Friday, 16 December 2016

Storm Angus

The UK was battered by rain and high winds in November this year as a storm named 'Angus' made an appearance.

Angus hit the south of England during the 19th and 20th of November, but it wasn't until the day after when the heavy rains had moved north and reached the Peak District and South Pennines, that we were able to record the storm.

This blog post looks at how the equipment installed on our Community Science environmental monitoring sites reacted to this event. 

Volunteers collect information from these sites each month, and use the same equipment and methods as Moors for the Future science team do on other sites where conservation works have taken place. In this case though, we're interested in capturing long-term climate datasets on sites where conservation works haven't taken place.

The bar chart below shows how much rain fell on each of our five sites over four days:

Click on the image to see a larger version
Marsden had the most consistent rainfall with 71.2 mm recorded across the four days. Despite Holme only recording rainfall on the second couple of days of the storm (21st and 22nd), it received the second highest amount, with 73 mm in total. The Roaches had 45.6 mm over the four days and Edale had a surprisingly small 33.6 mm. Out in front was Burbage Moor, which recorded a total of 78mm over the 4 days, with nearly 70% of this falling on Monday 21st.

So how did all this water behave once it reached the ground? The line graph below shows how the water table on the sites changed over the days around the storm. The 'zero' mark on the left hand axis represents ground level, and each line shows how close to the surface the water was (in metres) over the four days of the 'official' storm, and a couple of days afterwards.

Click on the image to see a larger version

We can't be certain what is happening here, but from a quick look at the graph we could surmise that despite having less rainfall than the other sites the water table at Edale (the driest of the sites) increased the most, jumping up by around 10 cm, before rapidly decreasing again as water drained away. 

The Roaches water table also had a sharp increase, however as the water on the site is consistently close to the surface, it only increased to around ground level - but then seemed to stay there, possibly because the site has plenty of Sphagnum moss, and clay underlying the peat layer. 

On the Holme site the water was also already close to the surface, and despite having very high rainfall, the water table didn’t change dramatically, or as quickly. 

Marsden did show an increase in water table - but it was gradual and the new higher level was maintained in the days after the storm event. The site is very flat and also contains Sphagnum moss among its vegetation, which could perhaps help to explain this pattern. 

The site which had the most rainfall (Burbage) also showed a small response - the water was almost at surface level; and you can see it even exceeds zero, forming a puddle! This is another very flat site and does have some Sphagnum moss present. 

The complexity of  hydrological data - taking into account the many variables which can affect the way water behaves on a site - means that we cannot draw any firm conclusions just yet. However, our volunteers will be analysing our environmental data in more depth in the near future...

Graphs and text by volunteer Mollie Hunt, and the CSP team....

Monday, 5 December 2016

A volunteer view

Guest blog post by Community Science volunteer Mollie:

I've been volunteering with Moors for the Future for the last few months and it's been a fantastic experience. 

I've learnt a lot about the flora and fauna of moorland environments and got the opportunity to explore different places across the Peak District/South Pennines.

Since the middle of September I have been taking part in the dipwell campaign. The purpose of this is to measure the water table level across different sites in the South Pennines on the same day every week for twelve weeks. There are over ten areas to cover with 2 to 3 volunteers or staff members each so it's a fairly big operation. 

For our group of volunteers we've had the responsibility of monitoring five patches across the Kinder Scout Plateau. As someone who's only ever been up and down a small part of Kinder it has been an amazing opportunity to explore the landscape up there and see it change as we've gone from September through to December.

Kinder river - our favourite spot for a lunch break

We've seen ring ouzel, kestrels, a mountain hare, lots of grouse, flocks of redwing and field fares and one of my favourites, a snipe. 

It's going to be really interesting to see what the data shows about how well water is retained across different sites, as many of them have restoration works happening nearby. Taking part in the dipwell campaign has been a great way to get involved and didn't need any previous experience. I'm hoping to also take part next year to see how the sites are continuing to change and hopefully spot some more wildlife!

You see all kinds of weather on the dipwell campaign!

If you'd like to volunteer with Moors for the Future take a look at our volunteering page:

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A celebration of the rowan tree

For National Tree Week, Community Science project officer Tom Aspinall has written a blog to celebrate the rowan...

Every time I see a rowan tree my love for them grows! They truly are one of the most stunning trees that we have in Great Britain.

There’s also so much to learn about them beyond their obvious aesthetic beauty...

Of all the trees growing in our country, the rowan is the one able to grow at the highest altitudes. This explains one half of its other common name – the mountain ash. You can walk in the mountains of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales and find rowan trees growing in the most obscure places such as rocky outcrops and cliff faces – they really are a hardy tree. However, they are a pioneer species and as a result are short-lived and often relatively small, usually reaching a maximum height of 10-15 metres.

The second half of the other common name comes from the close resemblance of their leaves to those of the ash tree. This is another of our stunning native species, but one which favours lower lands than the rowan. The leaves of both these species are compound and pinnate, meaning they are made up of several leaflets in pairs along the main leaf stem with one at the tip, as can be seen in the image of a rowan leaf below.

Whilst these leaves are distinctive, it is the beautiful clusters of small cream flowers that then turn to scarlet red berries that really make the rowan stand out from the crowd. The flowers are a great source of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects such as bumblebees, and the berries are a valuable source of food for many species of birds including thrushes and waxwings. There is no greater sight than seeing a flock of waxwings feeding on the berries of a rowan tree in late autumn.

Illustration (c) Chris Shields

 Ecologically, the rowan is a very important tree in our countryside - but it also has strong cultural significance - in no small part due to the vivid red colouration of those berries. The colour red has long been thought of as the colour to ward off evil and so rowan trees were once planted near houses to keep evil spirits away. Its Celtic name – ‘fid na ndruad' – means ‘wizard’s tree’.

Names can tell us many things, and with all species of animals and plants it’s worth trying to learn and understand the scientific name to gain further insight into the history of a species. Rowan’s scientific name is Sorbus aucuparia with ‘aucuparia’ being derived from the words ‘avis’ for birds and ‘capere’ for catching, describing the use of rowan trees as bait to lure in birds to be caught.

The rowan is one of four plants associated with the uplands that volunteers have been monitoring as part of our ‘Buds, Berries and Leaves’ survey. This survey records the timing of natural events (such as bud burst, flowering, fruiting and leaf fall) over the long term, to see if they are changing.

In this way we hope to be able to monitor the effects of climate change on the vegetation of the uplands. If you’re interested in contributing to important climate change data by walking a regular route and recording what you see, then please have a look on our website for more details:

I hope you’ll agree that rowan truly is a jewel of our countryside and definitely a tree worth appreciating.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Top tips for entering our photography competition

Here are 6 top tips for those thinking of entering our 'Water in the Uplands' photo competition:

1.  Slow the flow

Reduce your camera’s shutter speed to catch the dreamy effect of water in flow. 

A tripod is a handy piece of kit to keep your camera steady, but alternatively use a small bean bag or even a folded up jumper to sit your camera on. 

Use the self-timer function so you can go hands free, ensuring the camera doesn’t move while it’s recording the shot.

2. Beauty in the details

Look more closely at water and you’ll be amazed by some of the little details to be found.

Capture bubbles below a waterfall, reflections in puddles and get really close to discover the world of water droplets.

3. Water in the landscape

Consider the wider landscape and make water a part of the bigger picture.

Think how it has shaped its surroundings whether naturally or by the addition of man-made structures like bridges and weirs.

4. Go abstract

There’s so much potential for creating abstract images of water.

Create patterns from a flowing waterfall or focus on ripples in a calm pool.

5.  Winter wonderland

Winter is a great time to photograph water as the cold takes hold to create ice and snow.

Get out early after a cold night and capture incredible ice formations clinging to plants and rocks.

Alternatively take a break from sledging after a big snowfall and capture incredible winter scenery.

6.  Life giving water

There are many plant and animal species that rely on the habitats provided by the water in our uplands.

Capture beautiful creatures in their watery homes or look at plants like Sphagnum mosses that keep our blanket bogs saturated.

Tom Aspinall

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Autumn cloud inversions

Autumn is a fantastic time of year to witness some stunning scenery and landscapes - and perhaps one of the very best sights is a cloud inversion:

Above is the view of Edale valley from Mam Nick yesterday. Inversions like this need specific conditions to form. They are most likely to be seen in early morning when a layer of saturated cold air becomes trapped underneath a layer of warmer air higher up the valley sides.

The inversion was still visible from Kinder Scout later yesterday morning as Community Science volunteers headed to the Environmental Monitoring site:

Looking back towards Edale - Rob Westrick

Remnants of cloud still visible in Edale from higher up the hill - Rob Westrick
From the plateau cloud could be seen still clinging to the Hope Valley in the middle distance; while the crystal clear upper layers of air allowed a stunning view for miles:

View from Kinder - Richard Walker

Monday, 17 October 2016

Photo competition 2016 - 'Water in the Uplands'

We're very happy to announce that this year's Community Science photo competition is now open for entries.

The theme for entries this year is 'WATER IN THE UPLANDS'  - intended in part to draw attention to the wide-ranging positive effects of re-wetting blanket bogs. As ever you are free to interpret this theme as you see fit - using as much creativity and imagination as possible!

This year there are age-based categories for photographers to enter - 'Adults' or '15 and under', and we have kindly been donated some fantastic prizes:

The winner of the adults category will win this amazing HD nest box camera system worth £99 - donated by Gardenature.

The winner of the 15 and under category will win this (appropriately) waterproof camera worth £130 donated by Harrison Cameras.
The deadline for entries is 31st Dec 2016. For full details of how to enter, please see our webpage. Good luck!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A journey bee-yond bee-lief

Blog post by Tom Aspinall:

The morning after a long day of field work at the Roaches in the south-west Peak District it dawned on me that upon arriving home in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire the evening before, I had not unpacked my rucksack.

I got to work removing my lunch box and the tools I’d been using only to hear a very strange sound emanating from the bottom of my bag.

At first I thought it may be air escaping from my half-drunk flask of tea but removing that did not stop the noise. Deciding something must have made a temporary home in my bag I took it outside and with trepidation emptied the contents on to the ground. To my surprise out popped a beautiful, fresh-looking, queen, white-tailed bumblebee!

Having travelled nearly 40 miles in my bag the previous day I imagined the poor bee was hungry and as she seemed unable to fly I fed her up on some sugar water which she seemed to enjoy as you can see in the video below.


After she’d eaten I placed her on an open flower so that she could warm up and hopefully get some sweet nectar inside her. Unfortunately the weather had different ideas and the torrential downpour that followed forced me to move the lethargic insect to a sheltered spot underneath some winter heather.

Bumblebee on the step - close to death
The following afternoon I thought I should check on my garden guest. Disappointment followed as I found that she hadn’t moved an inch and didn’t look any more active than before. I again moved to her into the sun on the open cosmos flower so she could warm up and eat. She had other ideas and after a couple of hours I found her on the garden step looking close to death.

One final attempt to rejuvenate her was needed so with garden gloves on I lifted her up and put her on the flower head of a nearby lavender plant. 

She quickly started lapping up nectar from the tiny flowers and once all were exhausted her little legs were waving at me to help her to the next one. I repeated this several times and while her energy looked to be increasing she still didn’t seem able to fly.

With hope dwindling my partner then had the great idea of pulling the lavender flowers together and trapping them against one another to form a network of bridges so that I could have a rest and the bee could make her own way between the flowers. This was the move that made all the difference! 

Just a few minutes later, to our astonishment, the bee lifted into the air and buzzed away. Her four day ordeal and epic journey had not, as I had feared, been the end of her and I like to think she’s now found a safe hole nearby to hibernate for winter so that she can visit us again next spring.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Bleaklow timelapse sequence

These fixed point photos, taken over the last 13 years, show the return of vegetation to Hern Clough on Bleaklow, Derbyshire - one of the sites where Moors for the Future Partnership have carried out conservation works:
2003 - the site is largely bare peat and exposed mineral soil  
2005 - after initial treatment with heather brash, lime, seed and fertilizer the grass 'nurse crop' is in evidence. Note the empty brash bags awaiting removal.

2008 - repeat treatments have allowed the nurse crop to become established, knitting the peat surface together.

2010 - the nurse grasses have almost completely covered the bare peat, and there is evidence of other plants becoming established.

2013 - the area of exposed mineral soil is noticeably reduced and there are signs of dwarf shrubs like heather growing.

2016 - the dwarf shrub coverage has increased as can be seen by this heather in flower.
Watch a video of the re-vegetation so far...

Friday, 12 August 2016

From Black Hill to Green Hill

Guest blog post by Gordon Hallas
Alfred Wainwright wrote “Black Hill is well named”. What would he say today?
These photos were taken between 1976 and 2016, demonstrating the changes Black Hill has undergone, starting with this photo taken on a summer’s day in 1976.


Holme was warm but our 3 children thought the breeze on Black Hill was chilly. We had visited the Holme Peat Pit (beyond the end of Issues Road) and were on our way to the wreck of a crashed Sabre aircraft. As seen in the photo the bare peat was dry and dusty and the streams running off Holme Moss were dark brown.
In the following years we saw test areas where pine branches, to be superseded later by geotextiles, had been spread on the bare peat slopes in attempts to slow the erosion.
Another summer many years later in 2000 we saw the work continue. We sat, with 2 grandchildren, on Holme Moss watching the helicopter transporting flagstones. A path was being laid across the ever widening black morass of the track from Laddow Rocks.
In June 2003, the new flagstone path through the re-vegetated moor made the Saturday morning walk from Crowden easier but our now grown-up children were surprised at the appearance of the cairn built round the trig point. Now revealing its base, the depth of peat lost from Black Hill was clearly visible.

Just six years later in 2009, following the spraying of pelleted seed across the moor, Black Hill was a green lawn. ‘Desecration!’ said a scouting friend; he was more accepting of the change when the moorland grasses later took hold and the vegetation was as before the Industrial Revolution.
Last year from the summit of West Nab, we watched the helicopter spraying its pellets on Wessenden Moor, showing the work goes on.
This June we went with our younger son and his sons to look at the Swordfish plane wreck and then to the trig point at Black Hill, what a contrast!


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Bumblee Survey - Edale Transect 1

Guest blog post by Community Science work experience student Izzy:
Today, I participated in the monthly bumblebee survey on Edale Transect 1. This transect is split into ten different sections, starting partially up the path (SK 12168 6552) that leads along Grindsbrook Clough at the north end of Edale, and continuing for just over a kilometre to SK 11438 87250.
The view along Grindsbrook Clough
The rules for the transect are relatively simple – you keep an eye out for any bumblebees that are within a two-metre radius from the centre of the path, and are less than four metres in front of you, forming a four-metre by four-metre ‘box’. Any bees that fly through the box are also valid, as long as they are under two metres from the ground. These measurements are to ensure that the survey is accurate every month, as surveyors will be looking for bees in the same places.  

You then need to keep a tally the different species of bees for each section of the transect.  This time, we saw a grand total of 59 bumblebees, of 5 different species – bilberry, heath, early, tree, and white-tailed.

Although the bees were very lethargic (perhaps because of the cloudy weather?), we saw twenty-four bilberry bumblebees, which was great; this species is one of the bees that Moors for the Future is focussing on, as they are good indicators for climate change.
A male bilberry bumblebee
Luckily, bilberry bumblebees are quite easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for – their distinctive fiery red tails stand out amongst the moorland plants.

These are a few other bee photos that I took during the transect:
Heath bumblebee
Heath bumblebee

White- or buff-tailed bumblebee

We saw a few bird species as well, including a grey wagtail, some stonechats, and a curlew!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Work experience with Community Science

Guest blog post by Community Science work experience student Izzy:

Hello, I’m Izzy, and this week I’m joining Moors for the Future’s Community Science Project for work experience . Since 2013, I’ve been really into wildlife and nature photography and have kept a photography blog (; I hope to photograph some of the species and landscape in and around Edale this week.

Here are a couple of common frogs in my family’s garden pond. By March, Britain’s ponds are alive with these famous amphibians, and, if you can get close enough, they’re rather photogenic!

Blue tits are another common species in British gardens, and are active all year round. I took this photo during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch last year, using a tripod and camera remote - most garden birds can be shy and are relatively  difficult to get close too.


The lynx, however, isn’t an animal that you’re likely to spot in your back garden. This elusive mammal became extinct in most parts of Western Europe after the destruction of habitats and thousands of years of persecution. The last of the British lynx disappeared around the year 700, although the Lynx UK Trust is currently doing research to reintroduce them to the British Isles. This lynx was seen at Nordens Ark in Sweden.

Here are a few more of my favourite photos:
Caterpillar in Sweden
Mute swan in the Somerset Levels

Thursday, 16 June 2016

What can a bird nest from 1934 tell us?

Twite nest from 1934
This bird nest is remarkable - it can tell us something fascinating about the history of the landscape from which it was taken.

It was built by a bird called a twite - a small finch which breeds on moorlands. Twite are now in serious decline - numbers have dropped by 90% since the 1990s. This is partly because of the loss of hay meadows which provide food - and the decrease in older heather stands for nesting.

The twite - Linaria flavirostris
The twite is almost unique - it is one of only two British bird species which feeds its young entirely on seeds - hence why hay meadows are so important for its breeding success.

What's so interesting about the nest in the photo? 

You may have noticed that it looks black in colour. This is not because it has deteriorated over the 80 years since it was collected - it was like this when it was taken from Saddleworth Moor in 1934.

The dark appearance is caused by a layer of greasy soot deposited from the atmosphere onto the grasses - from which the twite built its nest. This is an incredible window into the past - showing the widespread effects of pollution from the coal-burning heavy industries on the surrounding landscape - something which it is hard to imagine today.

It has been illegal to take the eggs of wild birds since 1954 - but egg collectors of the day reported that they would return from a day on the moor with their trousers blackened to the knee by this layer of soot.

Many thanks to Gallery Oldham for providing the photo and details of the nest - just one exhibit from their extensive natural history collection.

Visit the Gallery Oldham website or facebook page.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Wildlife photos from Crisis event - part 2

Last Friday was the second 'Creative Conservation' Community Science event with Crisis members from Sheffield. Member Steve Smith has shared this set of cracking wildlife shots he took on the day:
One of the highlights of the day was a close encounter with this roe buck near Longshaw estate

Another shot, as the roe deer makes a hasty exit...

A beautiful reed bunting seen singing in a patch of soft rush
Just one of the hundreds of millipedes all making their way along the path in Burbage Valley

A stunning meadow pipit; in a classic pose!