Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Case for Grouse Moor Management

Adam Smith, Director Scotland for the GWCT, has published a blog post that states the case for grouse moor management being an essential part of sustaining Scotland’s uplands.

Adam is a member of the HT Board, and the post can be viewed on the GWCT website.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Scotland: Consultation on a draft Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021

The consultation on the draft Land Use Strategy for 2016-2021 runs until 29 January 2016. 

See the Moorland Forum's Blog for some additional background, and the Scottish Government website for full details.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Wildfires 2015 Conference, 10-11 November

Over 150 delegates have signed up to attend this important conference. There are 34 confirmed speakers, 15 poster presentations and more than 20 exhibitors. Can you afford not to be there? There are still some spaces available - see the website.

Against this high level of activity, and maybe because of it, the Scottish Wildfire Forum has been nominated in the ‘Partnership of the Year’ category for this year’s Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards. In accepting the nomination, Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Andy Coueslant, the chairman of the Forum, commented that the nomination "is clearly down to the many years of hard work done by the Forum and its members".

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Molland Moor, Exmoor - Winner of the Samuel Foss Conservation Award

Baroness Ann Mallalieu, left, vice president of The Exmoor Society with award winner Mrs Christina Williams, owner of Molland Moor
Baroness Ann Mallalieu (left) and Mrs Christina Williams (right)
(Photo: Western Morning News)
The Western Morning News has reported on the presentation of The Exmoor Society's 2015 Samuel Foss Conservation Award to Molland Moor.  See the full article.

Baroness Ann Mallalieu, the Vice President of The Exmoor Society presented the award to Mrs Christina Williams, the owner of Molland Moor.

The article commented on how Christina William’s "drive and commitment to a five-year project called “Graze the Moor”, set up with the Molland Estate, the Heather Trust and other partners, has been able to monitor the impact of changes to the grazing regime, including the introduction of winter grazing by cattle. The hope is that, through the experiment, winter grazing will begin a long-awaited fight-back against the explosion of gorse, bracken and Molinia grass that is threatening the moor’s character."
I have had some involvement with the management of Molland Moor since the Trust ran a demonstration project there 2002-2006.  I am now the project manager for the 'Graze the Moor' project, and I am delighted that Christina William's dedication to the management of the moor has been recognised in this way.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The AGM in Wales: Compromise, Cooperation and Communication

Team Photo on Rhiwlas Mountain
By Patrick Laurie

It turned out to be a beautiful day for the Heather Trust’s AGM and discussion meeting yesterday, at Bala in North Wales, with miserable black clouds breaking up by mid-morning to reveal bright sunshine and wonderful views across the wild hills towards Snowdonia.

Almost forty members, delegates and supporters from a wide range of backgrounds including BASC, RSPB, Natural Resources Wales and FWAG Cymru gathered at the Gorwelian Centre for a morning of presentations, which explored the history and future of moorland management in Wales. Ant Griffith of CLA Cymru spoke passionately about the value of the Welsh Uplands, and Will Duff Gordon and GWCT’s Teresa Dent explained the significance of the Nature Fund, which has really sparked off a new wave of upland interest amongst a range of different Welsh stakeholders.

The thrust of the day was extremely positive and progressive, and the value of compromise, cooperation and communication was emphasized in order to ensure that Welsh moorland provides the best outcomes for the widest range of different interests, from farming and sporting to conservation and peat. 

After an excellent lunch, there was an opportunity to visit the Rhiwlas Estate, with owner and land manager Richard Price, who had offered an impression of the estate’s past and future during the presentations in the morning. Gaining height over the large extent of moorland to the North of Afon Tryweryn, the convoy of vehicles trekked along a rough mountain track between Welsh Mountain sheep and a cornucopia of reddening whinberry plants. 

Discussions near the top of the hill ranged from the potential impact of proposals to change rights of access in Wales to the breeding ecology of hen harriers, and the theme of cooperation ran as a constant thread throughout. It is hoped that Rhiwlas might one day be able to provide some grouse shooting again, and the balanced nature of the exchanges tried to ensure that everybody’s voice would be heard as management work begins to pick up over the coming months.

As always, the broad spread of attendees demonstrated the Trust’s “broad church” approach to land management, and we look forward to keeping in touch with our growing number of contacts in Wales as they approach the various exciting, fascinating challenges the next few years will present.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Wildfire Conference - 10-11 November, Cambuslang, near Glasgow

"Prevention Better than Cure"

The ‘Wildfires 2015 - Prevention Better Than Cure’ conference and exhibition will be held at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Training College, Cambuslang, Glasgow on Tuesday, 10th and Wednesday, 11th November.

Held on a bi-annual basis, the wildfire conferences and exhibitions held in the UK have focused on sharing knowledge about this threat to open landscapes in the UK. Against a background set by climate change forecasts that indicate the number and scale of wildfire incidents are likely to increase, this year the emphasis of the conference will be on reducing the risk of damage from wildfire, which is of importance to the Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) and stakeholders alike. 

The conference is being staged at the Scottish FRS's state of the art training centre in Cambuslang. The conference will be an opportunity to bring together not only leading personnel from the UK and abroad, but there will also be a diverse range of specialists representing the UK FRSs, land & estate managers, insurers, environmental & conservation organisations, and the planning and policy sectors.

The programme includes some excellent sessions on a range of important issues related to wildfire prevention. Keynote speakers are now confirmed from California, New Zealand and Italy, providing some important and insightful international contributions. The other presenters come from the far corners of the UK and represent a wide variety of stakeholder organisations. There will also be exhibition stands from equipment suppliers and poster presentations of recent and current cutting-edge wildfire research. This is a 'must see' event for anyone in the UK who is involved or interested in wildfire prevention.

The conference programme can be downloaded and other details about the Conference (costs, booking form, accommodation etc) can be viewed on the SFRS website.

Please pass this information to any friends and colleagues who may be interested in attending this event.

The conference is being fully supported by the Scottish Wildfire Form, The England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Chief Fire Officer's Association Wildfire Group. The Forums are taking advantage of the opportunity to hold a joint meeting as a way to enhance the links within the 'wildfire community' in the UK.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A Different Approach to Road Building on Bogs from Canada

The Canadians appear to have a big problem with providing access across bogs to service their oil and gas industry (have you watched Ice Road Truckers?!).

Edmonton-based Paradox Access Solutions is using nano-engineered material in a honeycomb structure to make resilient temporary roads over sometimes unstable ground.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Graze the Moor Project Meeting - Molland, Exmoor - 16 Sep 15

Cattle on Molland Moor - 16 Sep 15
I ran the annual stakeholder event for this project on Molland Moor, on the south side of Exmoor, yesterday.

The project seeks to monitor the impact of changes to the grazing regime, that includes the re-introduction of winter grazing on the moor by cattle.  The aim is to improve the moor while at the same time providing income for the farm businesses that use the moor.  The project is acting as a focus for a lot of activity and this includes an annual stakeholder meeting to report on the progress of the project.

A new feature of the project in the last 12 months is the development of a Molinia Control Trial.  This seeks to identify the best way to move from Molinia dominance to a more mixed cover of vegetation.  One of the techniques being tested is the spray-burn-reseed approach that was developed by Geoff Eyre in the Peak District. This trial has only just started and we will report on developments as the work progresses.

We attracted a total of 33 delegates to the meeting yesterday, and in true Heather Trust style, it was good to see a large number of different interest groups represented at the meeting.

Full team photo - Molland Moor, 16 Sep 15

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Upland Stakeholders Forum and the Upland Outcomes Approach

I attended the meeting of the Upland Stakeholder Forum (USF) in London, last week. 

The remit of this cross-sector group is to consider upland issues in England, and after some updates, the focus of the meeting was on the Outcomes Approach that is being rolled out by Natural England (NE).  

This initiative was the subject of the five workshops that I ran for NE in different parts of the English Uplands in March, this year, and the Summary Report that I produced for NE is available to download. I also reported on these workshops in the Trust’s Annual Report, this year.

What is the Outcomes Approach?  In simple terms, it involves Natural England working more closely with stakeholders to achieve an agreed, shared vision for land, including the uplands. Flexibility is part of the concept so that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will be avoided. 

For this Approach to achieve its potential it needs to be adopted fully by NE and all stakeholders. During the meeting, the Moorland Association confirmed that the Approach has been promoted to its members and NE outlined how they have been working to introduce the concept to its staff; they recognise that it will require a bit of a culture shift. 

I am a great supporter of this initiative, which I think offers benefits for NE, stakeholders and above all, the English uplands. In my view, it is long overdue, and I am keen to support the roll out of the Approach. I would like to see more demonstration events being held, as part of the promotion process, as I believe that the ‘talk & walk’ style of event is a powerful way to communicate with NE stakeholders and staff  alike.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Bracken Control: End of the Asulam Emergency Authorisation Period

As Coordinator of the Bracken Control Group, I successfully applied for the Emergency Authorisation (EA) that has allowed Asulam to be used for bracken control this summer.

Asulam is currently not registered for use in the EU and it can only made available under emergency provisions. The 120-day authorisation period expires today, but we now enter a use-up period that runs until the end of October. During the use-up period it is still possible to store and apply asulam, and if you have any in unopened containers it is possible to return stocks to the manufacturer through your distributor. From 1 November 2015, it will be illegal to store Asulam.

I have drafted the application for a further EA in 2016, and if successful, this will allow the use of Asulam to continue for a further year. The registration process will hopefully lead to the registration of the product for use in the EU once again, but the response to this application is not expected until the end of 2016, at the earliest. In the meantime, the Bracken Control Group will be working with the UK authorities to maintain a continuous supply of Asulam, which is so important to maintain biodiversity in our lowlands and uplands.

For more information see the Bracken Control website.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Bracken Control with your feet up?

This post has been adapted from an original document produced by George Winn-Darley

A new type of cutting machine offers the opportunity to cut bracken by remote control. The equipment will be demonstrated by representatives of Brielmaier, a German company that supplies a range of machinery developed for cutting vegetation on steep slopes in the Alps. A range of videos, available on You Tube, provide a visual indication of the capability of this equipment.

The plan for the events is to demonstrate Brielmaier's remote control bracken cutting on all sites, and gorse cutting on some of them.  All interested farmers and land managers are welcome to attend.

In all cases access by 4x4 is fine and those arriving by car will be transported to the sites.

27th August
Ysgubor, Dinas Mawddwy, SY20 9LX (south-east of Dolgellau)
By kind permission of Dafydd and Mair Evans.  There will be no toilet facilities but refreshments should be available.

1st September
Carding Mill Valley
SY6 6JG (Long Mynd, west of Church Stretton)
By kind permission of the National Trust. Toilet facilities and refreshments will be available.

3rd September
Howe Gill, Lamplugh, West Cumbria CA14 4TY
By kind permission of Mr Richardson. There will be no toilet or refreshment facilities due to the remote location of the demonstration.

4th September
Barmoors, Hutton Le Hole, North York Moors, YO62 6UE
By kind permission of George Winn-Darley. There will be toilet and refreshment facilities available.

The cutting machines cost £20-30,000 but they are self-propelled and can be operated by someone walking behind them or even from nearby using remote controls.  Some of the machines can also mulch, if required, and other machines can rake the material down slopes to a point where it can be quickly handled and baled at the bottom.

Traditional uses for bracken include livestock bedding and as compost, but these tend to be small scale uses.  A larger scale and more cost effective use could be the production of bio-ethanol.  Freshly cut bracken yields 40-45 tonnes of plant material per hectare.  30,000 tonnes of fresh material would be required to run an ethanol plant producing green ethanol, and therefore 750ha would need to be harvested.  There is a strong demand for green ethanol from refineries who are under an obligation to blend at least 5% with other fuels, and this could provide enough income to make bracken harvesting a commercially viable exercise.

This equipment might not solve all the issues with cutting bracken, and this machinery will not suit a lot of rougher sites, but they will add another option to the tool kit.

Attendance: The demonstration events are open to all, but if you have any questions, please contact the organiser Jeremy Oakley 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Workshop: What’s up in the Uplands? Delivering Food & Ecosystem Services

Kirkton & Auchtertyre Research Farm, Crianlarich

The Challenge
What can be done to ensure the economic viability of upland farms so that they can continue to produce quality, sustainable food while delivering ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, flood regulation and maintaining biodiversity? Upland farmers today face pressures including changes to markets, support policies and the climate they are operating in. What should they be aware of ecologically and economically? What current practices could be reviewed and altered to address the pressures? How can upland farmers take advantage of the opportunities presented by an increasing focus on payments for ecosystem services?


Scotland’s Rural College, Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities lead the UK in developing and demonstrating best practice in upland livestock production systems. These organisations have come together to run a two-day training workshop on What’s up in the Uplands? Delivering Food Ecosystem Services at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, based at Kirkton & Auchtertyre upland research farms near Crianlarich, on 3rd and 4th September 2015


The workshop is particularly focused on upland farming systems and is relevant not only to farmers and their agricultural advisors but also to all those involved with regulating the farming industry or developing agri-environment measures. All of these target audiences need to be aware of and understand the challenges and opportunities facing upland farming systems if such systems are to be economically viable and continue to provide ecosystem service benefits to wider society.

The workshop will explore the environmental, social and economic viability of alternative upland farming systems in the UK, and will discuss challenges and opportunities associated with managing soil, moorlands, natural and cultivated grasslands, sheep and cattle in upland situations.

Leading specialists in their field from SRUC and Bangor will work with workshop attendees to enable them to learn, and discuss in detail, about: how uplands play a key role in providing a wide range of valuable ecosystem services; where greenhouse gas emissions come from on upland farms and how they can be reduced; how upland farmers have an important role to play in carbon sequestration and peatland restoration; how recent research advances can help improve the technical efficiency and economic viability of upland farming; the pros and cons associated heather burning; and how challenges and issues facing upland farms in the Scottish Highlands are relevant to upland farming systems across the UK. 

The workshop will also incorporate a visit to SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre Farms, to see the range of agricultural and environmental issues being addressed on the farms.

The workshop has been organised as part of an Advanced Training Partnership (ATP) in Sustainable and Efficient Food Production run by Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, NIAB TAG and BBSRC. The workshop will serve attendees either as a certified stand-alone Continual Professional Development (CPD) event or as an introduction to two ATP postgraduate distance learning modules on Upland Farming Systems and Ecosystem Services. 

The full fee for attendance at the workshop is £270. However, if an attendee is employed full time within the UK agri-food sector then then may qualify to receive a bursary to reduce the cost of attendance. Examples of sectors which qualify are: supermarket supply chain advisors, farmers and farm managers, agri-supplies, vets, agri-environmental advisors, agricultural consultants. We regret that those employed in publicly funded posts do NOT qualify for bursaries. Bursaries are awarded at the time of invoicing on a first-come-first-served basis.

More detail
Full details of the workshop, how to register and how to apply for bursaries can be found at the workshop's webpage. Email: and telephone: 01970 823 224

Sunday, 2 August 2015

GWCT - Best Practice Use of Medicated Grit

Photo: GWCT
This new guidance was launched at the CLA Game Fair, last Friday (31 July).  I recommend this guide as essential reading for anyone who is already using medicated grit, or is contemplating its use.

The guidance runs through the development history of medicated grit and highlights the two major concerns arising from the outstanding success of this technique: resistance to the current treatment through overuse, and the emergence of new diseases.  The need to assess worm burdens and deployment techniques are covered and the guidance concludes with a valuable best practice check list.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

HT at the CLA Game Fair

It was a good day at Harewood, yesterday, for the CLA Game Fair.  There was good representation from the organisations that we work with, and some we would like to work with.  As ever, the gathering of the clans provided an opportunity to catch up with people I have not seen for a while, for many years in some cases, and to exchange views about what has happened and what we would like to happen.

I attended the workshop in the Game Fair Theatre that assembled: Owen Paterson (former Sec of State for Environment), Mark Avery (former Conservation Director, RSPB), Philip Merricks (Farmer & Chairman, Hawk & Owl Trust) and Ian Coghill (Chairman, GWCT).  The topic for discussion was "Landowners and Wildlife: Friends or Foes?".  There was an interesting exchange of contrasting views:  Owen Paterson quoted 'when the state owns; nobody owns and, when nobody owns, nobody cares' and Mark Avery followed him by stating a wish for more public ownership of land.   Messrs Coghill and Avery sought to score points off each other, and Philip Merricks commented that the adversarial approach is ineffective and there is no alternative but to be friends.  In spite of these contrasting views, the discussion did not really take off, and we came away none the wiser.

From a Heather Trust perspective, I side with Philip Merricks.  We need dialogue and a commitment to move forward; brick throwing from silos will generate heat, but no light.  Owen Paterson proved that he is a loss to front bench politics.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Rewilding - What is your view?

Photo: Farmer's Guardian

On the back of the launch of a new charity 'Rewilding Britain' The Farmer's Guardian has published an Insight Article that sets out the arguments for and against.

What do you think?  Is there a place for re-wilding in the UK? If so, where?!

My starting point is that I do not dismiss re-wilding, but I do not see a place for large-scale, hands-off re-wilding.  However, there may be areas where less intensive management could be of benefit, and it could take place alongside other, more traditional management.

On reintroductions, I think we need to be careful what we wish for, and we should be careful of being driven by purely, romantic views.  There is an argument that having some of the larger predators would help with deer management by removing the sick and infirm without needing a bullet, but I do not see how you discourage the same predators from taking sheep.

There is talk of developing a moorland strategy / vision in Scotland and the intensity of management might well be an area for discussion, as part of the development process.

Respect, Trust & Honesty

I have just finished drafting the Trust’s Annual Report and I found myself writing about the need for respect, trust and honesty in our dealings with different organisations who have contrasting views. This was in the same week that we had two public debates about the best approach to heather burning: Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association and Pat Thompson from RSPB appeared in Country Life; Tim Baynes from Scottish Moorland Group and Duncan Orr-Ewing from RSPB were interviewed on Radio Scotland.

I was struck by what a waste of time these exchanges were, as no-one is going to trot out anything but their safest party line on these occasions. In my view, this type of exchange only serves to feed sensation, deepen the trenches and sell publications / increase ratings.

We do not need sensation; we need sensible, balanced, positive debate. Partisan exchanges, or broadcasting sound bites through social media, might create heat, but we also need light. Without this, the habitats, wildlife, birds, communities, landscapes and features that we claim to represent will continue to suffer. We are making great strides in many areas, it is not all bad news, but we could achieve so much more if we could only develop respect, trust and honesty in our dealings with other organisations. If we then added a degree of compromise and tolerance, how much better could we all serve the uplands and moorlands of the UK.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Burning in the Uplands - My Cup is Half-Full

Details of the RSPB-led Study
A new study led by the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science has revealed the extent of moorland burning across Britain’s upland areas. This is the first time upland burning has been mapped in detail across mainland Britain. 

Using aerial photography and satellite images, 45,000 1-km squares were mapped across Scotland, England and Wales, and revealed that burning occurred across 8,551 of these squares, including 5,245 squares in Scotland.  In the ten-year period covered by the study, from 2001 to 2011, the number of fires recorded increased rapidly by 11 per cent each year.

For more information see the RSPB press release.  The paper has been published in Biological Conservation, Volume 191, November 2015, Pages 243–250.  The abstract of the paper can be viewed online and the full paper is available to download for a fee.

This study is useful as it helps to build a picture of what is going on, but while it has highlighted the problems, it has not addressed possible solutions.  I suspect that this was not part of the research brief, but increasingly I believe that we need to put more effort into joining problems to solutions, if we are going to make progress.

It is relatively easy to use burning to fuel a rant about the state of our peatlands, but we should remember that these areas were, until recently (very recently in the life of peat), regarded as wasteland.  These are slow moving habitats and it will take a long time, under consistent management, to improve their condition.  I would be among the first to agree we need to improve the way we manage burning in many areas, and through this the condition of peatland, but before we discard the management tools, which after all have got us the habitat we all now value highly, we need to think about how the peatland is to be managed, and by whom.

In the short term, my action plan for peatland includes:
  • Continuing to raise the profile of peatland - it is an important habitat that needs sensitive management;
  • Encouraging the revegetation of bare peat areas to reduce erosion by wind and water;
  • Introducing guidelines for traditional peat cutting (for domestic purposes only);
  • Agreeing what long-term management is required to improve the condition of the peatland; and
  • For highly degraded sites, seek funding for capital works to, for example: 
    • reprofile peat hags, 
    • block man made ditches and other drainage channels to raise the water table, and
    • introduce sphagnum mosses to wet sites, where absent.
Longer-term action will rely on the owners and land managers to make the right decisions for the management of the uplands and the peat stocks they contain. This is an area that needs to be looked at separately.

We should not forget that burning takes place to support: crofting; upland agriculture and commons management; and deer stalking, as well as grouse moor management. Picking on grouse moor managers and then using the detrimental side of burning as a stick to beat them with is potentially self-defeating. Privately funded grouse moor managers are a significant proportion of the upland work force, and if their efforts can be correctly focused, alongside the full range of other managers in the uplands, they should be seen as part of the solution, not the problem. We need the support of these people to deliver the objectives we seek.

Also outside the scope of the study are the considerable changes that are already taking place in the uplands. As demonstrated by our Golden Plover Award, and the take up of support from the Peatland Action project in Scotland, landowners and managers are beginning to embrace the 'love your peatlands' message. We still have a way to go with this, but momentum is building.

During the 'bogathon’ visits, in Northern England last year, which the RSPB were part of, we agreed that burning should remain as one of the management tools, but it needs to be applied intelligently, not by rote.  We need to adjust burning techniques and rotations to suit the requirements of the land, including peatland, and this may mean less, or even no, burning in some areas.  This might save grouse moor managers some work!  

Also, the alternative of cutting heather, should not be ignored.  Cutting cannot be used everywhere, but the Trust's recent studies have recorded that some grouse moor managers are getting excellent results through cutting alone.  See our Members' Briefing on Heather Management in the Reading Room on the Trust's website.

I believe that the picture is for from being as gloomy as the study would have us believe.  The winds of change have started to blow, and with encouragement I believe that momentum is building behind improving our management of burning and the condition of our peatland.  My cup is half-full!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Scotland's Moorland Forum - Understanding Predation Project

The Questionnaire

The Understanding Predation project aims to capture the views of as many people as possible, from anywhere.  Responses are not confined to Scotland.  While the project will welcome responses from organisations, it is personal views that count most. The project wants to hear what individuals think, not just what organisations would like their people to think!

Have you completed a questionnaire yet, and have you done enough to draw the attention of colleagues, members and/or supporters to the opportunity that the questionnaire offers people to express their views?  The questionnaire responses will influence the final report from the project, and although the project is based in Scotland, the output will have wider relevance.

Understanding Predation – Information at a glance
Project webpage
Project Blog
Questionnaire – Online version
(for submission of response)
Questionnaire – pdf version
(to preview the questions)   
End of online questionnaire
Completion of workshops   
31st July 2015
Project Review Seminars
27th October – Perth
3rd November – Inverness
12th November - Edinburgh

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

England: Improving Peatland

In the last 2 weeks I have been on two visits to consider the regeneration of sphagnum moss.

The Peak District
The ascent of Kinder Scout
Last week it was the Peak District and an outing of the new Uplands Management Group (UMG) - the successor to the Best Practice Burning Group.  The Moors for the Future project hosted the visit and we were marched up to the top of Kinder Scout to look at the restoration work the project has been carrying out.  Starting from almost completely bare peat 10 years ago, the transformation has been remarkable and the scope of the project has been extended to include inoculation with plugs of sphagnum moss.

Revegetated ground - top of Kinder Scout
Sphagnum Moss requires wet conditions to grow successfully and this is difficult to achieve on top of hills.  However, the project team reckon that high rainfall can provide good conditions for sphagnum, even where the water table is well below the surface.

The cost of all the restoration work is high (about £12,000 per ha), but the stability of this important area of peat is increasing so that it will stay there long term and not succumb to the combined forces of gravity and erosion by wind and water.

While chairman of this group, I would like to see the Group tackle how to improve the coverage of sphagnum mosses on areas, which are not so critical, and where there is no big funding pot.  The importance of the sphagnum message needs to be demonstrated to land managers, so that they can improve the conditions as part of their normal management.  Tell them clearly what is required and there is a chance it can be achieved; if they do not know the requirement, there is no chance.

Keighley Moor

The USF on Keighley Moor
The Upland Stakeholder Forum met near Keighley, yesterday, and this included a visit onto Keighley Moor, above the reservoir, as guests of Yorkshire Water (YW).  This was one of the moors included in the 'bogathon' visits last year but it was good to go back and bring other members of the Forum up to speed with the work being carried out by YW.

The driver for YW is water quality and their emphasis has been on raising the water table by blocking grips and revegetating bare peat.  To YW's credit they have taken the grouse and farm enterprises with them, and all are enthused by the work.  The gamekeeper, farmer and area officer for Natural England joined the visit and it was great to see everyone working towards a common goal.  This is an example of the Natural England Outcomes Approach working in practice.  More please!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Scotland - More funding for the Peatland Action Project

The Peatland ACTION project has been allocated a further £3m to spend during the current financial year on peatland restoration projects.  This follows the £5m spent up to the end of March and supplements grants available under the new Scottish Rural Development Programme.

For more details and links to online information see the Moorland Forum blog post.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Heather Trust at the Scottish Game Fair

The Trust will be appearing in force over the next three days at the Scottish Game Fair at Scone.  With thanks to GWCT, we have a stand in part of their main exhibit with the World Pheasant Association.  Anne, Patrick and Samantha will be here and we will be delighted to see you.  Several Board members will also be present.

The highlight of tomorrow will be the award of the Golden Plover Award at 4.30pm.

We hope that any member or supporter who is at the Fair will come and see us.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Molinia Conference, Huddersfield: 14-16 September

Marsden Moor
If you have an interest in this management of Purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea which dominates large areas of the uplands, do not forget about this conference.  See the earlier post for more details.

I will be there and I hope that there will be a good turn-out from Heather Trust members.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Golden Plover Award

This award is made by the Trust in collaboration with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.  Adam Smith and I have been on a world tour of Scotland in the last week to visit the three short-listed applicants.  This saw us in Sutherland on the Gordonbush Estate at Brora, last week; on the top of the Cairngorms on the Mar Estate, on Tuesday; and in Shetland, yesterday.

 Gordonbush Estate

Mar Estate

Cunningsburgh Apportionment
Adam and I are extremely grateful for the enthusiasm with which we have been received and entertained by the applicants.  We could have spent days with all of them, rather than the hours we had available, to learn more about the management of their land.  It is fascinating to see the management issues through the eyes of those who have to make the decisions and it is a change for Adam and I not to switch into an advisory mode.

We have now to sit down and weigh up all the information we have received to pick a winner of the award.  The award will be presented at a reception, sponsored by Savills, at the Scottish Game Fair - 4.30pm on Friday, 3 July.

More information about the Golden Plover Award and the three applicants that were shortlisted, is available on the Award's website.  We will be announcing the winner, next week. 

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Unesco Biosphere - Job Opportunity

Business Development Officer
0.8 Full Time Equivalent
Fixed Term Contact to March 31st 2017
£24,500 p.a. pro rata.

For more detail see the SUP announcement

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Molinia Conference, Huddersfield: 14-16 September

Molinia on Marsden Moor
The full title of this conference is: "Molinia caerulea on upland peat in the UK: history, dependencies and the role of intervention in achieving conservation goals".

From the flyer for the conference:
"Peat covers much of the flat or gently sloping uplands of the UK, forming blanket mire that can host a number of vegetation types. The type favoured by conservationists, and considered to be associated with the greatest rate of peat formation, involves cotton-grass (Eriophorum) species, ericaceous shrubs and Sphagnum mosses. In practice, this is lacking over large areas of upland where it might be expected, its place being taken by very dominant Purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea. Conservation bodies expend much effort in trying to replace Molinia with the more desirable species and conservation objectives are set with this in mind. This conference examines the place of Molinia caerulea in UK plant communities, factors affecting its growth and experiments looking at ways of adding greater diversity where appropriate. The aim is to gain a clearer understanding, through discussion, of what types of conservation objective should be applied and how to achieve them.

The conference will take place in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, 14-16 September 2015 and will contain two days of presentations and discussion followed by a field trip on Day 3 to look at diversification experiments set up in dominant Molinia on the Marsden Moor Estate. We are able to keep the conference fee low due to generous support from Natural England and the International Peat Society."

I can vouch for Marsden Moor being a good venue for the field visit.  The Trust ran a demonstration project for Defra at Marsden for three years from 2003, and I remember walking the part of the moor shown in the photograph.  At the time, it had a complete coverage of molinia tussocks and it was hard walking.  I suspect it has not changed a lot since.

For more detail about the conference see the Marsden Moor Estate website.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Country Market & Sporting Sale

The bidding on the auction website is becoming fierce.  If you have not yet looked at the fantastic range of Lots on offer, or if you are biding your time waiting to submit the killer bid, your time is running out.  The Sale closes at 12 noon tomorrow.

Please show your support for what the Trust does by bidding furiously.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Summer Meeting at Invermark - 5 June 2015

With thanks to Lord Dalhouse and Richard Cooke for their offer of hospitality, I had a great visit to Invermark today to set up for the Forum's Summer meeting at Invermark.  The programme for the meeting will be discussed at the Chairman's Working Group meeting on 22 May, but it is likely to include a business meeting for Forum members, followed by a discussion meeting to address issues that are relevant to the management of Invermark.  Some guests will be invited to the discussion meeting and we will visit an area of the estate in the afternoon.  It promises to be a fascinating and informative meeting.

I took the photo today and it provides an indication of what we will see in June, weather permitting.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Northern Ireland: Aerial Spraying Workshop - 29 April 2015

This is the press release issued by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, today.

Bracken is found throughout Northern Ireland on a range of land types. It is a very invasive weed which can severely reduce the grazing value of land by smothering other plants.

It is important to note that land with Bracken cover is not eligible for land area based schemes. The area of bracken must be deducted even when bracken is present in only part of a field for 2-3 months of the year.

Bracken is often found on steep areas of land which are not accessible to machinery. Aerial spraying in these situations can be a useful option to control this weed however there are specific legal obligations before, during and after applying pesticides by air. It is essential to note that consent is required from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) in all cases and if planning aerial spraying on environmentally designated sites consent from Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is also required.

As a result of a high level of interest in bracken control including aerial spraying CAFRE is hosting a Bracken Aerial Spraying Workshop on Wednesday 29th April 2015 at Greenmount Campus. This event will take place in the Conference Hall and participants have the choice of attending either in the afternoon or in the evening - workshop times are as follows:

Afternoon workshop at 2.30pm, or evening workshop at 7.00pm

An aerial spraying contractor will be present at both workshops and will describe the service provided, which includes looking after the paperwork. Please come along to meet the contractor and to hear about the packages that are on offer for the 2015 aerial spraying season.

If you plan to attend could you please contact CAFRE’s Development Service Admin, Greenmount Campus on 028 9442 6770 or e-mail: to register for this event. Please state which workshop you hope to attend.

Everyone is welcome and if you require further information on this event please e-mail:

Monday, 20 April 2015

Country Market & Sporting Sale - closes at 12 noon on 1 May 2015

I need say no more than is summarised in the strikingly-coloured announcement below.  The bidding on some Lots is getting fierce already.  Also, make sure you do not miss out on the Prize Draw and the opportunity to win a stalking holiday for two in Dumfries & Galloway - all for a stake of £10.

The income all this raises for the Trust provides us with the ability to tackle the important issues that are unfunded.  Please get stuck in.

It is not too late to show your support for what we do by donating something for us to sell!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Northern Ireland: Bracken Aerial Spraying workshop

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise is organising a workshop to consider aerial control of bracken at the Greenmount Campus on 29 April.  Andrew McGillivray from PDG Helicopters will be in attendance; he is offering a package to landowners that includes completing all the relevant CRD / NIEA Consent paperwork etc.

I will publish any additional details about times that I receive, but in the meantime, I suggest that anyone interested should contact CAFRE for further details.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Heather Beetle alert

This year's adult heather beetles are out and about, as the recent spell of warm weather has provided the trigger for the adults to come out of hibernation.  The adults will do what adult beetles do and the eggs will be laid, next month.  It is the larvae from these eggs that will do the damage to heather in July and August.

We are receiving reports of adult beetles on the wing from many parts of the country.  The number of reports is larger than normal, therefore does this mean that there are more adults about, or that our survey has started to raise the awareness of our members and supporters, or a bit of both?

More reports, please.

Our heather beetle survey is running again this year that will allow you to follow the reports of beetle damage, as we receive them.  For more information see the heather beetle webpage or our recent Talking Point article.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Beware Wildfire

The weather may be on the change, but there is still a considerable risk of wildfire incidents this weekend, although with rain falling and/or forecast the risk in Scotland is dropping, but England and Wales have yet to see this rain.

See the BBC News website for details of incidents in Scotland, at Dornoch and Keith and the Manchester Evening News for details of a fire on Saddleworth Moor.  The latter report includes some great photographs in the gallery (do not bother with the video, as it is very disappointing!) that illustrate the problems associated with fighting moorland fires using equipment designed for the urban environment.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Livestock grazing ‘vital’ to preserve uplands

Hill Farm, Arkengarthdale - Yorkshire Post
For a more authoritative report on the 10-year study described in the previous post, see the article published by the James Hutton Institute.

The ecologists are reported to have conducted a "long-term, landscape-scale experiment looking at the consequences of livestock management on multiple plant and animal groups that consume each other within an upland ‘food-web’".  The aim "was not to determine a single approach to livestock grazing that would result in a ‘win-win’ situation for all species, but rather an approach that provided the best possible trade-off between ‘winners’ and losers’".