I visit Langholm Moor in Dumfries-shire, last week. This moor is part of the Buccleuch Estates and the focus for a 10 year, large-scale, demonstration project. See the project’s website for more details. However, the main reason for the visit was to inspect the plots that have been prepared as part of a heather restoration trial after an attack by heather beetle. This work is separate from the demonstration project, it is being supervised by the Trust’s President , Prof Rob Marrs, and funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Since I was last a Langholm, some changes have taken place. In the wake of two large-scale heather beetle attacks in consecutive years, the heather needed to be given a break from grazing. Stock removal was agreed with the estate’s tenants, last year and this year, a long length of fence has been constructed to control the movement of stock and maintain the exclusion area. Such fences are ugly, intrusive and expensive, but they are also very effective.
I was struck by the response of the heather. It was growing strongly within the stock exclusion area and with the prospect of another winter without grazing, when the stock tend to remove all the growth achieved in the summer, I would expect the condition of the heather to improve markedly. Heather was regenerating on the many areas after muirburn and the areas that had been cut were also showing heather. On its own the improving condition of the heather may not answer the challenge faced by the estate and the project staff to restore grouse numbers, but a good stock of heather is an essential ingredient.