Labrador Tea

Yesterday I set about the second leg of the Bleaklow fence mapping. Bob and I drove to Crowden Station car park, then drove back to Torside visitor centre and left the other car there. There was a Endurance GB horse ride taking place, so the car park was absolutely chock-full with horseboxes and appropriately horsey towing vehicles. We walked back down the Longdendale trail to Reaps, then up the Pennine Way along Torside Clough to where I finished off last week. We followed the fenceline across Sykes Moor towards Torside Naze before turning north-east to head up to Wildboar Clough. The first segment of the fence was new, but as we crossed Torside Grain it reused the existing fenceline.

Fence erosion

As you can see, the bottom of the wire is now about 18 inches above the surface of the ground, and there's a nice line of sheep tracks plus a wrapping of wool around the bottom strand that shows how the sheep have been getting through the fence. This is a bit of a problem, as the whole point of the fence is to keep the sheep out! It also graphically illustrates the severity of the erosion that the Moors for the Future project is trying to combat - this fence is probably not more than 20 years old, and when it was put up the wire would have been level with the surface of the peat. As we headed along the side of the valley below White Mare, we came across another problem that affects the fence, people with pliers:

Cut fence

I have no idea why anybody should feel it is necessary to cut a fence right next to a stile. I assume the people coming up this particular track know and appreciate Bleaklow as it isn't a well-know route, which makes it ironic that they are deliberately damaging something that is there to protect the very environment they have come to enjoy. There were obvious signs of sheep using the cut, plus two ewes inside the fence line - and if there are two there are doubtless more. Last week I found the fence has also been cut near Ferny Hole, in that case next to a stile with a dog gate so it can't even have been to make it possible for a dog to get through. The new fence is all topped with plain rather than barbed wire as it's intended to keep stock rather than people out, so there really isn't much excuse for cutting it as it's easy enough to climb over if there isn't a convenient stile. Around the eastern margin of the fence there are small signs at regular intervals explaining what it is there for, perhaps we need some along this stretch as well. However, deliberate damage, whilst regrettable is not the most important problem, the fence is more-or-less hopeless for keeping stock out, we counted over 20 points in less than 1km where sheep had been getting through.

Fence erosion

As we were climbing up Wildboar we saw a Buzzard. These seem to be increasingly common, apparently we now have a few breeding pairs in the area, whereas 10 years ago there were none. About half way up Wildboar both Bob and I smelt smoke - something that always makes me nervous after last year's conflagration. We got on the radio to ask if there were any controlled burns planned, but as we couldn't see any smoke it was impossible to say where the fire was actually coming from.

According to the outline map of the fence in the office, the fenceline climbs up the SW side of Wildboar Clough for about 750m before heading back towards Rollick stones in a narrow V. Unfortunately, that's completely wrong - we followed the fence for 3km, all the way up Wildboar to Far Moss then across to Black Cough where it finished. This is the old fence that is due for removal so it needed mapping anyway, but it does leave the question of where the fenceline actually goes! Once we got to the end of the fence we started to head back down Black Clough, and on the way Bob offered to show me the Labrador Tea bush (Ledum groenlandicum) that grows to the west of Black Clough.

Labrador Tea Labrador Tea
These plants are related to Rhododendrons, and in fact are native to North America and Canada. This particular one is about the largest I have seen. The leaves have distinctive curled edges, and are covered in red hairs underneath. In summer they have while flowers.

There are about 6-8 of these plants scattered across the Dark Peak and nobody is quite sure how they got here, the best guess is they are garden escapees with the seed being transported by birds. Whilst we were looking for the Labrador Tea I spotted the source of the smoke we had smelled some time earlier, near Shepherds Meeting Stones some 6km downwind of where we had first detected it. A quick call to Fiona confirmed that it was a controlled burn, so we carried on over to Stable Clough and off past The Lodge. The area at the bottom of Stable Clough had always been out of access until the CROW Act came into force last month, and to get to Stable Clough it was always necessary to plough through a bog, along the line of a barbed wire fence. You are now allowed to carry on down the track towards the house, so Bob and I spent some time figuring out the best route across the now-acessible land before heading to the car at Crowden Station and thence back to base.

Re: Labrador Tea

Hello Alan,

It was with much interest that i came across your web site describing Ledum groenlandicum at Black Clough. I have been growing/researching this particular plant for many years now and have set myself the challenge of visiting each and every known site on Bleaklow and wondered if you would be able to help with an exact grid refernce for the Black Cloguh site or indeed any other site you may know of? I have so far only located the plant growing near Barrow Stones which without a six figure grid reference is almost impossible to find!!!!

Many thanks in advance

Richard Marriott