Heather or Grass

Q. Hi

Why do some hills have heather on them - and others, often in the same 'geographical' area have grass?

I've even come across parts of the Peak District where there is heather on one side of a fence and tussocky grass on the other side.

One of them must be planted - but which one - and why?

Thanks in anticipation,

Jack Gillson, Wigan


A. You'll quite often see grass on one side of a fence and heather on the other.

This is due to differences in how the land is managed.

A covering of heather will usually indicate that the land is currently, or in the recent past, been used for grouse shooting. Heather is important to grouse for cover and for food either directly or via insects which like to live in heather.

It is, therefore, encouraged by local game keepers by reducing grazing, periodic burning to allow new shoots, and even reseeding from time to time.

This can result in a 'sea' of heather and not much else.

Managing the ground for grouse, however, also benefits other species such as Curlew, Snipe, Plover, Larks and Meadow Pipits, whereas stoats, rats and foxes are 'controlled' - you may see many small animal traps on heather moorland.

Given time, a neglected heather moor would revert to a mosaic of grassy and heathery areas. Given even more time and without grazing animals, it would probably revert to woodland.

Left to their own devices, both grassy and the heathery areas in the same location would eventually merge together.

Mike Knipe, Crook


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