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Conservation on Holcombe Moor and Stubbins Estate

Stone footpath west of Bull Hill
Stone footpath west of Bull Hill | © Annapurna Mellor

Find out how the Countryside Team of rangers and volunteers work hard to restore and conserve Holcombe Moor. Learn more about the vital work carried out to increase biodiversity, improve habitats for wildlife, help capture carbon, reduce peat erosion and minimise the risk of flooding.

Caring for Holcombe Moor

Holcombe Moor and Stubbins Estate was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in November 2016, on account of its breeding birds and blanket bog habitat.

From September to March, moorland restoration work is carried out by the rangers and volunteers. During nesting season, between April and August, work on the moors stops to allow birds and other wildlife to breed, limiting disturbance. Throughout these months the team carry out regular estate maintenance work on both National Trust tenanted farmland and woodland. Tasks may include repairing boundaries such as fences and drystone walls, repairing footpaths, stiles and bridges as well as controlling invasive weed species.

Stone path

In March 2023 the rangers and volunteers assisted contractors in heli-lifting stone slabs onto the footpath west of Bull Hill. The flags were reclaimed from a nearby mill that was being demolished.

Putting flags along the path has created a better surface for footpath users, meaning they no longer have to trail through the mud. Already we can see the vegetation alongside the path is recovering, enhancing this important habitat for people and nature.

View to moorland from woodland
View to moorland from woodland | © Annapurna Mellor

Woodland plan

All the woodlands on the Stubbins Estate are managed for nature conservation and where appropriate, public access. The key species in these woodlands are invertebrates and fungi, associated with upland deadwood and decaying tree habitats. You’ll find veteran trees present, which contain significant amounts of deadwood often with hollow stems. Although these very old trees can often appear like they are not in good health, this is part of their natural lifecycle. Given the right conditions they spend most of their life in this stage, thriving for centuries and supporting a huge range of fungi and invertebrate species.

Tree thinning is also carried out to open up areas of closed canopy woodland allowing better development of ground flora and natural regeneration of native trees.

Planting trees

During 2019, the National Trust rangers worked alongside the Strongstry National Trust Volunteer Group and planted over 2,000 trees on National Trust tenanted Broadwood Edge Farm. As well as helping to slow the flow of water run-off above the village, this newly created woodland also provides useful nature corridors providing dense cover for local wildlife including local warbler species.

Going forward the ranger team will be working closely with our tenant farmers to explore further opportunities to plant trees.

Dam maintenance work
Dam maintenance work | © Annapurna Mellor

Stone and timber ‘leaky’ dams

In February 2021, with the help of local residents, the National Trust team began installing ‘leaky dams’ in Buckden Wood using natural flood management methods. Natural materials from the local area were used with the aim to reduce the impact of flooding on nearby communities including Irwell Vale, Strongstry, Chatterton and Ramsbottom, as well as improving habitats for local wildlife.

In total 22 ‘leaky dams’ have been installed along the brook that flows through the woodland into the River Irwell. They are called ‘leaky dams’ due to acting as natural interventions in slowing down the flow of water, rather than redirecting or stopping it altogether. Similar works have been carried out on our tenanted farmland in conjunction with other natural flood management techniques.

As part of the National Trust Volunteer Programme, regular maintenance of these dams is undertaken to ensure they continue to work effectively.

Peatland Restoration Project

Holcombe's moorland is a precious environment where over the years air pollution and the impact of the Industrial Revolution, as well as moorland fires, erosion, and overgrazing, have brought significant damage to the peat surface.

These pressures have caused the surface of the peat to dry out and harden. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of flooding downstream as the water flows over the hardened peat. The change in peat condition has led to a change in the plants that grow on the moor leading to a reduction in a suitable habitat for breeding moorland birds. The drying up of the peat has also reduced its ability to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, and degraded moorland peat can lead to an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being emitted into the air.

Working alongside a number of partners, read more about the ongoing peatland restoration work we are carrying out to protect this precious environment.

Rangers and volunteers on Holcombe Moor


Everyone needs nature and outdoor space, now more than ever, and as a charity we rely heavily on your support and generosity. Your support plays a vital role in allowing us to protect Holcombe Moor and Stubbins Estate’s natural landscape and rich wildlife for everyone to enjoy.

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