The fire still burning on Saddleworth Moor is not in High Peak itself. But it is close enough to make us worry: we have many similar moors in the borough, and given the high temperatures and exceptionally dry conditions, it could have readily been on Kinder or Bleaklow, with arguably even more destructive consequences. The need for a sharp ‘transition’ in how we manage our moors and hills has been made ever more evident with the current fire.
For us in High Peak Green Party, George Monbiot has hit the nail on the head in showing how the current fire is the inevitable result of the way the moors are managed to serve the grouse shooting industry. Water is drained off the moors, keeping vegetation to low-growing heather, ideal conditions for grouse. Even more, the management techniques that have made fires more or less inevitable when we have hot dry spells (which are of course increasingly common given climate change) are also the same ones that cause the floods we increasingly get in winter.
We urgently need to be reforming how our uplands are managed. Not only sources of great beauty and local pride, they are crucial to building a sustainable future and avoiding increases both in fires and flooding. Whether we call it ‘rewilding’ or not, we need to be working to reforest large parts of the uplands to protect soil and limit water run-off.
This will have added benefits in terms of creating habitats for many more wildlife species, and long-term, it provides a sustainable source of timber and firewood for low-carbon heating and construction. We need to leave some of it open for wind energy to wean ourselves of fossil fuels of course, and there will be dilemmas in where we put those turbines. But the message to reform how we manage uplands is nevertheless clear.