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Climate change: Lake District facing ‘dramatic’ soil erosion–Latest Junk Science

January 23, 2020

By Paul Homewood



This week’s climate hysteria concerns “dramatic” soil erosion in the Lake District!


The Lake District is suffering from soil erosion at a "dramatic rate" and could look very different in 50 years’ time, an academic has warned.

Dr Simon Carr, programme leader for geography at the University of Cumbria, said extreme weather caused by climate change is stripping the fells.

He argues halting grazing by animals would be a good way to restore the land by allowing vegetation to recover.

However, farmers warn a "blanket ban" could lead to food shortages.

Dr Carr, who helped compile the Lake District’s State of the Park plan in 2018, believes droughts followed by devastating storms in the past few years are at the heart of the issue.

He said: "The conditions are absolutely perfect for causing degradation to the landscape.

"They desiccate the peaks, they dry it, they become very breakable and erode very easily when you have a storm.

"It’s taken 10,000 years to create the soils we see in the Lake District, and the rate of loss is really quite dramatic.

"Within a few decades we’re going to see the areas of bare rock we see on the mountains stretching further and further down slope.

"We’re maybe talking about 50 years. It could be less."

Dr Carr said there is "significant evidence" of erosion on the fells amounting to about 3cm (1.2in) per year.

He also pointed to a rise in organic carbon being found in water as a result of peat being washed into rivers, and increased sedimentation being found in lake basins.

The answer "theoretically" would be to stop grazing which would allow vegetation and blanket bog – the "carbon store in the landscape"- to recover and "lock up the water that stops flooding being transferred to the valley bases".

"We see small-scale restoration attempts being undertaken where they just exclude grazing animals and it’s very, very successful", he said.

"But the scale we need to do that on is really quite substantial, and for an area that depends on upland farming that’s never going to be a popular thing to do."

Sarah Chaplain-Bryce, who runs Low Bridge End Farm, near Keswick, has planted a forest in which she plans to graze sheep in an attempt to produce carbon-neutral meat.

She said: "We are absolutely passionate [about the environment] and we don’t fertilise because we’re environmentally driven, but we’ve all got to eat.

"If you take farming away where’s your food going to come from? I don’t think you can have a blanket policy – a one-size-fits-all doesn’t work."


So, what about these “droughts and storms” that were supposedly caused by climate change?

There has only been one notably dry summer in recent years, 2018. But that was only the 9th driest in the North West since records started in 1873. The driest summer was 1976, and other drier summers also occurred in 1887, 1949 and 1955.

I have also charted spring and summer rainfall together, and a similar pattern emerges:




So, clearly the drought followed by storms argument soon falls by the wayside, as the following winter of 2018/19 was relatively dry.

As for “devastating storms”, the only one in recent years was Storm Desmond in December 2015. This certainly was an exceptional storm, though by no means unprecedented. The storms in 1897 and 1898, for instance, were of similar intensity.

If we look at the wettest months in the North West, while Desmond stands out as the wettest, this appears to be an outlier, with no obvious trends in the rest of the data:



As a final check, we can look at daily rainfall data back to 1906 for Newton Rigg, on the edge of the Lake District. (Data runs up to 2017).




Again there is absolutely no evidence to show that climate change has made rainfall more extreme. The wettest day was actually in 1930.

The idea anyway that the Lake District, which has changed little for thousands of years and survived much warmer periods and the Little Ice Age, is now falling to pieces because of “climate change” is laughable.

If soil erosion really is a problem, it is tourism that is responsible. Indeed, millions of pounds are being spent to protect overused walking paths.

Erosion of peatlands is actually quite a serious problem across the UK, and there are many causes, none of them climate related – industrial pollution, sheep farming, drainage, tourism, peat extraction, construction of wind turbines and associated infrastructure, burning of peatland.

Just up the road from us is Bleaklow, where there has been a project ongoing for the last few years, aimed at restoring the moorland. I have observed it going on for a while now. There is a description of the project below:



Led by the Moors for the Future Partnership, the MoorLIFE moorland restoration project aimed to restore 800 ha of Bleaklow to the healthy wet bog it should be.

The MoorLIFE project was made possible by a £5.5m grant from the European Union’s LIFE+ programme. Protecting active blanket bog by restoring bare and eroding peat in the South Pennines Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA) was key to its success.


Owned by National Trust, United Utilities and Woodhead Estate, Bleaklow covers 5,400 ha and is situated between Glossop and the Longdendale and Upper Derwent valleys. It includes Bleaklow Head, which at 633 metres above sea level, is the second highest plateau in the Peak District.

The Bleaklow landscape is an extraordinary one; hectare after hectare of moorland was stripped of almost all vegetation, showing nothing more than bare black peat before the MoorLIFE project took it under restoration management.

Bleaklow can be accessed from the Snake Pass or Woodhead Pass and lies on the Pennine Way and above the Trans-Pennine Trail.

Restoration Delivered

Bare peat areas on the site have been re-stabilised by installing 52 km’s of geotextiles and helicoptering in 11,000 bags of heather cuttings (brash) and spreading them, to re-establish plant growth.

To kick-start the re-vegetation process, 1,900 tonnes of lime and fertiliser was applied and 22 tonnes of grass and heather seeds sown. Additionally, 150,000 moorland plants such as bilberry and cotton grass were introduced, as well as a futher 30,000 plug plants and 807 million fragment of Sphagnum.

As part of the gully blocking exercise, 4,000 dams were installed.

Site Activity

The Moors for the Future Partnership project has come up with various ways of rewetting the bogs and giving them back a proper clothing of vegetation. Specially harvested heather ‘brash’ is spread on the peat, providing a protective blanket for grass seed to take root. Lime is put down, to try to neutralise the excessively acidic nature of the soil, caused by past atmospheric pollution. Helicopters are used to drop grass seed; gullies are blocked and geotextiles laid. The spongy Sphagnum moss – the sign of a healthy wet bog – is reintroduced along with native plug plants. Little by little, the bare surface of the moors around Bleaklow is turning green once again.

Background Information

Bleaklow and the surrounding area demonstrates the result of two centuries of airborne pollution carried over from the industrial areas to the west of the Pennines, combined with the effects of wild fires. Where you would expect to find healthy wet bogs complete with a wide variety of creeping shrubs and mosses, there is instead a desert-type environment. As Chris Dean of Moors for the Future states, “it is a situation which has to be changed”.

It isn’t only the ecology which suffers when peat bogs dry out and crumble away. As well as storing incredible amounts of carbon, the drinking water for many of the big cities of northern England comes off Bleaklow and the neighbouring Pennine hills. However, treacle-coloured water carrying small particles of peat from degraded peatlands increases treatment costs for water companies and, as a result, for all of us. Bleaklow is just one of four MoorLIFE sites. The sites are Black Hill, Turley Holes and Rishworth Common.

MoorLIFE’s scale and success is very much the result of partnership working. The project was co-ordinated by the Peak District National Park, delivered by Moors for the Future Partnership and co-funded by the European Commission’s Life+ Programme. Partners included Environment Agency, Natural England, National Trust, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water.


It shows just what a complex issue peat restoration is. In this case, industrial pollution is blamed, as the moors lie down wind from Manchester.

Circumstances may slightly differ in the Lakes. But it is absurd to simply blame “climate change” for the problem there. Apart from anything else, this absolves the accusers from doing anything constructive about the real problems, which could possibly actually yield some results.


As is often the case with the BBC, the story revolves around a supposed scientific study, in this case by Dr Simon Carr, programme leader for geography at the University of Cumbria.

As Sherelle Jacobs intimated today, the mouth watering sums available to universities for anything related to “climate” are now corrupting genuine scientific research.

One wonders whether Dr Carr would have received a penny for his project, if it had not been linked to “climate change”.

  1. Allan M permalink
    January 23, 2020 10:35 pm

    Oh! Isn’t erosion terrible! If it wasn’t for erosion there would be no soil. Just more solid rock!

  2. The Man at theBack permalink
    January 23, 2020 11:02 pm

    Another one for The Warmlist then??

  3. Gamecock permalink
    January 23, 2020 11:39 pm

    Climate is the result of weather, not the cause of it.

  4. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    January 24, 2020 1:02 am

    Indeed, millions of pounds are being spent to protect overused walking paths.

    I work on hiking trails in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. I’m a volunteer with Washington Trails Association. There is much financial support to WTA, but the actual trail work is mostly unpaid.
    The west slope of the Cascades is the “wet” side and close to Seattle and related urban places.
    There are many hikers and our biggest issue is getting water off the trails to prevent erosion – gullying. Second is to prevent ponding of water on the trails that cause folks to “go around” and make braided networks of trails leading to more erosion.
    Hikers, water, damage ==> send in a WTA team to fix it.

  5. Michael Adams permalink
    January 24, 2020 2:16 am

    Paul, where do you get your graphs from? Do you draw them up yourself from the MET records? When I go onto the MET link you give what comes up is data in the form of numbers.

    • January 24, 2020 10:06 am

      Yes, they are my graphs, Michael

      I cut and paste their numbers onto my spreadsheet

  6. January 24, 2020 6:33 am

    I saw this climate change item on the BBC news. My reaction was that this is just more of the BBC’s year of climate change scare stories, with no evidence to back up the assertions. Farming Today had a programme on nothing but climate change and the local news now has one or two stories that mention climate change, rising sea levels, increased storms, increased rain and rising temperatures (which nobody has noticed) all due to climate change. Hopefully the incessant propaganda is turning most people off.

  7. Derek Reynolds permalink
    January 24, 2020 7:35 am

    Project fear in force. ‘You WILL understand the crisis!’

    14yrs ago the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act (NERCA) was passed, restricting access to parts of the countryside public highways by motor vehicles. Yet it was shown that the vast majority of erosion was caused by; agriculture, forestry, and civil works (electricity, drainage etc.). Moreover, the greatest degree of erosion was within the National Parks through walking. Millions of pounds annually are spent maintaining footpaths within the Parks, and walking encouraged.

    In support of the NERC Bill as it went through the House in 2005, individual groups of landowners belonging to the Country Landowners Association (CLA) lobbied ministers and peers to great effect. A separate group, the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement ( was set up with HRH Duke of Edinburgh as patron, which drew attention to alleged damage caused by private motor vehicles. The most widely publicised was damage caused by forestry and agriculture, and used to good effect against a minority group to prevent access.

    The BBC even got in on the act with an episode of ‘The Archers’ highlighting a ‘problem’ with errant vehicle owners frightening horses. I wrote to the editor suggesting this amounted to bias, and was informed that a counter balancing episode would be written and broadcast. No such episode was ever aired.

  8. GeoffB permalink
    January 24, 2020 7:43 am

    ITV news on Wednesday did a report on cliff erosion on the East Yorkshire coast, particularly Skipsea, some professor blamed the increased rate on climate change, a quick check on the internet revealed this to be extremely unlikely, How do they keep their jobs when they are basically lying.

    • January 24, 2020 8:02 am

      It has been known for decades, if not centuries, the way to prevent cliff erosion is to build groynes. On 1 April 2004 Sarah Nason, sometime head of flood management at DEFRA, issued a letter and paper with the title “Maintenance of Uneconomic Sea Flood Defences: A Way Forward.” The argument seems to be sea levels will rise at least 1 metre by 2100, we can’t afford to defend against that amount to sea level rise so give up now.

      More here

      Strange EA contributed around £36million to build groynes at Clacton, in addition to groynes built at Felixstowe and Southwold. On the other hand the Naze (at walton on the naze) is being allowed to fall into the sea.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      January 24, 2020 10:59 am

      My in-laws used to have a cottage at Barmston and I still have a photograph of my daughter playing on the beach which by that time had nearly reached the garden fence. The year must have been circa 1966 since our second child was born in 1967.

      If I recall that was the last visit we made and the cottage had certainly gone by 1972. So much for climate change! It was well known in the area then that virtually the whole of Holderness was under threat from erosion which would eventually reach Beverley since there was virtually no rock stratum to prevent it. The photographs of Skipsea simply underline the point!

      It was not new then and is certainly half-a-century less new now. Climate has had damn all to do with it. To quote one local resident, “wheer the ‘eck does tha think Spurn Point come from?!”

    • January 26, 2020 5:16 pm

      The coast erodes at Skipsea, Hornsea and causes land growth further down the coast at Skegness
      meanwhile round the corner and up the humber a new island has formed in the last 15 years Whitton Island

      are groynes a magic solution ?
      Many solutions just seem to move erosion further down the coast
      But Holland seems to have successful land preservation schemes
      I do wonder if the material from the mega Sirius mine could be used in some way.

  9. John Dodders permalink
    January 24, 2020 8:01 am

    I shared your article with Simon Carr and Alison Freeman. Here’s his reply; apparently it’s extreme events that are the problem:

    • Paul R permalink
      January 24, 2020 8:25 am

      Well, we are still waiting for the evidence that the extremity of the events is the result of man’s influence on the climate. We’ll continue to wait because none can be found…..and until such time as it is Dr Carr and others should keep their theories to the confines of the lab.

    • John Dodders permalink
      January 24, 2020 8:31 am

      Unsubstantiated then:

    • January 24, 2020 10:10 am

      Interesting that he’s still “compiling” the data, yet claims he knows the answers!

      There is virtually no hourly data going back more than a couple of decades or so in the Lakes, which makes long term comparisons impossible.

    • January 26, 2020 5:28 pm

      This is unfunded research, which I am doing as part of my wider job,
      so I have received not a penny for climate “scaremongering”.>/i>
      .. You didn’t accuse him of “scaremongering”
      so why does he put in a defence, if he is not guilty ?

      he does get funding for stuff

  10. Robert Helliwell permalink
    January 24, 2020 8:34 am

    It’s not farming that creates the erosion; its the vast numbers of walkers on the hills that create gullies which increases run off.

  11. StephenP permalink
    January 24, 2020 8:59 am

    I see the UK “citizens assembly” is meeting for the first time this weekend.
    This article in the Guardian describes how the members were chosen.
    It looks as if the criteria for being invited was how concerned you are about climate change based on a Mori poll.
    It certainly looks as if the assembly is going to be packed with people of the “right attitude”, and is in no way a proper reflection of the public in general.
    David Attenborough will be attending, no doubt to give ten pennyworth.
    I look forward to the results with interest and apprehension.

  12. John Palmer permalink
    January 24, 2020 9:50 am

    So… you develop a pet theory and then set out to ‘prove’ it with some unspecified research.
    As long as firm, empirical evidence can be demonstrated in support of the claim – bring it on.
    Not sure what of any real import can be gleaned from sifting through ‘scatter’ of weather stations, though.
    Good luck, but why not wait for some solid evidence before going public?

    • dave permalink
      January 24, 2020 10:38 am

      He says his work is “unfunded.” It is certainly “unpublished,” not to say “unpublishable!”

      Mainly, it is about searching for confirmation, to gain the plaudits of other believers.

      He had better not look to NORTHERN SPAIN for confirmation, where the intensity of rain has been DECREASING since 1955:

  13. Steve N permalink
    January 24, 2020 9:51 am

    This talk by Allan Savory offers an interesting view on the value of grazing animals on preventing soil erosion and desertification. Quite the opposite of today’s received “wisdom”

    • Neil Wilkinson permalink
      January 24, 2020 5:13 pm

      I can follow his argument re livestock, puzzled as to why it needed the additional ‘info’ of carbon being released and helping cause global warming. Almost as if AGW had to be dragged into it somehow before anyone would take him seriously

  14. Nordisch-geo-climber permalink
    January 24, 2020 10:36 am

    I have lived in the Lake District almost all my life and was born and bred here. I am also a geologist, mountaineer and general observer of the disastrous mess that the Lake District has become. There are too many things wrong with the area to list.
    Excessive tourism, over-selling, over-promotion, World heritage status, over-commercialisation under the reign of Mr Leafe the CEO of the National Park Authority is destroying the area. Noses in the trough, jobs for the boys.
    Bracken has spread everywhere under Leafe’s watch, natural wild grasses and flowers have been extinguished, too many inappropriate trees are being planted in the wrong places, blocking light, blocking views, clogging drains, culverts and streams, bringing down bridges in the regular floods (regular over hundreds of years). Vast swathes of the area are now impenetrable in summer. We now see horrendous willow plantations that are utterly out of place based on false energy policies.
    Many local indigenous aborigines have been disenfranchised, their culture, heritage and rights have been removed. They can not park anywhere. Horrendous mini-digger paths and scars have been created – stone staircases on the fells that you can not walk down for nine months of the year when wet or icy, these paths are not part of the historic character of the area. The 27 quangos, or “fleeces” as Rory used to call them (that attempt to run this area) create work and mess with everything. Yet paths are not drained correctly. Water is your enemy, so deal with that before raping the landscape with stone paths and mini-diggers.
    The Newton Rigg and other historic flood data show clearly no impact of climate change. There has been a massive influx of outsiders who do not respect the indigenous peoples’ knowledge, experience and traditions. The University of Cumbria is a swamp filling rapidly for all the wrong reasons.
    The National Park Authority and the other quangos are driven by the ethos of decarbonisation, totalitarian control and we know best. Excess tourism kills everything it touches. Previously Lake District tourism was harmonious – there was an organic balance. Visitors came and were welcome. Leafe has presided over a huge mis-selling scam and the area has suffered. We now pay twice – subsidising selling tourism, then subsidising bodies trying to control it. Just leave the Lake District alone – people will come if they wish, and leave farmers, foresters, fisherman, hunters in charge of the landscape.

    • Nordisch geo-climber permalink
      January 24, 2020 11:02 am

      Re University of Cumbria – check out this individual: Jem Bendell.
      Bendell was a Cambridge Geography graduate and is employed by the University of Cumbria at a location in London. He advises the Labour party and formerly worked for the highly political world wide fund for nature (former world wildlife fund).
      He is clearly a post-modern Marxist.

      His latest publication is this:

      Nordisch comment:
      Some of the leading members of our think tank have reviewed Bendell’s writing with the following comments:

      “This person should be nowhere near a university or vulnerable students”.

      “What is the University of Cumbria doing giving this person money – this is bad for Cumbria”

      “There’s something wrong with these people. They’re cultists. Ideological zealots. The brown shirts of the Climate Change Nazis, if you like”.

      “One can’t help feeling that the Univ of Cumbria is a recruiting agency for the Labour party, the eco-loon parties and World socialism. They are 100% tied up with subsidy and 100% disassociated from real industry, real business, commerce and wealth creation. They execute a public sector common purpose feeding frenzy”.

      • January 24, 2020 12:38 pm

        My thanks to Nordisch geo climber, I couldn’t agree more with his analysis. I first came to the Lakes in 1964 on a climbing course, fell in love with the area and have lived here for 35 years. It is still a scenic jewel but I despair of the quango led policies described. As for climate change, yep, several times a day!

      • dave permalink
        January 24, 2020 1:33 pm

        Actually, it is THUNDERSTORMS that cause unusual, erosive, soil-detachment events ON SLOPES; as there are large drops falling with a high terminal velocity.* Unless identification of the source of the rain is in the hourly records, little can be deduced from the mere fact of an intense rain.

        My experience of the Lake District sixty years ago, one “summer,” stuck in the back of my parents’ car, was steady, cold rain, not torrential. If someone tells me the climate of that often gloomy district has changed, I will not be inclined to believe it!

        *Soil is actually flung into the air in a splash. When it lands it is – on average – a little further down-hill. To stop the disappearance of their soil – that is why our toiling ancestors built terraces, when forced by over-population to farm on hillsides.

  15. Bloke down the pub permalink
    January 24, 2020 12:37 pm

    One issue touched on in this posting is the addition of lime to the soil. From some murky corner of my memory banks, I recall that the UK used to subsidise farmers to spread lime in order to improve soil fertility. At some point in the second half of the C20th, this subsidy ended. I wonder if you and your readers can confirm this fact and also my belief that this could have had a quantifiable impact on the environment.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 24, 2020 2:40 pm

      I can certainly remember seeing lime spread on the fields, but that would be at least 30 years ago, if my memory serves correctly – which it increasingly doesn’t these days!

  16. January 24, 2020 12:47 pm

    A great boon to peat restoration would be another ice age. The glaciers scoop out vast areas which become basically undrained and voila–lakes which silt in to become peat bogs.

  17. Athelstan. permalink
    January 24, 2020 3:08 pm

    Any soil expert will tell you, all slopes are subject to “soil creep”, it’s natural and it’s inevitable gravity will not be denied – although the gweens might.

    All mountain slopes degrade, it’s a natural process, frost heave and heavy rain all help it ‘oil it’ along.

    the carr man’s wizened brain has obviously slumped totally out of shape.

    • StephenP permalink
      January 24, 2020 5:14 pm

      The slope of Wearyall Hill at Glastonbury shows a classic example of slumping, even though it has a good cover of grass.
      As regards liming, yes there used to be a subsidy for farmers dating from WW2 when a lot of land that had reverted to grassland in the inter-war period was ploughed up for crops.
      Many soils had bwecome acid and needed lime, and phosphorus, to grow crops of wheat, barley and brassicas which need a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. Potatoes and oats can tolerate a lower pH of 5.8 to 6.0.
      IIRC the lime subsidy was removed in the 1970s and since then farmers have had to bite the bullet if they want to grow decent crops and pay the price, usually delivered and spread by specialist contractors.

      • Athelstan. permalink
        January 24, 2020 6:19 pm

        Noted StephenP.

        Liming acid grassland, and hill’s lower slopes, a technique used by Brit farmers for a long long time, though I am not sure where in my post I mentioned it, nevertheless always interesting facts.

        I thank you for the reply.

  18. Pancho Plail permalink
    January 24, 2020 8:50 pm

    I can recommend reading just the second page of Lake District’s State of the Park plan in 2018 linked above (it is the garish page with lots of feel-good graphics). It is a classic of marketing doublespeak.
    Under “Vibrant Communities” it highlights 24% second home ownership, 29% are over 65 and two of 13 main communities are without key services like GP surgeries.
    Under “Prosperous Economy” we are told there is a skills gap and a labour shortage and that access to fast broadband is only available in 84% of premises.
    We are also reassured that there is huge potential for restoring nature. So that’s all right then

    • Athelstan. permalink
      January 25, 2020 12:04 am

      That blurb, it sounds like bliar’s lot, once, advertizing some eu allocated UK taxpayers dosh and northern wasteland – ah um, enterprise zone.

  19. dearieme permalink
    January 24, 2020 11:30 pm

    “In this case, industrial pollution is blamed, as the moors lie down wind from Manchester.”

    Is someone really asking me to believe that pollution from Manchester is worse than it was in the 19th century?

    • January 25, 2020 10:09 am

      I suspect it’s been a progressive problem for a century or more

  20. AR Clapham permalink
    January 26, 2020 12:02 pm

    The Climate ‘experts’ beloved by the BBC would do well to heed the words of Mark Twain.
    ‘ It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear a fool rather than open it and remove any possible doubt!

  21. January 26, 2020 5:56 pm

    #1 Where’s the paper ?
    Oh there isn’t one
    Releasing to media first before paper and peer review is a red flag for BAD science

    #2 What is the University of Cumbria ?
    It sounds like it’s in someones shed
    It has form for It’s Prof Jem Bendell spouting alarmism
    .. and then popping to Bali for a holiday.

  22. January 28, 2020 4:34 am

    “Sarah Chaplain-Bryce, who runs Low Bridge End Farm, near Keswick, has planted a forest in which she plans to graze sheep in an attempt to produce carbon-neutral meat.”

    it just keeps getting weirder and weirder

  23. John Smith permalink
    February 5, 2020 11:01 pm


    Get Outlook for Android


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