Help needed to protect moorland ahead of Tour de France

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As the Tour de France Grand Départ approaches, the police and Natural England are urging residents to take care of the moorland around in Calderdale and Kirklees.

Much of the moorland in Calderdale and Kirklees is SSSI (site of Special Scientific Interest) or SPA (Special Protection Area) with areas close to the residents of Calderdale regularly suffering moorland fires.

Attempts were made to light Soyland Moor over Easter weekend this year alone and also at Warland Todmorden.

PC Fiona Igo of Calderdale Police, said: “We would like to make sure that our lovely moors do not suffer from accidental or deliberate fires, which is particularly important during the Tour de France period.

“Many of you will remember the awful fires of last year. These fires are set deliberately or are caused by carelessness.

“These wide open moorland habitats on our doorstep are important for many reasons, the breeding birds they support, as well as the semi-natural habitats which exist on them. The blanket bog habitats are of particular interest, as globally they are a very scarce habitat and Britain processes a high percentage of their international coverage. The moorlands are not just important for their wild life, they are extremely important for the carbon which they contain and remove from the atmosphere and the majority of the countries drinking water comes from the uplands.

“Healthy moorland can support a longer season of grazing for stock and a much wider variety of bird and plant species. Much of our moorland is now grass, due to the fires of the past.

“Burning grass moorland only produces more grass, which provides only short term grazing of three to four months.

“Some areas of heather moor are burnt to diversify the structure of heather for birds; this is a completely different practice and only takes place outside the bird breeding season – before April 15. The majority of our grass moor fires are later than this and destroy the nests of many bird species.

“Let us make sure that the Tour de France does not come to Calderdale and leave with the memory of a moorland fire.”

To help the moorlands recover, Natural England is working in partnership with bodies such as Yorkshire Water and Moors for the Future to restore these degraded habitats.