The moorland is changing.

Day by day, tiny patches of colour are starting to emerge amongst the undergrowth, and it seems like every time I turn my back on the hillside, it becomes a shade more purple.

When I first started my project to regenerate a neglected grouse moor, I fenced off an experimental area of ling from the marauding attentions of the local livestock.

The acre of protected heath has taught me an amazing amount about the impact of grazing on grouse habitat, and within weeks of setting up the posts, real differences were visible.

Hare’s tail cotton grass emerged in terrific abundance, and I now know that grouse and sheep feed on the flowers of this plant in March and April.

Protecting the flowers meant that, by June, the enclosure was filled with bobbing white puffy fruits, while because the sheep had nibbled the flowers down outside, they were totally invisible.

Bog asphodel, ragged robin and blaeberry flowers lit up the space temporarily from the end of May to mid June, all taking advantage of the safety offered by the stock proof fence, but still the heather remained inscrutable.

It is only in the last few weeks that I have noticed the difference in the heather at all, and that is because it seems that livestock nibble off heather flowers before they turn purple.

Across the Galloway hills, the famous August blanket of purple heather is comparatively thin because of over grazing and neglect.

However, in my experimental corner it has been protected from grazing and now grows dense and beautiful.

A few years protection from grazing should give the heather a head start, providing future habitat for red and black grouse, and also teaching me a tremendous amount about moorland undergrowth.

The views expressed on Patrick Laurie’s blog are the author’s and not the views of Shooting Gazette, ShootingUK, IPC Media or its employees. www.gallowayfarm.wordpress.com