Countryfile makes a comeback

It is worth watching the piece on moorland burning that went out on Countryfile last night. (Click here from 14mins – 25mins in)

There are claims that the system designed to protect [blanket bog] is not fit for purpose

Well done to Guy Shrubsole and Friends of the Earth! That dossier of burning on blanket bog includes some data from readers of this blog including the wonderful Bob Berzins (and I’m sure from others too, and from me) – so take a bow!

Amanda Anderson says that practically all of her members are signed up to the rather meaningless voluntary agreement – I put that alongside the raptor records she has never submitted for verification from her kitchen window.

The poor guy, David Stone, from Natural England! Are you frustrated by the rate of change? You could almost see the cogs going round in his head… long pause … sigh … shall I say ‘Yes, these upland landowners are a bloody nightmare and really don’t give a toss about the regulations, and we are a gutless regulator that has lost its way because a bunch of government ministers are mates with the miscreants’? Or shall I say ‘Nooooooo I’m not frustrated, these things take time, it’s about working with people in a voluntary way’? He made the right decision for his career but he didn’t really look (to me at least) as though his heart was in it. The answer summed up the lack of ambition and the failure of the regulator, NE, to use its muscle to protect the environment. Bring on Tony Juniper and let’s see Therese Coffey exit pursued by a Hen Harrier soon, please.

But at least NE is now investigating these burns – that wouldn’t have happened if it were not for FoE, the RSPB who kicked a lot of this off and then rather dropped the ball by not putting it in the public domain, people like Bob Berzins (though there are not many people like Bob Berzins) and readers of this blog. But it took us to make the regulator appear to do its job properly – and we have yet to see it done properly.

And the piece is covered in the Guardian too.


16 Replies to “Countryfile makes a comeback”

  1. Hi,

    This is all focussed on N.E, do you know what the state of play is in Scotland with SNH with regards to burning on blanket bog? Also, do you have a link to the official maps of blanket bogs, both for England and Scotland?

    I hear statements like ‘the UK has more heather moorland than anywhere else in the world’ often, I find that really hard to believe – do you know if this is true? Heather is a pretty widespread plant and Russia is quite large!


    1. Heather moorland is an artificial ecosystem, maintained by fire. Left alone it will revert to forest – or at higher altitudes and exposed sites, to dwarf birch scrub.

      1. Agree — but, like lowland heath, it’s also maintained by grazing. And, historically, open heaths also owe their existence to peat/turf cutting; stone/mineral quarrying; bracken harvesting and firewood foraging. While in extreme shortage, even dried dung was collected for fuel thereby creating even less chance for tree growth.

  2. In the Guardian piece Gove has said that the government will take steps to introduce legislation “if our constructive, voluntary approach does not deliver”.
    How much longer do we have to wait for the government to decide to act?
    I’m surprised that Countryfile, among other BBC programmes, was so clear in what was for it, an unusual even handed assessment.
    In the Guardian, “Amanda Anderson, said that where heather burning has taken place over blanket bog, it was to remove overgrown vegetation to enable the blanket bog to recover in accordance with government-endorsed guidance.” So there is no voluntary ban, then, even in the guidance from NE? How can that be?
    I just wish the EU, or some other body, would step in to ensure the duty of the regulator is properly enforced.

    1. Is there any requirement to make landowners block dug out drains they have created in areas of blanket big or, indeed, to let blanket bogs by blocking natural drains?

      1. Lizzybusy – there may be on some protected sites (but that takes us back to the origins of the Walshaw Moor/Wuthering moors case). Quite often land owners will have had grants (long ago) to make drains (grips) and now will get grants to block them up – this has happened before with hedgerows…

  3. Good piece but I’m not sure it included the words ‘grouse’ or ‘shooting’ which rather lets the main culprits off the hook.

  4. Is this the legislation under which big burning is illegal and we should report to Natural England or Scottish Natural Heritage?

    Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

    13 Protection of wild plants.(England+Wales)

    (1)Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

    (a)intentionally picks, uproots or destroys any wild plant included in Schedule 8; or

    (b)not being an authorised person, intentionally uproots any wild plant not included in that Schedule,

    he shall be guilty of an offence.

    13 Protection of wild plants. (Scotland)

    (1)Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

    (a)intentionally or recklessly picks, uproots or destroys

    (i)any wild plant included in Schedule 8; or

    (ii)any seed or spore attached to any such wild plant; or

    (b)not being an authorised person, intentionally or recklessly uproots any wild plant not included in that Schedule,

    he shall be guilty of an offence.

    Schedule 8
    Plants which are Protected

    1. Lizzy – burning is not illegal as NE issued consents for it to happen in the past which are still in place. They should, IMHO, just remove them now. But they have decided to go for agreements to stop buurning, estate by estate, and these will tkae some time to come into force – and are pretty worthless anyway in my opinion because of the way they are worded.

      The main issue is burning of blanket bogs on deep peat (but many would say any burning, on any peat is a basd thing). The reason this has ‘bite’ is that the EU Habitats Directive (drafted by Stanley Johnson, sire of Boris – and so not dreamed up and forced on us by a bunch of foreigners) class blanket bogs as a priority habitat. It is because of EU pressure on Uk that we should do what we have promised and protect these bogs, that we have got even as far as we have.

  5. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the item was dealt with as in the past Countryfile has rather fudged or ignored such issues, indeed the whole grouse moor debate really.
    Interesting choice of estates mentioned in the Guardian, Grimwith Estate are I believe not members of the Moorland Association and West Arkengarthdale belongs to the Duke of Norfolk. Interesting times indeed, hopefully we will soon see a complete ban. Then again after the dreaded Brexit it could all be swept under the carpet again!

    1. Oh and I just noticed the Grauniad write West Arkengarthdale is in the North Pennines—- No it isn’t it is in the Yorkshire Dales, other end from Grimwith Estate but nonetheless clearly in the Dales. Arkengarthdale is a side” arm” of Swaledale.

  6. Mark, you rightly credit FOE and RSPB and others with getting the grouse moor burning issue much higher up the list, but you must include your name too as you do one “hell of a lot” well done we are slowly very slowly pushing back those who desecrate our uplands and it’s wildlife.
    As you say if Ms Coffey “went out the door”, so we could have an impartial environmental and economic assessment of driven grouse shooting, that would help enormously. However I think the incoming tide of pressurisation to halt and reverse the abuse of our uplands and it’s wildlife will “ immerse” her before too long.

  7. Perhaps the school students who have taken the wild environment to their hearts and are due to strike/demonstrate again next month will have this issue on their agenda too.

    I do hope so – I am with them every step of the way as they bring these matters to the attention of the wider public!

  8. Not if it is a healthy, wet blanket bog. Too wet for many trees. If it is not a peat habitat, bring on the trees and shrubs

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