A heather haircut for Stanage keeps moorland crowning glory in good shape

30 September 2013
Heather brash cutting in progress

Update: work due to start 16th November.

Heather on a popular moorland spot near to Stanage Edge in the Peak District National Park will be getting a haircut in the next few weeks.

Tractors will move into an area from Redmires to Stanage Pole and beyond to shape the heather into the familiar moorland patchwork. The trimmings will be swept up and transported for use on eroded moorland areas as part of our conservation works.

Good moorland management is essential to these areas that have SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status. Heather cutting is used to improve the moors by providing a mosaic that combines vital new growth with more established plants.

The patchwork of moorland is an important habitat for ground nesting birds, in particular grouse that feed in the open but need the shelter from older plants to hide from predators. The cut patches have the added benefit of reducing the risk of wildfires by acting as a natural fire break.

Work is carried out in dry settled weather in order to prevent damaging the moorland. The heather is cut as low as possible and will regrow in two to three years. Traditionally the moorland patchwork is created by managed burning but the cuttings are given a second lease of life with the cut heather – known as brash – used to cover areas of eroded bare peat.

The brash forms a protective layer over the peat, helping to protect it from further erosion as well as providing a source of seeds that will germinate and help the moors regain a healthy cover of moorland plants.

The heather brash is cut by machinery pulled by tractors, piled into large bags and loaded onto trailers for transporting to an airlift site. Bags of brash are attached to a helicopter and flown onto the site for treatment, and then spread by hand. Much of the heather from Stanage will be spread on Bleaklow, as part of the MoorLIFE project, one of the largest conservation projects in the UK.

Matt Buckler, conservation works manager, said: “Our contractors will be out in good weather so walkers, climbers and mountain bikers may well come across them. This vital work will benefit the moors around Stanage, ensuring they keep their conservation status as well as helping repair damaged peat on Bleaklow, Kinder Scout and other areas.”

“If you do see the work in progress please keep within a safe distance of any machinery. We try to get the heather cut and transported within a three-week timescale, so please don’t interrupt the contractors unless it’s absolutely necessary. You can find out more about our work by visiting our website or by contacting our Edale office.”

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