Climate Change – Fire and Food

Chat Tor Moorland fire ‘largest in years’ reads the BBC headline last weekend, and to think that was going to be next week’s Blog topic! So between this headline and the one about the impact of the terrible weather on this year’s wheat crop; ‘Britain ‘running out of wheat’ due to bad weather’, our trip to the coast is going to have to wait.

fire photo

Headlines like these demonstrate the important reasons why the National Trust cares about climate change. After ‘the worst growing season in living memory’ and the wettest summer in over hundred years, 2012 brought the realities to the forefront of many peoples minds, not only farmers but gardeners and consumers alike. And now, as we clear snow drifts in the north and east while the moors in Devon are burning, it is clear that proactive planning to deal with climate change has never been needed more.

The National Trust cares for many different kinds of landscape, some are wild, others are cultural; some are productive, others are valued as ‘natural capital’. All of these areas are managed, even if the touch is a light one, and the impacts of climate change range from storm damage to trees and disruption to water supplies to increased fire risk on moorland due to extended periods of drought.

High Peak, in the Pennines, is an area of moorland and peat bogs particularly important for it’s bird population. Fire in this area not only destroys important flora and fauna but has the added danger of releasing heavy metals, present through historic industrial activity, into the atmosphere causing health and safety issues for the local communities.

The costs of fighting the fires are enormous. During the fire at High Peak in 2003 over £50,000 was spent on helicopter fire support. On the ground there were nearly 150 people involved in fighting the fire at an estimated cost of over £100,000. As demonstrated by the considerable contribution of the commoners at Chat Tor last weekend, fire fighting over large areas requires communities and organisations to pull together not only to deal with fire when it strikes but prevent it in the first place. The National Trust works with organisations like the National Parks Authority and local fire services to develop fire prevention strategies; greatly reducing the threat and damage in high risk areas.

More than 200,000 hectares of National Trust land is used to produce food, working with 1,500 tenant farmers. Food production on our land ranges from large-scale tenant-run commercial farms to kitchen gardens, allotments and orchards. We have a unique perspective that spans the historic, natural, social and economic impacts of food.

Arable crop ready for harvest time in August in the fields surrounding Sissinghurst Castle, near Cranbrook, Kent<

The headlines concerning this year’s crops demonstrate how important the way the Trust manages its food production is. In the past, the National Trust’s focus on food was mainly on ensuring that our farmland and catering business earned money to support our charitable work. However, we are changing the way we manage our land and our business to have a much more positive impact; adopting a long-term approach and investing now for the future. While we can’t control the weather or the pests, we can make a clear contribution to a sustainable food system and we are encouraging our tenant farmers, suppliers and individuals to join us on this journey.

Read more about the National Trusts approach to climate change here:


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