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Patches on peat moorland

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Hi, first time poster here so I hope this is the right forum.

I've been wondering for a while what these patches are that are common (universal?) on peat moorland. They are clearly visible on satellite imagery, and they were emphasised greatly by the thin snow cover on my walk yesterday.

I imagine they are something to do with drainage, or heather cutting, or something like that, but I've not managed to find a definitive answer.

Does anyone here have any ideas?

Much appreciated, thanks.

 Flinticus 10 Jan 2021
In reply to sambooth74:

Burning growth on shooting estates? Look like the patches you see in Scotland.

 GPN 10 Jan 2021
 Denning76 10 Jan 2021
In reply to sambooth74:

Heather burning. Trying to avoid wandering into the minefield that is the debate about it, gamekeepers do it in patches as grouse likes to eat young heather (it grows back) and living in the old stuff.

In reply to GPN:

Yep, definitely cutting with those sharp rectangles. You can often see more rounded shapes where it has been done by burning. 

In reply to GPN:

Fab, thanks a lot!

In reply to sambooth74:

They do this near here on the heathland heathers supposedly to encourage ground nesting birds (no shooting estates near here)

 Cloughy 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Cloughy:

Are you sure? It looks more like cutting to me. Because the squares are so regular, and if you look at the full-size photo, you can see lines back and forth.

I have seen burning lots before but it doesn't usually give regular-shaped patches?

 Cloughy 10 Jan 2021
In reply to sambooth7it

Yeah it could be cutting, which is a much less damaging management option. Where is your image from? They're nice straight lines in the satellite.

But burning can give you surprisingly regular lines too: Dropped pin
Near Rosedale East Side

 robert-hutton 10 Jan 2021
In reply to sambooth74:

Large areas are cut and saved for the speeding on areas that need reseeding, burnt areas can be seen but black and very sharp branches.

In reply to Cloughy:

Ah, that's interesting, thanks. My photo is from Strines Edge looking over Derwent Moors. Photo taken approx SK 219 888 looking over to SK 212 884 sort of area.


 Cloughy 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Cloughy:

Ah just saw it is Derwent moor! If its on the National trust land it'll probably be cutting  


 GPN 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Cloughy:

Definitely cut - you can see the mowing lines in the snowy photo!

 Cloughy 10 Jan 2021
In reply to GPN:

Great stuff, I hope to see lots more of it replacing burning!

Post edited at 19:04
 Flinticus 11 Jan 2021
In reply to GPN:

Interesting. Wasn't aware that cutting was an option.  I take it will be more expensive or labour intensive than burning? 

 crayefish 11 Jan 2021
In reply to balmybaldwin:

I'm always amazed that nature needs so much management, or so we think.  Aside from removal of non-native or invasive species (which is our own clumsy doing), I do wonder how nature managed before humans started meddling ;)  Perfectly fine I imagine.

On an Earthwatch Expedition to South Africa I also learned that some land management was required to replace the historic widespread burning by native people for the last ten thousand years which is apparently beneficial for the diversity of the ecosystem.  However, what happened before those times I wonder?

I think humans just have a natural urge to meddle and feel that they're needed for life to continue.  :D

In reply to crayefish:

> I'm always amazed that nature needs so much management, or so we think.

This moorland cutting has little to do with nature - it's an intensively managed "Grouse Farm". 

 crayefish 11 Jan 2021
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

Makes sense then.  But is that the same for other areas that do the same thing?

Btw... your surname is almost identical to mine (assuming yours is double barreled too).  Made me smile

 Billhook 12 Jan 2021
In reply to sambooth74:

Other posters have said why this is done.

There are 3 ways of doing this:-

1.  Cutting using a tractor with cutting bar or quad bike with cutter  - Increasingly common

2. Cutting a perimeter  firebreak and burning the 'inside'.  Increasingly common

3.  Simple burning.  This is the most skilled and simply involves burning a bit of heather off.  To help control the spread of fire these are burned when wind conditions are favourable and are often next to the previous year's burns and they often show up as 'elongated lengths of burns with sharp ends or beginnings.  Decreasing usage.

 Billhook 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Cloughy:

If you look closely at the sat pictures you'll see the perimiter has been cut with a tractor/quad bike topper or flail to make a firebreak.

 Billhook 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Cloughy:

If you look at your photo closely you can see that the permiter of the burn is both a cut perimiter and the use of previous firebreaks to contain the fire burn.  

 Fredt 14 Jan 2021
In reply to sambooth74:

The OP has given a precise location of where this cutting activity is taking place. So, here's a couple of quiz questions for you all.

1. Who owns the land at the OP's mark?

2. Who's doing the cutting?

I know the answer to (1), and surmise its the same answer for (2)

 Mike P 15 Jan 2021

I was once asked this by the teacher with a group of 10-year-olds I was instructing out on Kinder. The conversation went something like this;

Teacher; What are those patches on the land?

Me: They are for the grouse.

(Long pause, during which I realised that the teacher had no idea what I was talking about.)

Me: You know that grouse are a valuable asset round here? (Pause, followed by evil thoughts about an impending wind-up.) Gamekeepers don't want the grouse to injure themselves and reduce their value, thus, because they have short legs and the heather is deep the birds can trip on take-off and landing so the gamekeepers create landing strips for the birds to avoid crashes.

Teacher: (With genuine interest) Really! But why are there so many and in different directions?

Me: (Getting into my flow) It's easier for birds to take off, and land, in different orientations to the wind. So the birds can choose which patch they use depending on the wind direction. (Trying very hard to keep a straight face by now).

Followed by great elaboration, verbal images painted and much fake science.

Teacher: That's very interesting, isn't it kids? (Kids pretty disinterested by birds, but much more interested by plane wreck we'd gone to look at.)

I thought no more of it except to recount it often to colleagues as an example of "townies" knowing nothing about the countryside.... Until the next year..........

Different teacher; different pupils; same school.

Teacher proceeds to inform this group all about the patches on the moor, repeating my words from the last trip as "Mr. X of class A tells me that....."

My myth had become "fact" in the school and was being taught!

Congratulations to the OP for having the sense to ask the hive mind that is UKC rather than relying of those of us who specialise in disinformation and fake news.

 Billhook 15 Jan 2021
In reply to Mike P:

Very? Slightly off the subject:-  I was once walking  along a moorland road and was stopped by an American couple who asked me what the 'round circular piles of stone and peat were.  Thinking they were referring to the many Tumuli on the moors I told them they were bronze age burial mounds, and I continued my walk where a hundred yards along the road, I came to  a row of slightly sunken circular stone grouse butts which they had also walked past as they came from that direction.  It was pretty obvious that they  had just passed these and the tumuli were rather indistinct and on the horizon!!  Oh, dear.

So somewhere there are a couple of Americans who now think that grouse butts are bronze age burial mounds. 

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