HomeSubmissions004. RSPB Upland Management Neglect – Carngafallt

004. RSPB Upland Management Neglect – Carngafallt

RSPB Moorland Management

The RSPB's aggressive, misleading and untruthful political lobbying against gamekeepers calls for their own track record on moorland management to be put under the spotlight.

Fortunately we have a good example of the consequences of RSPB management at their reserve at Carngafallt in Mid Wales, following their acquisition of the SSSI product of generations of good grazing management.

1. 13 graziers were told to stop traditional patchwork burning of the heather, leading to loss of control of the ideal habitat.
2. Loss of ideal habitat has curtailed traditional grazing management of cattle and sheep, with the loss of 10 graziers through lack of incentive. The subsequent loss of dung and urine has reduced the insect population and soil quality.
3. The resulting under-grazing and lack of scrub control has led to one large accidental fire, probably started by walkers. Heather has taken 6 to 7 years to partially recover from attempts at control by flailing, being smothered by pulp.  Where burnt, regeneration took place in 3 years.
4. Out of control bracken and 4 feet high heather, causes the remaining 3 graziers lose their sheep and even their cattle, complicating management and veterinary treatments.
5. Ticks and heather beetle now present serious uncontrolled problems.
6. There is little effective vermin control, a five fold increase in the local badger population, and so much general predation that prey species numbers have collapsed.
7. 30 to 40 grouse would have been seen regularly, now there appear to be none.
8. Hen Harriers were released into this area and have failed to survive the low food supplies, excessive predation and management neglect.
9. There has been no attempt to discuss management with the graziers despite requests.

Everybody loses and this pattern of neglect is typical of all RSPB reserves

Well managed moorland has more than ten times the carrying capacity of habitat for livestock, deer, and a wide range of upland species.

We have 75 per cent of the world’s remaining heather moorland here in the UK.  Endangered lapwing, curlew, golden plover, ring ouzel, merlin, black grouse and grey partridge all fare far better on moorland with gamekeepers, absent on RSPB properties.


This picture was taken in June 2013 at Carngafallt, showing little change from the picture overleaf taken seven years before. Bracken is well established and summer growth is beginning to break through and will soon dominate the area, which used to be one of the best quality areas of heather moorland in Mid-Wales, fully productive for wildlife, including grouse, and the provision of valuable quality winter food for sheep and cattle. Good stands of heather can take up to a 40% loss from winter grazing.

During hard winters with deep snow, the heather moorlands were the place where a whole range of species, including sheep and cattle could shelter and feed. In the 1947 winter, sheep from one Welsh valley cut off for weeks by snow and drifts survived and maintained condition.

The RSPB’s wilding experiments have at least shown the way forward in bringing back livestock and traditional management skills, which can now be applied using the new burning and reseeding technologies developed on Howden Moor. The traditional roles of the stockman, shepherd, grazier, commoner, huntsman, terrier-man, earth-stopper, stonewaller, keeper, forester, fishing manager, gillie, upland farmer, sporting participants and tourist guides can restore the viable rich biologically diverse environments of the Welsh Uplands.

Go to top