(a) We have developed wildlife conservation and fundraising projects. Like many upland habitats Ilkley Moor has suffered ecological degradation, in part, due to past management practices of over grazing and drainage of the blanket bog. The good news is that in 2009, Bradford Council secured an Environmental Stewardship agreement with Natural England. Over the ten years of the agreement £900,000 will be available for both Bingley and Ilkley Moor to restore the heathland and blanket bog habitats, including the fire damaged area and some access improvements.
But more funding and conservation activities are also needed as follows:
(b) We are exploring ways to conserve the moors pockets of woodlands: most of these do not have many young trees due to them being eaten by sheep so we are looking at ways to protect these and any new ones so that we have the next generation of trees.
(c) The rare plants need protecting and we are also looking at ways to increase some of their numbers.
(d) We have obtained funding to carry out ecological surveys to inform these management and restoration decisions to ensure we are not negatively impacting on other species.
(e) The path from Panorama Drive to the Swastika Stone was becoming increasingly eroded and most of the existing drainage associated with the old golf course was broken. This meant that the path had become very wet and muddy in places and up to 10m wide. It was highlighted as a priority path by the Friends because of the high use by regular walkers and also those wishing to reach the famous Swastika Stone. The path is 950m long and took 2 weeks to surface using sandstone quarried from Harden Moor. In total 380 tons were moved onto site at a cost of £5000 using plant costing another £1500. The work was carried out in 2009 by Bradford Council’s Countryside and Rights of Way Service and volunteers.
The path from Radio Masts to the Trig Point was flagstoned in Summer 2011 and the remaining materials were used to replace the wooden boardwalks from the 12 Apostles northwards. FoIM are considering funding the remaining section of path from Whetstone Gate to the Old Keighley Road.
In summer 2011, the Bradford Council’s Countryside and Rights of Way Service and volunteers also substantially improved the woodland path alongside Hebers Ghyll Drive.
(f) Upper tarn conservation: the FoIM have been undertaking conservation work on the upper tarn to retain the open water ecological interest of the water body. The upper tarn was becoming silted up and too densely vegetated with water horsetail. If left the water body would eventually turn to marsh and then dry habitat. The water horsetail was hand pulled because Ilkley Moor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the use of chemicals to control vegetation is strictly limited to ensure that other biological organisms are not harmed. Ideally a site should have a series of open water habitats each being allowed to undergo different stages of wetland succession: from open water, to marsh and eventually to dry habitat. This is so that sufficient habitat is provided for the full range of species water bodies support at different stages of succession.
(g) We have been controlling bracken so that it is less dominant. Bradford Council will be undertaking bracken control through a combination of spraying and bashing. The cost is about £75 an acre. The control of bracken needs to be done in a balanced way, it is not about eradication but control. Many species of bird, mammal, plant and invertebrates use bracken for feeding, shelter and nesting; therefore its control needs to be undertaken in an informed manner with up to date data on its use by other species. Bracken is known to support 40 species of invertebrate: for 27 of these it forms an important part of the diet and 11 of these are found only on bracken. Bracken substitutes the characteristics of a woodland canopy, and is important for giving shade to plants such as common bluebell, where the woodland does not exist. Chickweed wintergreen and certain mosses also seem to benefit from the conditions found under bracken stands. Other rare ferns are also found on the moor and it is important that these are not destroyed in the process of bracken control. Some of these include killanery fern and lemon-scented fern.
(h) We have been looking at the historical uses of bracken. In the past it was of significant economic value and was used to produce thatch, animal bedding, compost and by some cultures eaten and used in herbal medicine. The ash of bracken fern was used in making forest glass in Central Europe from about 1000 to 1700. It is currently under investigation as a possible source of new insecticides.
(i) A series of volunteer days for the local community have been organized to help in the conservation of the moor. These days will occur on a regular basis one day every month: the first Saturday and the third Tuesday of every alternate month. All the dates are on the FoIM website. The FoIM endeavor to offer worthwhile volunteering experiences to build peoples understanding and skills in the conservation of upland habitats.
(j) We have developed the ‘Ilkley Moor Events and Learning Programme’ to help people explore the moor. The programme is available as a download from the FOIM website. These events have been delivered each year and most well attended, with lots of positive feedback from the participants.
(l) We have started to engage school groups in educational activities on the moor: scientific surveys and footpath surveys for older school groups and other activities for younger children. The FoIM has developed an educational package for the moor which will contain, amongst other things, activities for schools around the themes of archeology, geology, ecology and social history. This is available as a download from the FOIM website.
A big thank you to every one who has attended and/or supported the conservation activities and events so far and I look forward to meeting people at future activities.