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Let’s Learn Moor, building partnerships through education in the uplands

Logo: Lets Learn Moor

The Let’s Learn Moor initiative arose from concerns that a gap within our education system could give rise to a simple lack of understanding of those who live, work and enjoy our beautiful uplands. The history and importance of some of Britain’s most stunning and iconic landscapes, is being slowly lost.

Many people living within upland communities across the country, often have no relationship with their moorland or the people helping to protect it. It can be seen as an open expanse viewed from afar or occasionally driven through. So the aims of Let’s Learn Moor were very simple: to provide a free education experience for children to access moorland, then learn about the habitats and species from the people and organisations who manage and protect it. For people to make balanced decisions about conservation, rural communities and landscapes they need to hear from all the key people involved, and this includes the shooting community.

(Gareth Dockerty)
(Gareth Dockerty)

The ban driven grouse shooting agenda has often sought to polarise the arguments and create a very simplistic “us and them” stance. However, Let’s Learn Moor shows that often organisations have the same aims and that protection of habitats and species is at the top of all their agendas. A water utility company, the police, fire brigade, gamekeepers, farmers or a bird watching club all have differing priorities, but open communication and dialogue is the key, and our future decision makers will only make good decisions by understanding a balanced picture.

(Gareth Dockerty)
(Gareth Dockerty)

Let’s Learn Moor was kick-started in 2017 with the North York Moors Moorland Organisation plus a North Yorkshire Police grant and BASC legacy funding on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park, involving a broad selection of partner organisations from day one.

Building on the success of the first two years, our third instalment (July 2019) saw over 1,400 schoolchildren head onto the moors to enjoy a full day of practical and fun education. Events took place simultaneously across seven locations including the North York Moors, Nidderdale, Lancashire, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland and Cumbria.

Let’s Learn Moor has come a long way in three years and is now a truly engaging project featuring over 30 partner organisations from gamekeepers and farmers, to National Park and AONB authorities, conservation organisations and emergency services, plus key stakeholders like Yorkshire Water. The weeklong celebration in June saw children enjoy practical lessons in fire safety and mountain rescue, learn about the history of farming and gamekeeping in these remote areas, and enjoy the iconic flora and fauna inhabiting them.

(Gareth Dockerty)
(Gareth Dockerty)

The week was full of highlights but the moments that stood out the most were…

  • Observing a gamekeeper call over a grouse hen with her 5 chicks as the children watched on in amazement, this was preceded by a golden plover darting past the group, then finished off with a lapwing calling loudly overhead.
  • Speaking to local teachers who said they had never visited the moorland on their doorstep and had been inspired by the day to take the moor back into the class room to engage the children across multiple subjects.
  • Listening to Yorkshire Water explain to children that a healthy moor needs to balance the needs of water companies, conservation, the shooting community, farmers, forestry and visitors and it will be the children’s job to find the balance in the future years.

    Our uplands are an asset and vital for so much of our lives that go on further down the valley. It is the primary aim of Let’s Learn Moor to ensure that their importance is not forgotten.

    The week was a massive logistical operation, but one that paid dividends once you saw the size of the children’s smiles. The event could not have taken place without the coordination of the regional moorland groups, who organised each event, and did an amazing job at each venue.

    (Gareth Dockerty)
    (Gareth Dockerty)

    My thanks go out to all the groups for giving up their time to ensure the next generation has an improved connection to the uplands.

    Where do we go from here?

    Having secured nearly £50k of funding for the next three years, the plan is to continue to grow Let’s Learn Moor, enabling events to be undertaken in the uplands of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have challenged ourselves to involve over 3,000 children in 2020 with a minimum of 13 events in one week commencing 29th June 2020.

    If you would like more information on Let’s Learn Moor or would like to get involved in the project please contact gareth.dockerty@basc.org.uk

    First published in CJS Focus on the Next Generation in association with Action for Conservation on 2 December 2019. Read the full issue here