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Our uplands in 50 years’ time

I found Natural England’s new Vision for the Uplands 2060 document something of a mishmash, containing little more than contradictions.

On the one hand, it raises the spectre of drier summers and devastating fires, but I’ve yet to see the drier summers here. On the other hand, it talks about leaving blanket bog unburned to aid biodiversity. Well, sadly, the two things may not sit that easily together. If large unmanaged areas of blanket bog do catch fire during one of their dry summers, what then? The answer is that they really will have an ecological disaster on their hands, as thousands of eggs, chicks and even the insect population is burned. This is not to mention the hugely valuable resource of the peat itself, which may be damaged beyond repair in our lifetime anyway.

There is lots of stuff about the value of a vibrant rural population and all that goes with it, including the skills required to look after the countryside. Well, that is exactly what we are trying to hang on to now, and in the main, due to shooting management and the farming community, we are achieving it. It’s true that the age profile of farmers may be getting on a bit, but there are still young people coming into hill farming despite all the prophets of doom.

They say we need more trees, the right sort, of course, none of those nasty alien conifers. Again, the sporting community has been planting tens of thousands of native trees in gulleys and stream sides for a number of years now with blackgrouse in mind. Of course it would be nice to have a scattering of woodland on the upland fringe, after all it was man that chopped it all down, so why not?

It is more the manner in which this document tries to convey its message that is wrong. It is rather like a lecture from primary school; so simplistic, so ideological, and I have a feeling so out of touch with the vast majority of those who will have to put it into practice.

There’s lots about sustainable travel as well, but try getting around by bus up here. Even if transport was improved, anything more than a quick pop down the dale to the shops would require a week off. Anything more adventurous would certainly entail an overnight stop. It would take us back to a pace of life which went a good hundred years ago and, unless I am very much mistaken, is not going to return.

Whoever sat down and tried to draw this vision together has not really put themselves into the shoes of those who live here. They have not tried to make a living from the uplands. If they had, it would have read rather differently.

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