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Countryside Stewardship at Sykes House

Much of the publicity surrounding Stewardship Schemes seems to have concentrated on areas such as hay meadows and hedgerows. However, one of the stated objectives is to conserve and enhance the wildlife value of moorland and to benefit upland flora and fauna. At Sykes House, we have 21 hectares of land which is agriculturally categorised as severely disadvantaged, with about half being the Intake which qualifies under Stewardship for moorland enhancement.

Intake, as the name suggests, is land which in the past has been fenced from the open moor and agriculturally developed to some degree, this having taken place more than a century ago and then lapsed. The semi-natural vegetation types found in these intakes are not given SSSI status, as are the high moors and are, therefore, unprotected and still vulnerable to land-use changes and over-grazing. In our Intake, the position has been made worse by a conscious decision in the ’60s to remove stock which has led to much growth of trees, scrub and bracken to the detriment of heather areas.

In the ’50s and ’60s the Intake was already known as an area where lesser butterfly orchids were to be found, and the birds included nightjar (on the adjacent Harland Moor), woodcock, ring ouzel, whinchat, snipe and curlew. Luckily, the orchids have survived along with plants such as petty whin but the local bird-life has very much changed, though not all, of course, due to local loss of habitat.

Joining the Stewardship Scheme, with the financial support it provides, allows us to:

We realise that we cannot turn back the clock, but by agreed Stewardship management over the next 10 years we hope to restore some of the Intake’s variety of flora and fauna to what it was 50 years ago.

Tom & Janet Denney

[Ed: Tom also sent some fascinating photos of Grass of Parnassus (a) growing at Sykes House and (b) in Japan, which are indistinguishable. Unfortunately they will not reproduce for the magazine or website.]

[See the report for a fascinating visit to this site in July 2002.]

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