The importance of education – Let’s Learn Moor

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth is BASC’s upland officer. Having joined in 2016, his current role focuses on ensuring decision makers, stakeholders and the public understand the benefits of shooting for upland habitats and rural communities.

The Let’s Learn Moor initiative stemmed from a concern of a missing gap within our education system of a simple understanding of those that live, work and enjoy our beautiful uplands. The history and importance of some of Britain’s most stunning and iconic landscapes, on the doorstep of millions of children, is being slowly lost.

People live within upland communities across the country, yet can often have no relationship with their moorland or the people that help protect it. It can be seen as an open expanse that is viewed from afar or just driven through occasionally. So the aims of Let’s Learn Moor were very simple, 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.

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 protection of the habits and species is at the top of all their objectives. Yes a water utility company, the police, fire brigade, gamekeepers, farmers or a bird watching club will have some 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.

Let’s Learn Moor was kick-started in 2017 with a North Yorkshire Police grant and BASC legacy funding in the North York Moors, and involved a broad selection of partner organisations from day one.

Building on the success of the first two years, our third instalment saw over 1400 schoolchildren head up onto the moors and enjoy a full day of practical and fun education. Events took place simultaneously across seven regional 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 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 that inhabit them.

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

  • Watching 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 moor 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 primarily 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 childrens’ smiles. The event could not have taken place without the coordination of the regional moorland groups and the funding from the Moorland Association and Moorland Communities Trust.

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

With more organisations keen to get involved there is a real sense of excitement about the initiative’s potential for further growth and outreach. Here is to 2020!