Langholm Moor in Dumfries-shire provided the focus for a lively and informative discussion meeting last week. As the Demonstration Project is applying many of the best moorland management practices that The Heather Trust promotes, it was an ideal setting for the discussion. Uniquely, the project lasts for ten years and the halfway point was a good opportunity for the Trust to visit the moor and view the progress that has been made. The Trust is an enthusiastic supporter of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, and the discussion meeting was organised in such a way that a wide range of views and contributions were heard. Mark Oddy, who is the Estate Manager and Chairman of the Project Board, was the host for the day and he gave a presentation that provided the background to the project. Adam Smith, Director Scotland for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, provided his view of the conservation issues being addressed by the project and highlighted the significant progress that has been made.
It was clear from the discussion that the project has reached a point at which some fascinating new directions have been laid open. Forever linked with the contentious issues surrounding hen harriers and raptor persecution, the Langholm Project is now revealing some largely under-explored issues relating to heather management, including the impact of heather beetle and the actual practicalities of reseeding open moorland.
In 2010, a major outbreak of heather beetle destroyed over a thousand hectares of quality heather growth and threatened to further damage the condition of the moorland at Langholm. Heather beetle is currently a key issue of concern for moorland managers across the nation, and the Heather Trust is leading research into the nature of this mysterious threat.
“It is a good time for the project to review its progress against the objectives set for the work” concluded Simon Thorp, Director of The Heather Trust, who provided a final presentation.
He had started with a resume of the Trust’s promotion of two moorland management practices that have benefitted the Langholm Project. The Trust is coordinating the work of the UKwide Bracken Control Group that aims to safeguard the future of the aerial application of asulam, the main bracken control agent. A survey of heather beetle outbreaks across the UK is being carried out and the Trust is leading on work to establish the best way to restore damaged heather. Adopting the role of a ‘critical friend’ of the Langholm Project, he suggested that: “additional focus should be given to four important matters: predation issues, communications with the ‘upland industry’, a more challenging approach to muirburn and more monitoring of heather restoration areas”.