Wuthering Moors 52

Walshaw Drainage-2

This is a map of Walshaw Moor which was used in the 2012 case against the estate which was mysteriously dropped by Natural England.  You can make out the purple areas, which are made up of lots of purple lines, which the key tells us are artificial watercourses.

Many of these would be known to you and me as drainage ditches and look like this one:

Walshaw 21 Dec 2012 095

They look pretty good at getting water off hills don’t they? And they need to be so that the heather can grow and the Red Grouse can eat it and Richard Bannister, the owner of Walshaw Moor since 2002 can shoot Red Grouse.

Walshaw Moor mostly drains into the Hebden Beck which runs through Hebden Bridge and into the River Calder just off the bottom of the map above. The Calder Valley constituency of  Craig Whittaker MP now has the highest number of signatures on our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting, by far.  The Hebden Bridge Ban the Burn campaigners are pretty convinced that the management of the moors above their town has led to the misery and huge economic costs of recent floods.

And they might be right – it’s certainly not out of the question. But we can’t be sure.

But remember (or read about it in Inglorious pp 149-57) that Natural England’s gripe was largely about moor gripping (drainage). Of the 45 offences with which Walshaw Moor Estate was charged, 30 of them related to installing drainage channels. The case collapsed but we know, because I asked Defra through FoI, that some of the alleged damage may never be restored.

According to the Environment Agency the years in which Hebden Bridge has been flooded seriously are: 1946, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2012, 2012 again and 2015. Richard Bannister acquired Walshaw Moor and started the increased drainage, building of tracks and car parks etc which got him into a dispute with Natural England in 2002. So in the 13 years since Walshaw Moor changed hands there have been five Hebden Bridge floods and in the 56 years before there were two such events as best we can tell.  That’s quite a change. Makes you think doesn’t it?

It’s nowhere near proof of anything though, is it.

Let’s just ban driven grouse shooting, just in case the ‘intensive moorland management for driven grouse shooting exacerbates flooding’ theory does hold water, unlike the hills managed for driven grouse shooting.

Walshaw 21 Dec 2012 100-2




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37 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 52”

  1. I can’t understand for the life of me why landowners are not held responsible for maintaining uplands as a natural water retaining system in order to prevent flooding in downstream locations. We have long held the view that you can’t just extract water without thinking of those downstream so why is it OK to disregard their needs when it comes to flooding. They have a responsibility and it is on that should be built into law.

    1. Private ownership is fine but if they are in receipt of public funding then what is wrong with conditions (like cross compliance etc.) being attached to receipt?

      1. I am not sure Cross Complience would help as the requirements generally are very weak and there is virtually no enforcement.

    2. I can’t understand for the life of me why landowners are not held responsible for maintaining uplands as a natural water retaining system in order to prevent flooding in downstream locations

      Because for decades they were implementing government policy by draining the moors to increase sheep grazing?

      1. And, being farmers, they are utterly incapable of doing anything other than implement ‘government policy’ and take in tax payer hand outs while they’re at it. Of course, NFU lobbying in no way influenced the government policy those poor little farmers have been required to implement.

    3. I thought that in the past they were responsible for holding the water when the moors were saturated and couldn’t hold anymore water.

  2. Many of the law makers either own and or, are related to the owners of these uplands. Government ministers and princes shoot on them. So don’t care about anything other than maintaining draining and burning the moors solely for the purpose of enjoying their mindless hobby! Shooting birds & animals for fun………. #Simples

    1. So, perhaps a sympathetic and more scientifically appreciative MP might like to consider a PQ perhaps?

      There are 650 + 850 in the Westminster village, not all are in such safe / establishment positions and I’d like to think that there are some who can see beyond ‘politics’ to people and would like to see a holistic approach taken to resolving water/flooding issues (which in turn should also address silly sports)?

  3. This grouse moor used to run just fine without drains grouse still bread there they still shot them and they still had somewhere to park there 4×4 and eat lunch.It still cost a lot to shoot.I wounder if trying to ban something the elete do is ever possible.Why not just ban draining and burning.Yes they where big bogs there in fact if I remember rightly when I walked all over this more as a teenager it was like walking on a water bead.What was I doing walking all over the Moore?Grouse beeting for ten pound a day the money was the only spence I got!.I am not posting for a debate on grouse shooting I don’t want to get involved with that.Am posting because the towns below flood.I went grouse beeting 22 years ago before drains and fires all the toffs seemed happy and I got my tenner.If they feel they need more grouse than they had then they should get some target practice when ever I looked in shooters shed the 10-14 men had more grouse than they could eat.The European grants have got the fat shooters laughing there heads of they get paid money to bread more grouse.Like I said if they need more grouse they should look at there shooting skills where’s the sport in having a hundred birds to shoot at!

  4. Dont blame Natural England for the collapse of the case against the owner, blame the Minister in charge of Defra, who has NE by the short and curlies! NE was once an “Arms length Body”but now has had its arms chopped off and every increasingly has become placed under the direct thumb screws and control of government ministers, who have never liked it with the powers that it once had! I hope the case against the land owner can however be readdressed and the blame for the recent flooding in Hebden Bridge can be placed firmly at the door of the land owner through the civil courts for the damage caused (if this can be proven), who should then be made to block all moorland grips at his own cost, as a court would have instructed if the case against him by NE had not been dropped in the first instance (or if money has been given already paid by NE then this money should be reclaimed as a cost against the said owner!). Questions into the handling of the original case under S28 of the W&C Act, 1981 should also perhaps once again be raised and government’s handling of it to embarrass Minister’s of state, not the very organisation (NE) and staff who are charged to look after SSSIs, since their hands are very often tied and increasingly have to do as they are told!

    1. Sorry Jon but excuses, we’re not talking local staff but their senior staff are ‘political’ species so there is perhaps a case to be made about their effectiveness and value for public funds?

      Accept a lot of good grass roots staff are probably demoralised etc. so too are folk who see their taxes being spent on management spin, generous senior packages etc. and failed conservation, as for tangible outcomes – remind me of the last significant challenge they effected please?

      Govt. has gagged them and amputated their limbs, but certainly in this area they have failed to get local grassroots support, preferring to fund gardening projects and the ‘gardeners’ appear to have deserted them in fear of Govt. reprisal too? What a sorry state of affairs?

  5. People who know the moors are sceptical of Natural England as well as the politicians and the landowners. The sense applied to land management is about as sensible as we’ve had with discards and quota for fishing.
    Whatever a Govt says should be done, the opposition always dismiss. Then when the govt changes, the newcomer doesn’t follow through on what they had promised in their criticisms of the previous administration. Flood defences and prevention is one of the most obvious areas for this.
    We know have crazy situation in my sport of fell running, where we cannot hold a race in some areas that might involve 150 runners on a given day running over a set route. Yet year round there is access for runners training, hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders and sometimes motorised vehicles to access these areas as much as they want.
    This is despite fell running events being perhaps the most sensitive to the environment of these groups.

    1. I used to take part in the Karrimor Mountain Marathon, but over a wet weekend, we would churn up and devastate the vulnerable paths.. I was put off these large events for that reason.. preferring a smaller group, if not solo, making a far smaller impact and appreciating a more personal connection with the land.

  6. A useful starting point, particularly given the amount of public, taxpayer’s money would be to require all management agreements to be public documents. Irrespective of the issue of grouse shooting, it is difficult to see how any management agreement allowing for the drainage of moorland in this way could possibly comply with the UK’s obligations under the Habitats and Bird Directives. The political pressure put on Natural England is frankly a disgrace. If NE isn’t allowed to be more independent (and properly resourced), you might as well not bother with s.28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 or the Habitats Regulations.

  7. The organisations in the Ryedale area (http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-7ZVDV5) have got together to address a similar problem for Pickering. They “slowed the flow” by installing permeable dams in the catchment area. They do not stop the water, just make the flow from the uplands spread out over a longer time and so stop a sudden rise in water level. Did you see the news article about the recent flooding in Pickering? No? Because there wasn’t one. It only experienced minor flooding.

    1. Yes and there is a similar project near Peebles which has been presented in the local newspaper (positive media coverage!) as the main reason why the town largely avoided flooding. http://www.itv.com/news/border/story/2013-08-20/flood-prevention-in-borders-moves-forward/

      Are we getting to the stage where there are enough of these alternative flood prevention schemes – Pickering, Belford etc – that a pattern can be established showing they really do make a difference? Starting to look like it I think. Still nowhere near the amount of coverage it should get, but the land management rather than just flood defences point is definitely gaining momentum. The pics of drains running with water on Walshaw Moor certainly don’t do grouse moors any favours.

      The wonderful Ramsay family posted images (Save the Free Beavers of the Tay fb page)of the beaver dams they have on their property and in the recent rains you can clearly see that the water behind them is higher than usual. Given the number of dams they have it must add up to considerable amount of water. So the point being made by Bert Burnett and others that if you pour water on a ‘full sponge’ it will make no difference is guff when applied to beaver dams and re grouse moors isn’t the sponge more likely to be full after rain than before it?

  8. Its deeply dissappointing that SSSIs can be wrecked like this, especially as its ruining people’s lives in the towns below. If I lived there I’d be organising massed delegations to visit the perpetrators. Or maybe taking a group legal action.

  9. Yes, Hebden Bridge Residents. I know you must inundated with the clean up still and all the ongoing difficulties resulting from the flood. But could you delegate some people to start a big campaign to make the / these landowners accountable. Unbelievable recklessness and selfishness, they must be made to account for this. Ban SHOOTING ON THESE MOORS. RESTORE GOOD SENSE AND PROTECT THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES and historic properties from floods.

    1. We have done that,it’s called ‘Ban The Burn’ and we need as much support as possible.

  10. Still struggling to make sence of this I have come to this conclusion.No human can stand accused of flooding thousands of people can then fight a court case about such accusations then carry on even after the news is full of the same towns flooding more and worse than ever before unless it’s on purpose.He must be ( or thinks he is) a evil genius who on purpose floods as many people he can.So he can make big profits on selling new furniture and cloths and appliances.I no I have just stepped into the conspiracy theories territory but I’ve found out he doesn’t charge his contacts and connected friends am sure of which some are MPs to shoot on this land he’s draining.What other reson could he possibly be doing this for?

  11. It is time we nationalised the Uplands in this country, if not then at least pay landowners to plant large forests. Flooding will not end but at least it will be better contained and absorbed by trees. Grouse shooting should have been consigned to the 19th century as its use and attitudes that allow it to continue are so wasteful!!!

  12. This is a non sequitur. Keepering of grouse has gone on for over 150 years without anyone seeing the need to over-drain moorland. Rather than banning driven grouse shooting, the remedy is to attack the actual problem and ban the draining of moorland. Substantial areas of moorland should be soggy, boggy and should form peat. That preserves a historic form of landscape and retains water.

    I am now in my late sixties and this is a type of terrain I’ve been familiar with since infancy.

    1. Dru – welcome and thank you for your comment.

      ‘This is a non-sequitur’ – what is?

      If the only thing wrong with driven grouse shooting were draining then you might be right – but it isn’t. Heather burning, wildlife crime, use of lead ammunition etc are other issues. There’s a book about all of these things called Inglorious – you should read it (or at least buy it!).

      1. Unfortunately, unless regular controlled burning takes place then we end up with vast fires like the one at Saddleworth Moor this last week. There is a place for controlled burning otherwise the devastation a massive uncontrolled fire causes will become a regular occurrence.

        1. Sara – you mean the vast fire on land that is regularly burned? Spot the logic fracture?

  13. Mark, the non sequitur is that grouse-shooting is the cause of flooding. The cause of flooding is draining moorland. One may approve or disapprove of grouse-shooting. There are a lot of other reasons why over-keepering is bad for other wildlife. But those aren’t what’s contributing to flooding. What appears to be causing that is draining moorland that’s supposed to be boggy and to retain water, so that water runs off too quickly.

    There’s quite a strong argument that draining moorland is fatal and destructive short-termism, which in the medium term will destroy the habitat altogether. No moorland = no grouse.

  14. Yes but. You’d need to find some historic data about river response times and reservoir filling rates for (say) the 1980s and the 2010s in order to compare the old Savile Estate with the Walshaw Estate. I grind no axe for those who enjoy killing animals, but it’s important not to let emotion override fact. Just saying.

    1. Do Shepherd – there’s no emotion involved. Where do such data exist – if they do then it might be more helpful to point us all towards them – they would certainly interest me.

  15. Hi Mark Avery
    Why does this article say Richard Bannister owns the moor?, When Yorkshire water own it. My house in Todmorden the town below flooded again last week for the 4th time while I have owned it. I can not sell it obviously and now want to put some energy in pressuring yorkshire water to stop letting moors out to be drained into my house! After all they charge me a water drainage fee. Am thinking breech of contract! Any tips hoe to pressure this evil corp are welcome!

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