I’ve been away

I’ve been away for a few days for a family wedding in Edinburgh. It was a slightly strange but very happy event with few guests (six of us) and where the wedding breakfast was held in the open air, by the Scottish Parliament looking up at Arthur’s Seat, drinking champagne and eating take-away pizza. But some noisy fledged Peregrines and their parents did several fly-pasts to add their congratulations.

En route either north or south it would have been remiss not to pop in to some driven grouse moors as we went the pretty way through Nidderdale, the Yorkshire Dales NP, North Pennines AONB and then south via Langholm and Forest of Bowland AONB.

It’s not a great time for seeing wildlife on the moors, mid July, but some of the meadows were quite pretty with buttercups and Meadowsweet.

Above Swaldale.

There was a chipping Snipe on this in-bye above Swaledale and a pair of Oystercatchers with chicks and Curlews bubbling further down the valley.

The aim was to head up the road to Tan Hill, glancing to the west (left) at a moor where a couple of Hen Harriers have disappeared in the past, but an over-ambitious Argos delivery van was stuck on a hairpin just across the Swale from the B6270 so we had to carry on to Kirkby Stephen and re-route.

The road to Tan Hill that I couldn’t take.

From Brough we headed to Middleton smiling at the weird shapes of mown heather on Wemmergill and through the area where a Hen Harrier called Marc ‘disappeared’.

Hen Harrier Marc – last known fix. Image: RSPB
Therese Coffey trying to find a solution to burning, drainage, lead ammunition, medicated grit, habitat damage and wildlife crime on a visit to Wemmergill Moor by chatting to grouse moor managers while she was a DEFRA minister. Photo: Natural England

We headed up the Tees and crossed over to the Wear at St John’s Chapel via a Black Grouse-less Langdon Beck, but we saw a Peregrine in the land of the Prince Bishops.

I glanced up towards Bollihope and remembered the conversation of almost a couple of years ago when the locals in a pub were talking of the link between the grouse shooting of the Crown Prince of Dubai and the races at Newcastle. At present, racing is behind closed doors with no general public and very limited access even for owners so the shoot-race social double is looking a bit unlikely. Maybe by 4 September, the next Newcastle meeting, things will have loosened up a bit and the fifty quid notes will find their way into local shops as they do when the sheikhs are in town.

We took the western route home via Langholm Moor.

I was quite shocked to see how grassy the area now is, and the number of self-seeded conifers dotted across the moor.

Langhom Moor from near the MacDiarmid memorial.

The sooner the community buy-out rescues this site, the better.

We returned to England via the edges of Kielder Forst and then to Bowland where I had to stand on the bridge over the Wyre. I often make a detour to stand here. It’s partly because it is down the hill from one of the best views in England, over Morecambe Bay and the Lake District (but not yesterday when it was misty, although there were some commuting Lesser Black-backs heading for the coast from the moors (see here)) but it’s also because it was really there, thinking on that bridge, that I became more certain that a ban of driven grouse shooting was what was required, and was worth campaigning for (see Inglorious, pp184-198 for the full context but particularly 187-88).

There were more Pheasants than Red Grouse on the moorland road away from the bridge, but there weren’t many of either. Still, it’s July. Not the best time to see the wildlife of the moors.

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5 Replies to “I’ve been away”

  1. I am puzzeled re “I was quite shocked to see how grassy the area now is, and the number of self-seeded conifers dotted across the moor.” isnt that what is meant to develop. A forested upland with non of those stunning views as you drive over that I grew up loving. Just dark conifers hemming the road in?

    1. Broadleaf and scots pine mix, not forestry spruce and fir. That is what those self seeded conifers are, forestry remnants mainly. Restoration and rewilding is not as simple as just walking away, at least not at first. Also there needs be appropriate wildlife mix supporting it.

  2. You managed to visit some of my favourite places, Nidderdale where I honed my birding skills and it can be a great place to see birds despite the “criminal bastards” that own and manage much of it, sadly I’ve been unable to visit since the winter. Swaledale/Arkengarthdale again lovely places with some great birding memories mainly working for YDNP in the nineties, again owned and managed by those with criminal tendencies I suspect as much persecution happens here as in Nidderdale but it is not as well watched. Bowland, part of my heart is forever here having spent six summers working there for RSPB, although there are fewer Harriers now and it is THE place for them, the criminals and countryside vandals there and elsewhere have much to answer for.
    This is why RSPB in their review of policy towards shooting must start treating these people as the problem not the solution and be prepared to be in it for the long haul because changing the status quo in our uplands will not be easy or quick.

  3. I hope you wore a mask. We’ve had the virus under control here, thankfully. We don’t need people from the great southern plague pit tracking it north for something as frivolous as a wedding breakfast. You could have joined that via a zoom call.

  4. A grand northern tour – I was worried owls were being killed at Wemmergill again when I saw the Teesdale Durham sign in your summary.
    Saw no sign of them (or much at all) last month but the Middleton chippy was excellent so will keep going to have a look.
    Lot of burnt squares seen from the road though…
    Saw Gunnerside had retro-fitted legal traps which was a sign of some sort of progress, (or at least compliance with the law)…

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