Yorkshire Heather Moors Need Protection

The glens of Scotland and the Moors of Yorkshire were covered with purple flowering heather. This picture was taken above Dick Hudsons on Ilkley Moor. The route is part of the Dales Way Bradford Link and the Leeds Link also traverses Ilkley moor to get to the start of the Dales Way proper. According to the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority ‘The dry heaths of the National Park are usually dominated by heather particularly on intensively managed grouse moors.’

There is an interesting and amusing History of Heather on Gardener’s tips

Types of Heather

  • Bell heather also known as Erica cinerea has dark pink or purple flowers and generally flowers first in late July.
  • Cross leaved heath has leaves arranged in crosses of four on its stems. It has pale pink flowers and can often be found in boggy areas.
  • Ling Calluna vulgaris is the most common type of heather found on the North York Moors. It has very tiny pink flowers and generally flowers in mid to late August


Uses of Heather.

  • The Moorland Association, whose members manage about 90% of England’s heather moorland host thousands of bee hives. Pollen from heather makes excellent honey and the scent is excellent.
  • Heather moorland is one of the rarest habitats in the world. Ilkley moor is crucial for ground nesting birds.
  • Red grouse eat young heather shoots but they like to shelter and build their nests in taller, older heather. Gamekeepers therefore have to make sure there are some patches of young heather and some patches of old heather on the moors if they want to have enough grouse to shoot.
  • Local people used to use heather to make a type of broom called a besom to sweep their cottage floors.
  • Heather is available in many varieties and they contribute to ornamental or specialist gardens.
  • White Heather is said to be lucky but count yourself lucky if you can walk through a purple flowering moorland Yorkshire landscape.

This photo shows two of the twelve Apostle Stones, 1260 feet above sea level, on Ilkley moor looking towards Yeadon and the airport. The planes were flying higher than the horseflies but not by all that much. There is a specialist web site for Stone Circle visitors here and a more comprehensive article by David Raven.  For comments about heather on the uplands 15,000 years ago look at The Moorland Association site

See Walks around Ilkley

That is not to say that the other tracts of moorland and heather in Yorkshire are not in great condition. I particularly like the area around Goathland.

Yorkshires top Twelve Birdwatching Sites
Midhope Moor and Langsett reservoir

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