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My first year with The Heather Trust

The interview for this part-time position was held one week before the first lock-down came into being. I did not see our director, Anne Gray, in person again until August and this away-day also gave me a chance to meet most Board members and a couple of other colleagues for the first time. Everything else about my first year has been working remotely. I am fortunate enough to have two tables at home so I use one for my Heather Trust role and the other for when I work as a Botanist/Senior Ecologist. Home-working is not alien to me since I spent three years living and working remotely in the northwest Highlands when I was carrying out my research. At least I don’t have to rely on a temperamental dongle device and good weather for internet access these days.

My work on the Moorland Management Best Practice (MMBP) project for Scotland’s Moorland Forum has been through telephone calls, emails, Zoom and Skype meetings. I’m looking forward to when I can see everyone in person for the first time rather than as a postage stamp display on my computer screen. This has not been a hindrance especially as everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. The work is interesting and has involved preparing sign-posting guidance on Juniper management in the uplands, revising published information in response to Mountain Hare becoming fully protected by law, chairing Steering Group meetings and writing up minutes. I have also established a working group for taking the Muirburn Code forwards and it has been valuable hearing the perspectives of practitioners, ecologists, representatives of the Scottish Wildfire Forum and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service among others – especially with regards to wildfire risk and prevention. Trying to get the message out to all those who use burning as a form of management remains a challenge.

The Heather Trust has also been commissioned to create some peatland management guidance. This will help those land managers who have had initial bog restoration work on their property and need advice on how best to promote its on-going recovery. I have taken the lead on this project with the help of a small working group. Please get in touch if you have any photographs showing examples of recovering bog that you are willing to share. I am particularly interested in pictures showing your peatland project at least 3 years after restoration work. We are also involved with collating the incidence and impacts caused by Heather Beetle. I am lucky enough to have a volunteer looking at this information for me – to see if there are any obvious trends over numerous years of data collection. We are hoping that it might point to something that can then be tested in a more scientific experiment or at least it might encourage a more formal annual survey so that proper analysis can become possible. There are other bits and pieces that I get involved with concerning the sustainable management of moorland. This has included promoting the MMBP project at a holistic moorland management event, participation in meetings looking at the natural capital concept for managing land, providing information and advice when I can help with enquiries that come our way and trying to keep pace with new forms of moorland management, such as rewilding.

It has been an education working for The Heather Trust and I have enjoyed grappling with different approaches to managing moorland in a sustainable manner for the benefit of everyone. I have come to realise that each property is different and what management works for one area of moorland may not be appropriate elsewhere. The natural capital concept might offer a means to ensure that provisioning services on any particular Estate are kept in balance with cultural, regulating/maintenance and supporting/enabling services but this is the subject for another blog.

Dr Oliver Moore (MMBP Guidance Officer)

10th June 2021


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