Following the fence

As part of the measures undertaken by the Moors for the Future project, English Nature have erected a fence around the most severely eroded part of the Bleaklow area. One of the jobs that Fiona, the full-time ranger has been asking for us to do it to survey the fence - where it actually goes as opposed to where it was originally planned, and where the stiles and gates are - the fence is designed to keep sheep out rather than people, so that the vegetation has time to regenerate. After much procrastination, I decided to actually make a start on this during yesterday's patrol. Although the fence has only been complete for less than a year, the picture below show that the dramatic effect that it has had already had - in the past this grass would have been grazed down to billiard-table level by the sheep.

Bleaklow

The light brown material you can see on the edges of the peat haggs is the geojute matting that has been put down to stabilize the peat surface so it will re-vegetate. As well as measures such as the fence and geojute, there has also been an extensive program of seeding, liming and fertilizing - because of the fragile nature of the terrain this has all had to be done by helicopter. In the picture below, the verdant green grass has been sown as a nurse crop - the idea is to stabilise the peat surface long enough for the natural vegetation to establish itself, at which point the lime and fertilizer inputs will be discontinued and the nurse crop will die off - quite a clever idea. The longer reddish grass is the existing wavy hair grass (Deschampsia flexosa) which under the influence of the lime and fertiliser has grown strongly and seeded - and the natural seed will further improve the ground cover next year. In fact in some places the grass (both sown and existing) is doing so well we joke about it being more like the Serengeti than Bleaklow, and it seems from the picture below that the local wildlife appreciates the change as well.

Bleaklow

Anyway, back to the fence survey. Dave and I got dropped off at Snake Summit and started to follow the fence line towards Crooked Clough. The first leg across the flat moor just east of Urchin Clough wasn't too bad, but once we crossed Doctor's Gate and started to traverse along the side of Crooked Clough it got considerably tougher. The survey technique is quite simple - I use a normal GPS, and use the track log to create a 'crumb trail' of where I've walked. As long as I stay within a couple of metres of the fence, the track log will record the path of the fence closely enough for our purposes. I also record a waypoint at every gate and stile, and then when I get back to the ranch I use OziExplorer to plot both the track log and the waypoints so I can overlay them on an Ordnance Survey map. For those of you that know the area, the segment of the fence that we surveyed starts at Snake Summit, crosses over Crooked Clough, skirts around underneath Shelf Stones and James Thorn before crossing Ferny Hole and plunging down Yellowslacks, up out of the other side and crossing Harrop Moss towards Torside Castle before crossing the Pennine Way in Torside Clough. Although we only walked about 9km, all the upping and downing plus the fairly rough terrain meant we'd both had enough by the time we reached the Pennine Way. We then walked off down the Pennine Way to Torside car park to wait for our lift back to the briefing centre. Bearing in mind the fence goes as far east as Grinah, I expect that it will take another 4-5 patrols to survey the whole thing and close the loop. While we were waiting at Torside we were talking to Diane who runs the cafe on the site - she's going to be open from 11:00am to 4:00pm from now on, so if you're passing that way, drop in for a cuppa!