Exmoor's Future Landscapes

PRESS RELEASE : Moorlands Under Threat 

How valuable is moorland? Exmoor’s moorland has recently been attacked by George Monbiot, an environmental journalist, as an ecological  desert and has called for a large central area, known as  The Chains, to be left to nature to take its course by removing livestock grazing.  Part of a national debate over re-wilding, the South West’s moorlands of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor have been described by some as degraded habitats.

This issue will be among those discussed at an important conference hosted by The Exmoor Society and the Exmoor National Park Authority. Speakers will include those from key national bodies: Natural England Director, James Diamond; Head of Policy – NFU, Dr Andrea Graham; RSPB Director of Operations, Dr Shaun Thomas and Dr Cheryl Willis from Exeter University.  Stanley Johnson will chair an open debate.

Speaking before the conference, Rachel Thomas, Chairman of The Exmoor Society, said: ‘Since its designation as a National Park in 1954, the story of Exmoor has been dominated by its moorland: in the earlier decades over moorland loss; more recently as being undervalued and in fragile condition and now attacked as a ‘sheep-wrecked desert’. The Society commissioned an independent report ‘Exmoor’s Moorland – Where Next?’ and its recommendations will be revealed at the Conference.  We now know that in the last decade the moorland is better appreciated, particularly its history, landscape and wildlife, and there are significant benefits such as carbon and water storage.  It has become a location for ground-breaking scientific enquiry and public involvement.’

‘The report brings out three key messages. First, there needs to be better understanding of the capacity and sensitivity of the moorland landscape to withstand change.  This will require monitoring of key indicators such as landscape quality, vegetation cover and recreational activities.’

‘Second, there remains a deep-seated frustration within the farming community over prescriptive practices on moorland management. Recently, there has been better dialogue between farmers and statutory environmental bodies but more needs to be achieved.’

‘The third message is that National Parks are relatively wild areas, although they are not wildernesses compared with those overseas. Wilderness is not just an ecological concept but also refers to human experience and runs deep in the roots of our culture.  Everyone can enjoy unique experiences from moorland with their wide open spaces, views, tranquillity and a challenging environment for people, wildlife and their history.’

‘The iconic moorland landscape continues to dominate the Park physically and aesthetically and is important locally, nationally and internationally. Exmoor, because of its location, climate, land-use history and small extent is likely to be at the cutting edge of the debate of how moorland is valued.’

The Spring Conference on ‘Exmoor’s Future Landscapes’ takes place on Friday 22 April, 10 am – 3.30 pm, at Dulverton Town Hall. More details can be obtained from The Exmoor Society offices on 01398 323335 or info@exmoorsociety.com and Exmoor National Park website.

Date:   11 April 2016

Press Contact:

Rachel Thomas – 01271 375686 or

Exmoor Society offices 01398 323335

Note to Editors:

The Exmoor Society exists to promote and organise action for the conservation and enjoyment of the landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage of Exmoor national park. It was established in 1958 and successfully fought proposals to afforest the Chains, the central moorland of Exmoor. It has continued to campaign against adverse changes and encourages people’s understanding of the park’s special qualities. It acts as an independent watchdog and champion for Exmoor’s status as a national park.