Moorland restoration work underway at Westonby Moor
Following the Natural England’s approval for the Estate’s extensive Countryside Stewardship (CSS) scheme to commence earlier in the year, work has now begun in earnest to enhance a number of nationally important habitats across the Mulgrave Estate landholdings.
Westonby Moor, between Egton and Lealholm, has seen a number of changes in the past few decades which have led to the heather moorland habitat decrease in terms of general biodiversity value. The moor was drained in the 1970’s with an intricate system of shallow drainage channels or ‘grips’ installed to empty the moor of water southwards down towards Shortwaite and the River Esk. Subsequently, the moor has dried out and scrub birch, willow and pine have taken over this once important area of wet heather moor. The drainage work has also exacerbated the problem of soil erosion from the moor and no doubt contributed to excess water flooding down the southern slope, through the farms and into the Esk.
Mulgrave Estate’s CSS scheme at Westonby, which is endorsed and funded by Natural England, will aim to reverse this process by blocking the moorland grips enable the moor to hold more water and contribute to carbon sequestration in the peaty soils below. Keeping the moor wet will prevent the release of carbon into the air which is a major factor in atmospheric pollution. More information on grip blocking and moorland restoration can be seen on the Yorkshire Peat Partnership website here.and the Moorland Association website here
The moor will also be fenced to enclose livestock on an extensive grazing system. A small number of suitably sourced cattle which are adapted to rough grazing will be introduced onto the moor to graze on the heather and scrubby trees. Grazing the moor will keep the scrub in check and with assistance from Estate staff and contractors reduce the amount of invasive trees to a manageable level.
Photo – fencing work underway at Westonby Moor, Lealholm