Friday, 20 December 2013

Implementation of CAP announced

Defra has announced details of the CAP review in England and the amount of money that is to be transferred from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. Initially, this has been restricted to 12% rather than the 15% that had been muted.

The understandable aim has been to ensure that the income to farmers from single farm payment is secure and that less depends on applications for environmental grant funding.  The shift towards to Pillar 2 will continue and with it will come the greater control over the environmental benefits that public funding will deliver.  There is a logic to this, but I am wary of it being taken to extremes that will stifle farming's entrepreneurial skills.  The ideal to my mind is knowledgeable farmers who have the enthusiasm and funds to apply their skills to the management of their land.  The old cry of 'it is difficult to be green when you are in the red' still rings very true.  Local, well-motivated people are always going to achieve more than broad brush control from a distant office.  Perhaps we need to focus more effort on explaining to our farmers and the other managers of land what is required and why.

The Defra website has no shortage of additional information.

Farmland birds need YOU to show they count

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is urging all farmers and gamekeepers to take part in the first annual Big Farmland Bird Count. 

The organisation wants to determine how the UK’s farmland bird species are faring and to highlight the success of the conservation practices that farmers and gamekeepers putting in place.

The GWCT website has more detail.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Scotland’s Soils website launched

See the article on the SG website, and the Soils Website.

I believe that we do not take enough account of what is under our feet and the effect it has on drainage, surface vegetation and productive capacity.  

If you are like me, a knowledge of soils will not have been included in your education and I hope that this site will provide us with a useful resource.

With the increasing interest in peatland, we are getting better at thinking about some of the issues, but we need to transfer this interest to all the other soil types.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bog restoration in Wales

Photo: Wales online
The National Trust, with funding from Natural Resources Wales, is working to restore the large Migneint upland bog on the Gwynedd-Conwy border.

For more details see the WalesOnline article.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Back to the Blog

This Blog has once again been going through a quiet phase but I am going to try to boost the output for the benefit of Heather Trust supporters.  This reduced output is not the result of lack of activity within the Trust - just the opposite.  When the pressure is on, it becomes harder to justify the time taken to keep the Blog up to date.

I am going to link at least some of these blog articles to the Trust's newsletters - see the latest edition here.  On a monthly or more frequent basis, the newsletters will contain a thumbnail view of our activities and other issues, and these thumbnails will link to articles on this Blog, and elsewhere, to provide more detail for those who want it.

As ever, the aim is to provide filtered information that will be of interest to Heather Trust supporters.  I will be aiming to avoid regurgitating a vast quantity of information that might give the illusion of activity, but in reality is only adding to the amount of bumph that is in circulation.

Read on and feel free to comment.

Biodiversity Offsetting

Biodiversity Offsetting is a term that requires some clarification.  In my simple understanding, if biodiversity is to be lost or damaged by development, then the developers can enter into an agreement to achieve similar biodiversity gains on another block of land.

The Environment Bank is very active in this area and their latest newsletter provides some case studies that explain the principle rather better.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Wildfire Developments

There have been several developments relating to wildfire in recent months that I have been involved with.

Housing & Moorland
The Wildfire 2013 conference was held in Cardiff in October and this followed a familiar pattern. There was a wide range of presentations covering research everything from research through equipment to best practice. The South Wales Fire & Rescue Service hosted the meeting and organised the site visit. My memory of the site visit was the proximity of open hill ground to housing estates in the Welsh valleys to the north of Cardiff. It is no wonder that they have a significant wildfire problem.

The Wildfire Operational Guidance was launched by ACO Robert Scott the Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.  This was the culmination of an enormous amount of heard work Northumberland FRS who produced the guidance for the Scottish FRS.  The guidance is primarily aimed at the Fire & Rescue Services, but there is much good information in it for everyone.  It is likely to be adopted throughout the UK and it marks a significant step forward in raising our ability to manage wildfire and it is available to download from the Scottish Government website.

The Scottish wildfire Forum has been in the doldrums for a while, but the formation of the single Scottish Fire & Rescue Service on 1 April, this year has provided the catalyst to review the work of the Forum.  As a result of this, the Forum was relaunched on 21st September and is now building momentum.

Uppermost in many minds in Scotland will be the events of April 2013 and the spate of wildfires that affected the north-west of Scotland.  Discussions are being held about how the warning system can be improved so that periods of high fire risk can be identified in advance.  Such a system would have a double benefit: it would allow warnings to be issued to the owners and managers of land in advance, and it would also allow the FRS to make preparations by moving manpower and equipment into high risk areas.  A Fire Danger Rating (FDR) system is envisaged and the Met Office is involved in developing proposals.

As Vice-Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum I have been involved in the discussions of the FDR and also developing stronger links to government in England and Wales so that they have a better understanding of the risk posed by wildfire and the capability of the wildfire forum to assist in raising awareness and developing the best techniques for reducing the risk of damage from wildfire.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Report Update: The Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting

Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) have been commissioned to update and expand on their 2006 study ‘The Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting’.

The 2006 report was prepared by PACEC on behalf of The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Country Land and Business Association, and Countryside Alliance and in association with Game Conservancy Trust, and it has been decided that is time to refresh the data.  In 2006, game shooting was worth £1.6 billion to the UK economy and it is thought that this has increased since then as have the tourism, business, conservation and biodiversity benefits associated with the shooting industry.

This report has provided some invaluable information and I am delighted that it is to be updated.  It is a cause well worth supporting.  A key part of the review process will be the survey questionnaire that will be sent to the membership of all those organisations that are supporting it.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Beavers are bracken control activists

A video clip taken by the Scottish Beaver Trial, earlier this year, demonstrates that Trude the beaver has been helping out the bracken control programme in Scotland.  I always suggest that there is no right or wrong way to control bracken but the choice of available techniques has just got slightly larger.  Go Trude!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Plants are key to peatland carbon sinks

The report in Eco-Business summarises the study carried out by researchers at Lancaster University that has been published in the journal Ecology Letters.  The study highlights the influence of vegetation on the amount of CO2 that is absorbed from the atmosphere.

Interestingly, if climate change increases the temperature, heather is thing to have not grass, as heather absorbs more CO2.

Friday, 20 September 2013

High Peak Moors - 50-year restoration plan

The National Trust has announced a 50-year programme of restoration for the High Peak moors.  See the BBC News report for more detail.

It is great to see the problems facing our peatland being grasped in this way.  As Patrick Begg comments in the BBC's report, it is no good scratching at the surface of this problem.  The ecology of our uplands, and peatland in particular, is slow to respond to management change.  If we want to achieve a given objective we need to agree what we want and then maintain a consistent approach over a period of many years and decades to achieve it.  A succession of 3-year initiatives will not achieve this.

The ability of estate managers to deliver continuity of management over periods that are measured in generations, or even in perpetuity in the case of the National Trust, is an essential component of planning for the future of the uplands.  This explains my wish to see better engagement of the land management community within the peatland debate.  See yesterday's output.

The leadership being shown by this project will help.  Well done the National Trust!

Thursday, 19 September 2013


Peat harvesting in Ireland
I spent much of last week in York at the conference "Investing in Peatlands: Partnership for a New Peatland Era" that was very well run by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme.  Congratulations to Clifton Bain, who was very ably assisted by Rea Cris.

One of the highlights was the launch of the Peatland Carbon Code by Richard Benyon, MP, the Defra Minister, who demonstrated that there is very clear support within Defra for the development of peatland management and restoration.  In his presentation, he even slipped in a reference to the work of The Heather Trust -  what a nice man!

The amount of momentum that is developing behind peatland management and restoration is impressive, and it is clear that our knowledge is increasing in leaps and bounds as a result of all the research that is taking place.  The overarching message is that looking after peatland better is essential.  In "international speak" we need to refer to peatland restoration, but in my mind a lot could be achieved by raising awareness of the value of our peatland asset and providing guidance about how to manage it appropriately.  If ways can be found to provide an additional income stream to land owners and managers to pay for the management work, something positive would happen. This is where I hope that the Peatland Carbon Code will come in.

In the meantime, my one concern from the conference, last week was the lack of engagement by landowners and managers.  An enormous amount of effort is going into researching peatland issues,  but  management improvements and restoration work are largely restricted to conservation bodies.  I believe that we need to be making greater effort to link to all landowners and managers of peatland. if these people can be motivated will start to make a difference.  At present, I feel that we are just nibbling round the edges of the problem.

The Heather Trust stands ready to help, but to do more than fire out blog posts, we need some funding.  In the meantime, one can only read with incredulity the reports coming out of the Republic of Ireland about the amount of peat that has been harvested by Bord na Mona to feed into their power stations.  On this side of the Irish Sea we are making every effort to salvage every last bit of peat, while across the water they are harvesting it by the shed load to convert into carbon dioxide.

The Irish approach to peatland management?

Bracken Control season moving towards a close

Photo: Wharfedale Observer
Under the terms of the Emergency Authorisation for the use of Asulam for bracken control, we passed the first expiry date on 16 September.  As a result of this, it is now no longer legal to sell, distribute or transfer asulam, but application can continue.  However, as bracken dies back, the effectiveness of application will reduce and application is not recommended if a significant portion of the leaves have started to turn yellow.  At this stage, the pathways to transfer the chemical to the rhizomes start to collapse.  The translocation of asulam into the rhizomes is the aim  of the exercise.

Users now have until the end of October to apply their stocks of asulam to bracken or if containers are unopened, they can be returned to suppliers.

It was good to see that Ilkley Moor is taking full advantage of the availability of asulam as shown in the article in The Wharfedale Observer.  It is a very positive sign that we have been able to secure the Emergency Authorisation for 2014 already, and I hope that this will allow plans to continue existing bracken control programmes to be drawn up early and also provide enough confidence for new programmes to be started.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Glastonbury founder backs FG's sky lantern campaign

See the article in the Farmer's Guardian.

I hope that this high profile support for a ban on sky lanterns means that we are making progress towards solving this problem and reducing the threat to stock and the chances of starting wildfires.

Wildfire 2013 ~ 22-23 October 2013

Wildfire 2013 is six weeks away

The conference will include international speakers, best practice studies, the latest research, great networking opportunities, themed site visits and exhibits. Plus the best of Welsh hospitality at the Vale Resort. I will even be saying a few words at the end!

The Programme
More details of the programme have now been released including additional speakers.  Wildfire 2013 will open with a session comparing risk management and mitigation strategies in New Zealand and Ireland, before an update from the Knowledge for Wildfire Project which will include a series of poster presentations from researchers.  The afternoon looks in more detail at the South Wales Valleys, including a field trip (see below) and a presentation from SWFRS on their holistic approach to wildfires.

The second day opens with a range of optional workshops, with a wide range of topics on environmental, operational and strategic issues. The final session looks at wildfire simulation and risk prediction and promises to be a stimulating way to wrap up Wildfire 2013.

Field Trip
The South Wales Valleys are well known for the frequency of wildfires and, during the field trip, we will be looking in detail at why this is, how it is managed and what techniques SWFRS use to minimise severity, including a demonstration of offensive burning.  Natural Resources Wales will host a visit to a forest which suffers frequent burns and provides a text book case study of wildfire risk at the rural/urban interface.

To Book
Go to the website where you will find full details of how to book online and the costs.  You can pay quickly and easily via debit or credit card but if you require an invoice for payment please call 01765 609355 or e-mail the Wildfire Team.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Wildfire 2013 - 22-23 October

Wildfire 2013 represents an opportunity for all those involved in the prevention of, and response to, wildfires to come together to share best practice, hear from researchers working on the subject and meet providers of wildfire related equipment and services.

There is still space for delegates, trade stands and sponsors. More details and booking information can be found here.

This year’s event will be held at The Vale Resort in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

I will be there and I hope to see you!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Heather Trust in Pickering ~ 2nd October 2013

This last week has included a visit to Pickering, to set up for the AGM and the associated discussion meeting, that we are organising for 2nd October.  

The venue for the meeting is the White Swan Inn, at Pickering, which justifies attending the meeting on its own.  

The morning session will be a discussion meeting and a topic we will be focusing on will be the comparison between cutting and burning for managing heather.  It is an issue that has come to the fore recently and this year we are investigating whether enough use is made of cutting as an adjunct to burning.  There are those who swear that cutting or burning is the only way to manage heather, but I think there is a strong argument in favour of using the two techniques in conjunction.  Cutting can be used to develop a small scale mosaic of heather and this can have benefits for grouse.

In the afternoon, we will be visiting Goathland Moor and this promises to be an excellent visit as in adition to excellent examples of cutting and burning, the moor offers a little bit of everything: from grouse, through heather beetle, to the construction of ponds.  We will be circulating invitations, this coming week to people who are in range that we think might be interested in this gathering, but if anyone would like to pre-empt this, please let us know.

The AGM will take place back at the White Swan Inn after a well-earned cup of tea and the day's activities will conclude with a Board meeting.  There will be no shortage of entertainment, but it will be a good opportunity for the Trust to 'strut its stuff' in an area where we have not held our AGM before.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

'No Silent Spring' in The Scotsman 24 August

The Scotsman picked up my letter to them that reflected my support for Adam Smith's article in the paper on 20 August.  See yesterday's Blog post.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Grouse moors can help diversity and the economy

Adam Smith is Director Scotland for Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust but he is also a Board Member of The Heather Trust.  He has been punching his weight in the pages of The Scotsman and I recommend his article to anyone with an interest in the management of our moorland and upland areas.

I support and endorse his views completely, which are at the core of The Heather Trust.

Balanced management of our moorlands and uplands is essential if we are to hold onto them as vibrant dynamic areas of the country that support society (through their natural (ecosystem) services), maintain their unique ranges of habitats and species, continue to underpin many cultural activities,  provide an income that supports the people and communities that live in these areas that in turn maintain the features that make these areas so attractive for visitors.  It is a complicated list of inter-related features and activities but, as Adam has pointed out, if we allow these areas to unravel, as has happened in parts of the UK, we are left with impoverished land that is denuded of all the features that make the areas so special.

It is far from being all bad news and there are many areas where sensitive management is delivering all the benefits I have outlined, but even in these exemplar areas there is room for improvement.  Adam has singled out Wales as a case study where it has gone wrong and I share his concerns.  This was why I was pleased to have been invited to contribute to an embryonic Moorland Initiative that the CLA is leading in Wales that is promoting the benefits that CLA members could bring to the uplands in Wales if they are given encouragement.  It is an issue that I will be pleased to support in an effort to reverse the decline of the Welsh moorlands and move away from the 'silent spring' state.

Grouse shooting is not for everyone, and it is not appropriate in all moorland areas, but where it does work it provides a focus for income generation and input that acts as a catalyst for activity that spins off to provide much wider benefits to the local area and to the habitats and species that live in these areas.

Monday, 19 August 2013

England: Defra unveils plans to move CAP money 'uphill'

See the article in today's Farmers Guardian.

Look for the comments about:

  • The retention of the three-region system: 
    • Lowland areas (i.e. land outside severely disadvantaged areas) 
    • Severely disadvantaged areas, and
    • Moorland
  • The shift of funding away from the lowland areas into the other uphill areas; and
  • The increase in the minimum claim size to 5 ha.
It would be boring if it was simple!

IUCN UK Peatland Programme - Conference

Investing in Peatlands: 
Partnership for a New Era
10th – 12th September 2013, York

We're pleased to annouce that our Key Note speaker will be Ian Dickie from Aldersgate Group.
If you haven't register yet, do so now! 
The latest 'Investing in Peatlands' Conference organised by the IUCN UK National Committee Peatland Programme is set for 10th -12th September 2013 at York University.
The fourth in the series of conferences, this year's theme is 'Partnership for a New Peatland Era' and will explore how the conservation, government and business sectors come together to meet the challenge of restoring a million hectares of peatlands through partnership approaches. The conference will highlight examples of good practice, identify barriers that still need to be broken down and highlight opportunities for taking forward partnership action both in the UK and internationally.
For more up-to-date information about the conference programme please visit our website
To register for this event please click here

Standard registration closing August 27th 2013
IF YOU WISH TO PAY BY INVOICE PLEASE NOTE THE DEADLINE FOR THIS IN MONDAY 19TH OF AUGUST, after this date you will have to register by credit card - Please get in touch for more details. 
Poster session: Research and Partnerships for Peatland RestorationA poster session will run from 17:00 - 18:30 on 10th September on research and partnership for peatland restoration. To ensure high attendance and a relaxed atmosphere in which to connect with other delegates around your poster topic, a peatland themed guest beer will be provided at all delegates attending the session. Presenters are expected to be available to answer questions from delegates next to their posters for the duration of the poster session.
Submission: If you would like to present a poster, please submit your poster title when you register for the event. Posters will be screened for relevance (but will not be subject to a full review process). You should assume that your poster has been accepted for the event unless you are contacted to discuss concerns over relevance.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Wildfire 2013 - Conference August Newsletter

To Book Your Delegate Place and Conference Dinner ...
... go to our website at where you will find full details about how to book online and the costs. You can pay quickly and easily via debit or credit card but if you require an invoice for payment please call 01765 609355 or e-mail the Wildfire Team at Don't forget to add the conference dinner to your booking - it will a great networking opportunity and great value for money!

The Venue
Don't forget to book your accommodation at the Vale Hotel - preferential rates only apply to bookings made before Tuesday, 27th August 2013 - just quote "WILDFIRE 2013".
Wildfire 2013 is taking place at the Vale Resort, Hensol, near Cardiff on Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd October 2013. As well as being an excellent conference venue it offers some of the best leisure and golf facilities in Europe. Contact the Vale and quote 'Wildfire 2013' to secure a preferential room rate of £75.00 (ex VAT). This offer lasts until 27th August.

Wildfire 2013 is shaping up to have the largest display of wildfire related equipment and services to date. From vehicles to clothing, weather instruments to pumps, all will be on show at Wildfire 2013. Exhibitors booked to date include:

Ballyclare Ltd

CFM Services

Delta Fire Ltd

Fire Fogging Systems Ltd

Flamepro (UK) Ltd

Godiva Ltd

Hunter Apparel Solutions & Texport

LHD Group (UK) Ltd

Openhouse Products Ltd

South Cave Unimog

Speedings Ltd

Terberg DTS UK

Land Management Adviser Vacancy - LL&TNPA

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority (what a mouthful of a name) is seeking a Land Management Adviser.

For details see the LL&TNPA (the acronym is not much better) website.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Wildfire Spanish style

And we think we have a problem with wildfire.  How's about this one in Spain?  Look at the resources that are deployed to tackle it - 550 firefighters backed by 17 water-carrying aircraft.

The threat to wildfire in this country is nothing like as extreme, at the moment, but that does not mean we should not be following the lead set by countries who have greater experience of wildfire: we need to plan and prepare for wildfire.  It is not 'if', it is 'when' it will happen.

Read more here:

Friday, 2 August 2013

New uplands academy offers support to next generation

I was pleased to learn about this new academy that aims to develop the next generation of upland farmers.  See the article in the Darlington & Stockton Times.

We need farmers to provide the management we all aspire to for the uplands. Without farming input upland habitats would quickly degenerate and all the infrastructure that we take for granted, walls/ dykes, paths, fences, gates would disappear.  To provide emphasis on the important role that stock have in shaping our uplands, I am fond of saying that the ultimate manager of moorland usually goes 'baa' or 'moo'.

The article includes a quote from Julia Aglionby, Director of the National Centre for the Uplands.  We are supporting the work of the Centre and the Trust's Annual Report, which will be published next week, includes an article about the Centre and a project (Better Outcomes for Upland Commons) that the Trust is contributing to.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Maintaining Ecosystems Services - its not just a nice thing to do....

Photo: 2020Vision
In explanation of the often vexed topic of the Ecosystem Services, 2020VISION's latest short film, commissioned by the Scottish Government for the Year of Natural Scotland, showcases Scotland's stunning wildlife and beautiful natural habitats.  The film introduces the concept of 'ecosystem thinking' and why we need to work together on a larger scale to protect Scotland's nature.  

Inspiring photography and video may lightly sugar-coat the topic, but the message is real.  We need to work on a larger scale and must include people.  "Great things can happen when people care."

Monday, 22 July 2013

Say no to Sky Lanterns

The Farmers Guardian has started a campaign to ban Sky Lanterns.  This follows the recent large fire in a recycling plant in the West Midlands.  This was reported to have been started by a sky lantern.  Numerous other incidents are mentioned in the Farmers Guardian article.

I think Defra has got this is one wrong and that it is time to reconsider the decision not to ban sky lanterns.  What do you think? 

The Farmers Guardian has established an e-petition so that you can add your weight to the demand for a ban.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Welsh Connections

The Trust has been rather quiet in Wales recently.  I regret this separation as I believe there are plenty of opportunities for the HT message to be beneficially applied in Wales, but as a result of two recent visits, I hope that this situation is about to change.

There has been a big upheaval in Wales with the establishment of a combined government agency called Natural Resources Wales (NRW) that has been formed from the Countryside Commission for Wales (CCW), and the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency in Wales.  This new organisation will no doubt take time to bed down but it provides an opportunity to reconsider the support for the Welsh uplands.  I hope that this will prove to be a turning point for an integrated approach to moorland management in Wales.

In response to the formation of NRW, the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) in Wales called together a group of landowners to consider how an approach to the Welsh Government could best be made to highlight the importance and value of the Welsh uplands.  I was pleased to attend this meeting, and I have offered support for any work that develops from it.

I have been maintaining a watching brief as a member of Upland Ecosystems Group (UEG) in Wales, but it has been hard to justify attending meetings as there has been no opportunities to develop any involvement.  However, I was able to attend a meeting of the UEG, last week, and this was combined with a workshop for a new project being run by the RSPB called North Wales Moors Futurescapes; this seeks to consider landscape scale conservation management across a large area of the uplands that include Ruabon Moor, the Berwyn Mountains, and moorland at  Migneint and Hiraethog.  I have suggested that some 'old fashioned' demonstration events that I champion for the Trust could be beneficial to being people together to discuss the issues.

I hope that these initiatives will serve to re-establish the Trust's presence in Wales and allow us to provide some  input that will help to improve the management of the Welsh uplands.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

BBC News - Call to pay landowners to save peat

Photo: IUCN Peatland Programme

The article by Roger Harrabin published by the BBC yesterday is welcome for highlighting the importance of upland peatland as a store of carbon but his argument has gone astray in several places.

With other organisations I am working to promote peatland management, including restoration where appropriate, as an integral part of moorland management and to interpret the research for landowners. Many management and restoration schemes are in progress and many more are planned. Some of these are supported by public funds through agri-environment schemes, but others are being funded privately.

Defra is supporting a large amount of work to develop a system for trading carbon and this could provide some income to contribute to management and restoration costs.

The message is very positive. A diverse range of organisations, covering policy, research and land management, are working to develop structures that will lead to the improvement of the condition of our peatlands and place them at the centre of our management of the uplands, where they deserve to be. Issues remain to be resolved but with willingness on all sides these will be resolved.

Against this background of developing cooperation Roger Harrabin's article should be seen as an aberration. Perhaps he would like to publish a more accurate follow up story - there are plenty of people who would be willing to give him a rounded picture to work with.

For a more balanced view, see the article in today's Yorkshire Post.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Glastir worth £16m to Welsh upland farmers

See the article published by the Farmers Guardian.  This is positive news and I was interested to see that the Common Land Development Officers (CDOs) appear to be making a positive impact.  I have long argued that there is a role for some form of facilitator to bring people together in rural areas to help with grant applications and this is especially valuable on Common Land.

I am in Wales tomorrow for a meeting of the Upland Ecosystem Group followed by a meeting of the North Wales Moors Futurescapes project.  Glastir is bound to be central to much of the discussion and it will be interesting to find out if there are any lessons that can be exported to other parts of the UK.

Scottish Game Fair - a triumph!

Anne and Patrick and I attended the Game Fair at Scone, just north of Perth, last weekend, in support of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and what an excellent three days it turned out to be.  After the debacle of last year's event, which was washed out at the end of the first day, this year was blessed with perfect conditions.

It was great to meet a large number of our members and supporters and to introduce new people to the need for moorland management.  We were focussing in particular on our work with heather beetle and bracken control, but got involved in discussion about all aspects of moorland management.

The attached photos provide a flavour of the action and show:
  • Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Minister for Environment, visiting our stand on the Friday, 
  • Making the Golden Plover Award to Edinglassie Estate, Strathdon.  People in the photograph:
    • Malcolm Hay, Heather Trust Chairman 
    • Andrew Salvesen, Scottish Chairman GWCT
    • Charles Pearson, owner of Edinglassie Estate
    • Derek Calder, Headkeeper (who does all the work!)
    • Stuart Young, Estate Factor.
  • Patrick and me on the HT stand
  • HT mobile HQ - the tent and 'Kermit' the camper van. 

One of the highlights of the Fair was the presentation of the Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management to Edinglassie Estate, Strathdon, which was selected as a result of the estates excellent and innovative approach to moorland management over a period of many years.  Charles Pearson was presented with a print of a Golden Plover that had been provided by the artist Colin Woolf, from a painting he did specially for the award, which can be viewed on the Wildart website

We will be publishing more details about Edinglassie Estate in the Annual Report, next month.

This was the inaugural presentation of the Golden Plover Award, and we look forward to considering applications for next year's award, which will be made at next year's Game Fair.

Seen on the central display
outside the HT stand

Thursday, 4 July 2013

CLA Cymru Moorland Initiative

I was pleased to attend a meeting organised by the CLA in Wales last week, to lend support to their initiative that is considering how best to support upland managers across Wales.  With the recent formation of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as a successor body to the Countryside Commission for Wales (CCW), in combination with the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency in Wales, there is an opportunity for moor owners to develop new relationships with the Welsh Assembly Government and its agencies

In England and in Scotland, I believe that the role that landowners and land managers can play in helping the government agencies realise their ambitions for the uplands is now better understood and the relationship between the different organisations is improving, although there is always room for improvement.

In Wales, I believe that there is much more scope for improving relationships and perhaps there are lessons that can be learned from elsewhere.  From the views expressed at last week's meeting, there is little doubt that the previous arrangements for managing the Welsh uplands have not been a success and that under NRW the regime should be changed.  There may be some resistance to drawing on ideas from elsewhere,  but I would suggest that this should be very acceptable if it leads to faster improvements in the state of the moorlands and uplands in Wales.

I think back to my test when reviewing the condition of an upland area.  Stand on a high point and look around.  Ask the question, 'Is this how I would like it to be?'  If, as is all too often, the answer is no, the follow up questions must be, 'What needs to be done, who is going to do it and how is the work to be funded?'.  There needs to be a lot of mountain climbing in Wales to look at the views.

There will always be a shortage of funding and in simple pragmatic terms, if some landowners want to fund some management work that will improve the uplands with a view to one day shooting a few grouse, where is the sense in opposing this?  Every source of income needs to the exploited to the full.

I am pleased to be supporting this initiative and I wish it every success.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

See you at the Scottish Game Fair?

I look forward to seeing as many members and supporters as possible at the Scottish Game Fair this weekend and we will be delighted to update you on our activities, past and present and we would welcome your input into our plans for the future.  Come and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sky Lanterns in action - fire at Smethwick

Photo: BBC News
BBC News is carrying a report of the fire at Smethwick in a large store of recycled plastic that is thought to have been ignited by a sky lantern.

The West Midlands may be a bit outside my usual parish, but the point here is that this incident shows that sky lanterns can act as an indiscriminate source of ignition.  On this occasion the fire has occurred in an urban area, it is not 'just' crops or rural lives that have been affected, the incident has occurred in a built-up area close to a centre of population.

Think of the cost of the fire fighting operation, the risk to firefighters and other people in the area, and the disruption that this fire is causing. Can this be justified by the 'wow factor' of sky lanterns drifting into the sky to wreak havoc somewhere downwind?

Although there is a risk of being branded as an 'I told you so' have a look at the blog post from 18 May 2013.

Defra's position is that a ban on sky lanterns is not under consideration.  Can this approach be justified in the light of this incident and the growing body of evidence about the damage that sky lanterns cause?

Heather Trust at the Scottish Game Fair

We will be supporting the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust at the Scottish Game Fair, this year.  We will be on the GWCT stand in the centre of the action and look forward to meeting members, supporters and anyone who has an interest in our moorlands and uplands.

We will be happy to discuss any part of our work, but in particular we will be promoting the Heather Beetle Survey.  We will have a large map on display that will show all the reports of heather beetle damage  we have received recently.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone who has had an outbreak of heather beetle and even those who have not so that we could add some additional pins into the map during the Game Fair.

Anne, Patrick and I look forward to seeing you.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Donside estate wins new moorland management award

We have teamed up with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to present The Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management, a new award which recognises progressive, innovative and environmentally sensitive moorland management.  The award will be presented to Edinglassie Estate, Donside at the Scottish Game Fair on Saturday, 6 July.  Edinglassie Estate wins this award in recognition of its consistent performance in all areas we considered and its continuing awareness of best practice and innovation. 

Artist, Colin Woolf, has kindly donated a framed special edition print with original pencil remarques to be presented to Edinglassie. The picture is an extract from this print of a commissioned watercolour portrait of a Golden Plover, which will be on display at the Scottish Game Fair.

The press release has quoted me as saying: 
“The aim is for a winner that is an example for others to follow. In making our choice, consideration was given to sporting and farming interests, the key traditional land uses, but critically included management for a range of other purposes, such as conservation and improvement of ecosystem services. A wide range of entrants were considered but Edinglassie rose to the top.” 

Adam Smith, Director Scotland, GWCT commented: 
“The concept of this award is to bring to the fore all the superb work being done to effectively and economically manage our heather moorland so it is a healthy and sustainable environment. Edinglassie is an ideal recipient and has long been regarded as a consistent and high achiever in moorland management. We hope this award will instil a healthy competition amongst Scotland’s moor owners.” 

The intention is that this becomes an annual award that will be open to land owners, estates, land managers, farmers, gamekeepers, sporting tenants, syndicates and any other individual or group with an interest in high quality moorland management and aims to encourage and promote good practice.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Members' Briefing: Peatland Management

While I was away for a few days holiday, during May, Patrick added a Members' Briefing onto the website about Peatlands.  In my absence, this went unannounced and as is the way of such things, there is a danger of it sitting on the website without anyone spotting it.  This post and the associated Tweet is aimed at giving the fanfare the briefing deserves.

The world of peatland management and restoration is developing fast, but this briefing still provides a good value summary of where we have got to and the direction that is being taken with the development of policy.

The biggest development sine the publication of this briefing has been the issuing of the draft Peatland Carbon Code, which is available for consultation until 21 June.  This is a significant stepping stone towards the development of a carbon market.  I will be commenting on this draft as part of my work of the Peatland Working Group of Scotland's Moorland Forum.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Heather Trust Annual Report

The Annual Report is published in early August each year and it is aimed primarily at members.  However, we also circulate copies to people who support us and have an interest in the work we do.  We are in full production mode at the moment and this is a lot of work for us to do, but as ever I am very grateful for the contributions we are receiving from guest authors we have invited to contribute an article.

The first half of the report is the relatively mundane report on the Trust's activities, but the second half gets more interesting with the guest articles introducing a wide range of topics.  We publish the guest articles, with authors' permission, on the web site at about the time of the AGM in early October, and you can get a feel for the type of articles by looking at last year's articles on the website.

We would welcome any suggestions for additional articles (if they can be produced quickly) - it's a quick, easy and cheap way of getting your views into print.  If anyone is feeling left out of the distribution of the Annual Report, the solution is simple - become a member.  It's easy!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Phytophthora Ramorum in action

Many may think this disease only happens on a small scale to someone else.  The photo that I took last week shows part of a large area of damaged larch trees on land owned by the Forestry Commission at Glen Trool in Galloway.  It is a murky photo as it was taken on a murky day.  All the trees will have to be clear felled, which is the only defence against this disease.  Other types of the disease are out and about and if you think you ought to know more about the phytophthora diseases have a look at the Members' Briefings on the Trust's website.  So far the disease is not affecting heather, but it might do.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Peatland Restoration on Dartmoor

The peatland restoration message appears to be causing some indigestion on Dartmoor.  See the article from the Western Morning News, which highlights the concerns of the Dartmoor Society about the impact of the  ongoing restoration work on 20,000 acres of Dartmoor.

I can understand the concerns.  Marching over sensitive habitats with heavy equipment is not everyone's idea of conservation, but I believe that the end justifies the means.  Clearly, communication needs to take place to try and resolve the differences and confirm that the long-term benefits of rewetting justify the need for short-term intervention.