The reserves are beautiful, isolated areas of moorland which have historically been heavily overgrazed and neglected causing wildlife habitat and biodiversity to be under threat. The Trust manages both sites with the aim of increasing the numbers of wildlife by improving the diversity of habitat for endangered upland species.
Endangered Upland Species
Lintzgarth is not untypical of many upland sites in the Pennines in that it was seriously overgrazed during the "bad old days" of headage payments, which encouraged graziers to keep more livestock on the uplands than was good for the type of vegetation which grows there. This has led to large areas being more or less devoid of any of the dwarf shrub species which were once common and which are vital to the long term success of the aims of the Charity.
The Trustees took the decision to reinstate some of those species by means of reseeding a part of Lintzgarth from which grazing had been excluded for many years. Despite a total lack of grazing the native shrubs had not been recovered and with the blessing of Defra some 15 acres or so have been treated mechanically to remove a very deep star moss layer. This area will in due course be given a covering of a specially prepared mix of upland plant species seeds which are currently absent. We have already had the treated areas replanted with clumps of sphagnum moss to assist in this recovery project. It will take some time for this work to bear fruit as it were, however, long term those species will make an invaluable contribution to the diversity of the site as well as providing habitat and food for many bird species including the black grouse which is already present on the site.
The Trust, in partnership with the Woodland Trust who has generously provided trees, is planting areas of mixed species woodland on both sites to provide corridors of cover and food for wildlife and to restore the upland landscape.
On Lintzgarth there are at least two established black grouse leks. The area suffers from harsh winters when heather, which the black grouse depend upon, is buried under the snow. The pockets of birch, rowan, hawthorn, willows, hazel and crab apple trees the Trust has planted provide a critical alternative food source and cover for black grouse and other upland wildlife.
On Thornhope Moor the Trust is currently working on planting thickets of thorn around naturally growing solitary trees to encourage birdlife and increase nectar source. Thorn is also to be planted in the bracken banks by the water courses to encourage smaller birdlife such as ring ouzel and whinchat. A larger area of mixed tree species is to be planted in the sheltered gill area with the aim of increasing the diversity of habitat and improving the moorland landscape.
Wetland Habitat Restoration
You would think that as it is the uplands it would be wet already, however, the Pennine uplands we know now are not the uplands of two hundred or so years ago. The lead mining industry brought thousands of people into the Dales and those miners, who also had small farms, set about draining the waterlogged land. They did an excellent job, with deep, tiled drains which sucked the surface water from many of the large open grazing hillsides of the Pennines. That was followed much later by large scale grant aided surface drainage.
The Trust has made scores of shallow scrapes which hold water for prolonged periods, allowing wading birds access to wet areas and invertebrates which otherwise would be out of their reach.
Hay Meadow Restoration
As with most things natural it is easier to keep what you have than to restore it once it has been lost or degraded. Hay meadows are no exception and one of the main problems is lack of suitable seed for any reseeding work. If that seed is obtainable then the work itself is not too difficult with the green material containing the seed heads, taken directly from a "good " meadow, and spread straight on to the donor site. The alternative is to source some seed from the debris in the bottom of a hay barn which has had hay with a good species mix stored for a number of years. That debris will contain plenty of viable seeds which can simply be spread on the land in question. Many of the desired species can be purchased commercially, however, there is resistance on behalf of the agricultural agencies to use seed from outside the area.
On behalf of the Trust an experienced scientist records the bird assemblage on both sites using the recognized Brown and Shepherd technique. This gives the Trust a bench-mark for the future. The counts, three visits per year, are done on an annual basis and gives an indication of trends in the populations on Lintzgarth and Thornhope.
Currently from observation by past and current wardens and volunteers, we are aware that there is a very good mix of species on both sites, including red data- book species. The more scientific approach now adopted will help guide our management of the two sites in the future as well as giving absolute credibility to the data set.
All sightings of species on both sites are recorded on a scientific basis and contribute to scientific studies by the Trust and other organizations. The Trust communicates results of projects to the general public, local farmers and landowners, schools and interested groups through the website, organized visits and talks.
Soft rush can be a valuable cover plant in any habitat, however, when it becomes too dense it can also lead to poorer habitat for many other species.
Small areas are cut outwith the bird breeding season to create open spaces for chicks and adults both to feed, and dry off when the remainder of the vegetation is very wet. If these areas are cut on a regular basis the rush cover tend to decrease year on year.
Heather Burning / Cutting
This practice is carried out when the heather canopy reaches a certain height and more or less becomes a mono culture. At that stage certain species are disadvantaged, especially the wading birds, and small areas are burnt or cut to create open spaces, which wading birds will use as nest sites, and which are exploited by a host of other species. It is also important for the grazing animals as new vegetation is created for them to utilize.
Burning is not harmful to the peat or the seed bank if done under the correct conditions and within the burning code. Cutting does use carbon in the shape of fossil fuel but it is necessary to maximize the potential of the site for all species. All work is done outside the bird breeding season.
Wader Scrapes / Ponds
These small shallow areas, 2 meters or so, are created with the use of a shallow digger bucket for the benefit of the wading birds on the sites. Standing water is important, as even in the Pennines it can become dry! The shallow water and the wed mud edges provide ample feeding and bathing areas for birds like snipe, curlew, lapwing, woodcock and others. They are also a boost for amphibians which make their homes in them, as evidenced by the quantity of tadpoles. Once again the cleaning out, creation of these is done outside the breeding season.
The Trust has planted thousands of trees and shrubs, many in conjuction with the Woodland Trust to add diversity to the sites. The trees are used by many bird species both for nesting sites and food during the winter months. The black grouse is one of the main beneficiaries of the tree planting as it feeds on the fruit and buds of many of the species which have been planted.
More information on the Trust’s tree planting programme can be found under Ongoing Work.
There are two main areas on Lintzgarth where the Trust has reseeding programmes. Firstly on degraded moorland to regenerate the dwarf shrub community such as heather, bilberry, crowberry, cross leaved heath and many others. This is a long term programme requiring considerable input.
Reseeding is also taking place on the pastures and meadows where the Trust is hoping to increase the species richness of sward alongside the correct management of grazing and cutting.
More information on the Trust’s reseeding programme can be found under Ongoing Work.
Rather like soft rush bracken in some circumstances may be beneficial, it is a very invasive plant which smothers most other species. It is controlled by local use of chemicals using a weed wipe or spray. It can also be kept in check in some areas by suitable tree planting which in turn and time smother the bracken by shading it out.