Blanket Bog – The mismanagement of England’s uplands paid for by the Tax Payer

Raptor Politics recently received the following comment from DJ, one of our followers. Words of wisdom speak volumes therefore it was decided to publish this valuable information as a short story rather than add it as a comment. Thank you DJ for sending this detail, we hope you will continue to contribute in the future?

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The Bowland Fells above the River Roeburn. Following extensive heavy rain in the summer of 1967 run-off could not be contained causing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to the village of  Wray just a few miles down stream from where this image was taken.

An overnight non phased in ban on burning could pose a risk but to bury our heads in the sand and continue to burn on deep peat is total lunacy. Wall to wall heather growing on deep peat that should be actively functioning blanket bog is a horrendous legacy from sporting muirburn management that offers little environmental benefit to more than red grouse.

Fully functioning deep peat blanket bog should be wet, slow growing and have a diverse species and structural composition that is low in terms of fire risk. The current state of most deep peat bogs managed solely for grouse is that they are dry, species and structurally poor and support a limited range of species. Regular burning also further dries out the peat and can be damaging for bryophyte and invertebrate communities. In terms of water quality, water storage and probably carbon, this type of management is disastrous.

On designated sites there should be absolutely no compromise and if the tax payer is picking up the bill, we expect value for money and real delivery, not subsidy of a minority pursuit. The biggest issue to address is getting bogs wetter and functioning by producing robust fire risk plans and removing heather dominated vegetation from deep peat. By continuing to burn you perpetuate the cycle of producing high risk vegetation that delivers little in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services and it just can’t continue.

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The Wray flood of 1967 washed away bridges and several houses. Recently we have witnessed similar damage but on a much larger scale caused by moorland run-off in Cockermouth and of course Carlisle

It’s high time this form of management was addressed and all the other destructive practices that go with it (drainage, tracks, infrastructure improvements). If only Natural England had some teeth and sorted out Walshaw instead of setting the ridiculous president it has done.

2 comments to Blanket Bog – The mismanagement of England’s uplands paid for by the Tax Payer

  • Circus maximus

    In Scotland, muirburn is governed by the “Muirburn Code”.
    http://scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/355582/0120117.pdf
    In order to secure EU backed agricultural grants, all farmers must comply with good basic management of the land. The basic level is defined as GAEC. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/grants/Schemes/Crosscompliancesection/ccompliance
    Failure to comply with these basic standards should have an impact on the ability to claim these grants. Compliance with the muirburn code forms part of the GAEC standard.

    So if you find an area of blanket bog, where the peat is .5m deep (or more), being burnt. Report it to the agricultural grant managers (SG rural payments and inspections, in Scotland) and ask to kept up to speed with the outcome of any farm inspection that takes place.
    I wouldnt want to suggest that the farm inspectors are close to the farmers, but they must turn a blind eye to a lot of the burning that goes on. It could also be the case that a civil service farm inspector wouldnt know what a blanket bog looks like……

  • Circus maximus

    Sorry..I forgot to suggest that the same code and link to the grant system should also be present in England (or similar) So report bog burning to DEFRA I think?