A complex area of some 2500ha of moorland, woodland and pasture of varied geology in North Northumberland was surveyed for Natural England to budget and on time. The standard required was high: to support the notification of a proposed Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a land designation with legal implications.
I offered the client a flexible approach, with scoping and subsequent inclusion of areas peripheral to the core brief, so that the work was as comprehensive as possible. Species-work and the identification of hydrological boundaries for the bogs on the site complemented the NVC map; boundary proposals were also made, with all spatial data submitted in GIS format. The work culminated in the drafting of the SSSI citation, and notification of the Bewick & Beanley Moors SSSI in June 2010, largely using the boundary I had proposed.
My knowledge of moorland management and experience in management-planning resulted in award of a contract to prepare a moorland burning plan to support an HLS agreement on this site.
I assessed historical practice and the context provided by other moorlands in North-east England before considering the sensitivity to fire of the complex mix of vegetation, uncommon breeding birds and scheduled archaeological features present. Great importance was attached to a document which was thorough, yet accessible and practical for a range of users, including nine separate graziers. One element of practicality was to build in flexibility across the ten-year lifespan of the agreement to accommodate the vagaries of climate, whilst stipulating tailored burning quotas for each party.
Not being the statutory representative, the work required a balanced knowledge of the issues around burning practise, recent policy initiatives, the sensitivity of species and the wishes of all the different parties involved in order to produce a document credible to all with which to commence negotiations.
Following the blocking of moorland drains, I designed and implemented monitoring to assess the recovery of blanket bog in the North Pennines. This internationally-important habitat plays a vital role in water supply and carbon sequestration, but the drains cut into the peat in the 1970's are thought to be impairing these functions. Although the method was initially required to mirror that deployed on the United Utilities SCaMP work in the Peak District, I decided a complementary approach was necessary in view of the particular circumstances operating on this site. Partitioned, random quadrats have been used to record frequency of bog species pre- and post-grip-blocking, revealing some statistically-significant results in year 2. Work is ongoing.
With the publication of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) in 1994, the focus of conservation effort has been shifting toward BAP habitat throughout Britain. This has included a devolution to local levels and in 2011 I was awarded a contract to map BAP habitat in and around a series of 18th century enclosure roads in the parish of Lanchester, County Durham. This work entails survey, partly delivered through the motivation and training of volunteers, GIS mapping and management recommendations aimed at preserving some of the last relicts of ancient pasture and heathland in the area.
The map extract below shows a small section of the plant communities present across the cuesta landscape in the environs of the Loughs North of Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland. These were investigated as part of a check on a national inventory of fens and flushes. The locality, not previously subject to detailed vegetation work, revealed exceptional diversity and richness over wide areas. This included extended hydroseres (natural developmental sequences of ancient wetland plant communities, now very rare in England) and new populations of species of note, such as the elusive and charismatic Slender Sedge.
Insight, planning, and a thorough knowledge of moorland ecosystems permitted delivery of a huge CSM contract into blanket bog and heath condition over nearly 5,000 ha of the Lune Forest SSSI during a three-month period in winter 2009. These high-altitude, heterogenous bogs required efficient daily coverage without compromising the identification of sometimes very localised areas of high quality sensitive to management. Due consideration to health and safety meant that the work was delivered safely, in spite of its remoteness and winter weather.