Friday, 25 February 2011

Do you have views about the extraction of peat for horticulture?

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen are inviting tweets on the use of peat in horticulture as part of the Department for Environment, Food and Environmental Affairs consultation on this hot topic.  The press release can be found on the University of Aberdeen website.

This seems to be a rather crazy and unnecessary past-time.  Large amounts of public and private money are being invested in blocking drains to encourage blanket bogs to become more active and lay down peat, but there is an industry ripping up precious stores of existing peat and carbon for use in gardens.  There are many less damaging alternatives which should be considered ahead of peat.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

IUCN UK Peatland Programme - Conference June 2011

The Peatland Programme has announced some details of the conference that will take place in Stirling, 20-22 June 2011, with a title of 'Investing in Peatlands: Delivering Multiple Benefits'.  Details of the programme and registration will be available in early March.  Additional information is available from the Peatland Programme website.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Scottish 'gold rush' for hydro power

See the article from BBC News.  Maybe we should be encouraging more of this type of scheme and reducing the visual impact problem (see previous post).
A report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) showed that the extent of Scotland unaffected by any form of visual influence declined from 31% in January 2008 to 28% in December 2009.  See The Scotsman's view.

Are we getting this right?  Will this increasing level of visual impact on upland Scotland be viewed as justified by those who follow us, or are we leaving a legacy that will be seen as a short-lived fashion, like the mini-skirt or upland drainage schemes?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

England - Farming in the Uplands - Select Committee Report

The Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee has published their Farming in the Uplands report.  The full report can be downloaded here.  This Report builds on many of the issues highlighted by the High Ground, High Potential report published by the Commission for Rural Communities, last year.  

A key recommendation from the report is that Ministers should consider reintroducing direct payments coupled to numbers of livestock (headage payments) for hard-pressed hill farmers in the uplands.  No doubt a controversial proposal.

The report also calls on the Government to demonstrate a stronger commitment to upland communities. Having abolished the Commission for Rural Communities, the public body that advised Government on rural issues, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must ensure that rural policies and their delivery are not neglected. To that end the cross-party MPs on the Select Committee  call on Ministers to:

·      Publish a strategy for the uplands that sets out a clear action plan with practical measures to be implemented immediately.

·      Provide strong leadership across all Government departments to make sure that rural and upland communities get a fair deal.

·      Create a statutory definition of the uplands to assist the Government in targeting policy.

·      Make sure that all farmers and rural communities can get access to development grants once RDAs have been abolished.

·      Work across Government to put in place policies that support those that live and work in the uplands, in particular rolling out super-fast broadband for remote rural communities and increasing the availability of affordable housing.

·      Put a statutory duty on National Parks to do more to encourage social and economic development.

There is a large amount of common sense in this report that I expect to receive support from most quarters.  Although it only relates directly, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland should consider the findings of this report.  I believe that the bulk of the recommendations would apply equally to all parts of the UK.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Hope in a Changing Climate

Before restoration

See the YouTube video that shows examples of the successful restoration of large-scale ecosystem damage in China and Ethiopia.  In the UK we are applying the same principles to the restoration of bogs and if the results demonstrated in China and Ethiopia can be mirrored here our restored bogs will be special indeed.

After restoration

Saturday, 12 February 2011

End of an Era

Alison Young finished working for the Trust, yesterday, after enduring my sense of humour, and the trials and tribulations that I caused for seven and a half years.  She will be known to many people through her organisation of the many events up and down the country, on the way earning her title as my 'Insistent'.  I am enormously grateful for all that Alison did for the Trust and wish her every happiness in her new life.

The hunt is on to replace the irreplaceable.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A Future for Hill Farming

Sheep Grabbing a Quick Drink En Route 
to Summer Grazing

Alan Spedding has produced another excellent  Ru Briefing that summarises this report by Chloe Palmer, who is Regional Director for the Northern Region of FWAG.  The briefing can be downloaded from the excellent OpenFields website and this summary contains a link to the full report.  

I recommend at least dipping into the full report, as the report's recommendations give a useful view of the options and challenges facing the uplands.

To give you a taster, Chloe Palmer states that, "Fundamentally, those who gain advantage from the hills, have to recognise that someone needs to pay for the benefits that they bring.  Currently, the price paid for beef and lamb by consumers does not cover the cost of producing that animal, providing a decent return to the producer and delivering all the other benefits that extensive sheep and beef production brings with it." 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Country Market & Sporting Sale

We are in the final stages of collecting Lots, donations and advertisements for this year's Sale.  Can you help in any way to provide us with the funding to stay active?  More details

The catalogue will be published by the end of March and the Sale closes to Bids at 12 noon on Friday, 6 May.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Dartmoor: Mires Project launched

A five year pilot project to restore areas of internationally important blanket bog on Dartmoor has begun.

The Dartmoor Mires Project will assess pilot areas totalling 120 hectares, with a view to restoring high-quality blanket bog, using innovative low impact techniques. This work will achieve benefits for upland wildlife, improve water provision and increase the potential of Dartmoor’s blanket bog to store carbon and hence to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The project will respect the area’s importance as a grazed landscape, its recreational and military use and its historic significance.

The project is a partnership led by Dartmoor National Park Authority and funded substantially by South West Water under its Mires on the Moors Project, with contributions from other project partners.  The Mires on the Moors Project has already provided benefit on Exmoor where 326 hectares of moorland have been restored to date. On Dartmoor, the project will be spending £9.1 million on managing water quality and quantity before it reaches reservoirs and water treatment works.

Visit the Dartmoor National Park website for more information.