HVCA’s Land Group has been running a number of exciting and impactful projects across the valley to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Action has included: A tree for every villager in Grindleford, Bamford and Edale; Wilder verges in Hathersage and Hope; A virtual group helping to create more wild gardens in the valley; and Thornhill Rewilding, working with DWT on the management and recording of the reserve. We are also carrying out a schools-based project with the Curlew Recovery Partnership.
The Land Group core team includes David Hughes, Faith Johnson, and Scharlie Platt.
David Hughes says: “So far, we’ve engaged lots of people in small-scale practical action, but we want to move up a gear to make a big impact on carbon emissions and biodiversity. We have a mailing list of 40 or so people who are interested in coming to talks and volunteering for practical work. We’re always on the lookout for new volunteers to join us and support our work.”
This strategy is aimed at moving up a gear. It asks how can our approach to land management in the Hope Valley contribute to the Net Zero target and how we can we reverse the decline in biodiversity across the Valley? We need to understand the current status of carbon sequestration in our largely agricultural landscape and what are the most cost effective interventions to improve it. In the meantime we know we are in a climate emergency and there are things we should just get on with because we know they work. We focus on three major habitats: hedges and trees, peatland, and grassland.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Royal Society’s special report on Climate Change and Land concludes that land is a critical resource, and that sustainable land management has a vital role to play in tackling climate change and adapting to its impacts.
Our aims in HVCA accord with the following priority actions to reduce land-related greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts:
- Keeping carbon locked in soils and vegetation and sequestering additional carbon through land-based actions such as peatland and woodland restoration.
- Reducing emissions from agriculture, including methane and nitrous oxide, by encouraging and supporting investments in sustainable land management practices and technologies, and supporting land managers with training and information.
- Implementing land-based measures such as enhanced tree cover and habitat connectivity to aid adaptation to the impacts of climate change such as flood risk and water stress.
Fundamental to our approach is partnerships with organisations that can help us deliver on the ground, including PDNPA, Moors for the Future, the Hope Valley Farmer cluster and others. Some funding is available through the Farming in Protected Landscapes (FIPL) programme and we hope the governments ELMS scheme will survive to deliver a lot more financial incentives to farmers.
We expect individual projects to be funded on a project-by-project basis. In the short term, we have secured £12k to kick start the Every Fence a Hedge project. We hope to leverage other funds from the water utilities, ELMS, FiPL and other sources to continue the hedge project and to fund other ambitious land projects.
To realise our ambitions, it will be necessary to find a dedicated programme manager to help scope the opportunities in more detail, find funding and liaise with partners and project managers. We anticipate this being two days per week for an initial one year.
A HEDGE FOR EVERY FENCE
We know that hedges sequester significant carbon. We are not sure exactly how much in our local context but there is good evidence on a national level – approx 1,000kg/km/yr according to the government Commission on Climate Change. The CCC plan to achieve net zero by 2030 includes a 40% increase in hedgerows and we are confident we can achieve that in the Hope Valley.
We have begun the first phase of a hedge planting project funded by PDNPA and Breedon, The Hope Valley Farmer cluster have identified 8 willing farmers to start the project and are confident of more coming forward. We will be planting over 2km of hedges this winter. Phase 2 is planned to identify the potential for planting more hedges and to work out what difference they can make to the carbon footprint of land use in the Hope Valley. This will be followed by another phase of planting next winter which we expect to attract further funding from PDNPA.
FOR PEATS SAKE
Upland peat bog constitutes a major part of the Hope Valley landscape. Active i.e. wet peat, is recognised as the second most efficient organic carbon (after sea grass meadows). What is not so widely recognised is that inactive or dry peat is a major source of carbon emissions. Moors for the Future has done extensive work to restore the Dark Peak peat bogs to an active state but there remain major areas of essentially dead peat. Much of the peat is under grouse estate management or improved grassland. The water utility companies have largely taken over funding Moors for the Future because the work contributes to improved water quality and flood control. We would like to find ways of supporting Moors for the Future to continue and extend its peat restoration work.
Agriculture will never be net zero because the underlying biological processes emit GHGs. However, the way in which agricultural land is managed can reduce the net emissions. Much research has been done on the subject, but we need to understand how that applies locally in our climate and soil conditions. For example, are there changes farmers could make to their livestock varieties and management practices in the Hope Valley? We propose finding someone to undertake a desk study and local field work to determine a local approach and work with farmers to implement a programme of practical changes. Approaches might include herbal leys, mob grazing or different livestock breeds.