Volunteers tackle invasive grass on Yorkshire Moors

Volunteers at Marsen

Four volunteers have become the unlikely experts on an invasive moorland grass in Yorkshire. Purple Moor Grass is disliked by many walkers, conservationists and firefighters.

The tussocky grass benefits some wildlife, but it can become dominant. It smothers moorland plants and rare mosses, drying the Moor and boosting the risk of wild fires.

Challenge

We care for Marsden Moor Estate, near Huddersfield. A history of industrial pollution and heavy grazing by livestock means that Purple Moor Grass is flourishing.

The South Pennines moor is a nationally important landscape, home to rare wildlife like curlew and brown hares. 
 
Our volunteer Andrew Underdown says: 'On summer walks I love to see Marsden’s mix of moorland plants: a sea of cotton grass heads and sometimes the red and green patches of spaghnum mosses. 
 
'But all this variety is at risk in places, due to the spread of the molinia grass.'

Research  

Andrew is one of four Marsden Moor volunteers who have spent the last three years researching the Purple Moor Grass. The team has been led by volunteer and ex-government nature adviser Roger Meade.
 
Their work culminated in a major conference in 2015, where experts shared best practice in dealing with the grass. 
 
Now, the volunteers have published a report summarising the lessons from the conference. The report will help our rangers, other conservationists and farmers restore habitats. 

Molinia at Redbrook, Marsden Moor with Pule Hill in the background
Molinia growing on Marsden Moor with Pule Hill in the background

Restoring wildlife

Our lead ranger at Marsden Moor, Craig Best, says: 'Thanks to the conference and report, we’ve been able to identify the areas where we’ll be able to reduce the grass’s dominance and create a mosaic of habitats. Over the next four years, we will be cutting Purple Moor Grass across the Marsden estate.'
   
Volunteer Andrew adds: 'Helped by the evidence from our report, I hope that within the next five years the moor will be transformed from the current lunar landscape to a riot of wild summer colour.'
 

Visitors making orange pomander decorations at a Christmas event at Attingham Park, Shropshire

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