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Rural Affairs minister heads to the moor

Barry Gardiner MP, the DEFRA minister for landscape and rural affairs, this week headed to Howden Moor, in the Peak District, to see for himself the pioneering heather regeneration work of Purdey Award winner Geoff Eyre.

Mr Eyre, a tenant of the National Trust in the Upper Derwent Valley, is responsible for an innovative heather seed treatment process that increases the chances of germination of heather sown on the 6,800 acres of Howden and Derwent moors. He is reseeding the area using a variety of purpose-built all-terrain vehicles, as well as helicopters in the least accessible areas. The project has resulted in a resurgence of birds, including golden plover, curlew, lapwings, merlins and short-eared owls, and significantly the reintroduction of blackgrouse ? on the day of his visit Mr Gardiner saw a blackgrouse lek at first hand.

?The Howden Moors project, the largest heather regeneration project in the country, is an inspiration,? commented Mr Gardiner, after he?d visited with keeper Glen Brown and the Countryside Alliance?s Tim Baynes. ?An overgrazed and barren site has been transformed into an impressive landscape of heather-covered moorland. It is now an area we can all enjoy and it supports a diverse array of wildlife. I am pleased to see that public money through one of DEFRA?s agri-environment schemes has been put to such good use.?