Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas and New Year

I wish all followers of this Blog a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.  The Trust will be closed from tonight but we will return bright eyed and bushy tailed to tackle the challenges of 2010 on 5th January.

Alison, Catherine & dogs after our Christmas Lunch, yesterday.

Scotland - Rural Land Use Strategy

If you would like to know more about the development of the Land Use Strategy for Scotland I suggest that you look at the Scottish National Rural Network site which has background details, links to other information and tells you how to get involved.

The Trust will be contributing to this process through Scotland's Moorland Forum but we will supplement this with some input of our own, if I think we can add something extra as an independent view.  I woould be pleased to hear any views from members about the issues that should be addressed.  It is interesting to note that The Climate Change (Scotland) 2009 requires a land use strategy to be introduced by 2011.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Wales - Introduction of Glastir / EID

The latest version of Gwlad, the Welsh Assembly Government's agriculture and rural affairs magazine, has a useful summary of the actions required by farmers who wish to enter the Glastir scheme when it starts on 1 January 2012.  See page 3.  This may seem a long way off but, perhaps surprisingly, actions start now.

This same edition also has a useful summary of the requirements of the Electronic ID Scheme in Wales.  See page 4.

For those with an  interest in encouraging Young Entrants, a link to the details of the key Welsh scheme can be found on page 13.  Should other countries be following the Welsh lead?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Average Age of Hill Farmers

The perceived wisdom is that the average age of hill farmers is increasing out of control and that they are much older than other farmers.  In doing some research for a paper I am writing I came across the Rural Business Research website that provides average age by farm type.  I reproduce the table here:

Farm Type Average age
       General Cropping
       Grazing livestock (lowland)
       Grazing lifestock (LFA)
    Mixed and other types

 I have not researched this in depth and it is possible the detail explains why this is not as it seems (lies, damn lies & statistics).  However, cheer up hill farmers, you may not be as far out on a limb as you thought you were, mind you the figures do not necessarily change how you feel.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Wildfires - California style

This article from BBC News demonstrates that the debate between prescribed burning and wildfires is not confined to the burning of heather.  Much of the content of this article, although describing forest fires, is relevant to heather burning.

The video clip:  It would be good to think we could have helicopters on standby in the UK, although 3 min standby might be a bit OTT!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


One Welsh farmer has made hydropower work for him.  See a short video clip.

The costs quoted are: installation £25,000, grant £2,500, income from sale of surplus electricity £900 per month.  On these figures, anyone with a good supply of water and a steep hill should be queuing up.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Natural England - Launch of the Upland Vision

I attended the launch of Natural England's Upland Vision in Ilkley on 12 Nov 09.  Their press release gives details of the launch, a link to the document and also comments from some of the organisations that were represented at the launch.

The Vision is welcomed, although perhaps inevitably it is good on aspirations and less good on delivery.  An interesting part of the work associated with the Upland Vision is the establishment of 3 demonstration sites across the country to trial some of the principles.  More details are available on the NE website.  Hopefully this work will help to show how the Vision can be delivered.  It is work that I would like to keep in close contact with as it is very close to the Trust's heart. The need for compromise to allow upland owners and managers to generate income to pay for the necessary management of these areas needs to be emphasised and I hope that these demonstrations sites will address this.

Perhaps there is a case for an Upland Strategy to be developed that will provide a direction for upland policy from where we are now to the aspirations set out in the Vision.

In Scotland, we have been advised recently of compensatory conifer planting on good quality heather moorland following the clear felling of another part of an estate.  To my mind, there is a clear need for an Upland Strategy in all parts of the UK to protect our upland areas and stop this sort of nonsense.  Is this just unnecessary additional bureaucracy, or would it serve a useful purpose?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Scotland - Muirburn Consultation Responses

Alison has produced a summary of the responses to the Muirburn section of the Scottish Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill Consultation produced by members of Scotland's Moorland Forum.  This is available from the Trust's website.  It can only be a summary and the full responses are available from the SG Website.

A pattern can be seen from these responses: there is general agreement on most issues but there is a polarisation about burning in spring.  Several organisations are promoting an end to the burning season of 31 Mar 09.  I do not support this.

  • There is no compelling evidence to support the early cessation of the season.  References are made to the BTO report commissioned by the Moorland Forum, but I thought it had been acknowledged that this had been ambivalent.  It is surprising how such reports keep coming around.
  • Losing the ability to burn in April would cut off most of the burning that takes place in the highlands.  This would result in more rank vegetation and a greater risk of wildfires.  I argue that this would produce a greater risk to peat and bird habitat.
The other issue that surprises me is the response to the proposal to remove the requirement for the notification of neighbours.  It is pretty clear that this has never been consistently carried out and arguably it is a bit of bureaucratic nonsense.  Yet several respondents are reluctant to see this requirement removed.  I would prefer it removed to guidance that notification occurs where burning is to take place near a sensitive habitat or forestry close on the other side of the march.  Otherwise what purpose does it serve?  The default position should be that muirburn can be expected on all managed moorland every year.  Perhaps notification should only be required when muirburn is not going to take place!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Animal Health Bill - England

It had been thought that the proposal to introduce a mechanism where animal keepers shared the costs associated with the prevention and control of animal diseases had been shelved.  Not so.  See the Countryside Alliance Newsletter for more details.

As Simon Hart puts it, "This is cost shifting, not cost sharing".

Friday, 6 November 2009

The woes of hill sheep farming

Farmers Weekly has produced a short video (6 mins) that details the problems facing sheep farmers in Western Scotland.  EID, lamb prices, land abandonment, new entrants, and food supply get a mention. 

The video paints a rather chilling picture and I doubt that the picture is much different in other remote parts of the UK.  Are we doing enough to safeguard the future of the hill farming industry that is so important for food production and the management of the uplands that also provides employment for people who keep our rural communities viable?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Beaver Update

For an update on the fate of the Beavers re-introduced into Argyll in May see the article in today's edition of The Scotsman.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

International Year of Biodiversity 2010

Hands up all those who knew that 2010 was to be the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB)?  I will not be surprised if this event has passed most people by but the activities are to be launched in London on 25 Nov 09. More details can be found on the website of the lead organisation, the Natural History Museum.

The United Nations has declared the following aims for the IYB
  • to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity for our well-being;
  • to halt the loss of biodiversity, which is currently up to 100 times greater than the rate of natural extinction; and
  • to celebrate success stories.
This may not be exciting stuff, but there is a close linkage between ecosystem services (or natural services) such as the provision of water, food and fibre from our moorland, and the carbon storage / sequestration function, and the need to maintain moorland habitats in a healthy, diverse condition.  Biodiversity may be an 'old', overused concept, but linked to the latest concept of ecosystem services, it gains a new lease of life.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Scotland's Moorland Forum Meeting

Last week was a busy week as we geared up for one of the three annual meetings of the full Forum on Friday.  It is always difficult to strike the right balance between providing challenging presentations and discussion for the representatives of the 30 member organisations while also keeping the governance of the Forum going.  We ended up with 3 presentations:  Habitat Trends from the Countryside Survey 2007 (Ed Mackey, SNH); the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework document (Prof Des Thompson, SNH) and Carbon Storage in UK Peatlands (Dr Fred Worrall, Durham University).  Highlights: Bracken is expanding, heather is contracting in Scotland; SNH is worried about the effects of a lack of prey on Hen harrier populations as well as about persecution; blocking of grips is bad for greenhouse gas emissions (due to the release of methane), but good for keeping peat and its carbon on the hill.

We had allocated 40+ mins for governance issues but I was pleased to note that this was squeezed into little over 15mins by more interesting discussion and everyone appeared to be happy to rely on the paperwork that I had circulated in advance of the meeting - the benefit of the 5Ps (prior planning preventing poor performance).

I welcome the input from such a diverse range of organisations to these meetings.  We do not all agree, and it is not all sweetness and light, but it remains an effective way to build consensus.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Scotland's Moorland Forum - New Grant

I am delighted to be able to report that the Trust's grant to provide the administration for the Forum will be renewed.

I am the Secretary and Alison is the Administrator of the Forum and these roles involve a large amount of work.  This input is funded by a grant from Scottish Natural Heritage.  I had expected that the existing grant would continue until 31st March 2011, but I was invited to re-apply for a grant from 1 April 2010.  This caused a flurry of unexpected activity prior to the deadline on 1 September, and a certain amount of 'sharpening the pencil', to make our application as attractive as possible.

The less good news is that the grant will only be for 1 year, rather than the three we had applied for.  However, I am grateful for the approval, as renewal was by no means certain in the difficult financial times that SNH finds itself in.  Claims that our budget was cut tight and submitted on the assumption of being given a 3 year term are likely to fall on deaf ears! 

Discussions will now take place on how best to fund the support of the Forum after the end of our one year grant.  I hope that we will be able to retain our involvement wherever the funding comes from.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

HT Facts & Figures

Trying to remember all the facts & figures that fly across my desk is an impossible task. I started to record the most interesting / most relevant a while ago and in case it is of wider interest I have now made this information available on the members section of the website.

It is an eclectic mixture of information and I have added some additional detail which can be found by clicking on the pink icon in the Details column. It is possible to search the file for keywords to help find information of particular interest.

I will add to this as time goes by and try to remove out of date information. I hope you find it useful and interesting. Comments welcome.

Forestry Facts & Figures

Do you want to know more about what has been going on in the forestry world? This could be the site for you - Forestry Facts & Figures.

The area of woodland in the UK at 31 March 2009 is estimated to be 2.84 million hectares. This represents 12% of the total land area in the UK, 9% in England, 17% in Scotland, 14% in Wales and 6% in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, there are proposals to increase the area of woodland to 25%. This is a proposal I am watching with interest as I would not like to see the area of forestry expanded at the expense of moorland, or even areas where heather has been lost recently that could be restored.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Environmental schemes damaging upland farming

THE Tenant Farmers Association has hit out at Natural England’s ‘misguided’ policy of ‘drastically reducing’ uplands stocking densities through Environmental Stewardship Schemes. See the full article in the Farmer's Guardian.

I share the concern that the overgrazing lobby needs to be curtailed. Undergrazing is a reality in many areas already and this is likely to get worse if the 75% reduction in upland stocking levels that is quoted in the article comes to pass. Understandably, the TFA is interested first and foremost in such issues as farm incomes, home produced beef & lamb, skill shortages and food security, but I would add habitat condition, biodiversity and wildfire risk to this list. The habitat on an ungrazed moor is likely to be in poor condition, it will not have a diverse structure and the fuel loads will make it a wildfire waiting to happen.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Upland Policy Coordination Committee

I was delighted to attend a meeting of the Upland Policy Coordination Committee that has been established by the Moorland Association to consider English policy issues. This was an opportunity for organisations to share ideas and other input came from the Countryside Alliance, The Country Land and Business Association, the National Gamekeepers Organisation and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. The discussion considered a wide range of strategic issues.

I welcomed the opportunity to contribute to this meeting. There is always a danger that the organisations with an interest in the uplands will pull in different directions when there is much to be gained from a more coordinated approach. The meets the Trusts wish to see a more integrated approach to moorland management.

Friday, 25 September 2009

AGM and Weardale Meeting

The meetings in Weardale went off very well on 23 Sep 09 and I am very grateful to Mr Michael Stone for allowing us the use of his wonderful Picture Gallery at Weardale Lodge to hold our meetings. Lycetts Insurance Brokers and Smiths Gore generously supported the events and allowed us to maintain the high standards of Heather Trust hospitality. Thanks are also due to the Weardale headkeeper, Nick Walmsley, and his team for the support they provided during the day.

The Board met the night before and the meeting degenerated into a dinner for which we were joined by some guests and this allowed discussion to continue well into the night. The following morning, the AGM was swiftly completed and our numbers were then boosted to 29 for the Weardale Meeting. Sebastian Green, the Weardale Estate Manager, gave examples of the economics of an upland estate, and Lindsay Waddell, the Chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, gave an insight into the role of the modern upland gamekeeper. A feature of the day was the quality of the discussion; this was enhanced by the relatively small group, but I believe that the value of the day is directly related to quality of the discussion. The Weardale meeting was a good one.

Having held the AGM in Morayshire, the Peak District and Co Durham in the last three years, I am open to suggestions or offers for 2010!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Scottish Consultation - Electronic ID

The implementation options in Scotland for EID of sheep and individual recording of sheep and goats arising from EU Regulations that will come into force on 01 January 2010 are open for consultation. See the Consultation document.

The consultation period closes on 02 November 2009.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Heather Trust Meeting with Natural England

The Chairman, Ian Condliffe, Marion Thomson and I met with Martyn Howat (Director Uplands), Mick Rebane, Jon Barrett and Chris Reid from Natural England in their Newcastle office. the aim of the meeting from our point of view was to explaore ways that the Trust might be able to help Natural England achieve its objectives.

Natural England used the opportunity to update us on the progress of the development of their Vision for Uplands in 2060 and to invite our support. We will be pleased to do this and will attend the launch of this vision that is planned for November.

We proposed several areas where we thought we would be able to assist NE using our unique position in the market and our ability to engage with all sides of the various debates. It was a useful discussion and while we were not expecting to come away with any promises, I hope that Natural England will consider our offers to work in partnership with them in key areas. I would like to think that we can help them gain the support of those who actually manage the uplands.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Carbon Conference

Marion Thomson and I had a meeting yesterday with the Southern Upland Partnership (where I am a Director) and the Carbon Crichton Centre to discuss the possibility of holding a conference early next year to discuss carbon issues that affect upland management.

There is a lot of talk about carbon but one of the aims of the conference would be to de-mystify the science and explain to landowners, occupiers and managers what they need to know about carbon management and how thay can take advantage of the opportunities that carbon management is introducing.

The title proposed for the conference is: Carbon in the Uplands: Opportunities and Threats and it is likely to take place at the end of March or in early April; New Lanark is being considered as the venue. The format is likely to include a 1/2 day site visit, followed by a dinner and then a full day's conference the following day.

I will circulate more details as they become available.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


The production of charcoal may come back into fashion under a 21st century of name of Biochar. There are suggestions that biochar, which is produced by pyrolysis (a process of controlled burning in a low-oxygen atmosphere) can be used to enhance soils and also lock up carbon.

See the article published in The Economist for more information.

This may not have a direct application for the uplands but it supports the view that increased carbon storage in peat is a possibility and it might also provide a boost for the carbon trading concept.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Scotland - Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill Consultation

The full consultation and details of how to submit a response is available to download from the Scottish Government's website .

I will be responding to several sections of this consultation before the closing date of 4 Sep 09. The section that covers Muirburn is of most relevance to our activities and a first draft is available for anyone to use as a basis for their own response. Please contact Alison Young ( if you would like a copy. The response will be made available to download from the website in the next few days.

If time is short it would do no harm to submit a written response commenting on one particular issue, or you could offer support for the whole of the Trust's submission. The analysis of the Consultation Responses is very much a numbers game and more support for the Trust's views would be helpful.

Please contact me if I can help with your response or if you want to tackle me about anything in my draft response.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae

Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae are exotic plant pathogens that have been identified in UK recently: P. ramorum in 2002, and P. kernoviae in 2003. It is not a name that rolls off the tongue easily and for those struggling with pronunciation try – ‘fy-toff-thora’!

Both species represent a threat to ornamental and wild shrubs, and trees, but of more interest to the Trust is that Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus has been found the be severely infected by both pathogens. Other heathland species and their wider ecosystsems may also be under threat.

A Defra-funded Phytophthora spp Disease Management Programme has been approved, beginning on 1st April 2009 with funding of £25m over 5 years. The programme will address the problem through three workstreams: disease management, awareness and behavioural change, and research.

In England and Wales, there have been over 250 outbreaks of P. ramorum or P. kernoviae outside of nurseries of which about a quarter have been eradicated so far. In May 2009, outbreaks in Scotland were reported to be 29 largely centred around the west coast heritage gardens and nurseries from Portpatrick to Poolewe, but there have been 25 outbreaks in other areas.

The principal leaf host is Rhododendron R. ponticum which appears to drive epidemics. Research to date has shown that the eradication of rhododendron is the single most effective control measure to reduce pathogen and disease spread in the wider environment (woodland, heathland, gardens and parks) and protect vulnerable trees and heathland plants.

For more information and photographs see the guidance available on the Defra website.

Defra appears to have adopted a sensible approach to the Phytophthora problem, but in this season of heightened awareness about heather beetle, the effort being put in place to combat Phytophthora spp serves to highlight the apparent complacency about the damage that heather beetle can cause to moorland and heathland. Am I missing something?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Farm Practices Survey 2009

For those in need of some light reading, here are some statistics for you!

The 2009 Farm Practices Survey of uplands and other Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) in England was released by Defra on 30 June 2009. This release shows the attitudes and intentions of upland farmers. The key results are:
  • 60% of upland farmers classify their farms as full time commercial businesses
  • Almost two thirds of farms (64%) were long established family farms and 25% were first generation family farms.
  • Diversification: 25% of upland farms have some form of on-farm and 48% have some form of off farm diversification or other income.
  • Approximately half of upland farmers are debt free.
  • 71% of upland farmers currently have land within environmental schemes.
  • A quarter of upland farmers not currently in ELS would like to join the scheme. 30% of farmers not currently in HLS would like to join the scheme. 50% of farmers with land in Severely Disadvantaged Areas (SDA) expressed a wish to join the new Uplands Entry Level Scheme, covering some 63% of land.
  • 27% of upland farms graze moorland.
The full report can be found here on the Defra website

Monday, 10 August 2009

Heather Beetle Press coverage

I have been taking the message into the public domain. To see some of the press coverage follow the links below:

Sunday Telegraph
Scotland on Sunday
Scottish Daily Express (the photo is not a heather beetle - is there an entomologist out there who would like to identify it?!)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Heather Trust's 25th Annual Report

This year's Annual Report will be sent to members and the carefully selected circulation list on Monday, 10 Aug 09. As ever, I hope it will be an interesting read in addition to bringing Members and supporters up to date with goings on at the Trust.

I will be delighted to receive any feedback about the format and contact of the Report or the views I have expressed in it. Like this Blog, I would like to develop a two (or more) way flow of ideas and information.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Heather Beetle (again)

The visit to Langholm showed the heather beetle attack to be most impressive. This is an attack that has affected almost all the heather on the moor, the exception appears to be the very young heather regenerating from stems or seed following fires earlier this year.

At the same time, I have started to pick up reports from south of the border that are beginning to indicate that this might be a bad year for heather beetle. To take 'advantage' of this to raise the profile of the risk to heather posed by this beetle, I need more information. If you have seen a heather beetle attack please could you let us have details so that we can get some idea of the scale of the attack this year.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The first Heather Beetle sightings

I was called yesterday from Blairgowrie Golf Course, which is a heathland course. They were worried about the state of some rank heather under Scots pine trees. It appeared to be showing the classic signs of heather beetle attack that can be expected to appear in late July. The heather had turned a foxy red colour and was not flowering.

This report was backed up by a request for a visit to Langholm Moor where a large area of heather has been hit by what is reported to be heather beetle. I have agreed to visit the moor tomorrow and I will report further. With such a high profile location it is an opportunity to raise once again the issue of heather beetle especially as a high level visit from the Scottish Government takes place next week.

I hope owners of moors will look at their own heather over the next few days and weeks and let me know if they see any sign of heather beetle. Only by collating data that shows the extent of heather beetle attacks can we hope to raise the profile of this scourge of heather so that funding can be obtained to sort out what drives the attacks and how best to restore damaged moorland. In the meantime the best advice is contained in our guidance that is available from our website.

Members may be interested in the MSc project that has been written up for the Annual Report. This is being funded by the Trust and when completed it will provide a summary of all research that has been carried out into heather beetle to date. The early findings of this work support the need, as outlined above, for more research into the ecology of the beetle and how to best manage heather after a beetle attack.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Apologies for the Gap

I am sorry that the flow of Blog posts has dried up recently. This was triggered by my unexpected re-admission to hospital to sort out an infection and then it has been difficult to get back into the flow since. I have been busy setting up a Board telephone conference, writing discussion papers for a Moorland Forum Meeting and a meeting of the Muirburn Group in Scotland and preparing the Annual Report which is due for publication in early August.

I will try and do better, but as always I will welcome feedback about earlier posts or suggestions for future topics to cover.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Electronic Identification

Brussels has listened to farmers concerns and a concession has been agreed. Farms will not have to buy expensive tag readers as animals will be scanned at markets or abbatoirs. This news appears to have satisfied the farming organisations with the exception of NFU Scotland who believe that it should not be necessary to tag sheep until they leave their holding of birth.

For more information see the articles from: Farmers Weekly Interactive or The Farmers Guardian

Although it will still involve more work for sheep farmers this news is a significant step in the right direction. It is interesting to note that the proposals came from Scotland to Defra but the concessions will apply to all UK.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Post set-aside policy

At the risk of straying away from from home turf, I would like to draw your attention to the announcement about the successor scheme to set-aside in England made last week. See the Farmers Guardian article

It has been rightly hailed by Sir Don Curry who chaired discussions between the CLA, NFU and Natural England, Environment Agency and RSPB, as a 'landmark moment'. But why is this important for The Heather Trust? What I like about the announcement is that it shows the willingness of government to listen to the organisations that represent those who actually manage the land and know what is achievable. Not only has the government listened but it has backed a voluntary scheme that will be promoted by all parties to increase the land under environmental management. The CLA & NFU now have to deliver the results.

The relevance to the Trust's area of interest is that I would like to see the same approach applied to other issues where there is a temptation to regulate. My cry for some time has been: let the land owners manage and the farmers farm. The agencies should be placing even more emphasis on facilitation and less on regulation. There is untapped potential in the land management community for environmental management that needs to be encouraged not hindered by current regulations. This potential could be harnessed for everyone's benefit if more common sense was encouraged at the expense of petty bureaucracy.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Perception of heather moorland

The NFU Countryside website has reported that The Moorland Association, The National Gamekeeper's Association and the Countryside Alliance teamed up to commission a survey covering the public's perception of heather moorland. See the full article.

The key findings are:
Britain's heather moorland is highly valued but little understood by the public at large
Nearly 90% thought that heather moorland was important for tranquillity, recreation and wildlife.
Less than 50% understood that heather moorland was actively managed.

I believe that the uplands are taken for granted by the public at large whether this be in the Peak District, where there are 20 million visitors every year, or in the remoter parts of highland Scotland. The complacent view is that the uplands are always there, they always have been and always will be. I think we need to be doing more to challenge this perception. The uplands are not the preserve of the conservation bodies and NGOs, they have developed as a living and working landscape that has been heavily influenced by man's activities, often for the better. As a result we have a decision making role to play in what they look like into the future. A vast amount of private sector money goes into their management and the land management community need to be proud of this. It is not all about sporting activities, part of the justification for ownership is often the pleasure from owning these iconic landscapes. All the different sectors, need to work together better to banish complacency and to harness available funding and aspirations. There is a role for The Heather Trust!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Heather Trust's Annual Report

The Annual Report has become something of a shop window for the Trust, and we are in full production mode with a view to circulating the Report in early August.

Inevitably, the Report must contain some administrative details about the Trust, but I will also include articles of a more general nature. I am also on the lookout for guest articles to add a wider dimension. I think I have lined up an interesting range of authors for these articles, but if anyone would like to contribute something for the report, I would be pleased to hear from them. This could take the form of an amusing anecdote, a photograph, a few words about an event or other activity, or even a short article on a specific topic. The deadline for submissions is 17:00 on the 23rd of July.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Sheep Ticks & Lyme disease

I have long campaigned for sheep ticks to be given a higher profile. The damage the diseases carried by these insects can cause to sheep and grouse are well known and the control groups have been successful in various parts of the country in controlling their numbers. The tick survey that I included details of in recent Annual Reports indicates that ticks are increasing in range and abundance and we need to be doing more rather than less to control their numbers.

For those unfamiliar with sheep ticks, particularly their potential impact on humans, I can do no better than direct you to two websites that have a lot more information: Lyme Disease Action and BADA-UK.

I was recently sent the salutary tale below. This shows that the activities of ticks are not confined to the humble grouse or sheep and Lyme disease is a real threat to humans.

"At a wedding dinner last weekend I sat next to the mother of a 28 year girl called Tilly (also a guest at the wedding) who was confined to a wheelchair on account of Lyme disease.

During the course of dinner I asked about this disease and was concerned by what I heard. The key points that she emphasised have stuck in my mind:

1. Tilly was bitten by a tick between her toes when she was aged 16 - she was not aware of a rash developing at the time.
2. The bacteria carried by the Tick can attack the nervous system which is why Tilly can no longer stand up – it has very nearly killed her 3 times. She has resorted to Chinese medicine as nothing else seems to work.
3. Removing a tick correctly with a tick hook reduces the chance of infection – if you just pull them off they eject their contents from their mandibles.
4. Check for ticks on yourself/children if you have been in an area likely to harbour ticks
5. If anyone finds a tick on their skin:
a. Remove it correctly with a tick hook
b. Watch for flu-like symptoms or a rash. If observed, ask that your GP gives a course of anti-biotics.
6. Treatment with doxycycline or amoxicillin for 14 days is usually very effective in shortening the duration of the rash, and curing the infection.
7. If untreated, nervous system, arthritic or other complications may develop weeks or months after the infection has occurred.

What is most frustrating to Tilly’s mother is how easy it would have been to have prevented this disease from getting hold of Tilly had they caught it earlier."

Friday, 3 July 2009

Knowledge Exchange

This is a key area for us, as I firmly believe that there is not enough information flow between researchers and those who work on the land. I have described our role previously as providing a scientific bridge. What is often forgotten is that the bridge needs to have two-way traffic on it and that researchers have a lot to learn from land managers; providing the reverse flow is something unique that the Trust can bring to the party.

It is disappointing that two project applications for funding from the Natural Environment Research Council that I was supporting have failed to receive funding. One of these was headed up by Board member, Professor Steve Redpath, (Director of Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability) and was seen as a way of bringing the research, policy and practitioner communities together. The second application was to have been for a two year project to develop tools to help with the management of wildfire risk and would have built on the FIRES seminar series that I have also contributed to.

I hope that alternative proposals will rise out of these disappointments and that they will be successful. I will continue to look for opportunities where the Trust can contribute our special attributes to further research and the exchange of knowledge and experience.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

"Looking to the Hills"

Looking to the Hills is a Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC) publication that focuses on upland issues and it is well worth a read, especially as the Guest Editorial is written by none other than Ian Condliffe, a member of the Trust's Board. It can be downloaded from the JNCC website.

This particular edition had a long gestation period and the article I submitted based on Scotland's Moorland Forum's annual report for 2008 did not make the final version probably because it was largely overtaken by events. An article by Alison was included in the last edition, but I will continue to submit articles to this publication, as I think it is a good way to promote the work of the Trust and raise awareness of the issues that we hold dear to our heart.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Heather Trust's AGM ~ 23 September 2009

I am delighted that the Trust will be visiting County Durham for the AGM, this year. Mr Michael Stone has kindly agreed that we may use his impressive Picture Gallery at Weardale Lodge for the AGM and this will lead into a discussion meeting followed by lunch and a visit to Weardale Estate, in the afternoon. I hope that as many members as possible will attend the AGM and the discussion meeting which will aim to consider: upland economics, heather burning, forestry regeneration and water management as key themes, but on the day we will be happy to discuss any upland management issues.

The AGM will start at 09:30 and this will lead into the discussion meeting that will start at 11:00. I will circulate further details with the annual report and there will also be additional information available on the website, shortly.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Muirburn Meeting

I have been asked by the Scottish Government to set up a further meeting (on 28 Jul 09) of the Muirburn Group, which I chair through Scotland's Moorland Forum, to consider the use of suppression fires as a means of controlling wildfires. The concept is that a fire can be stopped if it runs into an area that has already been burned and the aim of the firefighter is to get ahead of the fire and burn a fire into the oncoming fire, probably by back burning, into the wind.

It is a simple concept but the more you think about it, the more complicated it becomes! The Group may well find itself considering three different situations: within or without of the muirburn season, in daylight or at night, and / or with and without the presence of the Fire & Rescue Service.

Although this is a Scottish Group, it is interesting that suppression fires were not considered as part of the separate reviews of the Heather & Grass Burning Codes in England & Wales. Therefore, the findings of the Group will be relevant across the UK.

While my wings are clipped by the medical world, I will not be able to attend the meeting, but I will be preparing the Discussion Document for the meeting and dealing with the output from it. This will feed into the consultation that is running on the Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill, about which I will be waxing lyrical, next week.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Muirburn History

I have been reading an old file which has reminded me that many people have walked this way before when it comes to discussing muirburn issues . Our Past President, Professor Charles Gimingham, gave me his file that dates back to 1955, when he was already active in the discussions about muirburn. Reviewing old files is not everyone's idea of fun, especially as most of us have enough trouble keeping up with the current output of relevant research papers, the minutes from meetings we have attended and the unending list of consultations. However, during this period that my my wings have been clipped, I have been doubling my efforts to do some more reading, in the hope that an understanding of the development of discussions about muirburn (and heather burning in general) in the past will help to inform future discussions. Charles Gimingham gave me this file last year but it is only now that I have got down to reading it in the depth it deserves.

There is much more to read and I will return to this theme at least once in the future but as a taster, the first meeting on 27 September 1955 discussed the following issues, amongst others:
  • Rotational burning is detrimental to soil fertility
  • Rotational burning is essential for the livestock industry
  • There had been a deterioration in the previous high standards of burning
  • Extension of the muirburn season beyond 16 April was undesirable
  • Burning should take place in strips of moderate size in regular rotation
  • Each area of hill should be dealt with on its own merits
  • Moorland that is being colonised by tree species should be left unburned
  • The role of sphagnum moss in retaining moisture and preventing erosion
This could have been written last week - not 54 years ago. It is fascinating and maybe a bit depressing that we have not moved further forward. Perhaps now is a good time to seize the initiative. I would like to think so!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Cost Sharing

Consultation closes 30 Jun 09. Details

Defra proposals would provide for a levy of £10.50 a horse, £4.80 a dairy cow plus, £1.20 for beef animals, 82p a sheep and 4p for poultry and gamebirds. The Countryside Alliance has pointed out that these costs could be applicable to each owner, rather than each animal, so for instance, in the case of game farmers and shoots, each bird would be paid for twice. Then on top of that there is an as yet uncalculated sum for insurance to cover compensation in the event of a disease outbreak.

Dairy £4.80
Beef £1.20
Combined Cattle* £2.50
Sheep £0.09
Pigs £0.82
Poultry £0.04
Horse** £10.50
*Given that beef and dairy cattle face the same disease threats, and the industries are closely linked, there is a clear argument for having a single levy rate applied to both sectors.
** The consultation asks if horses should be included.

I have submitted a response, which expresses the views I outlined in my post of 5 Jun 09. I remain concerned that the target for this fund raising is wrong in the uplands. Hill farmers cannot be expected to provide further subsidies to government! The farmers in the south west of England are fond of saying "It is difficult to be green, when you are in the red". The same sentiment applies to other levies and drains on already struggling hill farm enterprises.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Countryside Survey - Scottish Results

The Scottish results of this UK wide survey were launched at the Royal Highland Show today. The Trust was represented at this launch by our former Chairman and Board member, Robert Dick.

The survey quantifies how Scotland's habitats have changed in the three decades to 2007 and includes an assessment of habitat extent and condition. With the slow moving change of the uplands in particular, such information is essential in order to spot long term changes.

For more information, see the SG News release or the Countryside Survey website.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Defra's Cost Sharing Proposals

As I reported in my Post on 5 Jun 09, there is a consultation running about Cost sharing Proposals and Defra has asked for responses by 30 Jun 09.

The Countryside Alliance has pointed out their concerns that this proposal is 'cost shifting not cost sharing'. See Simon Hart's comments here. He also points out there will a levy on gamebirds that would be applicable for each owner, not each bird. In the case of game farmers and shoots, each bird would be paid for twice. There will also be an as yet uncalculated sum for insurance to cover compensation in the event of a disease outbreak.

The list of charges proposed is: Dairy cows £4.80; Beef cattle £1.20; Combined Cattle* £2.50; Sheep £0.09; Pigs £0.82, Poultry and gamebirds £0.04. *Given that beef and dairy cattle face the same disease threats, and the industries are closely linked, there is a clear argument for having a single levy rate applied to both sectors. Details of the consultation are available here.

The closer you get to this proposal the worse it gets. My opinion has not changed and I support Simon Hart's comments. This is Defra trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities and placing more costs on already marginal farm businesses.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

A double header

Electronic Identification (EID) of Sheep

See my earlier post on 5 Jun 09. The Farmer's Guardian has reported that the UK has failed to win support for the proposed changes to the EID rules that had been put forward by the Scottish Government. The idea was to avoid having to tag sheep until they left the holding of their birth and therefore reduce the tagging burden and its associated bureaucracy.

This seemed to be a very reasonable proposition but now the fight has to continue to introduce some sanity into these proposal before the regulations come into force on 1 Jan 2010.

Birds of prey project

The Scottish Government has reported that The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) has provided funding for RSPB Scotland's 'Eyes to the Skies' initiative which uses satellite tracking to monitor the movements of red kites.

All this high tech input must be costing a packet and it does lead to the question, 'Is there not a better way?' I would like to think that we could put this funding to better use and so avoid a Big Brother situation where we will all be tagged and monitored, with CCTV on every hilltop?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Langholm Moor Demonstration Project

As part of our work in support of Scotland's Moorland Forum, we organised one of the three annual meetings of the Forum at Langholm on 12 Jun 09, and this included a visit to Langholm Moor with the project team. Although I could not be present (I escaped from hospital that day) it was glorious weather and a perfect opportunity for some interesting discussion on the moor. Thanks go to the project team, led by Graeme Dalby (Project Manager) and Simon Lester (Head keeper), for their help in running the day.

Much controversy surrounds the work at Langholm, both the original Joint Raptor Study that reported in 1997 and the new project that was launched in September 2007. It remains my view that this project is worthy of full support. Naturally there are concerns about buffer feeding of Hen harriers, burning and predator control but this a rare opportunity for scientific monitoring to work alongside land managers and the data will be fascinating. The work is unlikely to give us all the answers but it will increase our knowledge and understanding of how a moribund moor responds to management input. For more information have a look at the project's website.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Bracken Control

Bracken is now well established throughout the country although inevitably it will be more advanced in the south than the north. Those who are able to control their bracken by mechanical means, such as: cutting, bruising, pulling etc, will have started work last month, but the season for controlling bracken with chemicals, principally Asulox, is nearly upon us. The season starts when the bracken fronds are fully extended (late July onwards) and ends when the plants start to die back (late August onwards).

The Trust is working for the owners of the Asulox brand, United Phosphorus Limited (UPL), to help with the promotion of bracken control, using Asulox where appropriate. I have been asked to circulate some information to our contacts reminding people of the proximity of the season for applying Asulox as well as promoting bracken control in general, and this will take place next week. As part of this work, we have established a web site, which has more details about bracken control - A conference is under consideration for early next year and this will see the launch of a bracken control guide produced by the Trust and sponsored by UPL that will summarise all available methods of bracken control.

In the meantime, the Trust is retained to offer bracken control advice to anybody who wants it up and the details are on the bracken control website or can be obtained by contacting the Trust.

Bracken is one of the most successful plants in history. It is present on every continent, except Antarctica, and has existed largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. I believe firmly that not enough work is being done on bracken control at present. As a result we are seeing bracken spreading into many areas where it has been controlled, or has not been present, in the past, and this can move the vegetation towards a monoculture, rather than the maintaining the diversity of species that I would like to see. To a large extent, I suspect that bracken control is grant driven and it is something that the policymakers need to consider carefully if our upland areas are not to be buried under it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Bristol Zoo

After yesterday's rather dry post, I think you deserve something a little lighter. This is not very relevant to upland management, but I had to admire the entrepreneurial spirit.

Reported in the Bristol Evening Post:
Outside Bristol Zoo is the car park, with spaces for 150 cars and 8 coaches. It has been manned 6 days a week for 23 years by the same charming and very polite car park attendant with the ticket machine. The charges are £1 per car and £5 per coach.

On Monday 1 June, he did not turn up for work. Bristol Zoo management phoned Bristol City Council to ask them to send a replacement parking attendant. The Council said "That car park is your responsibility." The Zoo said "The attendant was employed by the City Council... wasn't he?" The Council said "What attendant?"

Gone missing from his home is a man who has been taking daily the car park fees amounting to about £400 per day for the last 23 years...!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Commission on Scottish Devolution (The Calman Commission)

The Commission reported, yesterday. It was established by the Scottish Parliament and the United Kingdom government with a remit: To review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the Scottish Parliament to serve the people of Scotland better, improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament, and continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom

Although the Income Tax proposals may have scooped the headlines, there are several recommendations that are relevant to our activities, and I have summarised these below:

Matters to be devolved
5.10 Funding for policy relating to animal health should be devolved whilst responsibility for funding exotic disease outbreaks should be retained at a UK level

5.13 The regulation of airguns.

5.17 Following devolution of marine powers to Scotland, creating a Scottish sea zone, the commission agreed that the natural extension of this was to devolve all nature conservation responsibilities to Scotland as soon as possible.

Retained at UK Level
5.2 There should be a single definition of each of the expressions “charity” and “charitable purpose(s)”.

5.3 A charity registered in one part of the United Kingdom should be able to conduct its charitable activities in another part of the UK without being required to register separately.

Closer working between Parliament & Governments
5.18 Funding by the Research Councils should be re-examined so that Scottish institutions [such as the Scottish Agricultural College] delivering a comparable function to institutions elsewhere in the UK have access to the same sources of research funding.

The Final Report and Executive Summary are available as downloads.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

United against Cowboys and Criminals

BASC has awarded the Tim Sedgwick Trophy to the former Scottish Minister for Environment, Mike Russell MSP, to acknowledge the stand he took against pressure to ban snaring in Scotland. Mr Russell is now the Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution but in his acceptance he states that, "Working with all sorts of organisations, including BASC, we were able to unite against the cowboys and criminals and to ensure that we maintained the highest standards of game and wildlife management."

That will do for me. I certainly believe that snaring is an essential part of moorland and upland management in a bid to protect vulnerable and important species. It can be cruel to be kind, but that is nature's way.

For more details see the BASC press release site.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Dartmoor Farmers Association - marketing native-breed beef & sheep

This initiative has been set up to move away from the commodity-driven supply to the premium-branded quality, traceable market producing meat with a strong environmental and socio-economic provenance.

See the Farmers Weekly report and the Dartmoor Farmers Association site for further details.

This type of scheme is not new and has been tried all over the UK with different degrees of success. Every area is unique with different problems relating to proximity to population and markets, slaughter facilities etc. but it strikes me that it should be at least considered by areas where such schemes could provide benefit.

One of the 'unseen' benefits could be in the reported increased willingness of farmers to work together - not something that hill farmers have been renowned for. The initiative has also acted as a focus for the levering of funds from a variety of sources that would not otherwise have been available to support the hill farming industry on Dartmoor. My view is that unless hill areas have a viable farming industry that is sympathetic to the requirements of the land, these areas will wither and will change into something that no-one wants.

This fits in well with my cry that the farmers must be allowed to farm, but to do this, they must be seen to be willing to take charge of their own destiny.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Scottish Hill Farmers to Benefit from review of LFA Scheme

£15m is to be made available to hill farmers in Scotland over the next 2 years through LFASS.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, addressed the Scottish Parliament this afternoon and stated that this would mean an extra £1,300 for average sheep producers in the Highlands or £1,600 for a beef producer in Orkney. A revised LFASS scheme will be introduced next year which will see a further increase in payment rates – a total rise of 38% compared with 2009.

This is more like it! I approve of the link to active farmers in vulnerable areas. This is where the funding is needed. The NFUS approve. See the NFUS press release and The Scotsman's article for more details.

Upland Tracks

An interesting seminar took place in the North Pennines on 22 Apr 09 to discuss Upland Tracks. The seminar was organised by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, in collaboration with Natural England and the Moorland Association, and the presentations given at the seminar have just been made available here.

Although aimed at an English audience, the presentations included one from SNH to provide a Scottish perspective, and most of the issues are relevant throughout the UK uplands.

There is no doubt that there are some uncertainties surrounding upland tracks and their status and the need to obtain consent for repair, improvement or to create new ones. I think that there is a need for any guidance that is to come out of this initiative to have the full support of the uplands community. To impose it as a regulation based list of do's & don'ts would be a mistake. I cite the example of the Heather & Grass Burning Code 2007 which has been well accepted as it had a lot of input from the industry. With our links to all sectors throughout the UK uplands the Trust is well placed to at least assist this process, if not drive it. We are working on it.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Studland Fire

On 20 May, there was a fire on the National Trust’s Godlingston Heath at Studland, on the edge of Poole Bay in Dorset , which is reported to have wiped out wildlife across 2.5 hectares (6 acres) of heathland.

The report brought to mind several issues:
  • It should come as no surprise that the fire occurred. Heathland and fire are related like Tom and Jerry or bread and butter - you do not get one without the other.
  • 28 fire appliances attended the fire. In the whole of Dumfries & Galloway, which is roughly 100 miles long by 30 wide, there are only 21 fire appliances. Like many parts of the UK uplands, D&G contains areas of high conservation value, but it would be fortunate if even one fire appliance was able to get to a fire.
  • We cannot rely on the Fire Services to manage our fires, we must manage to reduce fire risk - prescribed burning, reducing fuel load by grazing.
Heathland will always burn, it is a question of when rather than if, especially in an area close to population, as at Studland. There is no doubt that Studland Heath is an area of high conservation value, and we do not wish to see such areas subjected to wildfires, but there are likely to be some benefits coming from the disaster; it would be good to avoid rushing to doom mongering at the first sight of a flame.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Electronic Identification of Sheep & Cost Sharing

Shadow farm minister, Jim Paice, has claimed that English hill farmers will be worse off by £1,000 under new government regulations. The additional costs for a typical hill farm with 600 sheep are made up of an annual cost-sharing payment of £247 and an annual electronic identification (EID) charge of £762.

The grazing of our uplands by sheep is an essential part of management in most areas. Certainly, there has been bad practice in the past and the effects of overgrazing are evident in many areas, but without sheep our uplands would look very different.

Are we risking the financial viability and future of our hill farms by introducing these extra charges to say nothing about the extra bureaucracy involved? Stock numbers are already falling, and aside from food production issues, we need viable hill farms as the only means of providing management input in many areas. I argue that leaving such areas as unmanaged wildernesses is never going to produce a happy outcome. We must support and encourage our hill farmers not burden them with additional costs and red tape.

Additional information is available from Farmer's Weekly Interactive and the National Sheep Association is strongly against EID. The DEFRA website has a useful summary of the Cost Sharing Proposals (the consultation runs until 30 Jun 09).

Heather Cutting & Baling

Although I would always advocate that burning heather is the best solution, cutting is an alternative where burning is not possible or undesirable. Clearly cutting is only possible where there is machinery access and it might be of particular interest when the existing heather is old and rank.

I have been on the lookout for a moor where it is possible to 'cut and cart' old heather for some time as there is a market for it! We have a link to a firm that uses heather as a bio-filtration medium and although the payment is unlikely to cover all the costs of the process, the income might make the removal of the heather financially viable. The website has more details here.

I am disappointed that despite circulating details and contacting many people we have not yet found a moor that will benefit from this approach. I am convinced that such a place must exist. Let me know if you have such an area or know of somewhere.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Ecosystems Approach

Natural England has published a consultation seeking views on a draft policy document that
sets out the agency’s approach to ecosystems.

This is a complex concept that can be difficult to get your head around, but it is hear to stay
and we need to understand how it will guide the formation of policy. If you feel it is a gap in
your knowledge, Natural England’s document provides a very useful summary.

The valuation of ecosystem services presents an interesting challenge for economists. Some
might argue that this is like comparing apples with pears, but if values of different decisions
can be compared it informs the policy making process. For example, the paper includes an
estimate that it costs £128m to remove agricultural contaminants from drinking water in
England & Wales and perhaps we should be comparing this cost with the financial benefits to
agriculture arising from the contaminants. I did not say it was easy!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Natural England - Director Uplands

I am delighted by the recent appointment of Martyn Howat as Director Uplands. Martyn has left his post as Natural England’s Regional Director in the North East to take on this job and he will still be based in Newcastle.

I have been part of the Moorland Burning Working Group under Martyn's chairmanship that advised DEFRA on the new Heather & Grass Burning Regulations & Code and I have appreciated his commitment and passion for the uplands. His appointment will help to provide a unifying force within Natural England for the Uplands and help raise the profile of these areas.

The Trust hopes to meet with Martyn to discuss how we can help Natural England achieve its objectives for the uplands.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Beavers back in the wilds of Scotland for the first time in 400 years

THREE families of beavers will today become the first to be released into the wild in Scotland for more than 400 years.
From Norway, the 17 beavers are being released into sites in Knapdale Forest, in Argyll, after six months in quarantine. See the BBC Article or the Beavers Network Home Page

Opinion is bound to be divided over such introductions. There will be concerns about the effect on salmon spawning and there is also the concern about how can the expenditure involved in such re-eintroductions bve justified when there are so many calls on the available cash. From a Heather Trust's perspective. could more not be achieved by regenerating areas of lost of heather which would be likely to have much greater impacts for biodiversity.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Welsh Assembly to replace environmental schemes

The Welsh Assembly Government plans to replace its five existing agri-environment schemes with a new two tier land management scheme to be called GLASTIR. The aim will be to retain spending at around £89 million a year but the money will be better spent. One of the stated benefits from the all-compassing scheme will be to produce mean a reduction in red tape for farmers, lower administration costs and greater environmental benefits. As ever, it remains to be seen whether this utopian ideal can be achieved in practice without reducing the payments available for farmers.

The full Ministerial Statement is available here

The status of the Dartford Warbler

Information provided by Barrie Hunt, Board member

This is a a brief summary of a
paper just published in the journal British Birds (The status of the Dartford Warbler in the UK in 2006, Wotton et al; 102:230-246) which highlights the spread of the Dartford Warbler in the UK.
Originally a bird of coastal lowland heath in SW England, the recent survey (conducted in 2006) highlights the continued spread beyond these traditional haunts. Upland areas, including Dartmoor, Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons, now hold significant populations of this brighly coloured but elusive little warbler.
At the time of the last survey in 1994 Dartmoor, Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons held 4, 1 and 0 pairs respectively, the 2006 survey reported a major population expansion with 52, 118 and 4 pairs now present. Early surveys (1974 & 1984) recorded few birds beyond 100m above sea level, in the latest survey altitudinal spread was far greater with the highest breeding being noted at 462m on Exmoor.
Interestingly the spread has not only been in altitude, the species is also heading northwards with 3 pairs reported on the Staffordshire heaths near the southern end of the Peak District.
The marked increases on Exmoor and Dartmoor suggest that upland heath is becoming increasingly important for Dartford Warblers. The authors believe there is great potential for this species to spread further into the upland habitats of South Wales and also into the Peak District. It is suggested that the shift in altitudinal distribution between 1984 and 2006 could be linked to climate change, and possibly the main factor is the increase in milder winters rather than warmer summers. It will be interesting to see the impact of the 2008/9 winter on the populations, particularly those of upland heaths, as it was the coldest winter since 1995/6 with extensive snowfall in the core Dartford Warbler counties of southern England. The species has been affected by harsh winters in the past and it is known to recover quickly in numbers and range following a run of milder winters.

You may also be interested to know that there are, according to The Birds of Scotland, only two records of Dartford Warbler in Scotland - one was seen at St Abbs Head, the other I believe was on Fair Isle.