Monday, 24 September 2018

Curlew Conference

The Heather Trust is looking forward to the Scottish curlew conference in Battleby on Thursday this week. The meeting is one of a series that has been run across the UK looking at the worrying and dramatic decline of curlews which has taken place over the last three decades, and the conference has drawn in a wide range of speakers from across a number of different land-based industries. We are involved because we have strong ties to conservation in land management, and there is lots of crossover with the Working for Waders project which we have been supporting since it began this year.

Speaking ahead of the conference, organiser and campaigner Mary Colwell said: "This is serious. There is no time for complacency, no room for hand waving. Curlews are in free fall and we have to act NOW. Year after year, across the UK and Ireland, curlews fail to fledge chicks, and since holding these conferences, we, at last, have people trying to measure productivity across the UK and Ireland and then implementing actions to save them. Just counting pairs is not enough, we need to know if they are actually fledging the next generation. These conferences have been invaluable in getting groups organised and giving a structure for action. The curlew groups are made up of people across the board. Already they connect with each other to give advice and support. Only by working together will we change the fortunes of this much loved and endangered wader. In the end, this is the only thing that will reverse the decline; otherwise, all we are doing is monitoring extinction.  

Of course there is a bigger picture. Curlews are declining because of our attitude to the landscape, the way we use it and work it. Curlews provide a lens through which to view our countryside and then decide if this is really what we want.  I would guess, for the most part, the answer is no. There is alarm about declining species everywhere. So - time for change. Working for curlews focuses a laser beam of the big issues facing all of wildlife - intensive agriculture, drainage, plantations, monoculture, pesticides. All these, combined with an increase in generalists predators, means the clock is ticking for action".

There are still some free tickets available for the conference - find out more at

Friday, 14 September 2018

Peatland Events

A focus on peatland
October will be peatland month at the Heather Trust as we start to look forward to a series of events focussed on peatland management. Peatland has become a core issue for the Heather Trust over the past five years, and we work hard to raise awareness about the value of sustainable peatland management. Many moors are defined by peat, and like so many other areas of land use, healthy businesses depend upon healthy soils. Everybody wins when peat is kept in good condition, and the benefits are weighed in clean water, biodiversity, carbon storage and flood mitigation.

Peat has been extensively degraded in recent history, and the UK suffers from a combination of harmful factors which have damaged our peatlands. These factors often vary depending on geography; industrial pollution has caused devastation to peatlands in the Peak District, while commercial forestry has destroyed extensive areas of peat in western Scotland and Wales. Irish peat struggles with commercial extraction and many upland areas are now tackling the legacy of agricultural drainage and overgrazing. There is also evidence to show that inappropriate heather burning has played a part in some areas of peatland degradation, and the reality is that peat is an important resource which depends upon careful, balanced management. 

The Heather Trust’s involvement in peatland management plays perfectly with our stated aims. Peatland underlies many traditional land uses, and we are ideally positioned to help land owners and land managers to integrate peatland as part of their businesses. We work with a wide range of stakeholders from ecologists to farmers and gamekeepers to make sure that the latest research is always accessible to the people who need to implement it.

The Heather Trust is teaming up with the SRUC and IUCN UK's Peatland Programme to run an event entitled ‘Peatland's Place in the Uplands’. This half-day discussion event (9:30 – 12:00) is for anyone who is interested in managing moorland and upland environments and peatland restoration. It will give those interested in peatland restoration an insight into the decision-making process and choices available whilst also giving upland managers an insight into the case for restoring areas of deep peat on their land.

This informal walk & talk event will allow for plenty of interaction. Professor Davy McCracken, Agricultural Ecologist and Head of Hill and Mountain Research at SRUC and Anne Gray, Director of The Heather Trust will lead an open and inclusive discussion on moorland management whilst allowing attendees to explore the upland landscape being discussed.

Later in the month, we will also deliver a three day series of peatland events alongside Soil Association Scotland in three locations from Sutherland to Galloway. More information will follow on these, but the autumn is set to be busy, interesting and very peaty!