Category Archives: moorland

Landslides in Norway and the Forest of Bowland.

On 3rd June 2020 a remarkable landslide occured in Norway when a slice of land complete with houses slid into the sea. The poor owner videoed it and I hope he got something for that. Later you can read a geological blog on it and see the whole video. It is both awesome and sad. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

Here is the house almost entering the sea.

Alta quick clay landslide

I live on the edge of the Forest of Bowland which I explore on foot and bike. It is a fascinating area and luckily many drive past without stopping! As a result it is not very crowded. I often don’t meet a soul on a walk.

My favourite cycle ride is over the Trough of Bowland, through Whitewell and Chipping and thus back to Garstang. There are several variants and when I did it this May I covered 40 miles. When I do it clockwise I always stop by Smelt Hill having done the major climb. A few centuries ago lead ore from the limestone anticline at Sykes was smelted here. Just above the old smelting area there is a bend with convenient stones. Thus I stopped here in May for my lunch. I just love the view.

But look carefully, a few hundred yards upstream you can see a tongue from the left sticking out towards the river.

P1030386

This shows it more clearly and it is the debris from a landslip many thousands of years ago. I suggest about 20000 yrs.

DSCF0280

To summarise the geology the area is of Carboniferous strata , with Bowland Shales capped by Pendle Grit as in the cross-section below ( which is for the area at bit further on.).

geo2 - Copy

This blog of the section of Bowland Shales on Pendle hill gives more detail

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/namurian-succession-upper-bowland-shales-to-pendle-grits-forest-of-bowland/

The shales are soft and the grit hard. If the shale gets totally wet, in the right conditions, it will slip and cause a landslip. There are many examples in the Forest of Bowland and are marked on the Geological Survey 1 :50000 map.

Another example is between Parlick and Saddle Fell where the area now marked as Wolf Fell has slipped off the saddle! You can see that to the right of Parlick which is on the left of this photo. In the shadow you can see a cwm, which almost appears glacial, but is not.  An area of 1km by 1/2 km has simply slipped downhill. It is marked on the geological map. It must have been a dramatic sight.

DSCF0289

The slope is most irregular. This is the hummocly terrain between Parlick and Saddle Fell.

P1030703

This photo taken last september is looking across the landslip from Saddle Fell to Parlick. You can see where it lsipped off Parlick. It must have been dramatic to watch.

P1010954 (1)

Another dramatic example is Blue Scar up the Dunsop Valley from Dunsop Bridge. There a l;arge area had slump from near the top of the hill leaving a cwm with steep sides. The hill is capped with Pendle Grit overlying Bowland Shale.

025

If you could go back in time, when that cliff was not there there was instead a smooth hillside of mostly shales.  Geologically this is the contact between to Bowland Shales and the Pendle Grit. Below the Pendle Grit there are alternate shale and grit bands, with some visible in the lower part of the photo.

A few years ago I went that steep slope to look at some of the Hind Sandstone which was deformed most oddly soon after deposition. It was not the wisest place to do field geology and I do not recommend it!!

 

035

This is the “headwall” of the landslip, which I visited the previous year .

036

Here the shale and grit are melded together, presumably before they solidified. It was a difficult photo to take as it was very steep and one step back to get a better shot would have resulted in a rapid descent of 100ft. Howver this is the geology of 300 million years ago rather than of today.

031

There are many examples of landslips marked of the Geological Survey maps of Garstang and Lancaster;

  • On the north side of Grize Dale valley below Nicky Nook
  • On the north side of Langdon Brook by Langdon Castle
  • On the slopes of Wardstone north of Tarnbrook

Most of these are south facing, which may indicate that it was warmed sufficiently to slide at the end of the Devensian Ice Age, and   most of them were triggered by the melting of permafrost after the last ice advance – & some of them are still unstable, as in the Trough of Bowland.

To visualise  the speed and devsatation of what happened think of the disaster at Aberfan.

There are more landslips if you check the maps but these are the clearest.

As well as that there are an increased number small landslips, as on the minor road by Walmsley bridge, which was clearly due to the heavy rain earlier this year. There are considerable numbers round the country both in high land (I found a cracker on Y Garn two years ago)  and also near the coast as on the Isle of Sheppey tipping houses over the edge. In a sense, this is inevitable due to the change in weather patterns. Since 1980ish British weather has seen both longer wet and dry periods, rather than more broken weather, which is ideal for landslips and building subsidence.

Sadly, we can expect more landslips, and possibly not only small ones but even as large as those ancient ones in the Forest of Bowland.

*************************

I’ll now give an American example, which we visited briefly on holiday in the American West some years ago. We were staying  (in a grotty place) in the Grand Teton National Park and apart from going up to 10,000ft by cable car we explored the area and thus went to the landslide at Gros Ventre some miles to the east. It is one of the biggest recorded landslips.

The top of the of the mountain is about 9000ft , 2000ft higher than the base. When th mountain gave it slipped and ran up the other side of the valley for 300ft. This cause a dam which resulted in fatalities when it broke.

IMG_3736IMG_3737IMG_3738

And so we come to the dramatic footage from Norway, which should remind us how unstable our planet is.

 

The remarkable video of a landslide at Alta in Norway yesterday is probably the finest recording of a quick clay landslide to date.

Source: Alta: a truly remarkable video of a quick clay landslide in Norway

Robert Falcon Scott’s final letters

Here is a good blog on Robert Falcon Scott’s farewell letters to his wife while dying in Antarctica in 1912.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My parents read this part to me at the age of about 13

“I have written letters on odd pages of this book — will you manage to get them sent? You see I am anxious for you and the boy’s future — make the boy interested in natural history if you can, it is better than games — they encourage it at some schools — I know you will keep him out in the open air — try and make him believe in a God, it is comforting.”

they were laughing about it as they read it to me as I loathed games – rugby, football Cricket etc and always skived off them.

However I loved the outdoors and at about this time I took up serious cycling and was wanting to climb mountains as we had pictures of Khanchenjunga in our dining room. We also had Peter Scott prints in the house.

Thus RF Scott’s last words meant much to me and helped as my school didn’t like non-games players.

I have never been very good at natural history but love it as an ancillary to exploring the countryside, (wilder the better) on foot and bike.

My parents never gave me encouragement to believe in a God. That came later and in part triggered off by being filled with awe for the natural world – with an event in the mountains looking over to Snowdonia.

 

P1010439P1010455P1010028

084DSCF5863DSCF8196

And so begins Jerry Coyne’s blog

Why Evolution Is True

Many of you know of Captain Robert Falcon Scott‘s final entry in his diary, written as he lay freezing to death in his tent on his return from the South Pole. He had made it to the Pole with five companions, only to find that Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian team had beaten him to the prize by about a month.

Here’s the famous picture of Scott’s team at the Pole, presumably taken with a self timer. The caption: “Party at the South Pole, 18 January 1912. L to R: (standing) WilsonScottOates; (seated) BowersEdgar Evans“.  They certainly don’t look happy.

On the return, one of Scott’s men, Edgar Evans, died of a concussion. Another, Titus Oates, frostbitten and near death, walked out of their tent into a blizzard to his demise after famously remarking, “I am going outside. I may be some time.”…

View original post 2,043 more words

The government isn’t putting its money where its mouth is on the environment

Another useful blog on peat restoration and the dire need for it

 

 

Inside track

Dormouse wikimedia commons_Danielle ShwarzThis post is by Alistair Taylor, senior policy officer at the RSPB.

The news that substantial areas of the Amazon rainforest have been set on fire crystallised opinion on the need for urgent and effective action to protect our environment and climate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson went as far as stating:

“In a week where we have all watched, horrified, as the Amazon rainforest burns before our eyes, we cannot escape the reality of the damage we are inflicting on the natural world.

View original post 963 more words

A rainy visit to Cwm Idwal chasing after Darwin

Little did I think when I first visited Cwm Idwal in 1963, I would still be coming here 56 years later. Then I was here only for the climbing and after that I cycled home to surrey, climbing the Snowdon horseshoe and Cadair Idris en route. Since then most of my visits have been to climb whether the Idwal slabs, the surrounding peaks or even snow climbing. However for the last 25 years many of my visits have had an academic and Darwinian bent as I was researching Darwin’s visits in 1831 and 1842.

In 1831 Darwin visited Cwm Idwal after leaving the geologist Adam Sedgwick in Bangor and he tried to work out the geology with varying success. When he got home to Shrewsbury a fortnight later there was a letter asking him to joint the Beagle. Then in 1842, after a spell of illness, he returned to Snowdonia to confirm or not Buckland’s ideas of glaciation.

In the 90s I spent many days sorting out what Darwin did. This was made harder by his tendency to invert compass readings! And so these got into print and lo! I was the go-to-person for Darwin in Wales.

Every year since 2005 I have assisted Andrew Berry take Harvard students round North Wales looking at Darwiniana  and our high point is Cwm Idwal and for most the ascent of Y Garn 3104 ft. I don’t do that with them now as I cannot match the speed of athletic Harvard students!

Each year we wonder about the weather and have experienced everything. soem of the years we become drowned rats as we did this time.

P1010413P1010414

Our first task is to visit the Vomitory, which is just down the road from Idwal Cottage. I spent hours trying to work out that word in Darwin’s notes and then I realised it was a good appellation of an ice-fall as here the Francon descends steeply to the bottom of Nant Francon.

P1010415P1010416

Here is the view first of Nant Francon , a perfect U-shaped valley and then looking down the vomitory!

After that we returned to the awful visitors centre, with its woeful comments about Darwin and took the path to Llyn Idwal – the lake.

 

P1010418P1010420

It’s less than half an hour and the outlook on arrival is always stupendous, which explains why it was Darwin’s favourite place. However the weather was closing in and we wondered if Y Gard was possible with a threat of thuunder.

P1010421P1010422

Looking back we could see Pen yr Oleu Wen, where I was blown over a cliff and the west face of Tryfan, where I did my early rock-climbing. But we weren’t there for that.

P1010423P1010425

and so we looked at Darwin’s boulders, which he helpfully said were on the west side of where the stream left the lake. Typical dyslexic like me. It was on the east. There is one big boulder split into four, which Darwin suggested happened as it collasped thorught the glacier. This lies on another.  Here is Andrew holding forth – after I did.

P1010427P1010429

This is looking west to the head of the Nant Francon with the northerly Glyderau peaks and then above the boulders to the crag where I did my first rock climb.

P1010430P1010431

some years ago on another field trip I was amazed at these incredible yellow flowers, which I’d never seen before. I thought I must have been as blind as a bat, but Pete, the botanist, said that until sheep were removed in about 2000 they never saw the light of day.  They now cover the area with their yellow spikes , which turn to rust-colour after the end of flowering as we get into august.

P1010432P1010439

The weather was most atmospheric with a threat of rain, which soon came down, giving two fine views of Pen yr Oleu Wen and the head of the Nant.

P1010435P1010445

Cwm Idwal is a great area for insectivorous plants which Darwin must have seen. There were hundreds of butterworts and drosera. Later Darwin researched these with experiments at Down House. He tried out possible acids and even gave them milk. He published his book in 1875.

P1010442P1010446

below Devil’s Kitchem there was a grassy area below the scree which contianed different flowers eg the campanula. The second is a view of his boulders.

P1010449P1010450

In 1831 Darwin was puzzled by Devils Kitchen which he thought was a volcanic plug. However in a letter written a few weeks later in Sept 1831  Sedgwick put him right pointing out it was a syncline of the folded lava beds. Mark you I cannot criticise as I intended to map Cwm Idwal for my mapping project in my geology degree. I could not distinguish the rock types so had to find something else. So I ended up mapping a layered basic intrusion in the Canadian Arctic instead!

P1010452P1010451

While Andrew took most of the students up Y Garn I went round the lake with two students looking at things in detail. I then noticed that Y Garn was falling to bits as there was a large rock fall just above the lake. I have often walked through the path of that avalanche!!

P1010453P1010454

And so we ended up looking down the U-shaped valley of Nant Francon and then the rain came. We went down to the lake and the second photo is looking towards the Devils Kitchen but all was obscured.

P1010455P1010456

Before we got to the bottom it was chucking it down and all was dark and gloomy, but very atmospheric. On the way up the stream was a trickle but after two hours it had changed.

P1010457P1010460

We walked a mile along the A5 to the coach getting wetter and wetter and then the rain paused giving me fine photos of Foel Goch and the north ridge of Tryfan.

sometime later the drowned rats who had climbed Y Garn returned and we drove off in pouring rain.

So ended what must be about my 150th visit to Cwm Idwal. It is ever new and there is always something new to see.

P1010461

More on this and my papers are in this blog

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/darwins-boulders/

 

Why CPRE is opposed to fracking

Over recent months the CPRE Council for the Preservation of Rural England have gone in for the kill on fracking, with a (duplicitous) petition , various articles and here an article by their CEO in The Countryman

 

Chief Executive has a column in The Countryman. Here is a recent one on frackingji

 

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

This is simply the usual anti-fracking woo which has permeated social media for the last few years. It is long on opinion and very short on evidence and reasoned argument.

Maybe CPRE has gone the way of Friends of the Earth – to keep their finances solvent?

I can understand why some people have concerns about fracking – and these need to be listened to with respect and answered with sound evidence. But CPRE have gone down the route of fakenews and scaremongering’

That is a great shame as their aim are excellent and much of what they strive to is likewise excellent and very necessary. I wonder if they will lose their good reputation. There is so much of rural England which needs preserving

here a few photos of some of my favorite spots in Northern England which need preserving, plus some peat degradation reminding us what needs to be put right

DSCF3172DSCF0118DSCF9119 (1)DSCF0376DSCF8775

 

CPRE are proud of this petition which has got 150,000 signatures, but its comparison of fracking and building a garden shed  is very much less than honest. I cannot see how a group like CPRE could do it if they have any integrity

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/don-t-fast-track-fracking

New government proposals are trying to force through fracking despite mass opposition.

Please drop measures to:

● Treat exploratory drilling as permitted development.
● Include fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime.

Why is this important?

From The Yorkshire Moors, to Sherwood Forest, to the Fylde Coast, our countryside – and our democracy – is at risk.

The government has announced plans to streamline the planning process for fracking. If this goes ahead, it will be as easy to drill an exploration fracking well as it is to build a conservatory or erect a fence.

These plans are deeply undemocratic – they twist planning laws to give the government and fracking companies the power to override the will of local people – who have fought relentlessly to halt fracking at every turn.

These proposals could see scores of new drilling sites appear over the next couple of years in the English countryside – with the risk of untold environmental, landscape and climate impact.

This is the government taking desperate measures to make fracking happen and it’s up to us to stop the proposals before it’s too late.

 

They’ve  been going on about this and here is a long weekend read published in Drill or Drop, which I have interspersed with my comments

Weekend long read: The blueprint for fracking needs a rethink

(or why CPRE reckons fracking should be banned)

Weekend long read: The blueprint for fracking needs a rethink

Mark Robinson, Campaigns and Policy Assistant at Campaign to Protect Rural England, argues that radical changes are needed to national planning policy to prevent the threat

He needs to spell out the threat and give evidence why it is a threat.

of fracking to the countryside and the communities who live and enjoy it.

“The issue is the guidance“, said Jim Cameron of CPRE Cheshire, as I asked about his experiences grappling with the local decision-making over hydraulic fracturing.

This was not the first time I’ve heard that, despite the substantive weight of opinion and evidence against fracking

Without any supporting references this is just pure assertion. If there is substantive weight then they must be loads of evidence. But what?

 

, operations were still being approved on the basis of guidelines that robustly defend the industry.

Really, the guidelines and regulations lay down all the predures fracking must follow and agree to follow to get permission. This allegation is empty as it gives no substance.

Having spoken to people across the CPRE Network, and hearing this same point reiterated time and time again, it’s clear that the national framework behind fracking policy is in need of an update.

The shale tide approaches
As a countryside charity, CPRE has been worried about the impacts of fracking since its first brief UK appearance in 2011. Unlike the US, fracking on a commercial scale in the UK would result in drills being constructed much closer to people’s homes.

He has not been to the USA where houses can be 50 yards from a fracking pad as here in Pennsylvania.

Closer proximity of wells to nearby communities increases their risk of exposure to water contaminated by the process

Unless the water is from a local well, it cannot be contaminated as most comes from reservoirs miles away AND fracking is not allowed where an aquifer is used for drinking water. He is simply misinformed at this point and does not know where domestic/industrial water comes from.

 

, health issues

Does he mean the discredited first edition of the Medact report o 2015? The second edition could give no hard evidence

In fact in 2016 Medact admitted there was no data to link the many studies with any health effects, even in the US. The chemicals cited are simply not permitted in the UK anyway. If you can explain to me how Climate Change is within the remit of a UK public health body I would be interested to see that explanation. Quite simply it isnt.
Medact 2016 stated
‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects.’ So even Medact have retracted all their daft claims from 2015. https://www.medact.org/…/shale-gas-production-in-england/

and seismic tremors

Again he seems not to understand seismicity whether natural or that induced by fracking.

, from an industry that continues to prove resistant to regulation.

This is a very dangerous allegation. It is irresponsible if not libellous, for CPRE to make such allegations.

It can only be described as a double whammy that fracking would also stall the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change

This ignores/rejects the argument held by many including Lord Deben of the DCC that fracked gas actually reduces emissions

, the biggest threat of all to the countryside.

Despite these concerns, fracking companies are pushing through their expansion plans with vigour. Just last month, INEOS shale won the right to take the National Trust to the High Court over its refusal to allow seismic testing in Clumber Park estate. INEOS has also taken advantage of government-granted special treatment

This he needs to state, otherwise it is simply scaremongering. What is the Special Treatment?

by appealing for ministers to decide applications which the company felt councils were taking too long to approve.

While companies claim to let communities have a say, local opinion turns out only to be valid when it aligns with that of the applicant.

He needs to give evidence for this assertion, which is a very serious one.

Local opposition is instead mostly met with appeals and injunctions, as the industry turns to a pro-shale government to bypass the democratic process.

He needs to ascertain what the local opposition is, whether it is truly representative of the local population. It is not in Lancashire. Further as with Cuadrilla in Lancs the democratic process was not bypassed as applicants for planning permission have the democratic right to appeal to central government. In fact Ridley’s coal mine was turned down by central govt.

Local authorities are increasingly fighting against these aggressive industry tactics with any available tools at their disposal.

Again, he must give evidence for this and not make an unsubstantiated assertion

Planning guidance offers little substance for councils seeking to oppose fracking applications, so planning committees are making do with whatever they can use.

 

In Derbyshire, councillors voted last month to position themselves against INEOS’s shale gas exploration plans at Bramleymoor Lane on grounds of noise, traffic and impacts on the Green Belt. A week earlier, Rotherham borough council voted unanimously to stand against a similar INEOS application in Harthill, on wildlife and road safety grounds. Three weeks ago, Rotherham refused another application by INEOS for shale gas exploration due to potential wildlife harm and traffic impacts.

However cllrs in Yorks passed it at KM as they did for a potash mine

 

In their recent rejection of an IGas application, Cheshire West and Cheshire Council went one step further. Councillors employed their own local planning policy to claim that testing for a gas well did not address climate change or make the best use of renewable energy

They needs to be a clear argument here

. As Third Energy begins to take equipment off the Kirby Misperton site in Ryedale to deal with its scrutinised finances, North Yorkshire councils are defending a joint ‘minerals and waste plan’ with far stronger safeguards on fracking than the current regulatory landscape provides.

He needs to say why regulation is not sufficient

Yet local authorities can only go so far when the national guidance from which policy is developed favours fracking, given that the government is intent on a shale energy revolution

The primary source of guidance relied on by local government when making decisions on applications, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is vague at best, and at worst outwardly pro-fracking.

According to Kate Atkinson in CPRE North Yorkshire, the industry is hanging largely onto one paragraph (144) in the NPPF to defend their applications, which states that local authorities should ‘give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction’.

All people rely on the products of mineral exploration , whether from the UK or abroad, whether oil/gas, building materials, cement, various metals etc. This is tantamount to saying we should only import minerals – which will, of course, have environmental implications at the place of extraction and dire economic effects in Britain.  This is airy-fairy idealistic thinking, detached from a world where people need feeding , housing and given a reasonable standard of life.

Kate pointed out, quite rightly, that there is no indication that this ‘great weight’ designation is any more important than others, such as the ‘great weight’ given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of AONBs, National Parks, and designated heritage assets.

This is woffle and incorrect. It also ignores the fact that most National Parks and AONBs have been exploited for minerals both in the past and the present.

Furthermore, paragraph 144 also states that local authorities should,

“ensure, in granting planning permission for mineral development, that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment, human health or aviation safety, and take into account the cumulative effect of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or from a number of sites in a locality.”

The key words are “unacceptable adverse impacts” This quote shows that any decision is made by balancing conflicting demands.

But much of this is put to one side as planning officers frequently conclude in their recommendations that approval of shale gas exploration or extraction would not compromise any of the above considerations. Clearly, the paragraph is being interpreted as one where fracking takes precedent.

This assertion needs substantial evidence or else it is blackening the character of planning officers. Note in 2015 Stuart Perigo Planning Officer for Lancashire was pilloried for his report and recommendations. His reports were thorough and balanced and not always palatable to Cuadrilla.

The lack of attention given to climate change in the NPPF is an equally serious issue.
Any fracking operations, currently or soon-to-be approved, have been permitted despite the legitimate weight of evidence claiming that shale oil or gas extraction would be incompatible with the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets – let alone the even stricter targets of the Paris Agreement.

At best there is a division of opinion whether fracking is incompatible with climate change targets. The author needs to acknowledge rather than showing his bias.

 

Kia Trainor, of CPRE Sussex, pointed out how this leads to a burgeoning gap between political rhetoric and policy reality. The government’s new ‘clean growth’ narrative directly contradicts the NPPF’s prioritisation of energy security and the economic benefits of fracking above threats to the climate.

Sweeping statements made without justification

Infrastructure Act

Supporting these NPPF recommendations is a spate of new legal instruments and policy statements Westminster has rolled out since 2013, with the intention of fast-tracking fracking applications through the planning system. Among them is a weak and vague definition of fracking that provides ample opportunity to evade regulations and scrutiny. Fracking is defined in the Infrastructure Act 2015 by the amount of fluid used at each stage of the process – any operations under these amounts can avoid regulatory safeguards such as, independent well inspection and well sealing after use.

As fracking as a process is carried out in a variety of ways it is difficult to give one definition. Extraction from a vertical well in tight gas is “fracking” as is horizontal wells in shale . This shows that so-called horizontal HVHF can use less fluid than an older more “conventional” fracking.

https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2014/5131/pdf/sir2014-5131.pdf#

Yet these definitions would not have even covered the activity that caused the Preese Hall earthquake

gg

in 2011 that led to a temporary fracking moratorium. Neither would it cover 43% of US wells between 2000-2010 – a country famed for its lack of regulatory safeguards.

Exactly – it is the danger of a definition. Further he should be aware due to his employment that regulations in the USA heve been tightened up.

 

Furthermore, fracking currently defined is allowing dubious activities such as acidisation in the Weald Basin to be classed as ‘conventional’ extraction by operators, despite the very similar risks associated with this activity to those presented by fracking.

“acidisation” has been carried out for over a century. It is also used to clean out water boreholes in aquifers!

Such issues require a much broader definition of fracking and the threats it poses to climate change and public health.

This is such a vague statement lacking any substance. It will convince some opposed to fracking but fails to give any evidence

Return of the planners
If we want to change the game, we need to change the rules by which it’s played.

The revised NPPF, currently out for consultation, pushes the case for fracking even further by calling on local authorities to

“recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons… and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction”.

This is hugely concerning for those already struggling to repel fracking applications using a planning system weighted against them. As a result, the NPPF consultation is perhaps the last opportunity available to call for a more balanced interpretation of the risks and benefits that fracking presents.

The good news is that we have the tools in our hands to get the changes required. Government policy is swinging drastically away from its previously robust pursuit of fracking. The recent Clean Growth Strategy doesn’t mention the controversial technique at all, and a new climate change minister is placing enormous effort into getting the UK back on the international stage as a climate leader. Such a change in government narrative provides ample opportunity to argue, in response to the revised NPPF, that planning guidelines must contain a much healthier consideration of climate change,

sdsd

communities and the local environmental impact of controversial activities such as fracking. Indeed, such a change might deliver a decisive blow to an industry which, until now, has enjoyed undue privileges from government despite a torrent of public opposition.

fggf

The ultimate tool we need in this campaign though is our own agency – a self-belief that we can make a difference. The planning committees referred to above, where fracking was decisively rejected, were full to the brim of local people, many of whom spoke one after another with a persuasive combination of individual experience and robust knowledge of the elements of planning policy that would be infringed by such an application being approved.

lcc

 

 

It was uplifting to hear Andy Tickle of CPRE South Yorkshire explain how they had been providing help to individuals seeking advice on the planning system, and how they are soon to host training on public inquiries, with many coming up this year.

Andy also told me how inspired he had been by the mobilisation of communities that had previously not been involved in campaigning:

“In 15 years of working here, I’ve never seen so much anger against a threat to the countryside.”

It was encouraging to hear how CPRE had been engaging with this, whether through drafting objections to fracking applications, mobilising communities to engage in the planning system and forming wide coalitions that sees multiple interests unite in opposition to an unwanted industry.

I hope this momentum will continue this year as many big decisions are made on the future of fracking, and with it our countryside, under threat from a dangerous and unnecessary activity with no economic, social or environmental licence.

Mark Robinson works primarily on energy, infrastructure and climate change. His role is part of a graduate scheme established by CPRE in 2016

Perhaps CPRE need to improve their mentoring of graduates

to support graduates and young workers to get a foothold in the environmental sector. Mark holds an MSc in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh and a BA (Hons) in Geography from Lancaster University.
SHARE THIS:

Moorland degradation in the Forest of Bowland

One of the joys of living on the edge of the Forest of Bowland is being able to explore it on foot and cycle. Much was only opened up by the CROW act of 2000 and the paths are often not well-defined. One of my common walks is up Hawthornthwaite Fell from Catshaw. The fell, seen from below Jubilee Tower, has a castellated appearance due to peat erosion as is clear on the left of the photo (sept 2016)

DSCF9715

Edit 27/4 from EU http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-1045_en.htm Which highlights my concerns.

Nature: Commission calls on the UNITED KINGDOM to protect blanket bog habitats

The Commission is urging the United Kingdom to stop burning blanket bog habitats within upland Natura 2000 sites in England and to take measures to restore the damaged habitats. Blanket bogs are considered to be priority habitats under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) when they are active (i.e. non-degraded), and their conservation status in England is seriously declining. For a number of years, the UK authorities allowed the damaging practice of burning blanket bogs within the English Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), without the appropriate assessment required by the Habitats Directive. The Commission warned the United Kingdom of those breaches of the Habitats Directive in a letter of formal notice sent in April 2016. As the burning of blanket bog habitats within the protected sites still continues, a final warning is now sent. The UK has two months to provide a response; otherwise, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

I went up on a windy day in early April using a shooters’ track. The hillside was typical heather more demonstrating burning of heather, which takes several years to re-grow. The signs and smell of recent burning were evident.

DSCF0353DSCF0354

As I left the end of the track, I found some serious burning , which has shown no re-growth since autumn 2015. There has been much erosion in heavy rain.

DSCF0356DSCF0357DSCF0358

More recent burning.

DSCF0359

The path upwards was ill-defined over rough grassy moorland. As I reached the fence at the watershed I was met with squawking sea-gulls worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. That required a video. It is a major nesting ground for sea gulls and sadly there are not enough raptors to gobble up the chicks and eggs. I so rarely see even a buzzard, though 10 years ago I was heckled by three hen harriers, and was probably close to their nest.

Every so often the moor was replaced by a small pool, with the beautiful emarld green of sphagnum.

DSCF0360DSCF0363

In summer , cotton grass flowers

DSCF9119 (1)

And so to the top of Hawthornthwaite Fell with its felled trig point. When I first came up in 2003 the Trig point was 10 ft in the air as a monument to peat vandalism but was toppled a few years ago. The area is now a hollow as up to 10 foot of peat has disappeared in the century since the OS planted their trig point with a deep base. Then you would be walking above the height of the white post to be on the same level as the peat behind.

DSCF0365

There are a few small pools like this one which even has some sphagnum. I confess to damning it up in 2016 and note the improvement. The problem is to be seen from the post looking north where the peat has eroded into channels. This is the castellation of the first photo.

DSCF0367DSCF0370

On the RH of the fence United Utilities has done some peat restoration but the effects are hampered as the peat has disappeared down to the mineral base, almost exposing the Pendle Grit below. Some grasses grow and there are a few pools

DSCF0371DSCF0372

a close up of the toppled Trig Point, which should be an icon to peat degradation

DSCF0373

And finally four more shots to show how the peat has gone.

DSCF0374DSCF0376DSCF0377DSCF0378

There are many places in the Forest of Bowland where peat restoration has started with slow and steady results. On one fell  I could walk dry shod at any time of the year, whatever the weather as the peat had dried out. Now it is superbly soggy even in summer and is getting soggier.

On the principles of peat restoration I am most definitely an amateur as my background is geology, but am passably informed on mountain landscapes and vegetation. It is fantastic the way peat restoration has been done all over the Pennines, but like planting trees the best time is 30 years ago.

The gains are tremendous and with time the sphagnum could gobble up some carbon too.

Already in places wildlife has benefited .

024.JPG

To follow this up the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK Peatland Programme (twitter; @IUCNpeat ) gives much technical stuff and gives both hope and an indication of the task ahead. 

As an amateur I shall not comment scientifically lest I truly put my foot in it !!!!

DSCF0379

I may have trodden on some toes too……………..