Habitat Action Plans

Blanket bog and upland heathland

Current status


Blanket Bog
Blanket peat accumulates in response to the very slow rate at which plant material decomposes under conditions of waterlogging. The principal vegetation types are classified under the NVC system as M1, M2, M3, M15, M17, M18, M19, M20 and M25 together with their intermediates. Other communities, such as flush fen and swamp types, also form an integral part of the blanket bog landscape.

Many of the typical blanket mire species, such as cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix, deer grass Trichophorum cespitosum, cotton grass Eriophorum spp and several of the bog moss Sphagnum spp, occur throughout much of the range of the habitat, although their relative proportions vary across the country.

The presence, extent and type of surface patterning is another important feature of blanket bogs. This can range from a relatively smooth surface, with the only irregularities being those created by vegetation features, to the extreme patterning associated with the suites of bog pools and the intervening ridges. As with floristic composition, there would appear to be a relationship between geographical location and the nature of the surface pattern. In general, the intensity and complexity of patterning increases towards the north and the west.

Blanket Bog is a globally restricted peatland habitat confined to cool, wet, typically oceanic climates. It is, however, one of the most extensive semi-natural habitats in the UK, ranging from Devon to Shetland. An important assemblage of breeding birds are associated with blanket bog – golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, dunlin Calidris alpina, and meadow pipit Anthus pratensis.

There is an estimated 1.5 million ha in the UK with most in Scotland. A large proportion of the EC resource is found within the UK. Although most widespread in the wetter west and north, blanket bog also occurs in eastern upland areas.

Upland Heathland
Upland heathland is characterised by the presence of dwarf shrubs at a cover of at least 25%. Upland heathland in favourable condition is typically dominated by a range of dwarf shrubs such as heather Calluna vulgaris, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, crowberry Empetrum nigrum, bell heather Erica cinerea and in the south and west, western gorse Ulex gallii.

Wet heath is most commonly found in the north and the west. It should be dominated by mixtures of cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix, deergrass Trichophorum cespitosum, heather and purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea. High quality heath is usually structurally diverse, containing stands of vegetation with heather at different stages of growth.

An important assemblage of birds is associated with upland heath, including short-eared owl Asio flammeus, merlin Falco columbarius, hen harrier Circus cyaneus, red grouse Lagopus lagopus and twite Carduelis flavirostris. Upland Heathland occurs widely on mineral soils and thin peats throughout the uplands and the moorlands of the UK. The total upland heath in the UK is estimated to be between 2 and 3 million ha, 260,000 ha of which is in England. Dwarf shrubs are thought to be of international importance because they are largely confined within Europe to the UK and the western seaboard of mainland Europe.


The Yorkshire and the Humber region has approximately 53,000ha of blanket bog (about 3.5% of the estimated UK coverage) and 76,000ha of upland heathland, about 28% of the English resource. This is restricted for the most part to the west of the region, with the notable exception of the North York Moors.


Within Calderdale there is 2,178ha of blanket bog and 5,795ha of upland heathland. The majority of the blanket bog in this area is of the M20 and M25 NVC codes and it is restricted to the western upland areas.

Current factors causing loss and decline

Current action

Legal status

Priority species

The following Calderdale Priority species are associated with this habitat:
Plants (bog pimpernel, bog rosemary, heath cudweed, stag’s-horn clubmoss). Birds (red grouse, golden plover, dunlin, meadow pipit, short-eared owl, merlin, hen harrier, twite).


1. Policy and LegislationLead PartnerOther partners
Ensure that UDP policies are in place to protect this habitatCMBC (DP)CMBC (CAFU)
Consider the impact on this habitat when assessing planning applicationsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
Consider designation as SEGI / SSSI of further areas of these habitatsEN / WYECMBC (CAFU)
Enforce the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981 as amended)ENCMBC (DP) and other S28G bodies
Take opportunities through the planning system to restore or create this habitat. Explore possibilities of long term management agreementsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
2. Site safeguard and managementLead PartnerOther partners
Prepare management plans for all wildlife sitesEN / WYECMBC(CAFU), UU, YW
Promote the uptake of Countryside Stewardship grant schemes on land that includes these habitatsFWAGDEFRA, EN, WYE, CMBC (CAFU), UU, YW
3. Research and monitoringLead PartnerOther partners
Collate information on all blanket bog / upland heathland sites within the districtWYEEN, HSS, TNHS, UCWN, YWT, CMBC (CAFU)
Maintain records of survey work undertakenWYECMBC (CAFU) EN
Perform surveysENCMBC (CAFU), WYE
4. AdvisoryLead PartnerOther partners
Inform landowners and managers about the best land management practicesENFWAG, CMBC (CAFU), UU, WYE, YW
5. RegionalLead PartnerOther partners
6. Communication and publicityLead PartnerOther partners
Publicise achievementsENall other key partners
Raise awareness of the importance of this habitatCMBC (CAFU)ATC

Key to abbreviations
ATCAlternative Technology Centre
CMBC (CAFU)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Countryside and Forestry Unit)
CMBC (DC)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development Control)
CMBC (DP)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development and Policy)
DEFRADepartment of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
ENEnglish Nature
FWAGFarming and Wildlife Advisory Group
HSSHalifax Scientific Society
TNHSTodmorden Natural History Society
UCWNUpper Calderdale Wildlife Network
UUUnited Utilities
WYEWest Yorkshire Ecology
YWYorkshire Water
YWTYorkshire Wildlife Trust

Plan Co-ordinator: Paul Duncan, English Nature

Last Updated: 30/09/2016