A Local View - from Hatfield Moor, February 2001

“To all Members of Parliament, in All Parties:

I have lived on the edge of Hatfield Moor virtually all my life. Childhood and teenage memories are of a wonderful wilderness, a haven for unique and enigmatic biodiversity. A place on which to escape from the pressures of life, to relax and recuperate from every day stresses and strains. A site of amazing natural history interest, a place where new speciescould be discovered, by the amateur as well as the professional.

Now the devastation is heartbreaking. The last decade has seen a US multinational plunder a UK national treasure so that they can make massive short term profits.

And over the last couple of seasons the pace of devastation has increased. Last year it was phenomenal, with extraction going on 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. They ran an extra long extraction season, with the cutting only stopping in October when the bogs became too wet for the heavy machinery to continue.

The Scotts Company took so much of our peat at the end of last year, they didn't know what to do with it all. Once they ran out of storage space in the factory compound, they started using the factory car park as an overflow. When that was full, they had to hire storage yards in a nearby village. And then, with sick irony, when that was full up, our precious Yorkshire soil was stored back where it belongs - on the moor - but this time processed and sealed up in 50 litre plastic bags, mislabeled as “multi-purpose” compost.

Never has the rape and pillage of our moors been so intense.

It is now February, and there are still massive piles of cut peat sitting on the moor waiting for the drier weather when it will be transported to the factory for processing. In all the years that I have been privileged to roam the moors, I have never seen so much at this time of year.

But they are already engineering the bog to rip even more peat out the ground this year! It is so wet at the moment, and yet, they are out there - with heavy equipment - cutting deep drainage ditches in the hope that they can start the extraction sooner rather than later. In places, their massive plant machinery is punching through the bottom peat layer and exposing the underlying sands and gravel. They aredestroying the very sensitive hydrological integrity of the bog - rather like turning a plastic bowl into a colander.

The Scotts Company claim that they do not work areas of “current conservation value”. Rubbish! I have records of vegetation being cleared in mid season, even though it was home to breeding nightjars (supposedly a protected species). I have also seen The Scotts Company's preparation work, undertaken prior to each cutting season, which regularly involves the clearance of invertebrate feeding areas (which in turn are a food source for nightjar). Are they doing this just to prevent any possible expansion of the wildlife interest?

And all this - just so that a massive US multinational can make obscene profits out of selling Yorkshire soil.

I am not a campaigner by choice. I would genuinely have preferred to retain my anonymity and enjoy the simple peace and quite of the moors that I have lived by all my life.

But I speak out, and I speak the truth, because the carnage, the rape and the pillage must stop, and it must stop now! As big business gears up for its final assault on this precious bit of Yorkshire, the politicians, the statutory agencies, the local authorities and the Government must come to our defence.

If we wait until the peat cutting starts again this spring, it may be too late.”
Helen Kirk

(Helen Kirk is the Executive Secretary of the
Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum).