Friday, 31 May 2013

Natural England - Uplands Evidence Review

The five reports from the NE Uplands Evidence Review have been published and the next phase to translate the evidence into advice has already started.  This second phase is arguably the most interesting and the aim is for this to be completed by the end of the year.  

I plan to work engage with other organisations to help develop the guidance that flows from these reviews.  It is an ideal opportunity for the industry to help Natural England develop guidance that will be appropriate and relevant to the management of the English moorlands and uplands.

The next tranche of Evidence Reviews are being planned.  I am delighted that heather beetle is likely to be one of the topics. Naturally, I would like to think that the Trust's interest has been instrumental in getting this topic included in the next round of reviews, but the most important fact is that the heather beetle threat will be recognised and treated with respect.

Natural England has circulated the following letter about the topic reports:

Natural England has been undertaking a review of Uplands Evidence and we are now ready to publish our findings. The review programme has gone through a detailed assurance process and been reviewed by Natural England’s Science Advisory Committee. This is the first of Natural England’s evidence reviews and it addresses 5 topics which were identified with stakeholder input. It reflects on areas of advice that are subject to challenge and looks at what could make a difference on the ground. The review programme forms an integral part of the Upland Delivery Review programme and follows the principles embedded in our Uplands Strategic Standard published in September 2012.

The publication includes the methodology and the assurance process as well as the five topic reviews.
The five topics were:
  • The impact of tracks on the integrity and hydrological function of blanket bog
  • Restoration of degraded blanket bog
  • The effects of managed burning on upland peatland biodiversity, carbon and water
  • Upland hay meadows: what management regimes maintain the diversity of meadow flora and populations of breeding birds
  • Moorland grazing & stocking rates
The review programme provides us with the ability to refer to the evidence underpinning the management advice we provide to our customers, some of the areas discussed were:
  • How tracks affect the structure of blanket peat and its hydrological system.
  • Is a full recovery to a functioning blanket bog possible?
  • What happens after the burning of blanket bog and wet heath, how are the habitat species affected?
  • What type and quantity of fertiliser can be applied to upland hay meadows without a negative impact on species diversity?
  • The moorland grazing & stocking rate topic has been documented it is notable however that very little (approximately 20%) of the evidence can be considered as ‘strong’ - does one size fits all?
It must be emphasised that these are just some of the discussion subjects and that the full reviews are much more detailed.

Natural England will now spend the next two months evaluating the need for amendment to the guidance we provide to our advisers. We will be consulting with you in the summer on any proposals for changes, but if you have any suggestions in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us NE Uplands Evidence Review mailbox. Any changes agreed will be incorporated in revised guidance in the autumn, with a view to completion by the end of the year.

In future all guidance used by our staff will be made available on our internet.

Yours sincerely

Tim Hill, Chief Scientist 
Ian Fugler, Director Land Management, North & Uplands

Charles Gimingham - 90th Birthday

Professor Charles Gimingham & Malcolm Hay
Professor Charles Gimingham celebrated his 90th birthday at the end of April and I was delighted that the Heather Trust was able to mark this occasion with a small presentation to Charles made by our Chairman, Malcolm Hay.

Charles's 70th birthday, in 1993, was marked by the SNH publication 'Heaths & Moorland: Cultural Landscapes' which was the proceedings of a conference of the same name.  In the Foreword, Magnus Magnusson, then Chairman of SNH, stated that the book was 'dedicated to honouring the life's work of a living legend, Professor Charles Gimingham'.  As the founder of much of our knowledge of heathland ecology, and the man who inspired several generations of ecologists, I can think of no better description.

Charles's activities did not stop with his 70th birthday.  He has remained active and was the first President of the Trust for three years from 2004.  His support helped to raise our profile to new heights.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Wildfire Threat from Sky Lanterns

In my capacity as Vice-Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum, I contributed to the consultation about the threat posed by sky lanterns that was carried out for Defra by ADAS.  The consultation also covered helium balloons but my interest did not go beyond sky lanterns.  The report from the consultation has now been published and I am disappointed that Defra has not decided to take any positive action.

My concern stems from the wanton release of sky lanterns without any consideration being given to where they might land.  I accept that they look impressive, but I cannot accept that this is not without impact and cost on unconnected parties.  The ingestion of the remains by livestock has proved to be fatal, but of even more significance is the threat that lanterns pose through acting as ignition sources for wildfires.

In theory, the sky lantern stays airborne until the candle burns out and the lift of the hot gases is lost.  However, it has been shown that the canopies of sub-standard have failed which allows the lighted candle to fall to the ground.  This is a source of ignition that has caused wildfires with the associated threat to life and property and the increase in workload for the Fire & Rescue Services. this is a high price to pay for enjoyment.

The Farmers Guardian has published an article today that expresses concern about the lack of action from Defra to tackle this problem, and the comments from readers of the paper tell their own story.  An interesting comment is that if people were found dumping litter in the countryside they could be prosecuted but somehow sky lanterns are acceptable.  As the Farmers Guardian points out, sky lanterns have been banned in some countries and common sense would suggest that this at least ought to be considered in the UK.   I understand that even though most of the sky lanterns are manufactured in China, they have been banned in this country.

As an example of the absurdity of the current situation, in Dorset, the FRS reported that a lighted sky lantern drifted in through an open hotel window and started a fire.  While I may be viewed as a spoil sport, I find it difficult to support the indiscriminate release of incendiary devices without adequate precautions to make sure they do not cause damage.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Comments & Feedback

This blog has been receiving the attention of someone who needs to get a life and stop circulating spam messages.  It is a fascinating study on life that people have time and energy for such activity - what a waste!

To avoid cluttering up my inbox with the results of this activity I have turned off the comments function for the moment.  This does not mean that I will not welcome any feedback that posts on this blog generate, and please pass these back to me via the contact facility on the Heather Trust's website.  So far at least this appears to be able to defeat the spammers.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Unsold Lots are available from Country Market & Sporting Sale

The Sale closed on 3 May but some unsold Lots will remain available until 17 May 2013.

Bidding for these Lots is a doddle - just log on to the Sale's website, and follow your fingers.

We will be grateful for your support.

Wildfire Danger in the South Pennines

The Grough carried a good article about recent wildfires in the hills above Littleborough, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Cragg Vale and provides a good advert for the Fire Operations Group and to the benefits of partnership working.  The reference to the value being placed on the uplands for conservation and habitat as well as in economic terms is relevant and useful.

The article is well worth a read