Do your bit for nature and people in the Dark Peak

Posted by Tina Gardner on 09/05/2014
The Dark Peak NIA includes a dramatic landscape of upland habitats.
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Do you want to influence projects in the Dark Peak which will lead to a better place for wildlife and people? Here’s your chance to get involved in a wide range of projects such as visitor and wildlife surveys.

The Dark Peak Nature Improvement Area (NIA) covers over 25,000 hectares of National Park and beyond and includes a dramatic landscape of upland habitats.  It's one of twelve NIAs throughout England. Part-funded by government, it's a partnership project which aim to improve and link up wildlife-rich areas, as well as improve recreation opportunities in nature.  It's now entering the final year of a three year trial period.

Ross Frazer who has been project manager for the Dark Peak NIA over its first two years said: “The beauty of this initiative is that it really does take in the bigger picture. It looks at activities on a landscape-wide scale.  This means improvements don’t just stop at administrative boundaries. The funding that government has supplied recognises a step change in conservation policy.”

You may not have heard of NIAs but you may well be aware of some of the work that's being carried out. There are over 40 projects on the Dark Peak NIA agenda. Projects range in size from large scale forestry removal of the Burbage plantation to small scale meadow restoration by United Utilities at Swallows Wood.  All projects help towards the initiative’s overall objectives to improve and expand the access network and create or restore blanket bog, heathland, woodland and meadows.

How is the BMC involved?

The BMC has been consulted at a national level as well as being active at the grassroots. We are one of the ten organisations in the Dark Peak NIA partnership.

BMC members have been involved in projects such as tree removal at Curbar and Froggatt by the Peak Climbing Club, holly planting at a family event at Hollinsbank, work at Dovestone to improve access, litter picks organised by Outside and baseline visitor surveys.

BMC Peak Area access volunteer Henry Folkard is encouraging BMC members to get involved. “Volunteering can be a way to get something you care about done and influence the way it’s done.  It’s great we’re being asked to get involved so please do.

"Crucially what is being addressed by the NIA is cross boundary linkages of ways, particularly bridleways. It’s about the accessibility of access on foot, horseback or mountain bike, how you move through the landscape, enjoy it and see it. These are the things upon which you feast your eye! 

An excellent example of partnership working was the erosion reversal project on Wimble Holme Hill by the Eastern Moors Partnership.  The team restored Moss Road and reversed the drastic erosion that had occurred along this access route. The work was carried out with extensive consultation with stakeholders and resulted in a newly-designed route which met users needs spot on.  As a large proportion of the work was carried out by the volunteers themselves there was money left over to restore an adjoining bridleway. Win win!

Ongoing projects

The last year of the NIA will be spent completing all projects. Improvements continue to be made to the access network across the NIA. Ongong projects include:

1. Burbage valley makeover

With all the permissions now in place, removal of Burbage Plantation is set to start in August. This will leave just a strip of trees along the stream. Smaller plantations of mixed woodland will be created elsewhere on the estate.  Find out more.


       Burbage Plantation May 2014: Wooden markers show the route of a new track 
       which will be used to remove the felled timber.

2. North Lees woodland work and bracken spraying

Work around the North Lees Estate to establish a scrub layer in the woodlands, and to reduce the amount of bracken on the site, restoring it back to heathland.

3. Woodland creation in Saddleworth

The NIA will be working with a private landowner in the Saddleworth area creating over 40 hectares of new native woodland.

4.  Secret garden project

Thinning of birch trees above Millstone.

5. Blanket bog restoration

Large-scale blanket bog restoration will continue at Dovestone and High Peak.

6.  Monitoring and surveying projects

Surveying starts in May and results will be compared with baseline surveys. There are three types of survey: 

Visitor surveys: these will be carried out in car parks around the Sheffield Moors area of the NIA. These questionnaires will help give an understanding of who is visiting the NIA and the reasons for visiting. No specific skills are required, just enthusiasm and willingness to engage with people to complete the surveys. They are looking for volunteers who enjoy talking to a range of people and do not mind being outside in all weather.

Woodland bird surveys: these will be conducted at a number of sites throughout the NIA. All volunteers would need a sound knowledge of woodland birds.

Grassland surveys: these will be carried out on all our grassland restoration areas. Volunteers are needed who have knowledge of grassland species, although some training would be made available.

Are you a budding volunteer? 

Anyone interested in volunteering for the monitoring projects mentioned above should contact Sarah Proctor, NIA Monitoring Manager on sarah.proctor@peakdistrict.gov.uk

If you're keen to help out with another project, please contact Rob Dyer, BMC Access Officer at robd@thebmc.co.uk. He’ll direct you to the correct partner organisation for the project you’re interested in so you can register as a volunteer wit them. 

The Dark Peak NIA is a partnership of ten varied organisations with a strong track record of delivery for people and wildlife - namely, the RSPB, Sheffield City Council, Moors for the Future, United Utilities, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Peak District National Park Authority, British Mountaineering Council, National Trust, National Trust Marsden and Natural England.



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