A new approach for our uplands is needed

Golden plover, Derbyshire uplands, Tim Birch 

Tim Birch takes a look at Derbyshire's uplands, the National Trust's recent tenancy agreement and what our vision is for Derbyshire's precious moorlands.

So a New Year is upon us. We’ve taken down the Christmas decorations and we’re all getting back into work mode for the year ahead. What does that year ahead look like for the natural world? The natural world is struggling at the moment to keep its head above water despite the best efforts of many committed organisations like the Wildlife Trusts and many individuals. Overall nature is in decline and we need to think about what else needs to be done to help wildlife recover and flourish in the UK and indeed globally. This is an urgent task.

Wildlife in parts of Derbyshire is facing serious problems. The uplands of the Dark Peak in is one such area. Driven grouse shooting and the intensive land management associated with this sport continues to deprive our uplands of the full range of wildlife that should be present in this landscape. It was shocking that last year not one pair of peregrines was able to nest successfully in these uplands – yet this is the area where peregrines recolonised in Derbyshire in the 1960s. The uplands should also be alive with other iconic birds of prey like the hen harrier and the goshawk. They are not.

Mountain hare populations should also be thriving in these areas. Foxes, weasels and stoats are trapped out of existence to protect red grouse populations from predation. Our uplands are also being regularly set on fire to encourage new heather growth for red grouse and our peatbogs are being damaged. Burning leads to the release of carbon contributing to climate change and this intensive management has been linked to increased flooding risk downstream and increased colouring of water in our reservoirs.

We will continue to present the arguments for a new approach to our uplands where wildlife can thrive and people and the local economy benefit.
Tim Birch, Head of Living Landscapes North
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Unquestionably there has been fantastic work carried out to restore part of our uplands and this is still continuing in some areas. The question is do we all want these damaging practices to continue in large areas of the National Park in the Peak District? Or is there a different way that can benefit both people and wildlife? Derbyshire Wildlife Trust believes there is a better way to look after our uplands. We see a future where wildlife can flourish and the old land management practices of the past are left behind.

Now let’s look at what the National Trust are proposing with their new shooting arrangements on the Hope Woodlands Estate in the Peak District National Park. Their recent announcement to allow grouse shooting to continue in some areas of this estate means that inevitably the associated land management with this activity will continue. Exactly how intensive the level of this management will be remains to be seen. It does mean that some form of gamekeeper activity to minimise predators like foxes, weasels, stoats will continue. The risk to birds of prey remains. Some land we are told will have no shooting at all and other parcels of land will have less intensive grouse shooting such as a driven grouse shoot. But does this all add up to a better deal for nature in our uplands?

Pine marten, Karl Franz

Pine marten, Karl Franz

We agree with the National Trust in many areas. They are an important partner and we are working very closely with them on badger vaccination in Derbyshire for example. They are doing amazing work in many areas of the UK for the natural world. But on this issue we believe they have missed a massive opportunity to charter a new course for our uplands in the 21st century.

We will continue to present the arguments for a new approach to our uplands where wildlife can thrive and people and the local economy benefit. We see huge opportunities if we think differently. We see exciting reintroduction opportunities for species like the pine marten, red squirrel and longer term golden eagle. We want to see our uplands become wilder and less intensively managed. As the link between the natural world and our wellbeing becomes even more important a nature rich uplands will benefit everyone of us. We believe more and more people support this approach.

We are convinced that there is an exciting future ahead for our uplands. 

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