Monday, 18 October 2010

Swaling on Exmoor

Swaling on Molland Moor
The Exmoor National Park Authority has published its response to the proposed guidance to be published by Defra in amplification of the Heather & Grass Burning Code covering swaling (the local term for heather burning).   Details of the response can be downloaded from the ENPA website,  and there is a link to the Defra guidance.

The local concern is that the standard practices contained in the Code do not reflect the traditional management practices on Exmoor and that greater flexibility is required to meet the aspirations of the land management community.  The concerns about the proposed guidance are based on three key issues: (a) authorised burn plots are too small; (b) rotations are too long and moving toward shorter rotations would be better, and (c) just burning, or just grazing or just machine cropping are never going to be enough to actually maintain/retain the heather moorland.

While I understand the reasons for the guidance contained in the latest version of the code, as I was part of the Group that advised Defra, we need the support of the local land managers if any swaling is to take place and the Code is to be implemented.  If the support of the land managers is lost because the Code does not reflect the traditional practices in the region, nothing will happen and the biggest loser will be the moorland on Exmoor, which is what we are all trying to preserve.  My message: we must retain the ability to tailor national guidance to meet local aspirations and match local conditions.

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