The truth about cool burns and healthy moors
Updated: Feb 8
When the new legislation on moorland burning was announced last week, most headlines tended towards the dramatic. “Ban of heather burning on peat bogs in blow to grouse moors”, wrote the Telegraph. “Heather burning on peat bogs to be banned in blow for moorland landowners and shooting parties”, wrote the Daily Mail.
But the reality of the situation was perfectly summed up in this post from the Peak District Moorland Group, which has proved popular on Facebook.
The post reads as follows:
For members of the public not in the "know", it’s very easy to see a comment or news article which is cleverly worded by a core of individuals or organisations who have an agenda seemingly motivated by perceived class wars, or a hatred to shooting and rural communities.
Much of the moorland gamekeepers’ work is carried out in full public view alongside public access areas and permissive rights of way. Heather burning is one such operation which is highly visible due to the inevitable column of smoke whilst the managed, consented burn, is taking place. But rather than damaging, they have been instrumental for the sustainability of a healthy moor and contributed to its original conservation designations in the first place.
Although the burning season starts at the beginning of October, its often the case, due to wet conditions, that no burning occurs until the last 4 or 5 weeks of the season which ends on April 15th, but this often only accounts to a few weeks or even days throughout the permissable season.
The video below shows a cool consented burn on dry heath, the first one since 1st October2020, skimming through the surface foliage of mature heather, not only reducing the likelihood of a hot summer wildfire crossing it, but also stimulating young nutritious growth, essential for moorland species such as sheep, mountain hare and grouse - but also ensuring the magnificent purple heather bloom which can be seen at the back end of summer beloved by the hordes of visitors and enabling our moorland bees plenty of nectar.
It’s clear from the video that the moss layer is left unburnt and cool, even the ice on a spring flush (essential for its abundance of insects for young birds at hatching time) is still frozen.
Sometimes it’s easy to go with an uneducated narrative, such as "consented burns extenuating the climate crisis", but compared to the smoke, chemical pollution and carbon loss caused by a summer wildfire, there really is no comparison.”
Don't forget to follow the fantastic work of the Peak District Moorland Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peakdistrictmoorlandgroup.