Sunday, 20 May 2012

Job opportunity - Director, Scottish Countryside Alliance

The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) is seeking a Director to build on its achievements and provide an effective campaigning and lobbying force for the members and supporters in Scotland, and elsewhere as required.

The successful applicant is expected to be a country-minded person with an interest in country sports. It is essential that he/she has a strong professional/business background and the skills and experience to meet the demands of this multi-faceted role. A good understanding of Scottish politics, as well as the ability to engage with the Scottish Parliament and communicate effectively in all forms of media, will be essential. Outside the campaigning and political sphere, the Director will be required to deliver a business plan and budget based on a strong membership base and an effective fund-raising programme.

An attractive remuneration package will be on offer for the right candidate, according to their achievements and experience.

If you believe you possess the combination of skills, attributes and talent we are looking for and are interested in applying for this post, please send a CV together with covering letter by email to The closing date is Friday 8th June 2012. Click here for a full job description.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mapping the status of upland peat using aerial photographs

This report has been prepared by Penny Anderson Associates for Natural England and it provides an interesting view of the status of upland peat in England.  It should be noted that the main report has reviewed data taken from aerial photos and much of report considers the ground-truthing exercise that was carried out to validate the main conclusions.

Table 3 on p17 shows the total area of peat affected by each activity: 55.8% has not had any management input, 24% has been burnt, and 15.2% has been gripped.

The regional variations on p17 provide an interesting comparison between the  management inputs that have taken place in different parts of the country.

The conclusions on p24 of the Report provide a useful overview.

It is interesting to note that although the report was intended to cover the areas of deep peat, 27% of the sites where ground-truthing took place had  a peat depth <0.4m.  Maybe this lends weight to the view that we need to look at all peat soils, shallow as well as deep, and move away from the fixation on blanket bog, which has never been defined satisfactorily.

Note the link to all the current upland reports published by Natural England from the webpage link above.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

My 10th Anniversary - some reflections

It is 10 years ago today that I took over as Director of The Heather Trust and the anniversary justifies a moment’s reflection about what has happened in the last 10 years.  Inevitably there is the question about where 10 years has gone, which can be linked to concerns about policemen getting younger but perhaps some progress has been made.

When I took over, it was hard on the heels of the foot and mouth disease outbreak, which had a profound effect on many upland areas. We have just celebrated the 10th anniversary of Scotland’s Moorland Forum and when I attended the first meeting, I had no idea that it would become a cornerstone of the Trust’s activities in Scotland.  10 years ago, the Trust had just gained the 5-year contract from Defra to set up and run 4 demonstration moors.  The work gave us a platform in England and Wales that we are still using to good effect.  The project was a challenge, especially for an embryonic Director, but I think it was very successful and served to convince me of the power of demonstration events to introduce a diverse audience to the benefits of good quality upland management.  Getting funding to carry out more demonstration events will be a continuing crusade.

Domestically, the period has seen the Trust move its base (or International HQ!) from Kippen near Stirling to Dumfries. It was not an obvious location but it has proved to be a good jumping off point for travel to all parts of the UK.

But what of the issues we have been dealing with?  Some remain obstinately intractable, such as the raptor debate, or discussions about burning, and perhaps these will never be satisfactorily resolved for all parties.  I am reminded of the file that Charles Gimingham passed on to me that recorded the muirburn debate, about 50 years ago; the contents were very familiar!  There are some new kids on the block, such as renewables and ecosystem services, which serve to show that we have not stood still completely and there are even signs that we might be making some progress over heather beetle.

The challenges remain but, with the support of the Board and the team here, I remain committed to keeping the Trust at the forefront of the debate about upland management throughout the UK.  Of course, the other big recent change is that the Country Market & Sporting Sale is now online – happy bidding; it pays for us to keep going.

On an a more poignant and personal note, today is the 30th anniversary of the start of hostilities in the Falklands.  I know; I was in one of the first three ships into action off Port Stanley.