Book Review by John Miles: The Moor– lives, landscape literature by William Atkins

The Moor– lives, landscape literature by William Atkins

Published by Faber & Faber May 2014

ISBN 978 0 571 29004 8

Hard back Price £18.99

As I actually live on a moor and have actively been involved with its management, this book was one I just had to read. It follows the lives of English moors from the south to the Scottish border. The great fictional writers like Bronte, Dole and Williamson are explored as their works often gave the feeling that moors were desolate regions. More local works give history from monks to miners while the modern day game keepers are joined on their shooting days and even their ‘burning’ days.



The book is not full of natural history but is more modern in respect of recent management especially the Red Grouse moors.  A piece on the ongoing conflict with the Walshaw moor and the continuing destruction of Birds of Prey is well documented. A significant quote from 1808 is very interesting, the Marquis of Bute made his keepers swear the following oath ‘I use my best endeavour to destroy all birds of prey with their nests so help me God’ and is probable still in use today!

The reality of killing squirrels in rail traps was confirmed – tunnel traps placed on wooden poles across ditches and streams with just open netting over them is a major jolt for the ‘Red alert’ brigade. In this case it may be Grey Squirrels but where Reds exist they too will be caught in these and tunnel traps as all shooting estates use them!!

 Tunnel Trap-1

Tunnel trap used by gamekeepers to trap vermin, including squirrels  

To think £millions are being spent on trying to bring back red squirrels to various parts of Britain and sporting estates are killing them!! An e petition by the squirrel brigade would certainly get over 100,000 votes for banning these traps compared to the miserly 10,000 for Hen Harriers.

I enjoy history so the book was good to read but I felt not enough was done to show the majority of the moors to what they were as the last 250 years seemed to be a marker especially in the south. The book did not even try to imagine their possible future which seemed to suggest they would stay as they are today. The peat slide in 1820 where 300,000 yards of peat slide down the moor may suggest otherwise!! A very good read especially if you are like me, you love the moors.

John Miles, Geltsdale, North Pennines

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