, ponds, grouse butts). The UK told the Commission that all 30 incidents of artificial drainage will be restored using agri-environment money. But the RSPB could find only 2 of those drains ear-marked for restoration in the HLS drain blocking programme.‘.

The damage caused by drainage, car parks, tracks, ponds and grouse butts on this site will not be restored? Why not?

The 30 incidents of artificial drainage will be restored using your and my taxes – why?


Well, I guess it’s a good thing that Walshaw Moor looks in such good condition – the photo at the head of this post is of Walshaw Moor (I am reliably told, I have not yet visited) in late August 2013 when the heather should have been in full bloom.  not much of a show is it? Instead there are large yellow sick-looking patches of sprayed Molinia grass.

For earlier images of the beauties of Walshaw Moor see here, here and here.


17 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 43”

  1. Have they been spraying herbicide as well? I don’t understand why there is a patch of bright green rush and purple moor grass…seemingly surrounded by dead tussocks (which would have been burnt off in the fire)????

  2. Your ‘here, here and here’ links at the bottom don’t seem to be links Mark 🙂

    1. Bog-trotter – I have cut most of your comment as it takes us to a subject of a post I have written for next week (you and I are thinking along similar lines) and I don’t want to open that discussion here before I open it here – if you see what I mean! Hope that’s alright? Many thanks.

  3. It is interesting to note that under the Romans heather was a rare species around Hadrian’s Wall. Only one record of Red Grouse was found over a 300 year period but Black Grouse was ‘common as chicken’! The fact that a man made habitat can be called ‘unique’ is false. We have 75% of heather but we also have 50% of slag tips but there is no difference. Both man made. Heather is a pioneer plant and can not self seed under itself. It is there to allow other species to dominate hence fire. Only at alpine height may it survive on its own. Natural England, at one time, were keen on natural succession. Why not on Heather moorland? Remember ‘Natural’ is in their title or is that to change as well to ‘Unnatural England’!!

    1. Sorry to dis-agree John but heather does self seed under its- self. As heather gets older the stems become thicker and longer. This leads to the plant becoming top heavy and it cannot then support its- self. The plant looses its leaves and a bare patch is left where the heather grew. Seed which has fallen into the area under the plant then germinates and a new patch of heather forms. This happens at lowland sites and upland moorland. It is natural succession. This may happen in small areas i.e. individual plants or if the heather in an area is about the same age, it can cover a larger area. How long the seed remains under the plant before the lack of shade triggers germination I do not know. I have pushed my way through heather which is so dense it supports surrounding plants up to more than waist height. The purpose, as far as I know, of heather burning is to produce bare areas for the seed to germinate in, providing young shoots for the grouse family to eat. Thus speeding up the natural heather re-generation, but I expect you already know this, all the best.

  4. The real question is will NE have the bottle to go back to the issue and ban burning of blanket bog on SACs SSSIs and SPAs along with insisting on grip blocking what ever the likes of MA, BASC ,CA etc say. Along with a better grip of what other habitat management is or is not allowed and when.

    1. The problem is that if NE and by default SNH etc, accept the truth, and stop burning in the EU sites, they will also have to stop it happening outside the sites. The UK’s commitments under the habitats directive are not restricted to the specially protected sites. We must work towards the maintenance of the habitat across all of its range, especially a priority habitat like blanket bog. At UK level blanket bog is not in favourable conservation status, its area is shrinking through habitat loss and it is being damaged by grazing, burning and drainage. The EU will eventually work out that we are not bringing the resource into FCS and worse still we are spending EU grants to continue the bad management.

    2. NE & ‘bottle’?

      Sadly not in my experience, but that is around lowland raised mires, application of the Habitats Directive, damage to SSSIs etc.

      I’m sure there are some good staff, I’ve come across a handful over the last three decades or so but they’re as scarce as Curimopsis nigrita!

    3. Paul, I suspect not. They don’t have the balls (despite most of their knowledgable staff advising them that they should). No doubt interested parties in the grouse industry are working overtime behind closed doors and via direct lines to ministers to ensure they don’t do a characteristic Conservative u-turn on this one.

      1. “They don’t have the balls”

        Unfair I think.

        I think they demonstrated their cahonies by taking WME to court in the first instance. What they don’t have is the support of Defra and in particular the current Government….they are the ones that all the opprobrium should be aimed at. Blame the organ grinder not the monkey!

        In the real world it’s not so easy to embark upon a course of action that you know could result in you losing your job especially when you’ve got bills to pay and a family to feed.

        1. WME, grass roots started but then they (were ‘encouraged to’) back off and as often the case leave it to others to take on the battle. They’ve had years of practice & typically it goes right back to the NCC and English Nature days too (at least around here).

          Sadly life is unfair, perhaps if the monkey were to work with conservation then they would not be so badly burned? B-t is right to say there were and are probably still a few good staff hanging on and they need help, but they need to help themselves and find genuine allies?

          Absolutely agree with EM that there should be a new organ, the old one is so out of tune with reality these days.

          Would that ‘conservation’ could achieve accountability in Defra, who preside over selective rural welfare payments and turn blind eye to damage of SSSIs etc.

          But, have the big NGOs got the ‘bottle’ to bite the hand that also feeds them? I suppose we have to feel pangs of guilt about their jobs as well as those of Defra staff too? Jobs worth more etc. abandon principles and what do we get …. who was it said ‘what we deserve’ and was it whilst Nero fiddled?

  5. I agree with Circus Maxima but could the buggers have sprayed Lime/limestone on it to reduce the acidic bog PH!

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