Mosaic of different moor habitats is what’s required

In response to the letter about moorland management (August 23) I wonder where the author got their mixture of rural folklore and inaccurate justifications from - one of the old school agricultural colleges that they somewhat disparagingly recommend us ‘townies’ attend perhaps?

Moorland management for grouse can indeed contribute to a healthy upland ecosystem but what is desirable is a mosaic of different habitats: wet heath with heather, blanket bog, grassland etc - rather than wall to wall heather managed for grouse which, whilst good for some other species if managed sensitively, can be just another intensive agricultural crop.

Unburnt moors are not unhealthy per se - they manage fairly well naturally without our intensive management - and protected habitats such as blanket bog are just that: layers and layers of new and dead vegetation.

Vegetation too does not “divert” water away from the water table but instead intercepts rainfall thus helping to reduce over-saturation of bare ground and the subsequent run-off problems that causes downstream - ie in the valley.

Hard surfacing may well contribute in places to flooding but compared to the effects intensive management can have in the upland drainage basins (where most of the water falls) it’s likely to be insignificant.

Heather/grouse production often requires drainage of wetter areas which can result in the loss of blanket bog and a consequent decline in biodiversity and water retaining capacity. In fact, one of the measures used to restore and enhance moorland ecosystems is to block drainage ditches (grips), unblock them or dig out new ones, and again water just ends-up in the valley faster.

Swaling (burning) of moorland grass can also lead to domination by coarse grasses with again a loss of biodiversity interest and ultimately grazing quality.

I’m afraid I also have to refute the assertion that “access to the moorlands has been made possible by the expert, care and funds ..” of estates such as Walshaw.

It was sustained campaigning by generations of ordinary people, whose only wish was to enjoy something that most would agree should belong to all - our mountains, moors, heaths and downs - that resulted in the improved access we have today.

And why was that campaigning necessary in the first place and what was the biggest obstacle to the Right to Roam process? You’ve guessed it - the big grouse-shooting estates, many of whom still begrudge that hard fought right.

A balanced, co-operative approach is needed to ensure that commercial interests can co-exist with the sensitive management of our moors but at the moment that balance has moved away from protection to the detriment of the moorland ecosystem and the communities it affects.

A “Townie”, name and address supplied, Hebden Bridge.