Aaaaah ̶B̶i̶s̶t̶o̶ Burning. The sweet smell of home.
The parking, traffic, fires, environmental damage and general dickheadedness all seemed to be worse in Wasdale. It’s like everything in the Peak condensed in to a small steep sided valley with one dead end road. I was greeted on Saturday morning by the sweet smell of someone boiling water on a hexamine cooker outside their £60k campervan and setting fire to the ground and the hedgerow …. all for that genuine wilderness experience.
But what i missed in Wasdale was that ‘aaaah burning’ smell which, as i sit here on Higger Tor, i can see wafting across the Dark Peak as those pillars of landscape protection known as ‘grouse moor managers’ burn the life out of acres and acres of moorland for ‘biodiversity gain’ and ‘habitat regeneration’.
Breathe in all that goodness like a good lung full of Bisto. Aaaah the sweet smell of home.
The above post on social media generated (as it always does) the usual questions around ‘why are they allowed to do this’ and ‘how is that even illegal’. The recent cool dry spell in the Dark Peak has led to the ‘right’ weather conditions for significant moorland burning which in turn has had a massive impact on the air quality of Sheffield and the Hope Valley. Similar burns have been reported in North Yorkshire. Environmental activists like Chris Packham and some political groups like Sheffield Green Party and Olivia Blake (Labour MP) have taken a robust public ‘ban the burn’ standpoint.
Burning is banned on land owned by Peak District National Park Authority (a reminder that they only actually own 5% of the land in the National Park) and also land owned by Sheffield City Council.
The situations in which a DEFRA / Natural England license to burn heather moorland are required are articulated HERE
A few resources –
THIS well written explainer page on the National Park website articulates the differences in law around peat moorland that is above and below 40cm in depth.
THIS article from the RSPB also focuses on the how and why and the impacts of burning and includes a mobile app for reporting burning.
A direct link to the RSPB burn reporting page is HERE
Where Sheffield City Council can be pressured to do something is on the impact from moorland burning that is within their City boundaries. Burns over the last few days at Strines and Moscar absolutely were. There is scope with existing air pollution laws for the City Council and also the Regional Mayoral Authority to act on this. The legal responsibilities of SCC are outlined HERE Contact information for the SCC Environmental Protection Team are HERE
The other community often impacted by burning in the Dark Peak is the Hope Valley. The Climate Action group there ( Hope Valley Climate Action) have air quality monitors recording the impact of industry, transport and burning – and have various articles like THIS on the local impact.
Things you can actually do …
• use the aforementioned tools / apps to record the location of burning – as many ‘citizen reporters’ is essential here as is the ability to acurately record the burn location
• report air quality concerns if you are impacted by moorland burning
• write to your local Councillor and MP and urge them to take action on moorland burning
• read widely around the subject and understand (but not necessarily agree with) both sides of the activity and debate – an example of the polarising nature of the issue can be read in this 2021 Guardian article
• support, amplify and promote the work of local environmental organisations and individuals in campaigning for a legally binding halt to the burning of peat moorland