Contours gets stuck in with Conservation Work

23/10/18

By Alec Phillips

Our day began in a chilly car park at the top of Birchover, where we met Harriet, who was to be our guide for the day. Harriet is part of the Peak District National Park Authority, who work with a range of volunteers and partners to ensure a sustainable future for the National Park.

We were assigned to work on nearby Stanton Moor, on the area immediately surrounding the Nine Ladies Stone Circle. It’s an area that Contours knows well; situated less than half an hour away from our office, we had recently walked through Stanton Moor during our emergency training walk. The moor also features on two of the walks we offer - the White Peak Way and the Peak District Boundary Walk. It’s traditionally believed that the stone circle at Stanton Moor depicts nine ladies turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath. As it was a Sunday, we promised we would refrain from dancing, and instead listened to Harriet explain the issues that Stanton Moor currently faces.

Untitled-1 (70).jpgSituated right on the edge of the Peak District National Park, Stanton Moor boasts a diverse range of flora, from bright purple heather to unusual-looking fungi, all enjoyed by the grazing sheep, deer and visitors to the area. The moor is of international significance, with the area littered with examples of important archaeological remains. The Nine Ladies are the most well-known Bronze Age feature, but dotted around the moor are ring cairns and barrows, each thousands of years old.

Stanton Moor is a deeply spiritual place for some, and evidence from excavations over the last century have shown that the site was previously a place of burial. The area also has a rich history of quarrying, which has been a source of conflict. Between 1999 and 2009, Stanton Moor was home to one of the longest running protest camps in Europe, set up to oppose quarry expansion in the immediate area. With several quarries now disused and starting to be reclaimed by nature, our attention now turns to the popularity of Stanton Moor, which has brought with it a number of issues.

Stanton Moor is a well-loved part of the Peak District, and whilst the majority of those who use Stanton Moor leave little-to-no trace of their visit, there are some that leave a more lasting impact on the landscape. We saw for ourselves that burnt patches of ground littered the moor, a negative effect of campfires. As well as leaving unsightly marks, these fires impact on the moors’ underlying archeology. Harriet and The Peak District National Park Authority want to reverse the damage left by the fires, and often recruit volunteers to help with this task. Six members of the Contours staff braved the Sunday morning chill to assist with the restoration of the damaged ground, and to clear any rubbish as we moved around the site.

Untitled-1 (71).jpgWe made the short walk from nearby Lees Road, along fields and through woodland, to the Nine Ladies circle. We set up our base of operations nearby and, armed with wheelbarrows of soil, rakes, shovels and grass seed, we split up and set about our task. Upon discovering a burnt patch of land, we disturbed the hard, damaged ground with our shovels and added fresh soil, in an effort to make the ground as even as possible. We then added and raked grass seed evenly into the patch of land. Along with restoring the damage done to the landscape, we hoped that re-seeding the ground would deter others from starting fires on the moor in future.

The weather was kind and shovelling soil almost meant there was no need for our jumpers. The sun emerged and the unusually warm October weather enticed many visitors to the area, who got to enjoy clear views over the moors towards Winster. We made good progress and, with two short breaks (for elevenses and lunch), we completed our task, and depleted our reserves of fresh soil in the process. We made the short walk back to Harriet's truck, our wheelbarrows carrying the litter found during the day. Although there were no dark clouds in the sky, we kept our fingers crossed for rain, to water our newly-planted grass-seed.

The Contours team had a fantastic day; we were all incredibly grateful that we got the chance to give back to the National Park, all whilst working on beautiful moorland. We would like to give a big thank you to Harriet for taking us under her wing and explaining the importance of the work being carried out on the moors. We already look forward to working with the Peak District National Park Authority again, early next year!





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