The windswept beauty of Yorkshire’s heather moorland is one of the area’s defining characteristics.
Now Ilkley Moor, where hundreds of acres were destroyed by a week-long fire in 2006, and Danby Common in the North York Moors National Park are to receive £3m to look after wildlife, heather and public access.
The money, which will help more than 13,500 acres, is being paid through a green farming scheme administered by Natural England.
Ilkley Moor, which provides the backdrop for Ilkley and Burley-in-Wharfedale, will benefit by £1m. Sheep will be managed and shepherded to regenerate heather, bilberry, cotton grasses and other vegetation improving habitats for ground-nesting birds including golden plovers, snipe and curlew. Green hairstreak butterflies, merlins and short-eared owls will also benefit.
Damaged footpaths, walls and gates will be restored while, in consultation with English Heritage, historical features including cup and ring stones will be surveyed, restored and protected. Bracken will be controlled to return areas to good- quality heath and prevent further damage to historical features.
A heather-burning and cutting plan will encourage healthy growth of plants like cowberry and cotton grasses. This will preserve and improve the deep peat blanket bogs which help to lock up carbon dioxide. Areas of the moor badly damaged by fire three years ago will be re-seeded to restore it to its original condition.
Natural England’s regional director, Peter Nottage, said: “These two major agreements represent a strong commitment by those involved to ensure that the features and wildlife in two of Yorkshire’s most beautiful areas are restored and enhanced. We’re looking forward to seeing the environment in these much-loved places thrive.”
Chairman of the Moorland Association and member of Bingley Moor Partnership Edward Bromet said: “The Moorland Association’s approach to managing moors ensures that farming, grouse shooting, access and conservation all work hand in hand.”
Danby Common, which covers more than 11,000 acres, is managed by the landowner, the Viscount Downe, and the Danby Court Leet, a centuries-old commons system where local people have a stake in the future of the moor. It will receive £2m of support.
Graziers will adapt the number of sheep to benefit heather regeneration. The moor owners will bring in two new flocks and a shepherd will be employed to look after them.
Managed grazing and heather- burning regimes will continue to improve moorland habitats for merlins, golden plovers, lapwings and curlew. Moorland visitors will be given leaflets, displays, guided walks and demonstrations of moorland management skills.
Danby Court Leet bailiff and local farmer Martin Foord said: “This agreement will really help with future management. It will help to secure a sustainable future for moorland sheep flocks which are so important in maintaining the health of the moors.
“Grazing and burning will continue to be carried out in a way that benefits the wide variety of wildlife that rely upon it. So visitors and local people will now be able to enjoy this beautiful landscape for many years to come.”
Dawnay Estates’ agent Robert Sword said the scheme was an opportunity to improve the management of the Danby Moors as a sustainable environmental, sporting and agricultural resource and enhance the landscape of part of the North York Moors National Park.
“This is a very last chance to retain the hill-flocks and improve the management and quality of sheep production which will help to reduce levels of tick and increase production of grouse and the numbers of other moorland birds,” Mr Sword said.
Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: “This money will help ensure that the land is managed in a way that is good for the environment, good for wildlife, and good for the rest of us.”