New figures from a survey of the North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty show that over 1000 male birds birds were found, more than 200 more than the number recorded after the recent series of hard winters. The birds are found in greater numbers in Scotland with a third population in the Welsh mountains, which takes the UK total of adult males to about 5,100.
The revival, put down to closer monitoring and improved habitats, is being furthered by the creation of new woods through Forestry Commission grants, including upland bands of scrubby trees which the Black Grouse appreciates alongside heather moor.
The commission has announced a £130,000 grant to plant 25 hectares (62 acres) of trees on Renwick Fell above Hartside near Penrith. The woods will fill two steep ghylls caused by becks plunging down the fell with 16,000 oak, birch and rowan.
Protected by the steep valley walls, the wood will provide buds, berries and heather as food for the grouse along with shelter from winter cold. As it develops, the area will be monitored for signs of the birds over-wintering and creating a colony.
The 200 hectare (494 acre) lands of Scale House farm should also be protected from landslips, one of which happened as recently as June after heavy rain. Reducing the risk and the amount of soil erosion into the becks will also improve water quality and help to avoid chokes and debris which in the past have worsened flooding in the Eden valley below.
The package of benefits mean that the grant paid is at the top rate of £4,800 per hectare, like the similar scheme at Castle on which the Northerner reported last month.
Jim O’Neill, woodland officer with the Commission, says:
The North Pennines has very low levels of native woodland cover so a scheme of this size makes a real impact. The multiple benefits are nowhere is this better illustrated than by this scheme on Renwick Fell, which is good for the wider landscape by preventing erosion and with added dividends for wildlife.
Farmer Paul Stobbart who is planting the wood says:
We don’t have any woodland on the farm at the moment so I’m keen to get the trees planted this winter. There’s also a bigger picture. It’s good to help wildlife like black grouse, but planting is also a sound option for the land in economic as well as environmental terms. Long-term, I hope the trees will provide hillside shelter for livestock. I’m not sure what we are going to call the new woodland but I’m confident it will become cherished feature of the farm for my two young children as they grow.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010