Sunday, November 13, 2016

Enough grousing

You may have noticed lots going on in the media recently around banning driven grouse shooting. For me the thing about it that needs reform (as well as the stopping of illegal raptor persecution) are the land management practices that tend to **** up the environment: the draining of blanket bog, excessive burning, soil erosion and loss of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

The question is once these moors have been shagged to within an inch of their life, is there any coming back from this.

The answer seems to be.......probably.

Earlier this year I spent a day visiting RSPB's Dovestone reserve in the north west Peak District to see how they are reversing the effects of this bad management and restoring not only blanket bog but the nature that thrives there.

The land is managed by United Utilities and the reservoirs provide drinking water. The most amazing fact I learned was that a third of the reservoir capacity is taken up by peat that has run off from the moor after being drained. This means these reservoirs can store less water for drier times and probably ultimately means we have higher water bills as the water is so brown that it has to be cleaned before going out to customers!

Blocking drainage ditches means that water drains more slowly and allows the peat sediment to sink, so stopping it from entering the reservoir.

This ditch had been blocked with hay bales which are slowly rotting. Behind them bog is being reformed. Plugs of sphagnum moss are planted in suitably wet places and allowed to take hold. Over time these spread, holding water and reestablishing the blanket bog. There's a lot of work being done and much of it has to be done by hand. There are some amazing volunteers who have made alot of this possible.

There were lots of the rather beautiful Wood Tiger moth disturbed from the vegetation. It was a spectacularly bleak and beautiful place, with breeding Dunlin and Golden Plover out on the moor and I got to tramp around for a few hours taking it all in. Must get back there again soon.

NB: Just under a year ago Dovestone featured in a mystery death that has never been solved. The police investigation that followed is fascinating and worth reading about

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