Conservation projects: heather moorland

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Brimham Rocks is one of just over four thousand sites nation-wide which have been awarded the status ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’, or SSSI. Attributed by Natural England, this status is used in order to protect the natural, environmental or geological heritage of the British Isles from development, pollution or insensitive land management.

Being given this status is certainly a form of recognition of the uniqueness of the site, but also places a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the conservation staff who work here.

On a world scale, natural heather habitats are extremely rare: rarer than rainforest. According to the Moorland Association, 75% of the world's remaining heather moorland is found in Britain and that habitat has been declining rapidly.

Brimham moor has the particular distinction of being home to three local varieties: ling heather, bell heather, and cross-leaved heath. With its rapid growth and extended root system, if left unattended, bracken would soon damage the heather moorland beyond repair.

The countryside team of staff and volunteers perform regular trials of different bracken control techniques. A recent Higher Level Stewardship grant has made all the difference to the team’s ultimate success or failure in bracken control, as it has made possible the purchase of the necessary equipment. A selective herbicide is used, which only harms bracken and dock. It thoroughly eradicates bracken at its root, resulting in seven to eight years of managed countryside This makes it more difficult for the weed to re-establish a presence on the site and giving subsequent ‘natural’ methods of control, such as flailing and manual pulling, a much higher chance of success.

Our work to preserve this precious natural resource is always ongoing and we are always interested to hear from people interested in volunteering to help conserve this natural moorland habitat for generations to come.