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Gamekeepers step up conservation awareness

Posted by Admin - Thu 11th May 2017 8.21AM

Gamekeepers across the North of England are stepping up their efforts to make the public aware of the multiple benefits of peatland restoration.

As summer approaches and the weather improves more families venture out to the countryside. Gamekeepers from regional moorland groups in the North of England are now encouraging the public to learn more about the management of grouse moors that is helping to keep the UK’s peatlands healthy.

The benefits of peatland restoration include; improved carbon storage combating climate change, better quality water for drinking and aquatic life, slowing the flow of water mitigating heavy rain storms, greater biodiversity, the prevention of wildfires, improved grazing and land suitable for grouse shooting.

There is currently more carbon stored in the UK’s peatland than in the combined forests of Britain and France, representing 42% of the UK’s soil carbon stock.

Gamekeepers are committed to working with partnership organisations to restore areas of deep peat (40cm plus). Peatland restoration projects include the reintroduction of sphagnum mosses and the construction of stone and heather bale dams which are essential in safeguarding vital carbon stocks and meeting the government’s climate change targets.

Steven Wilkinson is a beat keeper on the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Estate, part of the Peak District Moorland Group. The estate has been working closely with Natural England on an ongoing peatland restoration project which has focused on ‘rewetting’ the moorland areas of deep peat.

Steven commented: “Bradfield Moor, part of the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Estate, act as rainwater catchment and contribute to the local drink water supply. The restoration work taking place here includes 23km of gully blocking which will greatly improve the water quality, re-wet the underlying peat and reduce the risk of flooding in the nearby villages.

“Controlled burning and mechanical cutting of heather also takes place on Bradfield Moor and are key components to our peatland restoration programme. Heather grows at a rapid rate here and can become dominant replacing sensitive bog plants like mosses that are key for heathy peatlands. Re-wetting the peat and getting bog plant species back into the mix will hopefully slow the growth of heather.

“Removing over-dominant vegetation by burning and cutting, while protecting the peat surface, can be an important preparation step for reintroducing sphagnum mosses which in turn improves water retention in upland areas.”

Jim Sutton, head gamekeeper at Snailsden Moor, which is also a member of the Peak District Moorland Group, has been carrying out a series of talks explaining to local people the process of controlled burning and its benefits.

Jim Sutton said: “Heather burning is a useful tool in the process of managing vegetation and for speeding up restoration work taking place throughout the Peak District. England’s moorland is rugged, but certainly not wild and is in fact carefully managed by gamekeepers.

“Much of the moorland we see today has been shaped by burning small areas of heather during the burning season which runs from October to mid-April. Spotting smoke and fire on the moorlands during this period is often not a cause for alarm but should be reported to local fire services to cross check with notifications of controlled burning they receive from gamekeepers.

“It is a traditional part of moorland management which will help to restore peatlands and prevent wildfires, an issue we have encountered all too often in the Peak District. Overgrown, dry vegetation is much more likely to catch alight in the warm summer months and burn so hot that it severely damage the delicate peat beneath.”

Members of the Upper Nidderdale Moorland Group have also undertaken extensive work in collaboration with Yorkshire Water and Natural England to block ill-advised historical agricultural drainage ditches and re-profile exposed peat hags with the aim of re-wetting the moors and helping to mitigate peat erosion and flooding. So far the work has resulted in over 300 acres of bare peat restoration on moorland estates across the region.

According to Natural England, so far on grouse moors across England at least 18,000 hectares of moorland is under restoration action with much more to come.


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