/ Bracken in Lake District

Dave Cumberland - on 13 Aug 2017
Dear All, if you are climbing, walking, wandering, please take a stick and bash bracken as you go.
Otherwise we are losing access to many places. We can see, and the farmers will tell you that under the watch of the National Park Authority they have sleep-walked into an environmental disaster that will now curse us for generations. Bracken is a highly invasive plant and spreads to shade out other, rarer plants. It is spreading rapidly due to 20 years of cool damp summers and due to mismanagement. It never used to be a problem when it was controlled. It is toxic to almost everything, carcinogenic, displaces all indigenous flowers and grasses, full of ticks at this time of year. Every little helps however. We can do our bit. 27 quangos "run" the Lake District and we end up with this effing disaster that the farmers would never have let happen.
DC
Trangia on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

Controlled burning?
Tyler - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
How was it previously controlled and why was it stopped?
Post edited at 14:32
summo on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Tyler:
> How was it previously controlled and why was it stopped?

Needs to be cut, ideally twice in a summer, for 3 years and you can take the energy out of the root system. Spraying needs special chemicals due to the waxy coating on the leaves. It spreads both under and over ground, a relatively well adapted plant that's been around a very long time.

Many moons ago farmers would cut it, let it dry and use as animal bedding, but with even a farm of several hundred hectares of hillside only providing a living for 1 person those days are long gone, farmers simply don't have time to even consider it. Cattle are a little better than sheep as they trample it, but that only clears paths each season, no livestock will eat it.

In reality it's a losing battle, it's a forest plant from an era when the hillsides were forested, in open habitat it thrives. The odd beating with a stick won't deter it, letters to NPs, MP etc would be more productive long term.
Post edited at 14:53
Jon Stewart - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

I've seen spraying done at stanage in the past. Looks like an incredibly expensive business, can't see how this would be possible in the lakes. I'm interested to know what hitting it with a stick would achieve, except for emotional expression
Doug on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to summo:

There is some evidence that it was less frequent in the past when the hills were grazed by cattle rather than sheep. But once established its difficult to get under control. Cutting &/or chemical treatment work but need to be repeated - fine for a small area but not for the large areas involved. Its not just a UK problem as some areas of France are now getting overrun with bracken, again probably due to changes in grazing
duchessofmalfi - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Doug:

I understood ponies are supposed to be a good control - they trampled the bracken allowing competitor plants to gain a foothold. I think they've been introduced in parts of wales for this reason (but for the life of me I can't remember where so I could have simply imagined this all up)...
summo on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Doug:

If the parks wanted to go the chemical root, this is what was used years ago. Looks like there is a temporary ban lift. https://www.pitchcare.com/shop/professional-selective-weed-killers-for-bracken/asulox-herbicide.html it was used for years, as it's very bracken specific, it won't kill grasses etc.. unlike any of the glycophosphate based sprays.

I'd rather see the park pay people to physically deal with it, cutting or rolling etc..
Doug on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to summo:

Also kills other ferns from memory. Think I read that it may come back on the list of EU approved herbicides in 2018, although with Brexit I guess the EU controls will mean little.

Like you, I'd rather the park paid for mechanical treatment rather than using chemicals which often have unforeseen consequences.
mrphilipoldham - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

Spraying was being done below Upper Tor on Kinder the other day. Looks like they'd done quite a lot previously too.
Dave Cumberland - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to summo:

Carrying a stick and beating it won't sort out a whole fellside, but it may well keep the path free and free from ticks.
DC
MFB - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

How was it previously controlled, I remember getting kid's on outdoor ed bashing braken with a stick on way to sticklebarn crag years ago, braken still looks ropey were we went, kids loved it, they may have had the odd swipe at each other when they got bored, happy days
summo on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

> Carrying a stick and beating it won't sort out a whole fellside, but it may well keep the path free and free from ticks.

Of course. I was thinking of a longer term solution. Using a long handled sickle as you walk along, in early June, would work wonders and I doubt anyone would complain.
Dave Cumberland - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to summo:

> Of course. I was thinking of a longer term solution. Using a long handled sickle as you walk along, in early June, would work wonders and I doubt anyone would complain.

Complain?! F_ck 'em!
We recognise the issue better than most (apart from the farmers).
We should take the initiative and deal with it.
Agree if we all carried scythes things would be better near the crags and paths etc.

On a more positive note - what a fantastic day for climbing, what a relief when we get some warmth and the rain stops!
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SenzuBean - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
FYI in case it's not known by all - the cancer risk from bracken is not thought to be an 'acedemic risk' - it actually seems to be causing real harm to folks (tl;dr - the gastric cancer rate in North wales is much higher than elsewhere, and the only explanation as far as I know is bracken releasing PTQ into the water supply: http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC1971588/pdf/brjcancer00225-0093.pdf
Post edited at 23:05
veteye on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to SenzuBean:

In Scotland and to a lesser extent elsewhere, the cattle grazing bracken, get the co-carcinogen effect associated with having papilloma viruses(13 types in cattle last time I was a student) and subsequently develop upper alimentary tract carcinoma. So there could be something similar in humans.
Jim C - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
Far less of a problem than possibly a valuable overlooked resource .
https://www.brackenburn.co.uk/

It is also being used mixed with surplus wool, to make a very good compost.

So maybe the farmers will be encouraging it ( in areas where it can be harvested at least)
Post edited at 04:26
ian caton on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

Get used to it. You won't stop bracken.
MFB - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to ian caton:

Stops dead at 400m
leland stamper on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Jim C:

Down here on the Mendip bracken is cut on a yearly basis and baled for "Brackettes" production. Sold at the same price as logs. It is changing the environment , obviously, from one of encroaching woodland, with the reduction of grazing sheep, but there is no obvious destruction of the soil which Mendip is currently suffering fron walkers and more disastrously from quarrying.
Trangia on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to leland stamper:

> Down here on the Mendip

I noticed you said the Mendip, not the Mendips.

Is that like the Peak and the Peaks?

To the OP - sorry for the hijack

toad - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
it's rhizominous- technically an area is one big plant with lots of genetically identical shoots. This limits the effectiveness of cutting and its variants, like rolling, and means that small scale interventions have no real impact, as the plant just regrow with no long term impact. It was thought repeated rolling would deplete the nutrient store, certainly in sherwood it was widely practiced, but I think that idea was wishful thinking and an incomplete understanding of the plant. These days spraying is preferred.

A physical barrier, like plastic piling can limit the spread by blocking the roots, but the only partially effective technique is spraying with Azusulam / azulox which has an environmental cost. Decades of overgrazing, together with draining and burning have caused a dramatic increase in bracken in the Peak District and other areas managed for grouse, as it rapidly colonises the burned areas, aspecially on steep slopes where the burn has been very hot and led to local soil losses.

The bracken will then spread out into adjacent areas, particularly those areas which had high sheep densities ( this situation is improving, if slowly, with changed to subsidy regimes and a greater awareness of overgrazing). It's also a problem on commons in the lakes and places like the Shropshire hills where the graziers have less incentive to support long term sustainable land management ( a literal example of the tragedy of the commons!)

The toxicity is a constant problem when looking at management alternatives. Whilst some animals will flatten or even eat it, the toxins will harm even resistant animals in the long term and there are also concerns about bioaccumulation ,both in the animal and the environment. It is of course dangerous to walkers when spores are being release later in the summer from breathing them in, which makes manual management by volunteers recommended in the op potentially risky, which means it's tricky for landowners and official bodies like the NT to officially sanction the practice.

And of course it is supremely well adapted to take advantage of a changing climate
Post edited at 08:57
Trangia on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to toad:

Is it toxic to goats? I've heard they can and will eat pretty well anything.
toad - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Trangia:
Yes, but then it's poisonous to the Japanese and the Koreans, and they eat it as well!
Dave Cumberland - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to toad:
> . Decades of overgrazing, together with draining and burning have caused a dramatic increase in bracken .. and other areas managed for grouse, as it rapidly colonises the burned areas, aspecially on steep slopes where the burn has been very hot and led to local soil losses.
> The bracken will then spread out into adjacent areas, particularly those areas which had high sheep densities ( this situation is improving, if slowly, with changed to subsidy regimes and a greater awareness of overgrazing).
> And of course it is supremely well adapted to take advantage of a changing climate

The over-grazing has been over-emphasised - Lake District was prettier and in better heart in 1953 than it is now despite the rise of the quango managers, that's why it was made a NP in 1953. Grouse shooting in general has a beneficial effect on wildlife and the environment if you put away political prejudice.
As for a changing climate - weather records from Newton Rigg show no change to our climate in 60 years, except anecdotally, we know the summers are cooler than they were 30-40 years ago. Natural variability has always been there since the ice age. This inter-glacial is currently the coolest of the previous four inter-glacials.

The Lake District is a managed landscape - garbage in, garbage out, good management in - good landscape out. Simple as that. The NPA has a lot to answer for.
DC
Dave Cumberland - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to ian caton:

> Get used to it. You won't stop bracken.

That's the point of my post - you can - see reply to toad below
toad - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland: I'm sorry, but you are wrong on pretty much every aspect of your argument, but as it's so close to the glorious 12th, and I've spent so long trying to objectively monitor grouse moors, let's pick on that one. The political prejudice is a problem with the moorland owners and managers. I've yet to hear a cogent scientific argument from the moorland association that hasn't been qualified by a sense of "we know best" rather than evidence. If we put aside the heated debates around hen harriers ( and it isn't really a debate, so much as an ongoing criminal investigation), I did a whole series of quadrants recently on one of the best areas of the Peak grouse moor. It had a species list I could measure on my fingers and no sign of any of the species you'd expect to see on a "proper"blanket peat upland. It had a lot of grouse, and to be fair a number of golden plover, but that was it. Evidence of hare, and despite a reduced grazing regime, still signs of hard grazing on species like bilberry.

Everywhere there had been historic over burning, there was bracken, and it was spreading into better areas. There has been a lot of good work by the NT and others to improve the drainage situation ( by blocking it up) and by trying to revegetate the bare peat areas,but we know Severn Trent will still have to spend a lot on removal of the colour caused by carbon bleeding out of the degraded peat.




As it happens, I used Newton Rigg met. data when I was a post graduate. I'm guessing we are both too old to have to worry about the effects of climate change first hand, so that's just fine.

Jim Hamilton - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to toad:


> The bracken will then spread out into adjacent areas, particularly those areas which had high sheep densities ( this situation is improving, if slowly, with changed to subsidy regimes and a greater awareness of overgrazing).

Is it possible for sheep to graze at a level that keeps bracken down but without "over"grazing?

Speaking to a Cumbrian farmer (land possibly not within the NP boundary) several years ago, he was amused that he was paid to stop his sheep grazing, and then paid again to put sheep back on when the bracken took over.


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Dave Hewitt - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Trangia:

> Is it toxic to goats? I've heard they can and will eat pretty well anything.

Re goats and a similar problem, I have a friend (now aged 80) who was brought up in Blairlogie, beneath the steep southern slope of Dumyat. This slope now has large areas under near-impenetrable gorse which reduces the route options, but my friend says that when he was a boy most of the people in the village clubbed together to pay a man who tended the goats that roamed the slope above - and provided milk, butter etc. The goats also nibbled any young gorse plants and they never took hold. At some stage - this is a long time ago, well before I can remember it - the goats and the goatherd went, and the gorse began to spread.
toad - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Jim Hamilton:
That's a good question. That I can't answer! Probably, but there's a lot of debate around "conservation" grazing and what constitutes best practice

Doug on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to toad:

I've no idea how many quadrats (mostly 2m x 2m) I recorded for the former Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, but excluding arable fields, grouse moors were always amongst the least species diverse, I think my all time low was 2 species, heather plus one moss (can't remember which now) and as you say, around 5 to 10 was typical. Elsewhere something like 20plus was more normal (with up to 50 in some grasslands).

But David Cumberland has a long history of ecologically dubious posts
Dave Cumberland - on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to toad:

> I'm sorry, but you are wrong on pretty much every aspect of your argument,
> As it happens, I used Newton Rigg met. data when I was a post graduate. I'm guessing we are both too old to have to worry about the effects of climate change first hand, so that's just fine.

I appreciate your experience. I can see you are pretty knowledgeable about these matters but I think there is a big difference between the Lakes and the Peak District where you researched so perhaps you were in a particularly badly affected area.

The natural variability of climate will continue regardless, agree the time scale is millennia and whatever we perceive in a human generation or lifetime is highly unrepresentative!
DC
summo on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Trangia:

> Is it toxic to goats? I've heard they can and will eat pretty well anything.

Bit of urban myth I believe, they taste everything, before deciding if they'll eat it.
leland stamper on 14 Aug 2017
In reply to Trangia:

Just a turn of phrase. Usually "the Mendip Hills", but can be Mendip or the Mendip or as you say "the Mendips". Not something to start endless threads over.
On the other hand brackettes are great.
pasbury on 15 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

> The natural variability of climate will continue regardless, agree the time scale is millennia and whatever we perceive in a human generation or lifetime is highly unrepresentative!

Of course weather is variable and climate changes slowly - which is why the speed of changes now being recorded by many measurements and proxies is so worrying - please take your head out of the sand.

As to the bracken - how does it react to re-establishment of woodland? I used to volunteer for the BTCV based at Brockhole. One of our regular tasks was bracken bashing but it did seem rather futile.
summo on 15 Aug 2017
In reply to pasbury:

The bracken in question will struggle with semi shade, it's chiefly a woodland clearing plant. It evolved to capitalise quickly as some trees blew down or died, dominating the ground before anything else could.

There are many species though, some will happily sit in a corner and bother no one, barely spreading at all.
Dave Cumberland - on 15 Aug 2017
In reply to pasbury:

No insults please - look at the data, it may not confirm your prejudices. If you still believe like some others on this site that the hockey stick curve and the 97% statement (both of which have been withdrawn and comprehensively disproved) are valid, it is your head that is much deeper in the sand. The models aren't predicting anything actual.
MG - on 15 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
> No insults please - look at the data, it may not confirm your prejudices.

It's a bit rich you asking for no insults when you routinely refer sneeringly to "warmists" and such like. Anyway, which data do you want people to look at? There is summary in the opening section here that clearly shows dramatic warming and links to various primary data sources. It also shows that nothing has been "comprehensively disproved" but that there have been some corrections of minor statistical errors in the original curve - the warming is there, whether you like it or not.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_graph
Post edited at 09:22
taddersandbadger - on 15 Aug 2017
In reply to summo:
And they (goats) tend to eat EVERYTHING else too! So all the more tasty, delicate indigenous plants would be eaten first, making way for more Bracken
Post edited at 09:24
Dave Cumberland - on 23:18 Tue
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

> Dear All, if you are climbing, walking, wandering, please take a stick and bash bracken as you go.

Just a reminder everyone coming up to a bank holiday weekend.
Putting the politics and climate arguments to one side - every little bit helps with a bracken-bashing stick wherever you roam.
DC

Jim C - on 23:34 Tue
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
I watched a prog recently that said that they had recently discovered a range of volcanos,previously unknown,under ice sheets, they don't know if they are active or dormant, but what a shock it would be if the melting/ warming that has been reported, has actually been caused by natural hidden volcanic action.
Time will tell I guess.
Post edited at 23:35
Jim C - on 23:40 Tue
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

> Just a reminder everyone coming up to a bank holiday weekend.

> Putting the politics and climate arguments to one side - every little bit helps with a bracken-bashing stick wherever you roam.

> DC

Unless of course it is a cash crop for local farmers growing it for biofuel or for compost as mentioned above. I guess if it is on very steep inaccessible ground it is unlikely to be harvested and safe to beat it.
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I like climbing - on 00:07 Wed
In reply to Jim C:

Rolling Stone of all mags published a piece on global warming in the nineties which said that if one of the poles was covered in volcanic ash the ice sheets would grow and global warming would be reversed. Unhelpfully I can't remember the scientific source this came from but I wonder if this would happen if one of those volcanoes went off.
summo on 05:53 Wed
In reply to Jim C:

> I watched a prog recently that said that they had recently discovered a range of volcanos,previously unknown,under ice sheets, they don't know if they are active or dormant, but what a shock it would be if the melting/ warming that has been reported, has actually been caused by natural hidden volcanic action.
> Time will tell I guess.

I don't think any article on the volcanoes even hinted they were secretly erupting, so time has already told.

What they did say was if they were to erupt in a major way it would be very bad and cause a more rapid rise in sea levels.

It's just another excuse for deniers to find something else to blame and carry on mass polluting.
Wainers44 - on 07:11 Wed
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

Bash bracken with one hand (not a euphemism) and pick sloes and blackberries with the other!