Why Ilkley Moor’s heather is of international importance

A truly stunning photograph of a truly stunning location – Yorkshire Post photographer Bruce Rollinson has brilliantly captured the beauty of the sun setting over the flowering purple heather covering Ilkley Moor.

The sun setting over Ilkley Moor which is covered with purple flowering heather.
 Picture Bruce Rollinson
Tech Details: Nikon D4, 24-70mm Nikkor lens, 125th sec @f8, 400iso.
The sun setting over Ilkley Moor which is covered with purple flowering heather. Picture Bruce Rollinson Tech Details: Nikon D4, 24-70mm Nikkor lens, 125th sec @f8, 400iso.

As the Friends of Ilkley Moor website explains, the moor’s heather is not only striking but of national importance.

“Although commonplace in northern England, heather moorlands of the type found on the moor are internationally rare,” the Friends explain. “It is not only the vegetation of the moor that is important but also the bird species, particularly upland waders, which use the moor to nest and raise their young.

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“For these reasons the moor is designated as a national Site of Special Scientific Interest.

“There is also growing awareness of the importance of blanket mires and peaty soils, such as are found on the moor, for both locking in and storing carbon. It is estimated that there is twice as much carbon stored in Britain’s soils as there is in its woodlands.”

But the Friends note that conserving the wonders of the moor requires a human hand.

“Almost everything on the moor has been either created or influenced by human activity. It involves active management to either maintain or improve them. If all the vegetation was not grazed or, in the case of heather burned, it would become rank, lose its species diversity and be more susceptible to wild fires that can destroy the wildlife and the peat soils.

“Some controlled heather burning is beneficial as different age stands of heather broadens the bird habitat, provides young heather shoots which are the main food source for red grouse, and the burnt areas can act as fire breaks.”

What the moor should be used for is not always a matter of consensus, with Bradford Council’s decision in 2018 to ban grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor being strongly criticised by the Countryside Alliance.

But wherever people stand on the ever-controversial issue of grouse shooting, there is uniform agreement that Ilkley Moor is a truly special place.

Technical Details: Nikon D4, 24-70mm Nikkor lens, 125th sec @f8, 400iso.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson