Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Discovering Pendle Hill through Sustainable Tourism

The Discover Pendle Hill Project is about working with tourism businesses located around the hill and providing new opportunities for visitors with an emphasis on sustainable tourism.  So when we talk about sustainable what do we actually mean? And why is it so important that we engage with the tourism businesses themselves?

Assheton Arms - Foodie Foray Event
Sustainable tourism is about developing opportunities that will have minimal impact on the landscape and communities. It's about promoting and attracting visitors to an area, and encouraging them to experience and enjoy the place, whilst not spoiling it for other visitors or local people. We often refer to sustainable tourism being about encouraging quiet enjoyment, and re investing in the economy and communities which support that landscape, and also ensuring it stays special for many years to come!
So while we, as a partnership, can promote this ideology and those opportunities that focus on quiet enjoyment, this only goes half way to minimising the impact of tourism.  What is also key is getting the businesses themselves on-board working towards that common goal.
Sustainable tourism isn't a new approach for us, the Forest of Bowland AONB has been supporting a programme of work for last 13 years. The key to its success has been the engagement with businesses. Because foremost, as a partnership we have limited access or interaction with visitors to pass on this vital information and secondly, conversations with businesses enables us to encourage them to develop their own business in a way that respects the landscape and supports the community in which they are located. 
Gisburn Forest by Jon Sparks

Those initial conversations with businesses are just the start of the process, and sustainable tourism at a destination level, or even a smaller scale (as it is for the Pendle Hill Scheme) needs time and patience. Businesses will engage with initiatives that resonate most with them, not everything is a perfect fit, so for us as an organisation it's about providing many opportunities that businesses can link with.  Having said that, developing a sustainable tourism network for all businesses wishing to be involved is vital, to provide those networking opportunities and exchange of information and ideas.  The Forest of Bowland sustainable tourism network has been active for the last 12 years in the AONB, and we'll be encouraging more businesses within the Pendle Hill LP area to be part of this in the next few years. 

Forest of Bowland Sustainable Tourism Network

One of the key projects which has been a big success within wider Bowland, is the Sense of Place project.  Sense of Place has helped businesses over the years to gain a better understanding of what makes Bowland so special, what makes it locally distinctive, and how to use these messages in the marketing of their own businesses.  Sense of Place refers to the elements that make a place special, such as memories of past visits, views, sounds, people, tastes, even the smell of the place!  During 2019 we'll be developing a sense of place toolkit for Pendle Hill, to increase awareness and understanding of this beautiful part of the AONB drawing on its own distinctiveness, but also applying elements from the existing wider Bowland toolkit.

Another key initiative that has enabled businesses to address their own approaches and day to day business operations has been to support them through green accreditation.  Over 40 businesses have achieved green awards over the last 10 years in Bowland, and while they may have joined and left various schemes, the framework and practices they have adopted for their businesses – to operate in an environmentally friendly way – have remained.  The reason we support individual businesses through this process is because of how rigorous these schemes can be, and how they address every aspect of 'being green' – from water use, waste and energy to the provision of information on walking, cycling and wildlife watching as well as their commitments to supporting the local community.  Over the next three years we'd love to hear from businesses in the Pendle Hill area who want to adopt this approach, either formally through an accreditation scheme, or informally to develop new ideas amongst their staff.  This a great way for businesses to begin to understand what being a sustainable tourism business is all about.

Lancashire Green Tourism Project

Pendle Star Trails by Robert Ince
Sustainable tourism also incorporates our dark skies work in developing the quiet enjoyment of the area at night!  And while the landscapes of the Forest of Bowland are captivating by day, after the sun sets there’s a whole new world to discover in the dark skies over Bowland.  Businesses in the Pendle Hill area will have the opportunity to become 'Dark Sky Friendly' and gear themselves up for providing the best opportunities for staying visitors wishing to venture out into the night. 

Similarly, the celebration and promotion of local food is very much linked to our sustainable tourism work – delicious local food and drink is one of the AONB's sense of place themes.  This theme acknowledges that farming methods have shaped our land – creating field patterns with dry stone-walls and hedgerows; farmsteads and barns. Without food production our countryside would look very different!  Our Foodie Foray was launched in the autumn to begin some early engagement with the food businesses in the Pendle Hill area – it was a celebration of the local food producers and the distinctive local dishes found at the foot of our landmark hill. The five-day programme included walks, talks, foraging and feasting, linking with local eateries and producers on both sides of the hill.  Overall it was a great success and hopefully got visitors and businesses thinking more about food provenance and the importance of supporting local food producers and our local economy.
Foodie Foray Herbal Medicine Walk

Foodie Foray Foraging Walk

If you're a tourism business reading this and want to find out more about how you can link with our sustainable tourism work and the opportunities coming up over the next few years, then we'd love to hear from you – email hetty.byrne@lancashire.govuk Or if you’re a visitor or local person, hopefully it's given you an insight into why and how we approach the development of tourism in a sustainable way, and maybe you'll be able to experience first-hand how collectively these kind of developments can have a positive and lasting impact.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas – enjoy buying local this festive period and if you're venturing out for a walk or cycle ride maybe combine it with a visit to a café, pub or shop and help support your local communities and economy!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tackling our Victorian heritage, and planting trees

At Ribble Rivers Trust we are co-delivering the Woodlands and Invasive Non-Native Species (WINNS) project as part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership scheme. 
The aim is to improve biodiversity and river health on and around Pendle Hill and to promote better environmental awareness around the area by creating 19 hectares of new woodlands in total, managing existing woodlands, and tackling invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam.

Himalayan balsam in flower

Himalayan Balsam control
In particular, during this year’s gloriously long hot summer, we’ve been out in force tackling Himalayan Balsam. For those who aren’t sure what it is, it is an Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) and a prize goes to anyone who can guess where it originally came from…? 
You got it, they’re from the Himalayan mountain range in Asia. I’m sure you’ll agree the wonderful Victorians introduced us to some spectacular plants during the plant hunter era but they have also introduced a monster, in the invasive sense, that it can now be found almost anywhere in the UK. 
It is most visible along river banks as it enjoys living in moist soil and can spread at an alarming rate due to its seed dispersing capabilities (it basically shoots its seeds out of their pods). Its roots do not penetrate far into the soil so when the Balsam dies back in winter it leaves riverbanks vulnerable to erosion as there is very little stability and no roots holding the soil together. Consequently this means that the soil may wash away.

Balsam can be tackled very easily; by holding the stem at the bottom, you can pull it straight out of the ground as the roots are very shallow. 

shallow roots and hollow stem of balsam plant

All you need to do then is snap the stem in two between the roots and the first node; it has a very satisfying crunch sound! This should prevent any roots sprouting from the nodes further up the stem. Then ideally, if you can, hang them up to dry out over a fence, but if not you can also leave them in a pile to rot down. 

Pulling up a  Victorian monster!

The optimum time to pull Balsam is between May and late July before the seed pods form and start popping.

We worked over various sites this summer including Pendle Water in Barley, Swanside Beck near Sawley and Raven’s Clough Wood near Brierfield. We had over 20 volunteers who spent over 120 hours of their time pulling Balsam this year and we hope to increase these numbers in 2019!

Volunteers removing balsam at Swanside Beck

Tree planting
This winter we will be planting over 11,000 trees to create 4 new riverside (‘riparian’) woodlands, totalling more than 9 hectares. Not only do riparian woodlands provide great habitat for wildlife living in and around the river, these new woodlands will also help to connect up existing woodland and hedgerow habitats within the area, helping wildlife to move across the landscape. Riparian woodlands also help to reduce the amount of pollution entering the river, they reduce the risk of flooding and riverbank erosion, and they cast shade over rivers, preventing them from getting too hot during sunny summer days. All of this helps to increase the health of the river and ensure it continues to function normally, for the benefit of wildlife and people.
The winter tree planting season got off to a flying start on Sunday 2nd December when 22 volunteers helped to plant trees in Swardean Clough as part of National Tree Week. The team did a fantastic job, despite the wet and wild weather, planting more than 1000 trees!

Tree planting at Swardean Clough

Get Involved
There will be two volunteer days each week over the winter months to plant the remaining 10,000 trees.  If you are interested in coming along, or want to help pull Balsam next summer, then we would love to welcome you! 

To find out more you can email admin@ribbletrust.com call 01200 444452 or visit our events page on our website www.ribbletrust.com for full details and just turn up on the day 😊

WINNS sites across the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership area, 2018-19

Friday, November 23, 2018

Project Peat

Kerry Morrison – socio-ecological artist

As part of the peat restoration work on Pendle Hill Summit, throughout 2018 and 2019 artist Kerry Morrison will be researching and developing creative ways to highlight the value of peat and engage local communities in deepening understanding around peat restoration.

Kerry is particularly interested in the parallels that can be drawn between the process of peat restoration and textiles: the knitting of the landscape, the repairing and stitching together of the hill. A performance involving local people and groups in early 2019, finishing off the restoration works, will further explore these links.

This research will inform a socially engaged interdisciplinary art and ecology project in 2019. There will also be two Peat Art and Ecology Conferences that join up this work with other Landscape Partnerships that have involved artists nationally, for example, Galloway Glens, working with artist Kate Foster.


A blanket over the hill
Locking in carbon
Supporting wildlife
Holding in water


In a broad brush stroke  

peat is a type of soil

a covering of earth
formed over decades and centuries and millennia
from decaying plant life
in particular, sphagnum moss species
strands clumped together
forming deep pile cushions

(Some Sphagnum Species, drawings by Kate Foster 2015)

(photo by Kate Foster)

There are a number of things that make peat particularly special and massively important:

  • As the plant material breaks down into peat it locks in the carbon dioxide stored in the plant matter. Peat landscape are incredible carbon sinks
  • Peat and the moss vegetation it supports hold water. They swell and shrink with wetting and drying. Like sponges, mosses and peat soak up and store rain water, helping to prevent storm water run off and flooding
  • Peat landscapes support wildlife. Peat, as a very specific type of soil supports a specific ecosystem. The acid loving vegetation that grows on it, the insects that feed from that vegetation and the birds and mammals that feed on them are all supported by peat - and some are unique to upland peat landscapes. 

Bringing all this back to Pendle Hill…
the geology that is Pendle Hill is covered in peat formed over thousands of years
a blanket if you like
but sadly, this blanket’s quilt of vegetation is, in parts, missing
the peat is bare

to erosion
nothing holding it in its place
nothing growing that will decay and form more peat

with the wind and the rain
and footsteps of people and animals

the peat a top o Pendle Hill is washing, blowing and wearing away

this erosion is happening at a rapid pace
but it can be halted and the hill’s landscape can be restored
With thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding
The Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership is currently restoring Pendle hill’s peat landscape
and I
as an artist commissioned by In-Situ as part of The Gatherings strand of the Pendle Hill Partnership
will be communicating the process of restoration in novel ways
spreading the importance of peat
the importance of protecting the peat
at the top of Pendle Hill
to towns and villages and communities
around Pendle Hill

many ideas are flowing
the performative patterns of restoration
choreographed in the landscape
stitching the landscape together
weaving metaphors
spinning the connectivity
and interconnectivity
at the top of the Hill
and around the Hill

As an artist
exploring Pendle’s peat
It’s importance
It’s complexities
Why it is necessary to restore the peat landscape on top of the hill
The process of how it is being restored
will, over the next 12 months, be expressed through imaginative and engaging creative processes…

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Importance of Peat...

Over the last few weeks you may have seen that whilst the summit path works have been completed, the diggers have still been busy on the top of the hill. This is because we are continuing to work with the specialist restoration contractors Conservefor, this time to restore the damaged peatland habitats on the plateau of the hill.

But what is all the fuss about? What is peat, and why is it so important?

Peat is a type of soil which is formed in places where rainfall is high and temperatures are just about high enough for plants to grow, but no so high to allow the dead plant matter to decompose quickly. Lack of oxygen and acidic conditions help to slow the rate of decomposition further, leading to an accumulation of peat over time, at a rate of around 1mm per year. These conditions allow for the preservation of organic materials within the peat, and so the peat becomes a time capsule and a direct connection to the past. Cores taken down through the peat contain pollen from the plants which inhabited the surrounding countryside up to 5000 years ago! Many of you will have heard of Lindow Man, or Pete Marsh, a local lad who was murdered and dumped in a peat bog around about 90AD, and whose preserved remains can now be seen in the Museum of Manchester. The lack of oxygen and acidic conditions of the bog meant that even the parasitic worms in his stomach were preserved!

Carpet of brightly coloured bog mosses
On Pendle, the peat is mainly made up from Sphagnum moss or 'bog moss', a group of species which range in colour from yellow and acid green through to vibrant reds and earthy brown and form a living carpet over the surface on the peat.  

Sphagnum mosses can hold up to twenty times their weight in water and have antiseptic qualities which were highly prized during the First World War as a dressing material. The following was written by Mrs A M Smith, a member of the Edinburgh War Dressing Supply organisation, in 1917:

The doctors and the nurses

Look North with eager eyes,

And call on us to send them

The dressing that they prize

No other is its equal---

In modest bulk it goes,

Until it meets the gaping wound

Where the red life blood flows,

Then spreading, swelling in its might

It checks the fatal loss,

And kills the germ, and heals the hurt-

The kindly Sphagnum Moss

So over time, the bog mosses continue to grow and peat is slowly formed. The high carbon content of peat means that like its drier, harder, older cousin coal, peat can be burnt as a fuel once it has been dug and dried. There is evidence of peat cutting up close to the summit, this would have been done by hand with special long narrow spades to form brick shapes, which were then brought down the hill on pony drawn sleds.

Why do we need to restore the peat on Pendle?

Peatland restoration aims to restore the moorland habitat covering the peat in order to ensure the peat continues to form. Damage to the vegetation has been caused in various ways – fire, grazing, and feet have all contributed. Once 'holes' are formed in this layer, the soft peat is very vulnerable to being washed and blown out by the wind and the rain.

Damage to vegetation leaves the underlying peat vulnerable to erosion.

The peatlands themselves are an important part of our upland landscapes and are home to many speciality species such as the aptly named Cloudberry, as well as our much loved upland birds – curlew and dunlin, meadow pipits, sky larks, raven and golden plover. They have an intrinsic value which forms part of why Pendle is so important to so many people, and habitat restoration is one of the three main reasons for undertaking this work.

Erosion of the peat soils releases carbon into the atmosphere. The peat is also washed off the hill in rivers and streams, where it then silts up important spawning gravels and needs to be removed from our drinking water. Recent work by the University of Leeds shows that over 40% of the UK's population rely on peatlands for their drinking water sources, and so we need to ensure they are kept in as good condition as possible.

Restoring moorland habitats also helps to manage local flood risk. Eroded gullies through the peat allow water from severe local rainfall events to run quickly off the hill, adding to the total amount of water reaching rivers and streams all at the same time. 'Slowing the Flow' of water down off the hill helps to reduce the risk of all the water ending up at the same place at the same time.

And how are we doing it?

Back to those diggers! Right up on the summit where there are areas of bare and eroding peat, the contractors have 're-profiled' the edges of the peat. The contractors carefully peel back the vegetation layer, reduce the angle of slope on the edge of the peat and then roll the vegetation back into place, stretching it out to cover as much bare peat as possible. This will be covered with chopped heather in the winter and seed will be added next spring.

Digger working on the edges of the peat, with coir logs already in place.


To help to slow the flow of the water down the gullies, coir logs (nets filled with coconut husk), peat and timber dams are being installed. As the speed of the water is reduced, it also drops the peat it is holding, helping to reduce siltation downstream. The sides of the gullies are also being re-profiled to stop water erosion removing more peat during high rainfall events.

 8 tonne digger down in one of the gullies on Barley Moor, showing the scale of the problem!

So if you are up on the hill, you might just see some diggers performing these delicate operations, and if not you will see the results of their efforts. If you want to get involved with the intricacies of peatland restoration, join one of our volunteer days, and in the meantime you can see some live footage on this film we shot in the centre of the Forest of Bowland in February this year.