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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Protecting Rare British Sedges

tent destroying black alpine sedge

Many ardent readers, and some readers who just have fairly good memories, will recall that one of my pastimes is being a countryside ranger for Durham County Council. One of the side-effects of this is that sometimes I get involved in things which are nothing to do with Durham County Council – e.g. slaughtering the vegetation along the riverside paths in Barnard Castle or being a Green Guide on the Moorhouse/Upper Teesdale NNR.

And so, some while back, one snowy Tuesday, in fact, I was recruited by National England to take part in the National Protection of Rare Sedges Project which starts on April 1st this year.

This is a scheme under EU Directive 38713(a) Protection of Rare Sedges (UK) Regulations and Orders which provide moneys and preferred strategies to protect three very rare sedges which grow in Cumbria in certain peri-glacial cirques and, uniquely in the North Pennines alongside Maize Beck as part of the Upper Teesdale Assemblage of Arctic/Alpine remnants.

It would seem that these particular sedges (Carex Dioica or Fingered Sedge, Carex Atrata – Black Alpine Sedge and Carex Capillaris – Hair Sedge) don’t specially enjoy being flattened, although a bit of light pedestrian traffic is usually of no detriment. But in certain places, these plants are Under Threat from people sleeping on them overnight – that is people camping in tents and under tarps. They just don’t like groundsheets, simple as that. A couple of nights being crushed and, stems broken, they’re gone, although they can regenerate from soil-held seed repository given respite.

 maize beck day

And so, a group of about eight Countryside Rangers – in fact, those who were trained in micro navigation and night time movement and skills for nocturnal animal monitoring, have been recruited to patrol particular areas at night in order to remove or evict people camping illicitly. We do, in fact, have the additional backup of the Cumbria and County Durham police helicopters in case things get a bit lairy.

We’ve been advised by the police that the initial approach will be the removal of key tent pegs and the use of a loud hailer, flourescent orange smoke and an 80 decibel recording of a police dog to waken and disorientate the campers. We will initially just monitor the campers from a pre-selected vantage point and approach tents between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. This is the most likely time for a police helicopter to be available, apparently.

The areas chosen for the initial test runs will be Angle Tarn near Langdale, Kidstypike and the West shore of Haweswater and the Pennine Way between Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick. Later, we’ll be having exercises at Red Tarn under Helvellyn and at Sty Head Tarn, Stickle Tarn and Langstrath next to Borrowdale.

monitoring a sedge

Its an exciting prospect. We’ll be recruiting more peeps if anybody wants to join in the fun, and the best thing is, of course, is that we get a bounty of £12.50 for each wild camper we eject and this goes up to £50 if they have to be arrested. We get overnight expenses too, obviously.

Good, eh? I’m looking forward to it. Wild Campers? They’ll be furious!

Be careful with the comments, there, chaps….


jonquirk said...

£12.50 per camper, eh? You'll be quite well off, at least until noon.

afootinthehills said...

Very good Mike.I know what you are up to. The date has something to do with it I think.

Alan Sloman said...


The data set employed by the EU Working Group on the Prtection of Rare Sedges has been comprehensively compromised by the recent trend in Global Cooling.

When the climate gets back up to temperature these rare sedges will recover. In fact, the warmth of a sleeping body and the protection the groundsheet provides to the grasses can only be seen as a positive influence in the husbandry of the plant. Bent stems should of course be combed back to straightness and so all considerate backpackers should carry a lightweight rake for the purpose. A coarse comb might also do the trick.

The use of the loud hailers is, IMHO, a little over the top.

Laura said...

mmmm - !

The Odyssee said...

Brilliant Mike.
I needed a laugh this morning and that worked a treat.
Can't wait to be evicted by bleary eyed pensioners with night goggles on. I will set up my video camera, tent side.

mike knipe said...

I can't help the feeling that some of you aren't taking this issue as seriously as it merits.
The rake is a good idea, though. I wonder if we could get "pacerakes" for the lightweight fans.....

John J said...

Carex - isn't that a hand-wash?


mike knipe said...

Odd that, JJ, naming a handwash after a sedge....?

Brian Cowling said...

A (brief) emotional rollercoaster ride there. Now I'd like to offer an apology for (I have to say again - briefly) thinking the worst of you.

I'd read your blog at about 3 o'clock this morning so no hint (other than the date) of what you were about is my only defence.

(Who will now follow your excellent blog more closely)

mike knipe said...

Many people seem to be treating this post as a bit of a joke, Brian, so don't feel bad about it.
I'm not upset at all, in fact I'm quite used to it by now....
I know where they camp, though....

Martin Rye said...

April the first is such a fun day. Not this year Mike. I remembered the date before ranting. Have fun up North if you get there in all the snow.

mike knipe said...

Oooooo... is it April the First Martin? I can't say I noticed.... (snicker...)
It'll be cracking the flags by Sunday btw. David Albon's coming, so he'll have had a word with You Know Who...